End of the year is a very special time as Holiday lights melt away our inner Grinch and we start to believe in miracles and new beginnings.
Belief is not a religious phenomenon. It is our way of coping with the future and finding existential meaning. Scientific studies show that belief in miracles contributes to greater life satisfaction. Although thinking that health problems can be solved by miraculous interventions, quite prevalent in the US population, can be dangerous. Among other things, it does not encourage good health behaviors.
Belief in science and technological progress can make people satisfied with their lives as much or even more than belief in miracles that science can't explain. The stronger the sense of personal control, the higher satisfaction with life. Individuals with a heightened internal locus of control with regard to health have been found to have better outcomes from treatment for many medical conditions.
Science has brought many miracles to medicine. It would never have happened if curious people had not paid close attention to the world and believed in making dreams come true.
Why is it that some individuals dare to start new ambitious projects on their own while others do not?
Research indicates that the main motivation in starting new ventures is confidence in one's abilities to perform relevant tasks - that is, believing in yourself. Self-confidence and even a sense of self-importance are even more important factors than outcome expectancies.
And as the old year vanishes away, perhaps we should start 2017 with believing in ourselves, in the good things in life and in the possibility of being... pleasantly surprised. You're gonna make it after all!
Hayward RD, Krause N, Ironson G, & Pargament KI (2016). Externalizing religious health beliefs and health and well-being outcomes. Journal of behavioral medicine, 39 (5), 887-95 PMID: 27372713
Garraway LA (2016). Believe the miracles: of biomedical science and human suffering. The Journal of clinical investigation, 126 (12), 4716-4722 PMID: 27906693
Townsend, D., Busenitz, L., & Arthurs, J. (2010). To start or not to start: Outcome and ability expectations in the decision to start a new venture Journal of Business Venturing, 25 (2), 192-202 DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2008.05.003
Stavrova, O., Ehlebracht, D., & Fetchenhauer, D. (2016). Belief in scientific–technological progress and life satisfaction: The role of personal control. Personality and Individual Differences, 96, 227-236.
Huang, L., Krasikova, D. V., & Liu, D. (2016). I can do it, so can you: The role of leader creative self-efficacy in facilitating follower creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 132, 49-62.
What can we learn from Halloween?
A lot, judging by numerous scientific studies and less scientific surveys.
Halloween could help to collect a wide range of extreme facial expressions, including highly negative situations when children discover their parents ate up all their Halloween candy. This is what was done in the recent paper published in Emotion, the journal of American Psychological Association, and in an ongoing Jimmy Kimmel's challenge pictured above.
Smile! In the era of the Internet of things we are been watched. And our facial expressions show how we feel. Artificial Intelligence is quickly becoming more proficient at recognizing micro-expressions of human faces, mastering emotional intelligence and resurfacing our fears of humanity's extinction. But are we there yet?
The Halloween emotions paper shows that even if you are not a poker player or a strategically-controlling-emotions athlete, just a simple kid, isolated facial expressions may not tell the whole story.
Halloween provides a look into human psychology in many other ways. This celebration helps to learn about "uninhibited" human behavior. The kind that increases hospital statistics on Halloween, including sugar-high accidents for kids and alcohol-/drug- related injuries for adults. And the kind of "bad behavior" that supports steeling Halloween candy.
Two more Halloween experiments - investigating children's fantasy beliefs and political preferences - showed that kids are not as simple as one may think and Halloween can provide deep insights into human psychology.
Retail trends provide additional insights - telling that the 11-year reign of princesses is over, as superheroes are now more popular than ever. It's a digital geek-centric age after all.
Still, all those techno hipster and simply magical characters always bring Halloween fun.
And most importantly it teaches once again that you'll get further with treats than with tricks. Diversity is not optional!
Wenzler S, Levine S, van Dick R, Oertel-Knöchel V, & Aviezer H (2016). Beyond pleasure and pain: Facial expression ambiguity in adults and children during intense situations. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 16 (6), 807-14 PMID: 27337681
Diener, E., Fraser, S., Beaman, A., & Kelem, R. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33 (2), 178-183 DOI: 10.1037//0022-35184.108.40.206
Woolley, J., Boerger, E., & Markman, A. (2004). A visit from the Candy Witch: factors influencing young children's belief in a novel fantastical being Developmental Science, 7 (4), 456-468 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2004.00366.x
Jamison, J., & Karlan, D. (2016). CANDY ELASTICITY: HALLOWEEN EXPERIMENTS ON PUBLIC POLITICAL STATEMENTS Economic Inquiry, 54 (1), 543-547 DOI: 10.1111/ecin.12233
“Anno bisesto, anno funesto” (leap year, gloomy year), say Italians. “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” agrees an old Scottish proverb. "Високосный год "Урожай" соберет" (leap year will gather the "Harvest") warns a Russian saying implying that there will be plenty of disasters - calamities, catastrophes and cataclysms. But usually there are not.