More ArticlesDevelopmental psychology

Friday, December 2, 2016

Make your baby laugh if you want that learn something


When we laugh uproariously are activated between 100 and 400 muscles. Laughing allows us to obtain the double of oxygen, a natural hyperventilation that favors all body processes. Laughter is also a powerful natural pain reliever, as it activates hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline, which produce a feeling of well being. In fact, laughter is also an excellent tool to fight depression, anxiety and stress.

Now psychologists at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense have found that a laugh is not only an excellent medicine for body and soul, but also facilitates learning. In fact, these researchers found that when children laugh learn better.

The most effective weapon to enhance learning

The researchers wondered what effect it could have the humor on children's learning capacity. Thus, they worked with 53 children of 18 months of age, whose task was to learn how to use an object to reach an inaccessible toy. An adult showed them how to do it.

In a group, once reached the toy the adult simply played with it. In the other group the adult adopted a funnier attitude, doing amazing, unexpected or absurd gestures that made the children laugh.

Therefore, psychologists saw so that children who laughed imitated better the adult movements to reach the toy. In fact, the results left no doubt: 94% of the children who laughed were able to reach the toy, compared to only 25% of children who didn’t.

Laughing changes brain’s dynamic

The explanation may lie in the chemistry of our brains. Positive emotions, such as those generated by a laugh, increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter implicated in cognitive processes. In fact, we saw that the prefrontal cortex is very sensitive to small changes in dopamine levels.

At cellular level, dopamine influences the neurons in the prefrontal cortex improving the excitability of the same in the deeper layers, and this stimulates the learning as it facilitates an optimal adjustment of the cognitive processes. In fact, several studies have found that a dopamine deficiency affects significantly the working memory.

Laughing helps to focus the attention

Another interesting aspect of laughter is that it allows to catch the eye, so that children can learn better. In fact, a study conducted at the Sam Houston State University discovered that students reminded better what they had read when the teacher made jokes about the theme.

In the case of children, laughing while learning is even more important because it creates a more relaxed environment and relieves the stress. In fact, children should not perceive learning as an imposed and tedious task, but as a special time that allows them to open their minds, discover new worlds and have fun.

Unfortunately, most schools are still far from this pedagogical model.

Esseily, R. (2016) Humour production may enhance observational learning of a new tool-use action in 18-month-old infants. Cognition and Emotion; 30(4):817-825.
Garner, R. L. (2012) Humor in Pedagogy: How Ha-Ha can Lead to Aha! College Teaching; 54(1): 177-180.
Shohamy, D. & Adcock, R. A. (2010) Dopamine and adaptive memory. Trends Cogn Sci; 14(10): 464-472.
García, F. B. et. Al. (2005) Implicación de la dopamina en los procesos cognitivos del aprendizaje y la memoria. Psiquiatría Biológica; 12(6).
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We change when we decide to do what we usually don’t


It is likely that more than in one occasion you proposed yourself to change. Change of ifestyle, change of those thoughts that make you feel bad, change the way you interact with the others... But it is also likely that after a short “trial” period you have surrendered and recovered the old habits, which usually generates a lot of frustration. What happened?

In reality, we are habit people. It’s not our fault, we are programmed in this way. Our brain is an energy saver born, it wants to do as much as possible with the minimal effort. Moreover, is not so bad, habits save time and energy you can devote to more important things. But the problem arises when we become victims of these habits and ways of thinking, when we don’t leave room for change. So we end up working perpetually with the autopilot on and begin to die slowly.

How are working our two minds?

We have not one, but two brains working together through an ascending and descending neural wiring. There is a subcortical brain, which is more primitive and uses the upward way to communicate with the neocortex, which is the highest level of the brain and is connected to the informed decision making, the thought and the emotional self-control. This brain uses the downward path to communicate with the subcortical area.

Therefore, it is as if there were two minds working as one. The subcortical mind is always active, faster, involuntary and automatic. It is motivated by impulses and emotions, it takes care of our usual routine and guides our actions when we have to make a decision in a matter of milliseconds.

The neocortex is slower because it works on a voluntary basis. Its task is to satisfy the routine, mute the emotional impulses, learn new models, outline projects and make decisions of which we weighed up, more or less, the pros and cons of the various alternatives.

The interesting thing is that every time we learn something new the neocortex is activated. But to the extent that we begin to master the new activity, as a mere matter of energy saving, the balance begins to lean towards the descending part. So, the more we repeat a certain routine, the more the neocortex will disconnect and will be activated the subcortical area.

The brain works in this way to save energy. With this distribution of tasks, the brain tries to achieve the maximum results with minimum effort. Of course, it is not something negative, on the contrary, in this way the rest of our cognitive resources are liberated.

In fact, the automated system works quite well for most of the time, but it also has “weaknesses”. Our emotions, motivations and prejudices, cause inclinations and misalignments of which we are unaware. Therefore, if from time to time we don’t activate the neocortex, we run the risk of getting stuck in the comfort zone created by our brain.

Choosing the change can be scary but essential

Change means innovation, and all the new stimuli pass before through the subcortical area. However, when our mind worked too long on an habit basis, this change generates an alarm response. The amygdala considers it a danger that could destabilize the balance achieved, then sounds the alarm.

If we are not able to overcome this stage, we will remain paralyzed, overwhelmed by fear. We will remain stuck in our comfort zone, where we feel more comfortable, but sooner or later, when the world changes, we will realize that we are not able to adapt and change our habits. And it is in that very moment that our comfort zone will become an uncomfortable place in which we’ll feel bad.

Therefore, it is important not to rely too much on our subcortical area and maintain active our neocortex. This means that we must:

- Develop full attention, become more aware of what we have around, our habits, thoughts and emotions.

- Search innovation and new experiences, so that the subcortical brain is not afraid of anything that is new.

- Reflect on our habits and beliefs, wondering if they are still functional or have lost their raison d'etre.

The key to change is simple: make the decision, with our neocortex, and thus involve the subcortical region, so that its function is limited to keep us motivated. Do that is easier when you understand that these fears, insecurities and strengths come actually from the part of the brain that wants to keep you tied to old habits.

Remember that only when you have the courage to do what you usually don’t do will get you different results, often extraordinary.

Goleman, D. (2013) Focus. Desarrollar la atención para alcanzar la excelencia. Barcelona: Editorial Kairós.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

The habit that will trigger your emotional intelligence


Emotional intelligence is important, we all know that. And we all want to develop it. We know that if we are aware of our emotions, if we understand the cause and are able to catch the first subtle signals before losing control, we will be able to better manage them and even use them to our advantage.

But often we don’t know where to start or may feel overwhelmed by all the changes we face. As a result, we don’t do anything, getting stuck in our comfort zone. Therefore, it is important to have the courage to take the first step, however small it may be. In fact, the first step won’t get you where you want, but it will allow you to get out of where you are.

The basic skills of emotional intelligence

First, it is important to know that emotional intelligence is a complex concept that involves different skills:

- Auto-emotional awareness. Understanding how our emotions and feelings influence our behaviors, attitudes, expectations and decisions.

- Auto-emotional adjustment. Reflecting and managing our feelings and emotions, not to act rashly and impulsively. It doesn’t mean ignore the emotions in decision making, but give it the right weight, no more no less.

- Self-motivation. Being able to direct emotions towards our goals, using them to our advantage to keep us motivated and overcome the obstacles we encounter along the way. Implies, somehow, to keep positive and develop a proactive attitude towards life.

- Empathy. Not just means understanding the views of the others and their decisions, but also share their emotions and be able to capture their emotional states from small non-verbal cues, so you can establish a closer bond.

As you can imagine, for developing emotional intelligence we need a lot of work. But there is a small "shortcut", a good starting point, which will allow you to give an impetus to this ability. It is a very trivial secret: take a break.

Easy in theory, difficult in practice

Taking a break, even for a few seconds, can make a huge difference in our reactions. It is a very simple tip, but difficult to put into practice. In fact, even people who have an advanced self-control may have difficulty inhibiting their reactions after a bad day, when they have not rested enough or if they’re touched in a weak point.

But the benefits to pause before reacting are huge. In fact, those fractions of a second are more than enough to allow the rational brain to take control, so as to be able to think before reacting. This will prevent the production of a full-blown emotional hijacking, which you may regret.

The interesting thing is that a break is not just a good strategy for dealing with situations that make you nervous, irritated or angry, but also for those which seem good opportunities. In fact, responding positively and quickly, carried by happiness or the excitement of the moment, is one of the worst mistakes we make often and in different situations, from taking advantage of that discount that looks so good when we are in the store, and then it turns out not to be, to say yes to a project that we are not able to carry on just because we are flattered by the proposal.

Taking a break will allow you to focus on the problem. You have to know that the first emotional reaction will always be centered on yourself, on what you feel compared to the situation in which you are. In fact, it is a very primitive mechanism of analysis produced in our emotional brain, through which we evaluate in a few milliseconds how a given situation makes us feel. However, the break will allow us to move to the next level and give a reasoned response, more centered in the others, more neutral and probably more conciliatory.

The 3 essential steps for taking a break

When you have to face any situation, one of those you care about or that excites you, you'd better make a small pause before deciding or react.

1. Recognize. The first step is to learn to recognize these internal signs indicating that emotions are taking control. Every person is different, so has necessarily to learn to distinguish those little clues that sends his body. For example, for some people anger is like a flame that rises in the chest, while joy is a feeling that pervades them.

2. Stop. Resist the temptation to take immediate action, saying the first thing that goes through your mind. Be aware of that impulse and take the decision to detain it. At the same time when you choose to detain the impulse you're ceding control to the rational brain.

3. Breathe. To fight the urge, it will be useful to take a long, deep breath. Inhale the air through your nose, Hold it for a few seconds, keep focused on the movement of the chest and abdomen and then release it as slowly as possible through your mouth.

At this point, you will probably be ready to respond. If not, at least you'll understand that it’s not the best moment to take action or make a decision. In this case, go for a walk or do any other activity, establishing a physical distance and walking to clear your mind will allow you to react better.

Goleman, D. (1996) Inteligencia emocional. Madrid: Kairos.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

10 reactions of highly sensitive persons that the others don’t understand

personal growth

Several studies estimate that highly sensitive people represent between 15 and 20% of the population. Yet, often they clash with the incomprehension of the others, who consider "exaggerated" their reactions to common situations of life. Obviously, the problem is that these people judge using their personal criteria, not realizing that we are all different and that often these hypersensitive responses are automatic and caused by a major suffering.

In fact, most of the highly sensitive persons do not want to react that way and try to adapt to the world around them, but they not always succeed. Their hypersensibility not simply depend on the character or the personality, but also by a different nervous system and a different brain functioning. Therefore, attempts to meet the others and hide their own "self" can end to destroy them.

The truth is that the virtues of highly sensitive persons are many, so it makes no sense to focus solely on their "exaggerated" reaction, because it would be like focusing in sunspots not considering the heat that gives us the sun. So the key is to understand them, put in their place and enjoy their company.

How highly sensitive persons react?

1. They feel overwhelmed when they face many tasks

Highly sensitive persons are able to focus carefully on a task, but very often feel overwhelmed when they have plenty of them at the same time. In that moment their level of anxiety and stress increases dramatically, while productivity is reduced and they become irritable.

2. They try to avoid chaotic environments at all cost

Highly sensitive persons react badly to chaos. They find it difficult to handle large numbers of stimuli at the same time; sounds, interruptions, smells and activities around them. It’s like their senses were saturated by too much information that must be processed. For this reason they prefer to avoid these situations at all costs.

3. They get stuck under pressure

Highly sensitive persons can be very creative and often excel at work, precisely because they have a special sensitivity. However, to give the best of themselves, often they need quietness and solitude. In fact, they often react badly to pressure, when they feel observed may get fidget or completely freezed.

4. They react intensely to the behavior of the others
Highly sensitive persons have an amazing ability to recognize micro-expressions, which means they perceive when someone is suffering and needs help, but also when they’re refused. Therefore, they can react intensely to warning signs that others don’t understand because they simply were not able to catch them.

5. They feel very uncomfortable with loud noises

Highly sensitive persons have a threshold of tolerance to noise which is lower than the rest of the population, that’s why they react strongly to loud noises such as fireworks. Moreover, they also suffer often of misophonia; that means they get irritated listening to normal sounds of daily life, such as those we emit while chewing. These reactions are difficult to control because have a visceral component but end up irritating the others.

6. They need to spend some time alone

Highly sensitive persons enjoy solitude, almost as much as they need air to breathe. After a complicated and chaotic day, everything they need is to relax. So often they tend to decline invitations from friends, not because they don’t like spending time with friends, but becuase they need solitude to recharge.

7. They need more time than usual to make decisions

For highly sensitive people to make a decision is always difficult, even the smallest one, like choosing the tastes of an ice cream. The problem is that their mind is constantly evaluating the pros and cons of all alternatives and they are terrified of taking a bad decision. Obviously, all this can be frustrating for some of them.

8. They are obsessed by details

Highly sensitive persons have a special passion for art, their keen eye catches many details that often go unnoticed to the majority. But sometimes this level of attention to details complicates their life because they always want things to be perfect. If they discover an error immediately feel a deep physical discomfort hard to manage.

9. They take everything as if were something personal

For a highly sensitive person most of the situations of life are something "personal". Being very empathetic, they experience firsthand the pain and anguish of the others. Therefore they react so intensely to social injustices and are not able to take a proper emotional distance. The advice "don’t take it as something personal," just doesn’t work with them. For the same reason, they also tend to react badly to criticism.

10. They’re deeply in tune with their body

These people are not only sensitive to the external environment, but are also perfectly in tune with their body. So, when their delicate balance breaks down, they feel very bad and become irritable. But to all those next to them is difficult to understand why a simple headache or a sudden hunger cause these abrupt changes in behavior.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do you want to be in a good mood? Then sleep less but well


Sleep is a serious matter, or it should be. In fact, some people get irritated a lot when they can not sleep or woke up during sleep. The curious thing is that this is not a "conscious" rage, but a profound malaise on a visceral level. Fortunately, now science explains what happens in their brain: researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that disrupting sleep has a negative effect on the mood.

Less hours but straight is better than more hours with frequent awakenings

The researchers recruited 62 healthy people and divided them into three experimental groups of sleep. The first group could sleep for three nights without interruption, the second group had to go to bed later during the next three nights and a third group was awakened eight times during the night. The goal was to find out how these conditions would affect the mood the next day.

In this way the researchers found that during the first night, the people who were sleeping late as well as those that were awakened several times, showed a worsening of mood, felt more irritable and angry.

But starting from the second night there was a change. People who slept later showed an improved mood of 12% respect the first day, while those who were awakened several times during the night showed a decline of 31%. These results were also maintained on the third day.

Why is it so dangerous to wake up several times?

The researchers say that our body can get used to sleeping less hours, but the fragmentation of sleep is very dangerous to our mood. In fact, we must remember that during sleep a part of our brain remains active, eliminating the waste products of metabolism and rearranging in the memory the experiences of the day. However, the areas that we utilize more while we are awake, are resting. Sleep is an opportunity to recharge our exhausted brains.

Obviously, when we wake up several times during the night, our brain doesn’t have the opportunity to progress through the various stages of sleep to get the rest it needs. So, when we wake up we can feel exhausted, even if we "slept" the 8 canonical hours.

In fact, these researchers found that people who woke up several times during the night showed shorter periods of slow wave sleep, which is precisely the most restful and when our brain is disconnected from the body.

Of course, this fragmentation of sleep will have an impact on our mood. The researchers noted that people who could not rest well not only felt more tired mentally, but also reacted with increased irritability and less sympathy and kindness towards the others.

What happens in the brain when you don’t sleep?

When we don’t sleep well it is increased the activity of the amygdala, an area that plays a key role in the activation of negative emotions such as anger and aggression. At the same time, there is a "disconnection" of the amygdala from cortical areas, such as the anterior cingulate cortex, which are those that allow us regulating our emotional responses.

In fact, another very interesting study conducted at the University of Tel Aviv gives us new clues about what happens in the brain when we don’t sleep. These researchers recruited a group of people and asked them to spend a whole night without sleeping. The day after they undergone an attention test in which were showed images with neutral, positive or negative emotional content.

It was interesting to see that people who didn’t sleep were more concentrated on the negative images and showed unusually high activity of the amygdala, which is also activated before the neutral stimuli. This means that when we don’t sleep we lose the ability to be objective and react to stimuli as if they were a threat, even when they are not.

That's why after a sleepless night we are so irritable and angry, and it is very difficult to control our reactions.

Finan, P. et. Al. (2015) The Effects of Sleep Continuity Disruption on Positive Mood and Sleep Architecture in Healthy Adults. Sleep; 38(11):1735–1742.
Hendler, T, et. Al. (2015) Losing Neutrality: The Neural Basis of Impaired Emotional Control without Sleep. Journal of Neuroscience; 35 (38) 13194-13205.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Orchid Children: Hypersensitive to the educational style of parents


Some children, practically from birth, show great sensitivity to changes occurring around them, react strongly to sounds, notice the slightest change in diet and are even influenced by the mood of the parents. Others, however, are less vulnerable and seem to cope better with the changes occurring in their environment, as if it didn’t concern them.

In this regard, a few years ago, psychologists at the University of California proposed a very interesting concept with respect to the way children react to the education they receive. They claimed that there are children who are like orchids: they wither in response to a difficult childhood, but thrive in a positive environment. At the other extreme there are children similar to dandelions, which are less sensitive to changes and show a more flexible attitude.

Orchid children are more sensitive souls

Since then, psychologists have begun to outline the theory of "Biological Sensitivity to Context", according to which the children's temper is a key factor that determines how to react to different educational styles. In fact, it was found that there are children who react more negatively to environmental stimuli, showing more fear and irritability, while others are able to better control their reactions and are more open and willing to explore.

Recently a group of psychologists from the University of Utrecht has confirmed this theory through a meta-analysis in which they gathered the results of 84 studies that concerned 6,153 children. They evaluated infant temperament, educational style of the parents and child's development, taking into account different indicators, from behavioral problems to school performance.

Therefore they concluded that, in fact, there’re children who are vulnerable from an early age to the educational style used with them. These children are generally classified by their parents and teachers as "difficult children", because they usually express disruptively the emotions and react more intensely to problems and conflicts.

A gene that is activated, for better or for worse

The idea that there are children who are particularly vulnerable to stress isn’t new. But the positive outlook that encompasses the theory of "Orchid Children" is new because it shows that even these children can thrive and achieve great things if they receive an education that promotes sensitive development.

One possible explanation to this phenomenon would be found in the genes. In this regard, the geneticists of Virginia Commonwealth University decided to study the influence of CHRM2 gene, which is linked to alcohol dependence, disruptive behavior in adolescence and antisocial behavior in adolescents. In fact, the chemical receptors of this gene in particular are related to brain functions such as learning and memory.

These researchers took DNA samples from 400 pre-school children to analyze the variations of this gene. At first the children had no behavior problems, so they were followed annually until the age of 17 years old, analyzing their behavior and the educational style of the parents.

Once the period finished the researchers found that when children who had a variation of the gene CHRM2 grew as victims of a negligent and emotionally distant educational style, became difficult teenager. However, when children who had the same genetic variation received a positive education in which prevailed love, understanding and sensitivity, they obtained greater success distinguishing themselves from the others.

Education matters, a lot

These studies show that, despite genetics, temperament or the type of nervous system that a child can have at birth, education plays a key role. Genetics is not a life sentence, a growing number of studies show that the gene expression is determined by lifestyle.

Therefore, when we have in our hands a "difficult" child, whether we are parents or teachers, we could start thinking that in reality is just a much more sensitive flower. It depends on us to maximize its potential, giving him/her love and be patient.

Slagt, M. et. Al. (2016) Differences in sensitivity to parenting depending on child temperament: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin; 142(10): 1068-1110.
Dick, D. M. et. Al. (2011) CHRM2, Parental Monitoring, and Adolescent Externalizing Behavior: Evidence for Gene-Environment Interaction. Psychological Science; 22(4): 481–489.
Boyce, W. T. & Ellis, B. J. (2005) Biological sensitivity to context: I. An evolutionary-developmental theory of the origins and functions of stress reactivity. Dev Psychopathol; 17(2): 271-301.
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Why we tend to insist in the wrong direction?

wrong direction

It happens to everyone sooner or later. There comes a time in life when we realize that we have to change, we have to take another direction, because what we're doing just doesn’t work or leads to a dead end.

But becoming conscious of the need to change is just the first step. Usually, after, comes a phase in which we get blocked, we feel trapped in the decisions of the past and realize w ego back to bad habits.

Without realizing it, we begin to insist in the wrong direction and, of course, don’t move forward, but we begin to recede. However, the effort we make is so much that we finish exhausted and unmotivated, without realizing what happened. The answer is very simple: we are victims of what could be called the "syndrome of the erroneous insistence".

Insisting in the wrong direction

Imagine it's summer. You are sitting quietly on the couch at home and start to feel hot and stuffy. To refresh you open the window a little. Then you open another window in front to create a little current.

When you get back on the couch you feel much better, but after a few minutes you start thinking that if you opened a little more the windows you’d feel even less heat. You get up and do it. And continues like this until windows are fully opened.

Finally you sit quiet on the couch, ready to relax and enjoy the pleasant air flow, but after a few seconds you realize that the heat is back. Why?

The answer is simple: according to the laws of physics, it comes a point when the more you open the windows and much more slowly the air circulates.

Often in our lives we put in practice this kind of behavior. In fact, we insist in the wrong direction when:

- We cling to past behaviors that were effective at the time, but now aren’t not anymore and lost sense.

- We insist in criticizing, thinking that if we do it often the other person will change, when in fact we only get him/her on the defensive.

- We persist about a dream or an idea we think is brilliant, without taking into account the information the real world sends to tell us that we are moving in the wrong direction.

- We remain tied to a couple relationship, that no longer works and has become a source of conflict and dissatisfaction.

In all these cases, at the beginning certain behaviors, beliefs or ideas were perfectly valid and effective. However, at some point in the journey of life the conditions have changed and we didn’t realize it, so we keep on repeating old behaviors or apply beliefs that have become maladaptive. Obviously, at this point the results we get are not what we expected, instead of going forward we feel stranded or even move backwards.

Then we get into a vicious circle, because we start to insist in the wrong direction, wasting strength and energy. Therfore, instead of reflecting on our fundamental beliefs, we think that the problem is that we don’t make all we can, then we redouble our efforts in the wrong direction.

Of course, living within this cycle, swimming constantly against the current, can be devastating, because we end up believing not to be enough capable, when in reality the problem is that we need to change direction.

How to get out of this vicious circle?

If lately you feel trapped in a situation that is consuming your strength and energy without getting the expected results, perhaps the problem is that you are insisting in the wrong direction. Ask yourself these questions:

- Life is constantly changing, are you changed enough? A Chinese proverb says “you can not control the wind, but you can control the sails of your boat”. Life changes constantly, but sometimes we are not able to adapt quickly enough to these changes. But repeating continuously the past behaviors, only because once worked, it’s no guarantee of success, but of failure.

- Look around you, what signals is the world sending to you? Often we insist following a path because we are focused too much on ourselves and ignore the signs the world sends to show us that we are going in the wrong direction. Therefore, make a stop along the way, establish an emotional distance and try to decipher the meaning of all these obstacles, problems and conflicts that arise and block you. Maybe they are only there to tell you that it is better you take another direction. In fact, if your life plan doesn’t work doesn’t mean that you should change goal, but project.

- What are you afraid of? Sometimes we insist in the wrong direction because the other possibilities frighten us. In fact, it is a common mistake in relationships. We remain tied to a person because we think we won’t find another one anymore, and we are afraid to remain alone. Obviously, this is not a good reason to condition our lives. Make sure your decisions express your dreams and hopes, not your fears.

Goienetxea, I. & Lladó, E. (2014) La estupidez de las organizaciones: 7 metáforas para el camino. Barcelona: Rigden.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The biggest mistake people do choosing a life partner


Getting married is a big decision. In fact, it is estimated that 86% of young people think that their marriage will last a lifetime. But often, we are not fully aware of the implications of “for a lifetime”.

Actually, it means that if we live an average of 90 years, not only we have chosen this person and his family for the rest of our life, but also that we will share about 20,000 meals, 100 vacations and 23,000 days. Think about it!

So it is not surprising that several studies indicate that a conflictual marriage can cause serious health problems and that some women claim that their husbands are more stressful than children. Certainly having problems with the person with whom we share life doesn’t make us happier. At this point the question is, we are more or less aware of that? How we end up choosing the wrong person?

The three factors conspiring against us

1. The society gives us bad advices

If we want to start a new business the society tells us to study deeply this sector to take the maximum profit from it and reduce the number of errors we can commit. It is logical. However, there is no school to teach us how to choose the person with whom we’ll share the rest of our lives.

In fact, if we are too rational about this we will be considered “weird”. The society encourages us to trust destiny and be carried away by instinct. But the truth is that because a long-term relationship works you need much more than “chemistry”. Therefore, the plunge may not be based only from the heart, we must also think a lot about the issue. There is no doubt that love is important and helps overcome many obstacles, but it is not the only ingredient that will make survive the relationship.

2. The others push us

After a certain age, which can be 25 or 35 years old, depending on the country in which we live, everyone starts to wonder when we will get married. And there are also those who think that we are weird if we're still single.

In fact, some people are very vulnerable to this social pressure, so they think it is time to choose a partner, without realizing that really doesn’t make sense choosing the first person passing by only to avoid being alone or try to meet others points of view. Fear and pressure are the worst enemies of good decisions because push us to act for the wrong reasons.

3. Also biology plays against us

Biology is not our best friend when it comes to choosing a partner for life. When we meet someone who makes us feel butterflies in our stomach, our brain immediately goes mad and certain hormones are released that ratify that love is indeed blind.

It is understandable, but the process of falling in love is not enough to justify the choice of someone to share all our life with. During this phase, our rational brain doesn’t think clearly because succumbed to the emotions. Therefore, it is better let matters take their course.

Obviously, when we combine all these factors, we can understand why so many people choose the wrong partner "for life" and end up entangled in relationships that make them unhappy.

The worst mistake: Do not know what you want

However, the worst mistake of all is not knowing what we want from a relationship. In fact, when we are sure of what we seek, social and biological pressures don’t have a great influence on our decisions.

In addition, several studies have shown that when we are single, we're not very good at determining what we really want from a relationship.

In this sense, a very interesting study carried out at the universities of Essex and Oxford with people who attended a series of speed dating, has revealed that we are particularly unable to indicate what we want, since after only a few minutes we can contradict ourselves and change our mind. Apparently, our preferences are not as immutable as we thought, but vary depending on the person before us.

Another study conducted at the University of Texas sheds new light on the matter. People who have been analyzed completed a set of psychological tests through which were determined certain personality traits and interests. They also indicated the qualities they wanted to find in a partner. After eleven days, these people attended a series of speed datings. At the end of each appointment they had to indicate if the person seemed adequate to start a serious relationship. It is interesting to note that the attraction degree didn’t depend on the characteristics that the persons were looking in the others, but by the degree of similarity they perceived with themselves. That is, we are convinced to look for something in particular, but in reality, we are attracted by other features.

The truth is that these results should not surprise us because, as with most things in life, sometimes we don’t get what we want until we’ve been wrong many times. Therefore, the main mistake we make when choosing the person "for life" consists of not knowing exactly what we want, because we don’t know well ourself or we don’t have enough experience in relationships.

Of course, this is not to list a number of features that must have the other person absolutely, but it is important that we know what we want and expect from a relationship, what we are willing to give and what not.

There are no perfect people, nor people perfect for you, but when you meet someone who meets many of your expectations and, above all, creates new hopes and interests, then it is worthwhile to grow together. Or at least we must try.

Tidwell, N. D. & Eastwick, P. W. (2013) Perceived, not actual, similarity predicts initial attraction in a live romantic context: Evidence from the speed-dating paradigm. Personal Relationships; 20(2):199-215.
Belot, M. & Francesconi, M. (2006) Can Anyone Be "The" One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating. IZA Discussion Paper; 2377: 1:36.
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