So would you push someone under a train if it would save 5 other people? Probably not if you are on antidepressants according to research at Cambridge University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and reported in New Scientist recently; “Take antidepressants and you’ll be a soft touch”.
An antidepressant citalopram, which raises your serotonin levels (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI), was administered to 24 healthy volunteers who were then given this moral dilemma. Compared to other volunteers given a placebo they were 10% less likely to inflict harm on someone. In another experiment the drugged volunteers were more likely to accept unfair treatment than punish the other person’s greed.
The researchers pointed out that antidepressants are the most widely prescribed class of drugs (in the USA) so it’s important to investigate their effects on users’ social behaviour and moral judgement.
But what if instead you asked people to clean themselves or think clean thoughts?
Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that asking people to clean their hands with antiseptic wipes or priming them to feel clean by reading passages about how clean they felt had the same effect ie they made harsher moral judgements on a range of social issues including pornography and littering than those who were primed to feel dirty or who didn’t follow the cleaning procedure.
The researchers concluded that: “Acts of cleanliness not only have the potential to shift our moral pendulum to a more virtuous self, but also license harsher moral judgement of others“.
And if you are a woman and you think you are too trusting, a drop of testosterone could increase your guardedness. Researchers in the Netherlands and South Africa placed a drop of testosterone on women’s tongues and asked them to judge the trustworthiness of a series of male faces.
They also asked other women to whom they gave a placebo, then repeated the experiment but swapped the treatment. Women who had just been given testosterone were less trustful of the men than those given the placebo. And the effect was more pronounced amongst women who were normally more trustful. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol 107 No 22)
Makes you wonder about juries or other situations where people judge others – not just so-called talent shows but more mundane things like selection panels or performance reviews.
Updated 6 January 2011: Having sweat samples hung under your nose in teabags sounds like something only a psychologist would devise. But it showed that when people are anxious they release a chemical signal that is detectable at an unconscious level by those nearby.
Participants were exposed to sweat from both anxious and non-anxious participants without knowing which was which. When exposed to anxious sweat they took longer but made riskier decisions.
Haegler ‘s research in Neuropsychologia showed that the participants rated both kinds of sweat equally unpleasant and couldn’t consciously tell the difference. Earlier research had shown that sweat collected from an anxious person triggered extra activity in emotion-related brain areas.
Haegler wondered if the perception of emotional chemical signals might alert individuals to danger but said that the results certainly suggested that; “anxiety in humans can be communicated through chemical senses unconsciously”.
Having self confidence is one of them. If you are confident and comfortable with yourself then you will project this outwardly.
If you are not self-confident then think of someone who is and copy their voice patterns, body posture and non-verbal signals (NVC) which you think contribute to their self-confidence.
This may mean for example, walking more slowly/ more briskly, lowering the pitch of your voice, or speaking more slowly/ more quickly.
Socially confident people have good emotional intelligence; not only are they self-aware and know how to control their own emotions, but they can sense others’ moods and know how to deal with them. Your spoken word and body language NVC must be telling the same story. If they don’t there will be leakage and people will sense that you are not being genuine. You should mean what you say but you don’t always have to say what you mean.
Physical presence is the quality that makes people give way for you or listen to what you have to say. This is mainly communicated through body language. Having an assertive posture – standing with feet slightly apart, looking still but alert (a zen-like martial arts readiness posture), maintaining eye contact but not overpowering others, smilingappropriately (and eliciting smiles in return), and being confident with your gestures.
Tall people are considered to have more leadership/command presence, so hold yourself tall (that piece of string through the centre of your head to the ceiling) and no slouching. Wear high heels and flattering clothes that make you look taller.
If you are really keen sign up for a Karate, Aikido, Yoga or Tai Chi class to help improve your self-confidence and develop your inner calm.
For those of you who feel less than charismatic the good news is that researchers have now found ways of measuring charisma and also how to teach it.