Comments Off

GE pays no taxes

Posted March 27th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation and maker of Japan’s failed nuclear reactors, last year had worldwide profits of $14.2 billion. They paid no taxes - and claimed a $3.2 billion tax benefit, thanks to fierce lobbying and what the Times calls  “innovative accounting.” And President Obama just named GE’s CEO his liaison with the business community.

As David Kocieniewski reports in The New York Times, G.E. “has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than most multinational companies.”

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, between 2006 and 2010, General Electric reported $26.3 billion in pretax profits to its shareholders but paid no U.S. taxes. In fact, they received $4.2 billion in refunds from Uncle Sam for an effective tax rate of negative 15.8 percent over these five years.

Comments Off

Can social networking change the nature of friendship?

Posted March 27th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Online social networks tend to be far larger than their real-life counterparts, but online users say they have about the same number of close friends as the real-life average person.

The advent of online social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook is changing the average number of friends people have, with some users befriending literally thousands of others, Dr Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University told the BA Festival of Science on September 10.

Past research by Professor Robin Dunbar at the Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioural Ecology Research Group at Liverpool University has shown that the average person has a social network of around 150 friends, ranging from very close friends to casual acquaintances.

Making friends can be costly, according to behavioural ecologists. While it might not be a very romantic view of friendship, making new friends involves an investment by committing time and energy to another person in the hope that they will provide reciprocal benefits in the future.

Dr Reader and his colleagues wondered whether online networks are somehow reducing the investment necessary to make new friends by lowering the perceived risk.

The online survey which forms the main part of their ongoing research has revealed that face-to-face encounters are, perhaps unsurprisingly, still the most important factor in close friendships.

Some 90 per cent of the online friends rated as ‘close’ have been met face-to-face, with the remaining 10 per cent likely to be friends of close friends, perceived as having many of the mutual friend’s attributes and therefore “low risk”.

According to Dr Reader, the importance placed on face-to-face encounters is a result of the necessity to base an investment on honest information.

The importance of honest signals is a fundamental concept in behavioural ecology. For example, a female song bird invests in a mate based on the quality of his voice, as this is an honest signal indicating the fitness of the bird. In the same way, people choose friends based on their “quality”, and this can only be assessed when there are honest signals being given.

“It’s easier to spot honest signals when meeting someone face-to-face using facial and bodily cues,” explained Dr Reader, “whereas it’s harder to spot dishonest signals online.”

Evolutionarily speaking, the size of human social groups has always been limited by the ability of individuals within the group to communicate with each other.

While online social networks are very unlikely to ever replace real-life social networks, it is possible that their ability to aid communication may bring about a change in the size and structure of real-life social networks in the future.

The above story is reprinted with editorial adaptations by Science Daily,from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.

Comments Off

Perception is projection in partner relationships

Posted March 25th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

People gauge how responsive their partners are primarily by how they themselves respond to their partners—not the other way around, according to a series of Yale studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“We have examined this in different ways,” said Margaret Clark, faculty author and psychology professor. “In studies of marriage we’ve found that what people report they do for their partners is a better predictor of what they think their spouse does for them than are the spouse’s own reports of what was done.”

“Most surprisingly,” she said, “when Edward Lemay, a senior Yale graduate student, brought people into the lab and asked leading questions to make them feel supportive or non-supportive of their partner, the first group reported that their partner is more supportive toward them than did the second group.”

Responsiveness in this instance means anything a person does that promotes the partner’s welfare, such as helping with tasks, providing comfort and information, encouraging a person to strive toward goals, including a partner in desirable joint activities, and providing symbolic support, such as words of affection, hugs, and sending greeting cards.

Clark and co-authors Lemay and Brooke Feeney, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, report findings from three studies, all of which suggest that only a small fraction of how people gauge their partners’ responsiveness to their needs is based on what the partners do. Most of it is based on what they themselves do and feel.

“We are calling this projection of responsiveness,” Clark said, “which means seeing your relationship partner as behaving in the same manner toward you as you do toward that partner. That is, you see your partner as about as responsive to your welfare as you are to your partner’s welfare, regardless of the partner’s true behavior.”

The researchers said they conducted the studies because an essential feature of the health and well-being of a mutual communal relationship is believing that one’s partner cares about one’s welfare and will attend and respond to one’s desires, needs, and goals. Not only do people who care about their partners perceive that their partners in turn care about them, they become more satisfied with their relationship over time.

“Sadly, the flip side is true too,” Clark said. “Those who are uncaring believe their apathy is reciprocated, which undermines their satisfaction.”

Reference: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92: 834-853 (May 2007)

Comments Off

The downside of marriage for women: the greater a wife’s age gap from her husband, the lower her life expectancy

Posted March 23rd, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Marriage is more beneficial for men than for women – at least for those who want a long life. Previous studies have shown that men with younger wives live longer. While it had long been assumed that women with younger husbands also live longer, in a new study Sven Drefahl from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, has shown that this is not the case. Instead, the greater the age difference from the husband, the lower the wife’s life expectancy. This is the case irrespective of whether the woman is younger or older than her spouse.

Related to life expectancy choosing a wife is easy for men – the younger the better. The mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife is reduced by eleven percent compared to couples where both partners are the same age. Conversely, a man dies earlier when he is younger than his spouse.

For years, researchers have thought that this data holds true for both sexes. They assumed an effect called “health selection” was in play; those who select younger partners are able to do so because they are healthier and thus already have a higher life expectancy. It was also thought that a younger spouse has a positive psychological and social effect on an older partner and can be a better caretaker in old age, thereby helping to extend the partner’s life.

“These theories now have to be reconsidered”, says Sven Drefahl from MPIDR. “It appears that the reasons for mortality differences due to the age gap of the spouses remain unclear.” Using data from almost two million Danish couples, Drefahl was able to eliminate the statistical shortcomings of earlier research, and showed that the best choice for a woman is to marry a man of exactly the same age; an older husband shortens her life, and a younger one even more so.

Age Gap to Spouse
A woman’s life expectancy is shorter the greater the age difference from her husband, irrespective of whether she is younger or older than him. However, the younger his wife, the longer a man lives. Women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their mortality risk by 20 percent compared to couples where both partners are the same age. But the mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older than his wife is reduced by eleven percent.

According to Drefahl’s study, published May 12th in the journal Demography, women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their mortality risk by 20 percent. Hence, “health selection” can’t be true for women; healthy women apparently don’t go chasing after younger men. While many studies on mate selection show that women mostly prefer men the same age, most of them end up with an older husband. In the United States, on average a groom is 2.3 years older than his bride. “It’s not that women couldn’t find younger partners; the majority just don’t want to”, says Sven Drefahl.

Age at Marriage in the USA
Young wives wanted: in the United States a groom is 2.3 years older than his bride (average from 1947 to 2009). The mean age of marriage fell until World War II and has been rising ever since. In 2009 it was 28.1 years for men and 25.9 years for women. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

It is also doubtful that older wives benefit psychologically and socially from a younger husband. This effect only seems to work for men. “On average, men have fewer and lesser quality social contacts than those of women,” says Sven Drefahl. Thus, unlike the benefits of a younger wife, a younger husband wouldn’t help extend the life of his older wife by taking care of her, going for a walk with her and enjoying late life together. She already has friends for that. The older man, however, doesn’t.

This means that women don’t benefit by having a younger partner, but why does he shorten their lives? “One of the few possible explanations is that couples with younger husbands violate social norms and thus suffer from social sanctions,” says Sven Drefahl. Since marrying a younger husband deviates from what is regared as normal, these couples could be regarded as outsiders and receive less social support. This could result in a less joyful and more stressful life, reduced health, and finally, increased mortality.

While the new MPIDR study shows that marriage disadvantages most women when they are not the same age as their husband, it is not true that marriage in general is unfavorable. Being married raises the life expectancy of both men and women above those that are unmarried. Women are also generally better off than men; worldwide their life expectancy exceeds that of men by a few years.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock (MPIDR) investigates the structure and dynamics of populations. It focusses on issues of political relevance such as demographic change, aging, fertility, the redistribution of work over the course of life, as well as aspects of evolutionary biology and medicine. The MPIDR is one of the largest demographic research bodies in Europe and one of the worldwide leaders in the field. It is part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German Research Society.

Comments Off

Mindfulness programs for employees

Posted March 16th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Mindfulness is a fundamental part of my coaching program with clients, and includes regular meditation practice as well as other mindfulness practices that aim at a a balanced, healthy and happy way of living.

Many companies and public organizations are now seeing the benefits of mindfulness in terms of employee well being and productivity, and which has significant cost-savings over traditional courses or training.

For example, stressed-out employees at Justice Canada in Ottawa will soon be able to seek relief in a taxpayer-funded program that uses the Buddhist concept of mindfulness to help them cope with personal and workplace pressures.

The program will help employees “deal more effectively with difficult thought and emotions that can keep you feeling stuck in everyday life.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was founded in 1979 by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical professor at the University of Massachusetts. According to the website mindfulnet.org, 18,000 people have since completed MBSR programs. It’s now used in hospitals, schools, courtrooms, prisons and boardrooms around the world. Corporate disciples include Apple, Yahoo!, Google, Starbucks and Procter&Gamble.

Mindfulness, which has its origins in ancient meditation practices, “helps you choose to become more aware of your thoughts and mental processes,” says mindfulnet.org, “allowing you to choose how you respond to them, rather than responding on autopilot.” In the workplace, the website says it can help reduce tensions, improve communications, defuse conflict and promote more creative thinking. Participants are taught a number of meditation techniques designed to reduce “brain chatter” and respond more appropriately to thoughts and feelings. Most MBSR training includes a “body scan exercise, two sitting meditations, walking meditation, gentle stretching and body awareness exercises,” the website says.

Comments Off

The keys to a long life: Some surprises

Posted March 13th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Cheer up. Stop worrying. Don’t work so hard. Good advice for a long life? As it turns out, no. In a groundbreaking study of personality as a predictor of longevity, University of California, Riverside researchers found just the opposite.

“It’s surprising just how often common assumptions — by both scientists and the media — are wrong,” said Howard S. Friedman, distinguished professor of psychology who led the 20-year study.

Friedman and Leslie R. Martin , a 1996 UCR alumna (Ph.D.) and staff researchers, have published those findings in “The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study” (Hudson Street Press, March 2011).

Friedman and Martin examined, refined and supplemented data gathered by the late Stanford University psychologist Louis Terman and subsequent researchers on more than 1,500 bright children who were about 10 years old when they were first studied in 1921. “Probably our most amazing finding was that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one’s risk of dying decades later,” Friedman concluded.

The Longevity Project, as the study became known, followed the children through their lives, collecting information that included family histories and relationships, teacher and parent ratings of personality, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service and numerous other details.

“When we started, we were frustrated with the state of research about individual differences, stress, health and longevity,” Friedman recalled. “It was clear that some people were more prone to disease, took longer to recover, or died sooner, while others of the same age were able to thrive. All sorts of explanations were being proposed — anxiety, lack of exercise, nerve-racking careers, risk-taking, lack of religion, unsociability, disintegrating social groups, pessimism, poor access to medical care, and Type A behavior patterns.” But none were well-studied over the long term. That is, none followed people step-by-step throughout their lives.

When Friedman and Martin began their research in 1991, they planned to spend six months examining predictors of health and longevity among the Terman participants.

But the project continued over the next two decades — funded in part by the National Institute on Aging — and the team eventually involved more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students who tracked down death certificates, evaluated interviews, and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of information about the Terman participants through the years.

“We came to a new understanding about happiness and health,” said Martin, now a psychology professor at La Sierra University in Riverside. “One of the findings that really astounds people, including us, is that the Longevity Project participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking. It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest.”

Part of the explanation lies in health behaviors — the cheerful, happy-go-lucky kids tended to take more risks with their health across the years, Friedman noted. While an optimistic approach can be helpful in a crisis, “we found that as a general life-orientation, too much of a sense that ‘everything will be just fine’ can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to health and long life. Prudence and persistence, however, led to a lot of important benefits for many years. It turns out that happiness is not a root cause of good health. Instead, happiness and health go together because they have common roots.”

Many of the UCR findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom. For example:

  • Marriage may be good for men’s health, but doesn’t really matter for women. Steadily married men — those who remained in long-term marriages — were likely to live to age 70 and beyond; fewer than one-third of divorced men were likely to live to 70; and men who never married outlived those who remarried and significantly outlived those who divorced — but they did not live as long as married men.
  • Being divorced is much less harmful to women’s health. Women who divorced and did not remarry lived nearly as long as those who were steadily married.
  • “Don’t work too hard, don’t stress,” doesn’t work as advice for good health and long life. Terman subjects who were the most involved and committed to their jobs did the best. Continually productive men and women lived much longer than their more laid-back comrades.
  • Starting formal schooling too early — being in first grade before age 6 — is a risk factor for earlier mortality. Having sufficient playtime and being able to relate to classmates is very important for children.
  • Playing with pets is not associated with longer life. Pets may sometimes improve well-being, but they are not a substitute for friends.
  • Combat veterans are less likely to live long lives, but surprisingly the psychological stress of war itself is not necessarily a major health threat. Rather, it is a cascade of unhealthy patterns that sometimes follows. Those who find meaning in a traumatic experience and are able to reestablish a sense of security about the world are usually the ones who return to a healthy pathway.
  • People who feel loved and cared for report a better sense of well-being, but it doesn’t help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become — healthy or unhealthy.

It’s never too late to choose a healthier path, Friedman and Martin said. The first step is to throw away the lists and stop worrying about worrying.

“Some of the minutiae of what people think will help us lead long, healthy lives, such as worrying about the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the foods we eat, actually are red herrings, distracting us from the major pathways,” Friedman said. “When we recognize the long-term healthy and unhealthy patterns in ourselves, we can begin to maximize the healthy patterns.”

“Thinking of making changes as taking ‘steps’ is a great strategy,” Martin advised. “You can’t change major things about yourself overnight. But making small changes, and repeating those steps, can eventually create that path to longer life.”

Comments Off

Use of tech devices can damage sleep

Posted March 12th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

The 2011 Sleep in America® poll released March 7 by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) finds pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before bed. It also finds that a significant number of Americans aren’t getting the sleep they say they need and are searching for ways to cope.

Many Americans report dissatisfaction with their sleep during the week.

The poll found that 43% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights. More than half (60%) say that they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night (i.e., snoring, waking in the night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed when they get up in the morning.)

About two-thirds (63%) of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Most say they need about seven and a half hours of sleep to feel their best, but report getting about six hours and 55 minutes of sleep on average weeknights. About 15% of adults between 19 and 64 and 7% of 13-18 year olds say they sleep less than six hours on weeknights.

“This poll explores the association between Americans’ use of communication technologies and sleep habits,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “While these technologies are commonplace, it is clear that we have a lot more to learn about the appropriate use and design of this technology to complement good sleep habits.”

Communications technology use before sleep is pervasive.

Americans report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed, 95%, uses some type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. However, baby boomers (46-64 year olds), generation X’ers (30-45 year olds), generation Y’ers (19-29 year olds) and generation Z’ers (13-18 year olds) report very different technology preferences.

About two-thirds of baby boomers (67%) and generation X’ers (63%) and half of generation Z’ers (50%) and generation Y’ers (49%) watch television every night or almost every night within the hour before going to sleep.

“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour — making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”

Computer or laptop use is also common. Roughly six in ten (61%) say they use their laptops or computers at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. More than half of generation Z’ers (55%) and slightly less of generation Y’ers (47%) say they surf the Internet every night or almost every night within the hour before sleep.

“My research compares how technologies that are ‘passively received’ such as TVs and music versus those with ‘interactive’ properties like video games, cell phones and the Internet may affect the brain differently,” says Michael Gradisar, PhD, Flinders University (Australia). “The hypothesis is that the latter devices are more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process. If you feel that these activities are alerting or causing you anxiety, try doing something more ‘passive’ to help you wind down before bed.”

Generation Z’ers (36%) and generation Y’ers (28%) are about twice as likely as generation X’ers (15%) and baby boomers (12%) to say they play a video game within the hour before bedtime at least a few times a week. More than one in ten (14%) of generation Z’ers say they do so every night or almost every night before going to sleep.

“Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen how television viewing has grown to be a near constant before bed, and now we are seeing new information technologies such as laptops, cell phones, video games and music devices rapidly gaining the same status,” says Lauren Hale, PhD, Stony Brook University Medical Center. “The higher use of these potentially more sleep-disruptive technologies among younger generations may have serious consequences for physical health, cognitive development and other measures of wellbeing.”

Cell phone use, specifically texting and talking on the phone, shows a significant age gap. More than half of generation Z’ers (56%) and nearly half of generation Y’ers (42%) say they send, read or receive text messages every night or almost every night in the hour before bed compared to 15% of generation X’ers and 5% of baby boomers.

Cell phones were sometimes a sleep disturbance. About in one in ten of generation Z’ers (9%) say that they are awakened after they go to bed every night or almost every night by a phone call, text message or email. About one in five of generation Y’ers (20%) and generation Z’ers (18%) say this happens at least a few nights a week.

“Unfortunately cell phones and computers, which make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day,” says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, Vice Chairman of the National Sleep Foundation.

Baby boomers are less sleepy than generations Y and Z.

Generation Z’ers and generation Y’ers report more sleepiness than generation X’ers and baby boomers, with the 13-18 year olds being the sleepiest of all. Roughly one in five of generation Z’ers (22%) and generation Y’ers (16%) rate as “sleepy” using a standard clinical assessment tool (included in the poll) compared to about one in ten generation X’ers (11%) and baby boomers (9%).

Generation Z’ers report sleeping an average of 7 hours and 26 minutes on weeknights, about an hour and 45 minutes less than the 9 hours and 15 minute recommended by experts. More than half of 13-18 year olds (54%) say they wake up between 5:00 am and 6:30 am on weekdays — compared to 45% of generation X’ers and baby boomers and 24% of generation Y’ers.

“As children develop into their teenage years, their bodies are biologically predisposed towards later bedtimes,” says Amy Wolfson, PhD, an expert on adolescent sleep. “If they are required to get up before 6:30 to go to school, it’s impossible for teens to get the amount of sleep they need.”

Americans are coping with sleepiness by drinking caffeine and taking regular naps. The average person on a weekday drinks about three 12 ounce caffeinated beverages, with little difference between age groups.

Napping is common in all age groups, but the two youngest groups reported slightly more napping during the week. More than half of generation Z’ers (53%) and generation Y’ers (52%) say they take at least one nap during the work week/school week compared to about four in ten generation X’ers (38%) and baby boomers (41%).

For the more than a quarter who say their schedules do not allow for adequate sleep, when asked to evaluate the day after getting inadequate sleep, more than eight in ten (85%) said that it affects their mood; almost three-quarters (72%) said it affects their family life or home responsibilities, and about two-thirds (68%) said it affects their social life.

For those who are employed and report not getting adequate sleep, about three quarters (74%) of those over 30 said that sleepiness affects their work. About two-thirds of adults (61%) said that their intimate or sexual relations were affected by sleepiness (13-18 year olds were not asked this question).

Sleepiness also played a factor in safe driving practices. Half of generation Y’ers (50%) say they drove while drowsy at least once in the past month. More than a third of generation X’ers (40%) and approximately a third of generation Z’ers (30%) and baby boomers (28%) also say so. A staggering number, about one in ten, of generation X’ers (12%), generation Y’ers (12%) and generation Z’ers (8%) say they drive drowsy once or twice a week.

“If you’re having problems sleeping at night, or if you’re feeling too sleepy the next day, take a look at your bedtime habits,” says Allison Harvey, PhD, behavioral sleep expert at UC Berkeley. “Create a relaxing wind-down routine and turn down the lights. Make your bedroom a sanctuary from the worries of your day.”

Healthy Sleep Advice

If you are having problems sleeping, the National Sleep Foundation suggests the following to improve your sleep:

  • Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day.
  • Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us and prepares us for a productive day. Alternatively, dim your lights when it’s close to bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise in the morning can help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems sleeping.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
  • Create a cool, comfortable sleeping environment that is free of distractions. If you’re finding that entertainment or work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these distractions from your bedroom.
  • Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. If you find yourself still lying awake after 20 minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you are sleepy.
  • Keep a “worry book” next to your bed. If you wake up because of worries, write them down with an action plan, and forget about them until morning.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate and tobacco at night.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages right before bedtime.
  • No nightcaps. Drinking alcohol before bed can rob you of deep sleep and can cause you to wake up too early.
  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medications might be contributing to your sleep problem.
  • No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before 3:00 pm.

For the complete summary of findings and profile of sleepy connected Americans.

Poll Methodology and Definitions

The National Sleep Foundation began surveying American sleep health and behaviors in 1991. The 2011 Sleep in America® annual poll was conducted for the National Sleep Foundation by WB&A Market Research, using a random sample of 1,508 adults between the ages of 13-64. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The poll used a validated clinical sleepiness screening tool, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, for all of the participants. The poll also used standard measures to evaluate the next day impact of inadequate sleep to assess mood, family and social life.

Comments Off

Honest and humble employees the most productive

Posted March 10th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Employees who have the highest combination of honesty and humility have the highest job performance, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Wade Rowatt, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, said the honesty-humility personality trait was a unique predictor of job performance.

“Researchers already know that integrity can predict job performance and what we are saying here is that humility and honesty are also major components in that,” Rowatt said in a statement.

“This study shows that those who possess the combination of honesty and humility — those who exhibit high levels of fairness, greed-avoidance, sincerity and modesty — have better job performance. In fact, we found that humility and honesty not only correspond with job performance, but it predicted job performance above and beyond any of the other five personality traits like agreeableness and conscientiousness.”

Rowatt, colleagues and a business consultant surveyed 269 employees in 25 different companies across 20 different states who work in positions that provide healthcare for challenging clients.

Supervisors rated the job performance of each employee on 35 different job skills and described the kind of customer with whom the employee worked.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, found those who self-reported more honesty and humility scored significantly higher by their supervisors for their job performance.

Comments Off

“Slow” exercise may be better than the big sweat

Posted March 6th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Fitness and medical experts have inundated us with the advice of regular exercise to maintain a healthy body and mind. This is often portrayed by popular media and fitness clubs promote the vigorous, and even “no pain, no gain,” approach to fitness. There is some new research out now that indicates that a slower and more mindful approach to exercise may be just as, or even more beneficial for some people.

According to Alan Fogel, writing in Psychology Today, “slow movement, with body sense awareness, has astounding health benefits by itself and in combination with regular exercise routines.” There are a growing number of pain clinics and integrative medicine centers that offer slow movement, awareness-based therapies such as Yoga or Tai Chi.

Tai Chi, for example, the most famous branch of Quigong, or exercises that harness the “qi” (life energy) has been linked to health benefits for virtually everyone from children to seniors and for people suffering from everything from breast cancer to Parkinson’s, sleep problems, high blood pressure to soft tissue injuries. Tai Chi combines basic martial arts movements with deep breathing and graceful meditative movements. In a study comparing Tai Chi with brisk walking and resistance training, a Tai Chi group improved more than 30% in lower-body strength and 25% in arm strength, equal to weight trainers and more than brisk walkers.

A 2008 Harvard Medical School analysis of 26 research studies on the benefits of Tai Chi showed that in 85% of the trails, Tai Chi lowered blood pressure and reduced levels of peptides associated with heart disease and loss of bone density.

So, slow mindful exercise as demonstrated in practices such as yoga and Tai Chi, may be the ticket to longer, more peaceful life.

Comments Off

Has gender equity taken a backwards step?

Posted March 6th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

On March 8, 2011 International Women’s Day was celebrated. Was there much to celebrate? Has the glass ceiling been broken? Despite significant advances in the past two decades for women in the workplace, the advances have rarely reached the top, and there’s significant evidence that gender equity may even have taken a step backward. And the recession and its attendant conservative economic and social movements may have much to do with this.

Hermina Ibarra and Morten Hansen in the December 21, 2009 Harvard Business Review, studied the leadership of the 2,000 of the world’s top performing companies, they found only 29 (1.5%) of those CEOs were women, an even smaller percentage than on the Fortune 500 Global list (2.5%). Only one woman, Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, made it to their top 100 CEOs list. In the U.S., women comprise 57% of all college students but only 26% of full professors and only 14% of University presidents. Despite being nearly 50% of law school graduates, women make up only 18% of law partners and only 25% of judges. Only 9.4% of jobs of Vice-President or higher are occupied by women according to a study completed byCatalyst Corporation.

The World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Gendership Report shows that the U.S. ranks 19 among the 132 countries studied gender equity and Canada was a surprising 20th in 2010. What’s interesting is that when the study was done in 2006, the U.S. was 23rd and Canada was 14th. Which countries ranked at the top? Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and New Zealand. Canada is now actually lagging behind the U.S. in promoting women as leaders of organizations, even though Canada’s reputation as a more liberal and socially conscious country is widespread. In Canada, women comprise just 2% of CEOs at Canada’s 1,000 largest public companies.

At the same time, we’re seeing a significant shift in women’s participation in the workplace and education, but not an equitable shift in terms of rewards.

Men now comprise barely 40% of enrolled University and College students and graduates. In fact, a gender education gap, in which women are far outpacing men in terms of educational achievement, has been quietly growing in America over the past few decades. In 2009, for instance, women will earn more degrees in higher education than men in every possible category, from bachelor’s level to Ph.D.s, according to the U.S. Department of Education. When it comes to masters-level education, for instance, U.S. women earn 159 degrees for every 100 awarded to men. For the first time, less than 50% of law school graduates are men in North America.

Today, double the number of unmarried women are purchasing homes in America than there are unmarried men. Forty percent family’s primary breadwinner are now women, a sharp increase from past decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this fall, for the first time in U.S. history, women have surpassed men and now make up more than 50 percent of the nation’s workforce. In 1967, by comparison, women accounted for just 30% of all workers.

The recession has hit men hard: 80% of the jobs lost during this current recession have been held by men. The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives has termed the current recession as a “he-cession.” Christopher Grieg, of the University of Windsor, researched news stories, advertisements, autobiographies and government research reports to uncover a pervasive attitude that traditional masculinity is under siege and he says that the impact of job loss during the recession, which as hit men the hardest, combined with other social changes provoke a sense of the masculine identity under threat.

And that masculine threat may account for a resurgence of male testosterone in our culture. What does the future look like for men and women in the future job market? Only 2 of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade are traditionally male dominated–janitor and computer engineer. According to the Center for American Progress many of the new jobs replace the things that women used to do in the home for free. The range of acceptable masculine roles has changed very little as men avoid some careers that mostly women enter–for example, nursing.

University of Stockholm researcher Drude Dahlerup reported that in 2004 only 15.6% of the legislators in governments around the world are women; in Scandinavian countries, the figure is 40% and in North America it is 18.5% not much higher than the world average.

In 1970 women contributed 2-6% of family income; now the typical working wife brings home over 42% of family income; and 40% of mothers, many of them single, are primary breadwinners in their families. The idealized family, where the father works and the mother stay at home, is a thing of the past. As women become equal breadwinners, increasing number of them are unable to find men with a similar income and education, and are foregoing marriage altogether. In 1970, 84% of women ages 30-44 were married, now 60% are unmarried.

In both the U.S. and Canada, the majority of small business startups and entrepreneurial ventures belong to women, and the failure rates for small business startups are considerably lower for women than men.
Women own more than 40% of private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs. Women are assuming the top political positions in an increasing number of countries, including Australia, Finland, Argentina, Ireland, New Zealand, The Philippines and Latvia, and Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir is the world’s first openly lesbian head of state.

Despite these advances, the general social view of women as being equal to men has not kept pace. Part of the problem is still how women are portrayed in popular media. On the one hand we want and expect women to take an equal leadership role to men, yet in popular media women are still portrayed as subservient and objectified, which has a significant impact on young people. The Institute for Gender in Media released a report that showed 71% of the speaking roles for the 50 top grossing PG, G and PG-13 movies had men’s or boy’s voices. Further, in three years’ worth of children’s movies ranging from fictional narratives to dramas and cartoons, female characters are mostly young, sexy, beautiful and passive sidekicks. One quarter of the female characters wore sexy attire. One in five was partly nude. One in five is under the age of 21. In those same three years of children’s’ movies, the content creators were almost all men, comprising 93% of the directors, 87% of the writers and 80 % of the producers.

Judy Holm, a former executive at PolyGram Film Entertainment, who co-founded Markham Street Films, says that the current recessionary period has reflected an increasingly conservative agenda into Hollywood, where women once again are marginalized into either support or stereotyped roles. Part of the reason for this is the replacement of visionary studio heads by corporate CEOs, who are mostly male, and who are concerned primarily about the financial bottom line. According to the Women’s Media Center, only 3% of decision-making positions in media (film, TV, newspapers, radio, online, etc.) are held n y women. Fewer than 25% of the op-eds are written by women, and of the 250 top-grossing films of 2009, only 16% could claim a female in a key creative role such as producer, director, writer, film editor or cinematographer.

How do women do when they’re given a real equitable chance? Here’s some data.

Nordic countries continue to lead the way in eliminating gender inequality,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. “Low gender gaps are directly correlated with high economic competitiveness. Women and girls must be treated equally if a country is to grow and prosper.” In Nordic nations, women live longer, have high employment rates and often enjoy generous maternity and paternity schemes. There are more than 1.5 women for every man enrolled in tertiary education.

Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University and co-author of the report, said “Progress will be achieved when countries seek to reap returns on the investment in health and education of girls and women by finding ways to make marriage and motherhood compatible with the economic participation of women.

Melanie Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, says that the report “shows a strong correlation between gender equity and a country’s prosperity and competitiveness.” Making reference to the report, Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, a leading global IT company commented that the report “highlights serious gender inequalities that need to be rectified…not just out of fairness, but because companies are wasting talents and skills that can generate significant competitive advantage.

Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was among the report’s authors contends, “The bottom line here is that you don’t fully capitalize on the potential of your talent base” without the full participation of women in an economy….There is a link between how well a country does on competitiveness and how well it does with the gender gap.”

This position is supported by a McKinsey study. A 2010 McKinsey survey has shown that as the number of women participating in the work force has grown, their potential influence on business has become more important, with 72% of those surveyed believing there is a direct connection between a company’s gender diversity and its financial success. At the same time, the study concluded the t companies have not successfully bridged the gap between men and women in top levels of management, reflecting that diversity is not an organizational priority.

McKinsey’s research on gender diversity and financial performance began in 2007 with its Women matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver. That report found the 89 listed European companies with market capitalization over 150 million with the highest gender diversity also had the highest return on equity, operating results, and stock price. Respondents in the 2010 survey who believe in the connection between diverse leadership teams and financial success have grown to 72%. It’s interesting to note that respondents in the Asia-Pacific and developing markets rate gender diversity as a higher priority than North America.

There’s evidence that female executives do more diligence than their male counterparts: A study by the Conference Board of Canada, found 72% of boards with 2 or more females conduct formal board performance evaluations, while 49% of all-male boards do. A study published by Harvard Business School found firms with female board members were more likely than companies with all-male boards to be leaders when ranked by revenue or profit. Research by Catalyst Corporation shows that Fortune 500 companies with the highest proportion of women in senior management significantly outperformed others with the lowest proportion in both return on equity and total shareholder return. Karen Lyness and Madeline Heilman reported in a study published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, that when women were promoted to upper-level management positions, they subsequently had higher performance ratings than men.

Researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland analyzed data on the top 1,500 U.S. companies from 1992 to 2006 to determine the relationship between firm performance and female participation in senior management. Companies that had women in top positions performed better. The same study ranked American industries by the proportion of firms that employed female executives and the bottom of the list reads like the ghosts of the economy past–shipbuilding, real estate, coal, steelworks and machinery.

What about the performance of women who do rise to senior leadership positions?

There’s evidence that female executives do more diligence than their male counterparts: A study by the Conference Board of Canada, found 72% of boards with 2 or more females conduct formal board performance evaluations, while 49% of all-male boards do. A study published by Harvard Business School found firms with female board members were more likely than companies with all-male boards to be leaders when ranked by revenue or profit. Research by Catalyst Corporation shows that Fortune 500 companies with the highest proportion of women in senior management significantly outperformed others with the lowest proportion in both return on equity and total shareholder return. Karen Lyness and Madeline Heilman reported in a study published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, that when women were promoted to upper-level management positions, they subsequently had higher performance ratings than men.

Yet the story is conflicting.

In a study by Manuela Barreto and her colleagues for the American Psychological Association in 2009, they concluded that while women have made progress, it has been incremental. A recent report by the Center for Work-Life Policy and the Concours Group notes that unless we are prepared to incorporate our talented, educated women into the leadership structure in greater numbers, we risk facing a serious drop in the quality of our professional workforce.

Pamela Stone’s in Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home, and Sylvia Ann Hewlett in Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success, argue that women are forced out of their careers by inhospitable workplaces, dominated by the masculine competitive model of organizations. They suggest this model may be at the root of preventing real diversity in the workplace from advancing.

Part of the problem at the senior leadership level may be the lack of sponsorship, says Vicki Salemi, writing in Psychology Today. She says, “sponsors advocate and facilitate critical career moves.” And many women leaders have not had the powerful sponsors to help them along that men have.

The issue that men and women lead differently because of biological differences and that men, some argue, are better suited to the role.

Ronald Riggio, writing in Psychology Today says “there is a growing body of research that has studied the leadership styles and leadership “potential” of men and women, typically men and women managers (but also women in non-managerial positions). For example, using the theory of transformational leadership as an indicator of successful leadership (transformational leaders are inspirational, positive role models, concerned about followers, empowering, and push followers to be creative and take chances), research shows that women, as a group, have more transformational qualities than men. In other words, and based on this research, women have more leadership potential and tend to lead more effectively than men.” Riggio goes on to argue that noted leadership scholar, Bernard Bass, predicted that by the year 2034 the majority of high-level leaders will be women, based on their more transformational qualities.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a study to determine the challenges faced by working women and published their findings in The Glass Ceiling: Domestic and international Perspectives. In addition to the challenge of finding an appropriate balance between work life and home life, the study also cited isolation and loneliness, as well as being a woman in a man’s world. Women tend to have to prove themselves to others, work harder and be better than male counterparts and very often have to ask for promotions, international assignments and other opportunities that may be offered to male peers

Should companies consider setting voluntary internal targets, and work consciously to increase the number of women on boards and as CEOs? Targets are not the same as affirmative action, the model used in the U.S. which establishes quotas to correct historical under representation of certain groups. That practice has actually led to backlash and the questioning of these groups” abilities. Some experts, such as Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Robin Ely, argue that a critical mass of women in senior leadership and on boards is required, and not at entry-level and mid-level positions. A recent study of corporate boards by the Wellesley Center for Women found that to have a critical mass of three or more women could cause fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance corporate governance. In 2002, Norway passed legislation, instructing publicly traded companies to have at least 40% female board members by mid-2005.

Dr. Kenneth Nowack examined research associated with gender differences in leadership styles. He concluded that women do indeed lead differently than men based on brain differences, socialization and hormones. More than 160 studies have shown that women tend to use more participative styles compared to men, and an additional review of over 80 studies found that men and women favor women leaders when the role requires high cooperation. Nowack cites research on the biological basis of empathy and trust among adults, with the general finding supporting the idea that changes in oxytocin in the brain is significantly associated with increased trust, collaboration, empathy and pro-social behavioral. Studies show that women in general have more pronounced levels of oxytocin.

Part of the problem with gender equity is men’s death grip on the image and role of a male that no longer fits our modern world and organizations. It’s as much a crisis of male identity that contributes to the glass ceiling as anything.

From once being seen as successful breadwinners, heads of families and being respected leaders, men today are the butt of jokes in the popular media. A Canadian research group,Nathanson and Young, conducted research on the changing role of men and media and concluded that widely popular TV programs such as The Simpsons present the father character, Homer, as lazy, chauvinistic, irresponsible, and stupid and his son, Bart, as mischievous, rude and cruel to his sister. By comparison, the mother and daughter are presented as thoughtful, considerate and mild-natured. The majority of TV shows and advertisements present men as stupid buffoons, or aggressive evil tyrants or insensitive and shallow “studs” for women’s pleasure.

According to J.R. Macnamara, in the book, Media and the Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men, less than 20% of media profiles reflected positive themes for men. Violent crimes, including murder, assault, and armed robberies accounted for over 55% of all media reporting of male activities. Macnamara says that over 30% of all discussion in the media of male sexuality was in relation to pedophilia, and males’ heterosexuality associated with masculinity is seen as violent, aggressive and dominating. Men are frequently shown in TV shows and movies as lacking in commitment in relationships and are shown as frequently cheating on women. And with increasing frequency, women are shown on TV shows and movies as being independent single mothers, not needing a man.

Guy Garcia, author of The Decline of Men: How The American Male is Tuning Out, Giving Up and Flipping Off His Future, argues that many men bemoan a “fragmentation of male identity,” in which husbands are asked to take on unaccustomed familial roles such as child care and housework, while wives bring in the bigger paychecks. “Women really have become the dominant gender,” says Garcia, “what concerns me is that guys are rapidly falling behind. Women are becoming better educated than men, earning more than men, and, generally speaking, not needing men at all. Meanwhile, as a group, men are losing their way.” Jeremy Adam Smith in his blog, “The Daddy Dialectic,” and Lisa Belkin in “Calling Mr. Mom.” argues that the empowerment of women now rests with society consciously empowering men to take on a greater role in caretaking.

Whether it is a cause or an outcome, the recession has been accompanied by movements toward social conservatism, with particular reference to political and social groups attempts at anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and restricting unemployment benefits, all of which have the most significant impact on women. So while gender equity has made some slow and significant progress in the last few decades, there’s clear evidence that we’ve taken some steps backward, and that men, hit the hardest by unemployment and their role in the family, are struggling to embrace a equitable role of their own.