WTF Fun Fact 13016 – Petting an Animal Reduces Stress

You’ve probably heard that petting an animal reduces stress. If you’re lucky, you’ve even experienced it firsthand. And if you have the pleasure of consistently getting some hands-on time with a furry companion (or even a pal’s pet), you may not always notice it, but you probably do have less cortisol in your system.

How does petting an animal reduce stress?

One of the most oft-cited studies about the animals reducing our stress comes from a study in the journal of the American Educational Research Assocation (AERA). It was a rigorous study that controlled for multiple other factors, such as overall health of the subjects. And it found that just 10 minutes of petting a cat or dog (many of which happened to come from a shelter and probably benefitted from some socialization) results in measurably smaller levels of cortisol, the hormone that regulates our flight-or-fight response.

The research was done on college students (who often get stressed out around midterms and finals). And one of the best parts was that even brief animal encounters could help reduce stress levels.

The researchers didn’t find the same effect when students viewed photos of pets or saw them in person – the real benefits came from physical contact.

Details of the study

The researchers collected saliva samples from 249 college students who participated in one of four types of animal encounters. (Cortisol levels can be measured using saliva.)

  • 73 students got to pet the cats and dogs
  • 62 watched other people pet the animals
  • 57 watched a slideshow of images of the same animals
  • 57 remained on the waitlist

Saliva samples were collected first thing in the morning and then two more samples were collected 15 and 25 minutes after the animal encounter.

Students with hands-on animal interactions had the lowest cortisol levels, though it didn’t necessarily last throughout the day. Still, even momentary stress relief can help regulate stress.

The researchers hope the knowledge that petting animals reduces stress will help colleges (and others) help people regulate stress before it causes more serious physical and psychological disorders.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Animal Visitation Program (AVP) Reduces Cortisol Levels of University Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial” — AERA Open

WTF Fun Fact 12793 – Angry People Overestimate Their Intelligence

Just because things like swearing are common among intelligent people doesn’t mean that extends to actual anger. In fact, angry people tend to overestimate their intelligence.

Anger and intelligence

Some negative emotions are more common among intelligent people, but anger seems to make folks a bit overconfident. A study showed that those who are quick to anger tend to think they’re smart (and the rest of the world needs to catch up).

The study

According to LiveScience (cited below): “To test this, the researchers surveyed more than 520 undergraduate students attending schools in Warsaw. The students answered survey questions to gauge how easily and how often they get angry. Then, the students took a survey to assess their own intelligence before taking an objective intelligence test.”

People in the study who were quick to anger had a higher opinion of their own cognitive abilities. Those who were more neurotic, on the other hand (who reacted to events with anxiety and distress), tended to see themselves as less intelligent.

In the end, it seems to come down to narcissism. Ill-tempered people tended to be more narcissistic and therefore think they’re smart. Of course, there’s no real, true test of intelligence, so we don’t know if that’s true or not; we just know that they seem to think they’re the real deal when it comes to brains.

Perceived intelligence

The study looked at anger as an overall personality trait, asking people to judge their own general tendencies towards anger. It didn’t try to test how angry they got in the moment.

It’s also important to note that “although the researchers found an association between the two traits, it’s unclear if there’s a cause and effect relationship between anger and overestimating intelligence. More research is needed to explore that link.”

The study was published in the journal Intelligence.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Angry People Think They’re Smarter Than They Are” — Live Science

WTF Fun Fact 12714 – Our Happiest Years

Even people over aged 90 are happier than many of us aged 40 – 59. At least that’s what a UK survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found when they analyzed the well-being data of more than 300,000 adults from 2012 to 2015.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone – some of us think of our 40s and 50s as a wonderful time when our careers flourish. But overall, that age group reports the lower levels of life satisfaction and the highest levels of anxiety. And while anxiety is higher in women, they tend to report more life satisfaction than men.

According to The Guardian’s report on the survey, “life satisfaction plummeted among respondents aged 35 and over.” This may be due to increased family responsibilities and less time to let loose and have fun.

Researchers stated that “Evidence shows that people are having children later. Therefore, another possible reason for lower scores for the middle-age groups could result from the burden caused by having to care for both parents and children at the same time”

If you are middle-aged and miserable, however, there is a bright spot. Once you hit 60, it’s largely uphill for life satisfaction. People aged 65-79 had the highest levels of personal wellbeing (peaking at ages 70 to 74).

Now, it may be a generational thing as well. Or perhaps with age comes wisdom and the realization that one can choose happiness. We just don’t know for sure.

The important thing to note is that if you feel unduly stressed in your 40s and 50s, you’re pretty much normal – and it does get better. However, ages 50 to 54 may be the worst years. — WTF fun facts

Source: “People aged 40-59 are least happy and most anxious, report finds” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12402 – Self-Cleaning Fish

An experiment published in the journal PLOS Biology showed for the second time that fish could recognize themselves in the mirror. Scientists injected the cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus) with a substance that “tattooed” them with brown marks on their scales. When they spotted their reflections, they were triggered to try and scrape off the marks.

This goes far beyond simple mirror recognition. Fish mirror self-recognition (MSR) would give the creatures a characteristic only shared by two other creatures – humans and chimpanzees.

Previous research drew the same conclusions but was not conclusive since the sample size was small and not all of the fish exhibited the behavior. But the recent replication study remedied those inadequacies and added more evidence to the theory that fish are self-aware.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Some researchers are still skeptical that the behavior was not the result of self-awareness but rather a physical reaction to being tattooed by the scientists.

When interviewed by IFL Science, the lead researcher, Professor Masanori Kohda of Osaka City University, said, “During the long 50-year history of mirror tests of animals, this study is the first test that uses the mark to which the subject animals pay attention. Hence, this fish shows the highest passing rate for mark-test, exceeding that of chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants.” – WTF Fun Facts

Source: Fish Cleaning Themselves In A Mirror May Have Just Demonstrated Self-Awareness — IFL Science