Me, My Hair, And I by Anne Kreamer

Thrilled to be among this group.  For anyone who has wrestled with their hair (and who among us hasn't?) buy this book.

“Women show their roots in ‘Me, My Hair, and I.’” — Vanity Fair

“[T]hese twenty-seven essays are beautifully revelatory and deeply personal accounts of each woman's hair”— Bustle

“Benedict has a knack for zeroing in on subjects with far-reaching, often surprising implications and resonance. In her third invitational collection, she has definitely tapped a nerve . . . Women spend enormous amounts of money and time on their hair, agonizing over every decision. Variations on these themes are tackled with candor, wit, insight, and emotion by Benedict’s 27 eloquently entertaining contributors . . . [An] irresistible, pithy, and right-on anthology.” — Booklist

“[A] splendid collection . . . By turns wry, tender, pointed, and laugh-out-loud funny, the selections take us along on the contributors’ tangled, complicated, and thoroughly engaging journeys.”—Publishers Weekly

“This collection is not only unique for the subject matter it addresses. It also provides cultural commentary that is by turns insightful, humorous, and moving. . . Surprisingly engaging reading.” — Kirkus Reviews

“We wear our hair every day, and this collection demonstrates—with great clarity and insight—the complexities of what that means for women of all backgrounds. An important conversation and worthy of note” — Library Journal

“Elizabeth Benedict has gathered such wonderful writers to examine the allure, magic, curse, thrills, seductions, and sorrows of hair. Written with tender sensitivity and wild wit, these essays may start with the external, but they go deep into the lives of the writers, into what appearance means, and into how they see themselves and their place in the world.” — Luanne Rice, author of The Lemon Orchard

“Untangles the many truths about hair, and the lives we lead underneath it.” — Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bébé

“This is the book I wish I’d had when I let my hair go gray and when my husband and I made the pact that if he stopped talking about hockey, I’d stop talking about my hair. Now with these wonderful, affirming and insightful essays, I understand that there’s merely a hair’s breadth between my hair and myself. This brilliant collection that takes us from Samson and Delilah to silver foxes is a terrific read for those of us who obsess about our hair. Or those who live with those of us who do. A collection that’s, dare I say, a cut above the rest.” — Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Palace

Better Writers Make More Money by Anne Kreamer

I recently discovered fascinating data generated by Grammerly, the online proofreading tool. They reviewed 448 freelance professionals’ profiles for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors on Elance, an online staffing platform, and discovered that people with stronger writing skills are better at their jobs and get paid more.  Here's a graphic highlighting their findings.

Feeling Stuck? Get Moving by Anne Kreamer

If you're feeling trapped indoors, suit up and take a walk outdoors.  Wandering around — observing, talking to strangers, taking pictures, inhaling the rich diversity of unfamiliar life, may feel unproductive or even wasteful. But innovation needs to be informed and sometimes provoked by the unpredictable hurly-burly of messy, surprising real life. Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, researchers from New York University, have found that students who were allowed to walk freely, rather than along a fixed path, were able to generate 25% more creative uses for various objects.

In a recent essay, Verlyn Klinkenborg connected Charles Dickens's extraordinary creative output to his nightly walking. "He is lost in a kind of mental ventriloquism," he wrote, "calling up his emotions and studying them. Every night he walked a dozen miles, without which, he said, 'I should just explode and perish.' Under the pseudonym Boz, Dickens wrote, 'There is nothing we enjoy more than a little amateur vagrancy, walking through London as though 'the whole were an unknown region to our wandering mind.'"

In The Writing Lifeauthor Annie Dillard knitted together stories of other walking writers.  "Wallace Stevens in his forties, living in Hartford, Connecticut, hewed to a productive routine.  He rose at six, read for two hours, and walked another hour -- three miles -- to work.  He dictated poems to his secretary.  He ate no lunch; at noon he walked for another hour, often to an art gallery.  He walked home from work -- another hour.  After dinner he retired to his study; he went to bed at nine.  On Sundays, he walked in the park....Like Stevens, Osip Mandelstam composed poetry on the hoof.  So did Dante.  Nietzsche, like Emerson, too two long walks a day.  'When my creative energy flowed most freely, my muscular activity was always greatest....I might often have been seen dancing; I used to walk through the hills for seven or eight hours on end without a hint of fatigue; I slept well, laughed a good deal -- I was perfectly vigorous and patient."

Walking, or running, as Haruki Murakami, explains in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, can be a catalyst for work.  "To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm.  This is the important thing for long-term projects.  Once you set the pace, the rest will follow."   He says, "long-distance running suits my personality, though, and of all the habits I've acquired over my lifetime I'd have to say this one has been the most helpful, the most meaningful.  Running without a break for more than two decades has also made me stronger, both physically and emotionally."

My Search For My Disappearing Grandfather by Anne Kreamer

It's the Christmas season and I'm thinking of family.  A few years ago I wrote this piece about my search for the grandfather I never knew. No one spoke of my grandfather Kreamer, not ever. Even his given name was a mystery. All anyone seemed to know was that he had disappeared before my father's fourth birthday. And when my father died a few years ago, I assumed that any hope of knowing anything more about my grandfather—his father—had evaporated.

So last year, as I intermittently corresponded with a distant relative I'd met through an on-line genealogy site, I was stunned by the following e-mail from her: "My cousin just wrote me and sent the following text from an article she found this afternoon. Hope this isn't a shock to you." The newspaper story, from the February 16, 1927, edition of the Glen Elder Sentinel, was headlined "J. H. Kraemer Still Missing." (The routine misspelling of our name is obviously a longstanding phenomenon.) The paper went on to report that "J. H. Kraemer, missing cashier" from the local bank, "has never yet returned and no news has been obtained of his whereabouts. A good many people over the county still think that he will come back and assist in straightening out the affairs of the bank."

"Straightening out the affairs of the bank"—could a phrase be more suggestively, intriguingly vague and expansive?

Downs, Kansas

The Glen Elder bank was affiliated with the State Bank of Downs, Kansas. Dan Harrison, from a prominent family in the area, had cofounded the Downs bank and served several terms as mayor, and several as a state senator. My grandmother, Catherine "Toots" Harrison Kreamer, was his daughter. It made sense that my grandfather Kreamer worked in his father-in-law's business.

But no wonder no one spoke of him. He wasn't just any criminal—he'd stolen from his in-laws!

This isotope of information meant just one thing: I needed to go to Downs, a farming community of 1,100 in north-central Kansas that I had last visited, from my hometown of Kansas City, when I was nine—39 years before.

I persuaded my 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, to accompany me on this Nancy Drew-ish adventure. There are no scheduled planes, passenger trains, or even buses that stop near Downs. We flew from New York to Omaha (where my mother-in-law lived) and rented a car for the six-hour trip west into the middle of the middle of America. The route we mapped to Downs, which is 20 miles south of the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states, was along Route 77, the Homestead Expressway, into Kansas and "Pony Express country" as a posted road sign announced. Our family is always inclined to drive the back roads, and in Kansas, where the speed limit on two-lane highways is 65 and all roads run clean and straight, those byways are efficient—and their vistas are sublime. I had mouthwateringly imagined stopping for dinner at some great little mom-and-pop restaurant for the chicken-fried steak with cream (not brown) gravy that I remembered from childhood. But over hundreds of Blue Highway miles there was no such place to be found. On the other hand, there were virtually no fast-food restaurants—the thin and declining Great Plains population density cannot support the national chains.

After a pizza dinner, we drove due west on Route 24, through the Flint Hills, the little-known, classic-western-movie scenery of north-central Kansas, into the twilight. As a kid, I'd endured the drive to my grandmother's house: flat tedious mile followed flat tedious mile. So I was surprised to find how much the landscape itself—the dramatic simplicity of infinite cornfields against the distant horizon—moved me. On no conscious level had I been aware, during these last 30 years on the East Coast, that this vast emptiness was inextricably linked to my notion of myself. I hadn't imagined how beautiful it would seem to me—or to Lucy, who was seeing it for the first time. We were giddy with space, and stopped repeatedly to take pictures of isolated clapboard churches; miles of glowing sunflower fields; white gravel roads serpentining through endless green corn; hulking, centipede-like irrigation systems hurling water into the dry soil; and abandoned farmhouses surrounded by cottonwood windbreaks whose canopies were punctuated by ramshackle mills. Dust devils bobbed and danced in distant fields. And the streaming plumes of dust roiled up by farmers out tilling their land billowed on the horizon. The bulbous water tower of each (barely) inhabited place seemed to cry, "Look, here, we exist!" long before any other human presence was visible.

We passed exactly two cars, both of them going east, during the final 45-minute stretch of our all-day trip. As we drove through Cawker City (population 585), I was disappointed by the "largest ball of twine in the world." In my memory it was a grand, wonderfully absurd, amber-colored sphere as big as a house, on display beneath a strikingly modernistic circa-1960 geodesic dome. But today it seemed more like a minivan-sized pile of dirty rags under a carport.

Glen Elder (population 448) looked as if a neutron bomb had been dropped on it. No one was out sitting or walking or puttering. Bikes had been left splayed on their sides in yards. Apparently empty buildings stood silent. These stretches of the plains are lands that time forgot—but for my time-traveling purposes that was a good thing. When we finally arrived in Downs, around nine at night, the town looked hardly different from the sepia-toned, panoramic 1901 photograph of Downs that hangs on my living room wall in New York. Driving along the main street, I remembered exactly my grandmother's old address, 509 Division Street, and was able to find it—as my father always said to congratulate himself and my mother on successful navigations—"like a homing pigeon."

Lucy and I made our base camp at the Howell House, an impeccably restored Victorian bed-and-breakfast. Our first stop the next morning was my grandmother's place, just a few minutes' walk away. My strongest memory of it had been the wraparound sleeping porch where we'd escaped the stifling summer heat and watched fireflies glimmer in Mason jars with lids punched by a rusty ice pick—our only source of light. The porch was gone, and the house "modernized" in ways I disliked, but the bones of the place were still there and anchored me in my grandmother's presence.

I was able to track down her nephews, Bill Harrison, a 79-year-old retired gallery owner living in Taos, New Mexico, and Bogue Harrison, 74, and living in Panama City, Florida. I'd talked with Bill maybe once in my life, when I was about six years old, but he reacted to my call without missing a beat. "Well," he said, "now that you bring it up, when I was little, Jack Kreamer simply wasn't mentioned." My grandfather's name was Jack! Bill had worked at the family bank in Downs during college summer breaks in the 1940's, and remembered one incident very specifically: his father saying, "I want to show you something," taking him into the big bank vault, and digging out a three-inch-thick bundle of 20-year-old checks, wrapped with adding machine tape, that totaled over $45,000.

"These are the checks that Jack Kreamer bounced trying to cover his gambling debts," Bill's father told him, "and your grandfather covered them with his own cash." The tone of disgust used by Bill's dad left his son in no doubt about the in-laws' regard for Jack—$45,000 in 1927 was the equivalent of half a million dollars today.

The picture in my mind of my grandfather became both cloudier and more exciting. Was he an embezzler or just an extravagant bettor?Or both?Where in the middle of nowhere, in the pious, Protestant plains of Prohibition, could Jack have gambled on that scale?How far would he have had to go—Kansas City is 200 miles east and Denver 400 miles west—to lose such a sum?Was it possible that my grandfather was still alive somewhere, a very old man living high off his bank spoils?Had he started a new family?I was imagining Newman and Redford in The Sting. And I knew that my father, who had loved mystery novels, would have delighted in my speculations.

I decided that one of the best ways to follow Jack's trail was through the bank. Jerry Berkeley, who bought the State Bank of Downs from my relatives in the 1970's, had known nothing about my grandfather's criminal history, but I turned him into a fellow detective. He uncovered a lawsuit, filed in 1930, alleging that J. H. Kreamer had left the county in 1927 to avoid being served with a summons relating to large debts he owed the Central Kansas Cattle Loan Co. Jim Vandergiesen, a contemporary of my grandparents, suggested that the "gambling" Jack had indulged in might have been something that in the 1920's they'd called "bucking the board." Folks would go to the "elevator," the local grain storage depot and market, and place a bid speculating on crop futures. Jim also whispered that a local woman, another contemporary, said that she'd "heard Jack Kreamer had done time." The very language was a little thrilling: I pushed on with my quest.

I learned that my grandfather had grown up in Jewell, Kansas, another small town (population 483), about 30 miles from Downs. Lucy and I drove to Jewell knowing absolutely no one there. We stopped at the town library and looked through local burial records. There I found my Kreamer relatives. Jack Kreamer's parents—my great-grandparents—and his sister Edith are buried in the Jewell cemetery. The librarian suggested we might pick up more information if we went to the Scoop, a local ice cream shop where a group of older women gathered every afternoon to drink coffee and chat.

We went. Betty James, a 72-year-old widow, stunned Lucy and me—accustomed as we were to the New York mind-your-own-business M.O.—by opening her house to us, two unknown travelers, in the old and pure way of Midwestern hospitality. At the city office next door to the Scoop, Lucy plowed through a book listing every graduate of Jewell High School for the past century, and hit upon the real key to our family history: Charlotte Kreamer, class of 1941. By phone that night I tracked down Charlotte, now 79 years old and living 90 miles away in Council Grove, Kansas, and her 87-year-old sister, Katherine, who lives in Holton, yet another little Kansas town, about 100 miles away. They are nieces of my grandfather Jack. Katherine was a flower girl at Jack and Catherine's wedding in 1921; both women had known my grandfather and spoke freely about him. They were the first people I'd ever known who did. "I don't know why he turned out to be the black sheep," Katherine said.

Their half sister, Margaret Ann, told me more: "Jack had a charming personality. My father"—Jack's brother Fred—"said he could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, and that he'd give you the shirt off his back." Margaret Ann had inherited her Aunt Edith Kreamer's belongings,including a photograph of my grandfather in his twenties, an up-and-coming young member of the Commerce Club of Jewell. I had never seen a picture of him before. I found myself staring at the face, both strange and familiar, seeing in his features my father's and my own. From some old letters of Edith's, I learned that she had been the one to send my grandfather, her little brother, away from Kansas in 1927. "When the trouble was slowly killing Grandfather Kreamer, I begged him [Jack] to go away as far as he could." In other words, the shock expressed in that original small-town newspaper story was, perhaps, somewhat disingenuous.

And I also discovered, in my great-aunt's papers, that in 1943 my grandfather Jack Kreamer died, at age 48, penniless and alone, working in a lumber camp in northern California. His sister Edith paid $3.50 for his headstone in Shasta County.

As my grandfather's story came into focus, I found that it had been no romantic caper after all, but something more complicated, even tragic—more like Theodore Dreiser or John Steinbeck than The Sting—and compelling in ways I hadn't anticipated and that will take time for me to digest.

I intend to stay in touch with this family I never knew about. And I'll continue to dig into my grandfather's financial shadow life and exile, and track his path west a few years ahead of the great Grapes of Wrath emigration. For Lucy and me, the outlines of a trip to northern California are already taking shape.

Meditation Improves Emotional Stability And Response To Stress by Anne Kreamer

Feeling stressed out during the holiday season?  I am, but have found meditation a helpful buffer.  A year and half ago, my husband and I began a meditation practice, based on the approach (mindfulness-based stress reduction) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Over the years, I'd read Kabat-Zinn's books, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness (Delta, 1991); Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life(Hyperion, 1994); Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness(Hyperion, 2005), and was eager to put the concepts I'd read about into action.  593 sessions in, according the Insight Timer app I downloaded, I can testify that I've experienced the heightened emotional resiliency that new research conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital has codified.

"A new study has found that participating in an 8-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.  In their report in the November issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston University (BU), and several other research centers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.

"The two different types of meditation training our study participants completed yielded some differences in the response of the amygdala – a part of the brain known for decades to be important for emotion – to images with emotional content," says Gaëlle Desbordes, PhD, a research fellow at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and at the BU Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology, corresponding author of the report.  "This is the first time that meditation training has been shown to affect emotional processing in the brain outside of a meditative state."

Several previous studies have supported the hypothesis that meditation training improves practitioners' emotional regulation.  While neuroimaging studies have found that meditation training appeared to decrease activation of the amygdala – a structure at the base of the brain that is known to have a role in processing memory and emotion – those changes were only observed while study participants were meditating.  The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that meditation training could

(read more from study)

Life is Short, So Walk Fast by Anne Kreamer

The conventional wisdom is that people who choose to live in gritty, polluted, urban areas are thereby putting their health at risk. But a piece in New York magazine, “Why New Yorkers Live Longer,” effectively debunked the myth that people in cities lead any less robust lives or die younger than their country or suburban cousins.

Several factors contribute to New Yorkers living longer – AIDs deaths have declined, the homicide rate is radically lower, and the 2003 ban on smoking in public places has already reduced the number of deaths attributed to smoking by 10 percent. But among the most surprising reasons New Yorkers live longer may simply be because New Yorkers not only walk more, but also walk faster.

Eleanor Simonsick, an epidemiologist, conducted research to determine whether the speed someone walked affected overall health. According to New York Magazine, she and a group of fellow researchers “assembled 3,075 seniors in their seventies and asked them to traverse a 400-meter course, walking as fast as they could. They monitored their subjects’ health over the next six years, during which time 430 of the people died and many more fell ill.

"When Simonsick crunched the data, she found that the ones who were dying and getting sick tended to be the ones who walked the slowest. For every minute longer it took someone to complete the 400-meter (quarter mile) walk, he or she had a 29 percent higher chance of dying.”

But quantity is also important. As Clive Thompson, the author of the story, writes, “This idea of the city as a health club is fairly revolutionary.” In a study of 10,858 people living in Atlanta, Lawrence Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia, discovered that a “white man who lived in a more urban, mixed-use area was fully ten pounds lighter than a demographically identical guy who lied in a sprawling suburb.”  According to Frank, “the more you drive, the more you weigh.”

So, the next time I’m frantically rushing to my next appointment, instead of stressing, I’ll be grateful that I may be adding a few extra minutes to my life.

Does Language Influence Spending, Eating and Smoking Habits? by Anne Kreamer

The language we speak influences behavior in surprising ways.  Derek Thompson from The Atlantic shares new research from economist Keith Chen. In the 1930s, linguists proposed that the way we read, write, and talk helped to determine the way we see the world. Speakers of languages that had the same word for orange and yellow had a harder time actually distinguishing the colors. Speakers of the Kook Thaayorre language, which has no words for left and right, must orient themselves by north, south, east, and west at all time, which enhances their awareness of geographical and astronomical markers.

Last year, economist Keith Chen released a working paper (now published) suggesting speakers of languages without strong future tenses tended to be more responsible about planning for the future. Quick example. In English, we say "I will go to the play tomorrow." That's strong future tense. In Mandarin or Finnish, which have weaker future tenses, it might be more appropriate to say, "I go to the play tomorrow."

Chen wondered whether languages with weak future tenses would be more thoughtful about the future because they consider it, grammatically, equivalent to the present. He mapped stronger and weak future-tense languages across Europe and correlated the data with future-oriented behaviors like saving, smoking, and using condoms.

Remarkably, he discovered that speakers with weak future tenses (e.g. German, Finnish and Estonian) were 30 percent more likely to save money, 24 percent more likely to avoid smoking, 29 percent more likely to exercise regularly, and 13 percent less likely to be obese, than speakers of languages with strong future tenses, like English.

If your B.S. antennae are standing straight up (as mine were), you might be more interested in (To read more...)

This five minute video presents the facts in a simplistic, but comprehensive way.

Want To Feel Better? Talk About Yourself. by Anne Kreamer

As a species, it appears that we've been primed to want to talk about ourselves. Adrian Ward reports in Scientific American humans are social animals and spend about 60 per cent of our time talking about ourselves.  But if we're social why the emphasis on self?    Because it feels good. "Human beings are social animals. We spend large portions of our waking hours communicating with others, and the possibilities for conversation are seemingly endless—we can make plans and crack jokes; reminisce about the past and dream about the future; share ideas and spread information. This ability to communicate—with almost anyone, about almost anything—has played a central role in our species’ ability to not just survive, but flourish.

How do you choose to use this immensely powerful tool—communication? Do your conversations serve as doorways to new ideas and experiences? Do they serve as tools for solving the problems of disease and famine?

Or do you mostly just like to talk about yourself?

If you’re like most people, your own thoughts and experiences may be your favorite topic of conversation.  On average, people spend 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80 percent when communicating via social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

Why, in a world full of ideas to discover, develop, and discuss, do people spend the majority of their time talking about themselves? Recent research suggests a simple explanation: because itfeels good.

In order to investigate the possibility that self-disclosure is intrinsically rewarding, researchers from the Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This research tool highlights relative levels of activity in various neural regions by tracking changes in blood flow; by pairing fMRI output with behavioral data, researchers can gain insight into the relationships between behavior and neural activity. In this case, they were interested in whether talking about the self would correspond with increased neural activity in areas of the brain associated with motivation and reward.

In an initial fMRI experiment, the researchers asked 195 participants to discuss both their own opinions and personality traits and the opinions and traits of others, then looked for differences in neural activation between self-focused and other-focused answers. Because the same participants discussed the same topics in relation to both themselves and others, researchers were able to use the resulting data to directly compare neural activation during self-disclosure to activation during other-focused communication.

Three neural regions stood out. Unsurprisingly, and in line with previous research, self-disclosure resulted in relatively higher levels of activation in areas of the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) generally associated with self-related thought. The two remaining regions identified by this experiment, however, had never before (to read more....)

What Differentiates Ideas That Bomb From Ideas That Go Viral? by Anne Kreamer

How do ideas spread? What messages will go viral on social media, and can this be predicted? Stuart Wolpert from the UCLA Newsroom shares the findings from new brain mapping research. UCLA psychologists have taken a significant step toward answering these questions, identifying for the first time the brain regions associated with the successful spread of ideas, often called "buzz."

The research has a broad range of implications, the study authors say, and could lead to more effective public health campaigns, more persuasive advertisements and better ways for teachers to communicate with students.

"Our study suggests that people are regularly attuned to how the things they're seeing will be useful and interesting, not just to themselves but to other people," said the study's senior author, Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and author of the forthcoming book "Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect." "We always seem to be on the lookout for who else will find this helpful, amusing or interesting, and our brain data are showing evidence of that. At the first encounter with information, people are already using the brain network involved in thinking about how this can be interesting to other people. We're wired to want to share information with other people. I think that is a profound statement about the social nature of our minds."

The study findings are published in the online edition of the journal Psychological Science, with print publication to follow later this summer.

"Before this study, we didn't know what brain regions were associated with ideas that become contagious, and we didn't know what regions were associated with being an effective communicator of ideas," said lead author Emily Falk, who conducted the research as a UCLA doctoral student in Lieberman's lab and is currently a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for

Communication. "Now we have mapped the brain regions associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good 'idea salesperson.' In the future, we would like to be able to use these brain maps to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them."

In the first part of the study, 19 UCLA students (average age 21), underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans at UCLA's Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center as they saw and heard information about 24 potential television pilot ideas. Among the fictitious pilots — which were presented by a separate group of students — were a show about former beauty-queen mothers who want their daughters to follow in their footsteps; a Spanish soap opera about a young woman and her relationships; a reality show in which contestants travel to countries with harsh environments; a program about teenage vampires and werewolves; and a show about best friends and rivals in a crime family.

The students exposed to these TV pilot ideas were asked to envision themselves as television studio interns who would decide whether or not they would recommend each idea to their "producers." These students made videotaped assessments of each pilot.

Another group of 79 UCLA undergraduates (average age 21) was asked to act as the "producers." These students watched the interns' videos assessments of the pilots and then made their own ratings about the pilot ideas based on those assessments.

Lieberman and Falk wanted to learn which brain regions were activated when the interns were first exposed to information they would later pass on to others.

"We're constantly being exposed to information on Facebook, Twitter and so on," said Lieberman. "Some of it we pass on, and a lot of it we don't. Is there something that happens in the moment we first see it — maybe before we even realize we might pass it on — that is different for those things that we will pass on successfully versus those that we won't?"

It turns out, there is. The psychologists found that the interns who were especially good at persuading the producers showed significantly more activation in a brain region known as the temporoparietal junction, or TPJ, at the time they were first exposed to the pilot ideas they would later recommend. They had more activation in this region than the interns who were less persuasive and more activation than they themselves had when exposed to pilot ideas they didn't like. The psychologists call this the "salesperson effect."

"It was the only region in the brain that showed this effect," Lieberman said. One might have thought brain regions associated with memory would show more activation, but that was not the case, he said.

"We wanted to explore what differentiates ideas that bomb from ideas that go viral," Falk said. "We found that (to read more....)

Time is Money, but It May Also Be Shaped By Complexity by Anne Kreamer

An interesting new study by psychological scientist, Gabriela Jiga-Boy of Swansea University in Wales, explores the inter-relationship between our perception of time and the effort needed to complete a project.  Does the difficulty of a task expand or compress our perception of time?  The results? The researchers discovered that tasks that were judged to be complex and difficult, like planning a wedding or an elaborate vacation, but without specific deadlines, seemed more distant than less demanding activities.  Their findings suggest that our minds correlate complexity and effort with time.

Conversely, tasks with specific deadlines, even as distant as eight months, were viewed as closer in time.   So if you have multiple simultaneous and significant deadlines:  getting a kid off to college for the first time, planning a family reunion, and organizing a company conference, while also working day-to-day, your stress may be that the way in which your mind camouflages the real time remaining to force you to plan for meeting the challenges on deadline.