25 Mind-Blowing Psychology Facts

Posted by , Updated on March 26, 2024

Ever feel a strong urge to break rules but you don’t know why? It’s because of a phenomenon called “reactance.” When one freedom is taken away, we naturally want to find a way to assert control again.

Or have you ever wondered why some people are more sarcastic than others? It’s a little more than personal preference. Sarcasm is actually a strong indicator of a healthy, mature brain. It takes more brain activity to process.

Our brains are making us do things we never think twice about. But understanding the psychology behind them can give you more control. From how to judge somebody’s empathy level to a simple phrasing trick that has been proven to help motivate, we’ve gathered some of the most interesting research in the field, just for you.

Let us dive into 25 mind-blowing psychology facts!

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25

Any friendship between the ages of 16 and 28 is more likely to be long-lasting

classmates studying

There are two major factors that psychologists believe are behind creating strong friendships: “continuous unplanned interaction and shared vulnerability.” These are both natural at a younger age when attending school or college, but as you get older, finding an environment that fosters these kinds of experiences is more difficult to come by.

One study estimates that an adult needs to spend about 50 hours with someone before they are considered a “casual” friend and 200 hours to become a “close” friend. Between the ages of 16 and 28, it’s much easier to find this time. Once work, responsibilities, relationships, and children pile up, time becomes a precious commodity.

24

Why women like deep voices and men prefer high ones

Man and Woman Whispering

It turns out that women are attracted to men with deeper voices. Why? It indicates that the male has a bigger body. It’s even better if a man’s voice has some “breathiness” because it conveys that the man has a low level of aggression. This has been shown through a study that used a computer to present different tones of voice to women and have them rate them on a scale of 1 to 5.

Men, on the other hand, prefer a higher-pitched voice because it is representative of a smaller body.

23

When one rule seems too strict, we want to break more

Father and son

Did you ever have a rebellious streak? Or act out at school? It might not all come down to your personality. One theory, which dates back to the 1960s, explains rule-breaking and misbehaving through the concept of “reactance.”

The psychology behind it is that when you have some of your freedom taken away, it triggers a mechanism that produces an “unpleasant motivational arousal.” In simple terms, it means that you try to “restore” your sense of control and freedom by breaking the rules.

22

The way a person treats staff reveals their character

Aggressive Colleagues

Want to get a feeling for what kind of person someone is? Take them out for dinner. Restaurants can serve as a microcosm of society, where larger power dynamics are on full display. Because the wait staff takes a “subservient role”, some people try to display dominance by being rude. This is especially the case for people with more money. If somebody is used to getting their way all the time, then a small mistake by a waiter can make them act aggressively.

So, if you are at a restaurant and see somebody treating the staff without respect, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of how they see themselves.

21

Guilt complex

Therapist Comforting Patient

Guilt can serve a range of purposes, it helps to create and maintain social relations. But a guilt complex takes this and makes it unhealthy. It can make guilt chronic, leading you to feel like you are always doing something wrong, compounding stress and anxiety. It can come from your actions or something that you believe you have done wrong.

On the plus side though, a tendency towards feeling guilty can increase your ability to understand and empathize with others.

20

Men are not funnier than women

Woman Sticking Her Tongue Out

Compiling 28 studies analyzing “humor production ability”, the results are that men are, on average, slightly funnier than women. To be exact, 63% of men scored higher than the “humor ability of women.” The material used was made as objective as possible by using cartoons or written comedy that was assessed by participants, so there was no face to the jokes.

On a big enough sample size, this difference is not so big. It means a funny person is 1 in 10 times more likely to be a man.

19

Women have twice as many pain receptors than men

Woman Suffering from a Stomach Pain

Who’s tougher, men or women? It turns out, the answer isn’t that straightforward. For almost every disease, women report having more severe pain. And men have been shown to have a higher pain threshold. But both of these are likely because women have more nerve receptors for pain.

While men average 17 nerve fibers per square centimeter, women have 34 — exactly double. This means that women feel pain more intensely but it can also depend on what time of their menstrual cycle. During the ovulatory phase, women tend to have a lower pain threshold.

18

The average amount of time a woman can keep a secret is 47 hours

Woman Shh Sign

You should always be careful who you confide in. And there is evidence suggesting that you are better off not telling women. According to some UK research, women can only keep a secret for an average of 47 hours. However, a study taken a few years later found that the opposite was true, finding that men could only keep the lid on a secret for two hours and 47 minutes, with women holding on for almost three-quarters of an hour longer.

Keeping secrets can be negative for our psychology, making us feel ashamed, guilty, and anxious. That’s part of the reason we enjoy spilling the beans. But it’s also because more than half of our normal conversations are filled with gossip. Can’t we find something else to talk about?

17

The happier we are, the less sleep we need

Little Girl Stretching Her Arms

A good night’s sleep can change your entire life. And feeling happier with your life helps. Science supports that — there is a clear correlation between happiness and sleep quality. It’s not clear exactly which direction this is working in, but it’s likely because people feeling more relaxed, content, and happy fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

Disrupted and poor quality of sleep can lead to a range of diseases, from stress to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Sleeping is good for you, but having an intense dream could be a sign that you are nearing death — that’s coming up at number 12.

16

Intelligent people tend to have fewer friends

Reading A Book

Do you feel like living a hermit life away from people more often than socializing? Well, you might just have an extremely high IQ.

Most people with an average and low level of intelligence find happiness through interacting with other people. But it’s the complete opposite for intelligent people, who are happier with having less frequent contact with their friends.

15

Bi-lingual people change their personalities

Women Holding Bubble Text Cards

Your personality might not be as stable as you think. It can change depending on the language you are using. This can be because it’s natural to tap into the cultural norms, expressions, and behaviors of each language. When you change the language you are speaking, then you draw on the differences in that population.

One study found that bilingual Hispanic-American women were more extroverted and assertive in Spanish and more reserved in English. So, if you don’t like your personality, maybe try learning a new language!

14

Travel boosts your health

Travel

How long has it been since you’ve had a vacation? It might sound indulgent at times, but it could be vital to both your mental and physical health. Traveling helps alleviate feelings of stress, which unlocks your cognitive abilities, making you more productive afterward. It also boosts creativity, which depending on your field of work, can be a big change.

These positive effects can stay for more than a month after you return to work. But there are also changes in your body. Traveling can reduce your risk of heart attack and lower your risk of experiencing depression.

13

Feet signal your emotions

Sitting on Brown Wooden Chair

Need to know if someone approves of you? Try looking at their feet. Body language experts say that when somebody either doesn’t agree with you or has mixed feelings about you, their feet will turn away from you, indicating they would prefer to leave. Or, they could be pointing toward the direction of someone they are more interested in.

Most of this happens completely unconsciously, but if you start taking notice, you might pick up on someone’s feelings before your brain does. Or maybe even before they do.

12

You have dreaming sensations at the moment of death

Patient with IV Line

Near-death experiences can be life-changing. Sometimes, people come back with unbelievable near-supernatural tales too. And a groundbreaking piece of science has discovered why. The brains of patients in comas were analyzed during their last moments of life. Just after their ventilators were removed, half of the patient’s brains had a wave of high-frequency brain activity that is associated with dreaming or combining different sensations to form a memory.

Another experiment recorded 900 seconds of brain activity, including after the heart stopped beating, showing similar “gamma oscillations” seen in the coma patients. This could be the life flashing through memories before letting go.

11

Catching a yawn shows empathy

Yawning Baby

Yawns are contagious, it’s pretty hard to watch someone else yawn without having the feeling come on for yourself. But not for everybody. It depends on how empathetic you are. You are more likely to “catch” a yawn if you have high levels of empathy.

There is strong evidence of this from children. If you yawn at a baby, they won’t yawn back. But once the child reaches four years old, they start to mimic it, just like in adults. That’s because this is the same age when kids begin to develop empathy.

10

Sarcasm is a sign of a healthy brain

Thumbs Up

Sarcasm is a sign of a strong, healthy brain because it demands a lot of mental power. This kind of humor has to move through several steps to construct or interpret, activating a higher level of activity in the language-processing parts of the brain. That’s why it is a signal of a more developed brain that isn’t found in young kids — usually, it appears first at the age of 10 and refines through the teenage years.

So, sarcasm is a sign of maturity? Oh great, that’s something teenagers really need to know.

9

Some people can smell colors

Smelling Pink Rose

It might sound like they’ve been smoking something funny, but there are people who actually smell colors. The condition, known as synesthesia, stimulates different senses at the same time.

For example, thinking of a certain image, name, or color, could trigger a taste or smell. This is likely driven by the way different sections of the brain associated with senses are connected. In people with synesthesia, the connecting substance called myelin may be greater, making it easier for neural signals to connect between parts of the brain.

8

Asking "Will I" can motivate you

Motivation

Changing the words around in your thought process can have a huge impact on your motivation. Telling yourself that you “will” do something, like “I will nail this job interview” actually puts more pressure on yourself to perform. Instead, if you reframe the motivator to ask yourself “Will I do well in this job interview?”, it has proven to improve performance.

This might seem like a small distinction, but researchers told participants had better results in making anagrams and even increased the number of hours they wanted to exercise. So, next time you want to do something, try asking yourself instead of telling yourself. Coming up in the top 5: how the medial limbic system attaches you to music, which country is the most depressed, and how “Paris syndrome” makes tourists dangerously ill.

7

A plan B doesn't work

Writing on White Paper

Making a contingency may not always be the smartest thing to do. It sounds like a way of analyzing and predicting all different outcomes, but according to psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania, this is completely wrong. They discovered that people are less motivated to work hard if they know there is a “plan B.”

In the experiment, participants were made to complete group tasks to win rewards. The groups that were told there would be a chance to earn the same rewards later on had a significant drop in performance. If you have a safe option in the back of your mind, then you’ll never give your all.

6

Psychic numbing

Women Covering Eyes

When you hear about a global tragedy that is affecting millions of people, it’s not only difficult to grasp, but may actually be impossible, the brain just isn’t designed for it. The higher the number of people affected, the more our brain blocks it out through a mechanism of “psychic numbing.” It’s much easier for us to understand and feel connected on an individual level to people we see and interact with.

That seems natural, but the world might be a whole lot better if we could extend our empathy a little further.

5

How music becomes your favorite

Woman Listening to Music

Art and music might be fuzzy and interpretive, but inside our bodies, there are some tangible physical responses. When we listen to music, the medial limbic system is activated, which is associated with emotion, long-term memory, and behavior.

We tend to react most strongly to music that taps into our autobiographical memory from a certain time in our lives, most often our youth. Combine that with dopamine release, which is the body’s “happy chemical” that gives us satisfaction and motivation, and attachment to a song can provoke strong emotions of happiness or sadness.

4

The most depressed country in the world

Eiffel Tower

It’s official, France is the most depressed country in the world. At least, that’s according to a report by the World Health Organization. On average, one in five French people will suffer from a “major depressive episode” at some point in their lives.

Even more people, about one in three people in France, were taking psychotropic medication, especially antidepressants. That might be why people seem so hostile in Paris!

3

Phantom vibration syndrome

Phone On Pocket

Unless you wanted to annoy everyone around you, putting your phone on “vibrate” used to be the civilized thing to do. The problem was that our bodies became so used to feeling these vibrations that they began sending false ones.

A study from 2012 found that nearly 9 out of 10 young people had experienced “phantom vibration syndrome”, where they were sure of feeling a buzz in their pocket only to open their phone and find no new notifications. The syndrome has become less common now with completely silent modes and — let’s be honest — most of us check our phones every couple of minutes anyway.

2

Hikikomori

A Person Near A Window

You know that feeling where you’d rather stay in your house for the day? Well, there is a type of person in Japan who has that feeling every single day and it’s so common that it’s led to an entire psychological condition being named after them.

The word used is hikikomori, which translates to “stay indoors” in Japanese. People with this condition, mainly young men to middle-aged men, refuse to go outside for months or years at a time, avoiding any social interaction, like hermits. And this isn’t a small problem, around one and a half million Japanese are categorized as hikikomori.

1

Paris syndrome

Psychology Facts

We’ve all seen Paris in the movies — the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable monuments in the world and the city always appears so enchanting. But be careful, before buying a ticket there, try to bring your expectations down.

Experts have recorded an “extreme form of cultural shock” they have dubbed “Paris syndrome.” Tourists arriving in Paris sometimes became so disorientated that it made them physically sick. It happens when visitors become extremely anxious, which then interrupts how the gut processes food. This was especially the case with Japanese tourists because the cultural differences between the two places are so huge.

Enjoyed this list? Check out 25 Mind-Blowing Psychology Experiments.



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