Our favorite subject is ourselves.
Don’t blame your self-absorbed brother for talking about himself—it’s just the way his brain is wired. The reward centers of our brains light up more when we’re talking about ourselves than when we’re talking about other people, according to a Harvard study.
There’s a reason we want to squeeze cute things.
“It’s so cute, I just was to smoosh it until it pops!” That’s called cuteness aggression, and people who feel it don’t really want to crush that adorable puppy. Research published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that when we’re feeling overwhelmed by positive emotions—like we do when looking at an impossibly cute baby animal—a little bit of aggression helps us balance out that high.
Our brains try to make boring speeches more interesting.
University of Glasgow researchers found that in the same way that we hear voices in our heads when we read aloud, our brains also “talk” over boring speeches. If someone is speaking monotonously, we’ll subconsciously make it more vivid in our heads.
Some people enjoy seeing anger in others.
In one University of Michigan study, people with high testosterone remembered information better when it was paired with an angry face than a neutral one or no face, indicating they found the angry glare rewarding. The researchers said it could mean that certain people enjoy making someone else glare at them—as long the flash of anger doesn’t last long enough to be a threat—which could be why that guy in the office won’t let go of that stupid joke at your expense.
We automatically second-guess ourselves when other people disagree.
In a famous 1950s experiment, college students were asked to point out which of three lines was the same length as a fourth. When they heard others (who were in on the experiment) choose an answer that was clearly wrong, the participants followed their lead and gave that same wrong answer.
We aren’t as good at multitasking as we think we are.
Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that even when you think you’re doing two things at once, what you’re actually doing is switching quickly between the two tasks—you’re still focusing on one at a time. No wonder it’s so hard to listen to your partner while scrolling through Instagram.
We’re convinced that the future is bright.
Doesn’t matter if you like where you’re at right now or not—most of us have an “optimism bias” that convinces us the future will be better than the present, according to research in Current Biology. We assume we’ll rise up in our careers, never get divorced, raise little angels of children, and live to a ripe old age. Those might not all be realistic for everyone, but there’s no harm in dreaming.
We (unintentionally) believe what we want to believe.
Humans are victim to something called confirmation bias: the tendency to interpret facts in a way that confirms what we already believe. So no matter how many facts you throw at your uncle trying to sway his political opinions, there’s a good chance he isn’t going to budge. It’s one of the psychology facts you’ll just have to accept that you can’t change.
Our brains want us to be lazy.
Evolutionarily speaking, conserving energy is a good thing—when food was scarce, our ancestors still had to be ready for anything. Unfortunately for anyone watching their weight, that still holds true today. A small study published in Current Biology found that when walking on a treadmill, volunteers would automatically adjust their gait to burn fewer calories.
Being lonely is bad for our health.
Researchers found that the fewer friends a person has, the higher levels of the blood-clotting protein fibrinogen. The effect was so strong that having 15 friends instead of 25 was just as bad as smoking.