1. Why We Get Chills in Response to Music
Music is a human universal, but the ways in which it affects people is quite varied and highly dependent on personality type. While you may often get involuntary “chills”—otherwise known by their medical name, cutis anserina—in response to your favorite melodies, 8% of the population, according to a recent study, knows no such sensation. Core personality metrics like extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience were measured, and of all these dimensions, only openness to experience was related to feeling chills. People high in openness tend to be creative, curious about many things and have active imaginations. Bonus: If you are in fact prone to music-induced goosebumps you probably also receive them in response to other mediums—movies, paintings, landscapes, magazines… you name it!
2. Why Our Fingers Prune Up After Long Exposure to Rain, the Ocean, and Hot Tubs
Ask people why they suspect their fingers and toes prune up after extended soaks in the jacuzzi and you’re bound to get some interesting hypotheses. Osmosis, dehydration, the effects of minerals (or chlorine) on the skin. The truth is far more interesting, and we have Charles Darwin to thank. After prolonged time spent in a wet environment, our fingers and toes develop “treads” to enhance grip and traction. It’s a rainy day adaptation that would have likely proven very useful in the time when we were shoeless and swinging from branches.
3. Why Your Furniture Could Be Hurting Your Relationship
In a fascinating experiment, individuals who sat at a wobbly chair and table predicted that celebrity couples were more likely to dissolve. When people using stable furniture were asked to evaluate the same relationships, their outlooks were markedly more positive. This study sheds light on an important but often overlooked psychological truth: our environment can have a profound effect on the quality of our thoughts—in ways we have yet to even measure—so we should be discerning and curate them accordingly.
4. Your Ex is Cocaine for Your Brain
As opposed to our innate drive for friendship, which serves a relatively higher-order evolutionary purpose, our drive for love—which evolved as a means to reproduction—is fairly simple. The Economist highlighted a study which showed that a “relatively small area of the human brain is active in love, compared with that involved in, say, ordinary friendship.” Indeed, the sensation of being in love is primarily a “gut feeling”, manufactured in the brain by the same regions which generate the euphoria induced by drugs—like cocaine. “So the brains of people deeply in love do not look like those of people experiencing strong emotions, but instead like those of people snorting coke,” says Dr. Larry Young, a researcher into social attachment at Emory University.
5. Why Sex Isn’t Disgusting
Arousal, a sensation meant to facilitate sex, and ultimately reproduction, and disgust, an evolutionary defense mechanism to prevent disease, would seem at odds with one another. However, thanks to billions of years of our ancestors shrugging off the nasty in favor of, well, the nasty, sensitivity to both now cohabitates in that wonderful brain of ours. An article published by Dutch psychologists recently have come up with an explanation: “Saliva, sweat, semen and body odours are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all. One possible explanation could be that sexual engagement temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of particular stimuli or that sexual engagement might weaken the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.”
6. Why Movies are Like Dreaming While Awake
Jonah Lehrer, pre-plagarism scandal, wrote that from the perspective of your brain, dreaming and movie-watching are strangely parallel experiences. If this is the case, watching a movie in a darkened theater may be closest one can get sleep with open eyes. It turns out that with the combination of audio and visual stimulation—what’s known to psychologists as “sensorimotor processing—a part of the brain that is associated with analysis and self-awareness goes dark as well. Scientists argue that such “inactivation” of this region, otherwise known as the prefrontal cortex, is what, thankfully, allows us to lose ourselves in the movie. Attention, Hollywood: this does not explain 2013’s After Earth. We were just lost.
7. Social Rejection—Bad For a Friday Night, Good For Creativity?
Recent studies have shown that the experience of social rejection, however unpleasant it may feel, may actually promote creative thinking for some. For people with a highly independent self-concept (psychojargon for those that view themselves as separate from others and value personal over group goals), not getting past that velvet rope actually reinforce feelings of distinctiveness and increase creativity by helping said social victim to recruit ideas from unusual places in the brain.
8. Your Breath Reveals a Lot More Than What You Had For Dinner
Blood tests and other invasive forms of medical diagnosis may soon be a thing of the past. Doctors are now using breath tests to uncover not only liver and kidney disorders, but also asthma, diabetes, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal infections—even the rejection of transplanted organs—by analyzing biomarkers in exhaled breath. “Anything you can have a blood test for, there is potentially a breath test for, as long as there is a volatile component,” says Raed A. Dweik, director of the pulmonary vascular program at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute. In fact, breath tests actually exceed blood tests in accuracy for detecting certain types of cancers, particularly tumors of the lung.