Childhood stress leaves lasting mark on genes

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“What we’re finding is that after 10 years or so there are still markers, like fossils in our genome, telling us there was a trauma here. And that trauma may make this individual more susceptible to a second trauma or, even worse, a behavioral change, later in life.”

“We know that early life stress and the development of psychiatric disorders are related. We want to know how one leads to the other,” says Leslie Seltzer, a researcher at UW–Madison’s Waisman Center and a lead author on the study with neuroepigenetics researcher Ligia Papale. “We were surprised to see so many differences between our two groups, but now we can start looking at those differences more carefully, with the end goal of designing interventions, therapies, or medications that could resolve or even prevent those problems.”

Seltzer, Papale and collaborators collected saliva from 22 girls from 9 to 12 years old, and analyzed the samples to see which genes were actually at work managing biological processes. They were looking for a molecular modification called methylation. In methylation, environmental changes spur the attachment of a particular molecule, called a  group, to susceptible sites on genes.

“What you eat, your life experiences, how much you exercise, all of these things can modify your DNA methylation levels,” says UW–Madison neurosurgery professor Reid Alisch, who studies the regulation of gene expression in disease, especially mental illness. “DNA methylation doesn’t change your DNA, but the presence or absence of DNA methylation can change the way your DNA is used and whether or how much genes are expressed.”

The researchers found 122 genes where methylation of the high-stressed kids’ DNA differed from their low-stress peers. The team also looked at how genes were expressed. In all, more than 1,400 genes showed a difference in expression connected to the amount of stress the girls had experienced, including a dozen of the differently methylated genes.”

via Childhood stress leaves lasting mark on genes
image: CC0 public domain

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„Psychedelics take people to the very center of their personal problems”

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What these psychedelics do above all, is give access to other states of consciousness that are dormant within our own minds. It’s the exploration of human consciousness. It isn’t really the drug effect as such. Why are we so afraid of our own unconscious deeper self is worth serious thought. The beneficial promise of the wise and responsible use of psychedelics far exceeds their potential for harm either individually as well as at a societal level. […]

And I would suggest there is nothing within us that we need to fear or censor. There are great opportunities for personal growth, medical healing and also for finding artistic value, religious meaning, and understanding perhaps even the origins of some religions. There is nothing to fear when the drugs are wisely used. And wise use of course is more then trowing a substance in your moth like a pill. It involves preparation, being grounded in a healthy, inter-personal relationship for most people, being able to trust your own mind, being willing to endure some struggle and suffering in the process of personal and spiritual growth. So, if there is a conflict that emerges in your mind, you approach it as an opportunity for growth, rather then running away from it and calling it a bad trip. They are very serious substances, but for most people they are not dangerous, when they are used with knowledge.

via Dr William Richards „Psychedelics take people to the very center of their personal problems” – Poznaj P

picture: Creative Commons, Natesh Ramasamy 

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We actually ‘become’ happy vampires or contented wizards when reading a book


“Becoming a Vampire Without Being Bitten: The Narrative Collective Assimilation Hypothesis,” published in the current issue journal Psychological Science, presents research supporting the authors’ hypothesis that by absorbing narratives, we can psychologically become a member of the group of characters described therein, a process that makes us feel connected to those characters and their social world.

via We actually ‘become’ happy vampires or contented wizards when reading a book — ScienceDaily
image via pixabay, free OpenClipart-Vectors, witch

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People recall information better through virtual reality
The researchers found that people remember information better if it is presented to them in a virtual environment. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Virtual Reality. […]

The key, say the researchers, was for participants to identify each face by its physical location and its relation to surrounding structures and faces — and also the location of the image relative to the user’s own body.[…]

Many of the participants said the immersive “presence” while using VR allowed them to focus better. This was reflected in the research results: 40 percent of the participants scored at least 10 percent higher in recall ability using VR over the desktop display. […]

“This leads to the possibility that a spatial virtual memory palace — experienced in an immersive virtual environment — could enhance learning and recall by leveraging a person’s overall sense of body position, movement and acceleration,” Plaisant says.

via People recall information better through virtual reality — ScienceDaily
image via pexels, by Burst (

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Psychology’s favourite moral thought experiment doesn’t predict real-world behaviour

mouse-1708379_640_Alexas_Fotos pixabay

The participants saw two cages – one housing one mouse, the other housing five – each wired to an electroshock machine. They were told that in 20 seconds, if they did nothing, the machine would deliver a very painful but nonlethal shock to the cage containing five mice. However, if the participants pressed a button in front of them, they could divert the electric shock to the cage containing one mouse, thus saving the other five from pain (in actuality this was an illusion and all participants were later informed that in fact no mice were shocked or harmed in the study).
The participants who performed the real-life mouse task behaved differently than those who made a purely hypothetical decision – they were less than half as likely to let the five mice get shocked (16 per cent of them left the button unpressed compared with 34 per cent of the hypothetical group). In other words, faced with a real-life dilemma, the volunteers were more consequentialist / utilitarian; that is, more willing to inflict harm for the greater good.

But the most important finding – at least for the validity of moral psychology which so often relies on thought experiments – is that the participants’ preference for deontological vs. utilitarian responding in their answers to the earlier battery of 10 hypothetical moral dilemmas bore no relation to their decision in the real-life mouse task (in contrast, the decisions of participants in the hypothetical mouse group were related to their answers to the earlier moral dilemmas). What is more, none of the psychological factors, such as psychopathy or need for cognition, were related to decision-making in the real-life moral dilemma.

via Psychology’s favourite moral thought experiment doesn’t predict real-world behaviour – Research Digest

image via pixabay: Alexas_Fotos

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The khipu code: the knotty mystery of the Inkas’ 3D records

Bildschirmfoto 2018-06-17 um 19.19.47“The Inka Empire (1400-1532 CE) is one of few ancient civilisations that speaks to us in multiple dimensions. Instead of words or pictograms, the Inkas used khipus – knotted string devices – to communicate extraordinarily complex mathematical and narrative information. But, after more than a century of study, we remain unable to fully crack the code of the khipus. The challenge rests not in a lack of artifacts – over 1,000 khipus are known to us today – but in their variety and complexity. We confront tens of thousands of knots tied by different people, for different purposes and in different regions of the empire. Cracking the code amounts to finding a pattern in history’s knotted haystack.”

via The khipu code: the knotty mystery of the Inkas’ 3D records

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Increased well-being: Another reason to try yoga – Harvard Health












“[…] a regular yoga practice appears to correlate with increased wellbeing, including better sleep, better body awareness, weight loss, and greater happiness. By improving mindfulness, it simultaneously helps to boost compassion, gratitude, and “flow” states, all of which contribute to greater happiness. Early evidence suggests that yoga may even slow aging on the cellular level, perhaps through its stress-busting effects. […]

Over time, sleep deprivation increases the risks for a number of chronic health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But emerging research shows that yoga may help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep more soundly—without the negative side effects of medication.

Yoga facilitates sleep by reducing stress, anxiety, and arousal—all known causes of poor sleep. One small study looked at a Kundalini meditation and breathing practice. Twenty people who had trouble sleeping did the 30-minute practice every night before going to bed. After eight weeks, researchers found that the participants were sleeping 36 minutes longer on average and waking up less during the night. Over all, the quality of their sleep improved by 11%.

Yoga even helps with full-fledged insomnia. While following common advice on how to get a good night’s sleep can reduce sleep problems, people in one study fell asleep 37% faster after eight weeks of yoga compared with 28% for those who received only the advice.

via Increased well-being: Another reason to try yoga – Harvard Health

photo: via Pixabay, user Pexels

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Social Rejection Can Lead to Violence But, Mindfulness May Be the Solution

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Image Source: image is credited to theresearchers.

People who have greater levels of mindfulness — or the tendency to maintain attention on and awareness of the present moment — are better able to cope with the pain of being rejected by others, according to a new study led by a team of Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.

For the last third of the game, the participants stopped receiving any ball tosses from the other players, mimicking the conditions of social rejection.

After the scanning session, the participants were interviewed about how distressed they were during the game. Participants with higher levels of mindfulness reported less distress from being excluded.

“Our findings suggest that mindful people are not as distressed or pained by social rejection,” the researchers wrote. “The neural results imply that a reason for mindful individuals’ adaptive responses to rejection is that they do not excessively recruit (and therefore tax) ‘top-down’, inhibitory brain regions to inhibit social distress. Instead, mindful individuals may use more ‘bottom-up’ emotion-regulation strategies that prevent rejection from being distressing in the first place. Interventions that seek to help socially-isolated and rejected individuals may benefit from this mechanistic and biologically-informed information.”

via Neuroscience News

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People who deeply grasp pain or happiness of others, process music differently in brain

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“The researchers found that compared to low empathy people, those with higher empathy process familiar music with greater involvement of the reward system of the brain, as well as in areas responsible for processing social information. […]


Highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain’s social circuitry, such as the areas activated when feeling empathy for others. They also seem to experience a greater degree of pleasure in listening, as indicated by increased activation of the reward system.

“This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence,” Wallmark said.

Researchers in 2014 reported that about 20 percent of the population is highly empathic. These are people who are especially sensitive and respond strongly to social and emotional stimuli.

The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

The new study indicates that among higher-empathy people, at least, music is not solely a form of artistic expression.

“If music was not related to how we process the social world, then we likely would have seen no significant difference in the brain activation between high-empathy and low-empathy people,” said Wallmark, who is director of the MuSci Lab at SMU, an interdisciplinary research collective that studies — among other things — how music affects the brain.

“This tells us that over and above appreciating music as high art, music is about humans interacting with other humans and trying to understand and communicate with each other,” he said.

This may seem obvious.

“But in our culture we have a whole elaborate system of music education and music thinking that treats music as a sort of disembodied object of aesthetic contemplation,” Wallmark said. “In contrast, the results of our study help explain how music connects us to others. This could have implications for how we understand the function of music in our world, and possibly in our evolutionary past.”

The researchers reported their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, in the article “Neurophysiological effects of trait empathy in music listening.”

The co-authors are Choi Deblieck, with the University of Leuven, Belgium, and Marco Iacoboni, UCLA. The research was carried out at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA.

“The study shows on one hand the power of empathy in modulating music perception, a phenomenon that reminds us of the original roots of the concept of empathy — ‘feeling into’ a piece of art,” said senior author Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.”

via and read more at Science Daily
picture credit: SMU/ UCLA

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Lentils significantly reduce blood glucose levels


“Replacing potatoes or rice with pulses can lower your blood glucose levels by more than 20 per cent, according to a new study. Researchers found that swapping out half of a portion of these starchy side dishes for lentils can significantly improve your body’s response to the carbohydrates. Replacing half a serving of rice with lentils caused blood glucose to drop by up to 20 per cent. Replacing potatoes with lentils led to a 35-per-cent drop.”

via Lentils significantly reduce blood glucose levels — ScienceDaily

photo: Aitoff, via pixabay

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The only emotions I can feel are anger and fear

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“I just thought that I wasn’t good at talking about how I feel and emotions and stuff like that. But after a year of therapy, it became apparent that when I talk about emotions I don’t actually know what I’m talking about.” […]

The ability to detect changes inside the body – everything from a racing heart to a diversion of blood flow, from a full bladder to a distension of the lungs – is known as interoception. It’s your perception of your own internal state. […]

What Bird, Brewer and others have found in people with alexithymia is a reduced ability, sometimes a complete inability, to produce, detect or interpret these internal bodily changes. […]

But either their brains aren’t triggering the physical changes that it seems are needed for the experience of an emotion, or other regions of their brains aren’t reading these signals properly. […]

Bird has led work showing that people who are more aware of their own heartbeat are better able to recognise others’ emotions, a crucial first step in being empathetic. He’s planning studies to investigate whether heartbeat training might therefore increase empathy.”

via The only emotions I can feel are anger and fear | Mosaic
picture: source/artist unknown to me

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The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics

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“Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind.

In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance.

Liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful.

All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race.

These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases. Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.”

via The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics
pic: Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam

Posted in I-Self-Me, Spirituality | Tagged , ,

“The Thing Inside Your Cells That Might Determine How Long You Live”

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“Under a microscope, it’s hard to miss. Take just about any cell, find the nucleus, then look inside it for a dark, little blob. That’s the nucleolus. If the cell were an eyeball, you’d be looking at its pupil.

You’ve got one in every nucleus of every cell in your body, too. All animals do. So do plants, and yeast — and anything with a cell with a nucleus. And they’ve become much more important in our understanding of how cells work. […]

You may have forgotten this from biology class, but the nucleolus is the cell’s ribosome factory. Ribosomes are like micro-machines that make proteins that cells then use for purposes like building walls, forming hairs, making memories, communicating and starting, stopping and slowing down reactions that help a cell stay functioning. It uses about 80 percent of a cell’s energy for this work. […]

If building a cell were like building a building, and the DNA contained the blueprint, the nucleolus would be the construction manager or engineer. “It knows the supply chain, coordinates all the jobs of building, does quality control checks and makes sure things continue to work well,” said Dr. Antebi. […]

Researchers have found that modest dietary restriction and exercise shrank nucleoli in muscle cells of some people over age 60. People with diseases like cancer or progeria, a kind of accelerated aging, tend have enlarged nucleoli.

You can see these kinds of effects in many different species. “It’s amazing — even if genetically identical, some live a short life and some live a long life,” said Dr. Antebi. […]

“We think that the smaller nucleoli may be a cellular hallmark of longevity” in certain cells under certain conditions, he added.”


see/read more: original article
image from the original article: Jose Calvo/Science Source

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‘Algorithmic death spiral’ – The failing mental health of our machines


“Under most normal conditions, the driverless car will recognise a stop sign for what it is. But not all conditions are normal. Some recent demonstrations have shown that a few black stickers on a stop sign can fool the algorithm into thinking that the stop sign is a 60 mph sign. Subjected to something frighteningly similar to the high-contrast shade of a tree, the algorithm hallucinates.
But in practice, algorithms are often proprietary black boxes whose updating is commercially protected. Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction (2016) describes a veritable freakshow of commercial algorithms whose insidious pathologies play out collectively to ruin peoples’ lives. The algorithmic faultline that separates the wealthy from the poor is particularly compelling. Poorer people are more likely to have bad credit, to live in high-crime areas, and to be surrounded by other poor people with similar problems. Because of this, algorithms target these individuals for misleading ads that prey on their desperation, offer them subprime loans, and send more police to their neighbourhoods, increasing the likelihood that they will be stopped by police for crimes committed at similar rates in wealthier neighbourhoods. Algorithms used by the judicial system give these individuals longer prison sentences, reduce their chances for parole, block them from jobs, increase their mortgage rates, demand higher premiums for insurance, and so on.

This algorithmic death spiral is hidden in nesting dolls of black boxes: black-box algorithms that hide their processing in high-dimensional thoughts that we can’t access are further hidden in black boxes of proprietary ownership. This has prompted some places, such as New York City, to propose laws enforcing the monitoring of fairness in algorithms used by municipal services. But if we can’t detect bias in ourselves, why would we expect to detect it in our algorithms?

By training algorithms on human data, they learn our biases. One recent study led by Aylin Caliskan at Princeton University found that algorithms trained on the news learned racial and gender biases essentially overnight. As Caliskan noted: ‘Many people think machines are not biased. But machines are trained on human data. And humans are biased.’ […]

The problem is not visible in our hardware. It’s in our software. The many ways our minds go wrong make each mental-health problem unique unto itself. We sort them into broad categories such as schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome, but most are spectrum disorders that cover symptoms we all share to different degrees. In 2006, the psychologists Matthew Keller and Geoffrey Miller argued that this is an inevitable property of the way that brains are built.

There is a lot that can go wrong in minds such as ours. Carl Jung once suggested that in every sane man hides a lunatic. As our algorithms become more like ourselves, it is getting easier to hide.”


read more here: original article
picture source: unknown to me

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Mind Control * Barbara Ehrenreich’s radical critique of wellness and self-improvement

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“Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance.
“I may not be able to do much about grievous injustice in the world, at least not by myself or in very short order, but I can decide to increase the weight on the leg press machine by twenty pounds and achieve that within a few weeks,” she writes. “The gym, which once looked so alien and forbidding to me, became one of the few sites where I could reliably exert control.” What was a consolation, however, quickly evolved into a prize. Working out became a status symbol, a form of conspicuous consumption for a professional middle class bereft of purpose; and it became a disciplinary device, part of a culture that inflicts “steep penalties for being overweight.
Once associated with play, exercise is now closer to a form of labor: measured, timed, and financially incentivized by employers and insurers. Like any kind of alienated labor, it assumes and intensifies the division between mind and body—indeed, it involves a kind of violence by the mind against the body.
Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy.
The body, […], only gives the appearance of unity: It’s made of a “collection of tiny selves.” And for that matter, there’s not really a king to impose order.
Macrophages—immune cells that destroy pathogens—also abet the spread of cancer and instigate potentially catastrophic inflammatory diseases. They may even, Ehrenreich suggests, be responsible for aging itself. They seem to decide to do this, as it were, on their own. The “immune self,” a shadow entity that lives within the human body, sometimes cooperates and sometimes pursues its own agenda.
“The process of thinking involves conflict and alliances between different patterns of neuronal activity. Some patterns synchronize with and reinforce each other. Others tend to cancel each other, and not all of them contribute to our survival.”

see the original article here
Illustration by Siobhan Gallagher

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Loneliness in older adults is associated with diminished cortisol output

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“• Loneliness in older adults is associated with increased mortality and morbidity. One of the possible mechanisms is dysregulation of HPA-axis.

• In a group of 426 older adults, loneliness was associated with lower cortisol output after awakening and diminished dexamethasone suppression.

• There were no significant interaction terms for loneliness and depression diagnosis for the association with the cortisol measures.

• Whether loneliness in older adults leads to health problems via diminished cortisol output is an interesting subject for further study.”


see the original study
picture: Donald Teel (at pexels)

Posted in Health, I-Self-Me | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sex hormone levels alter heart disease risk in older women

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“In an analysis of data collected from more than 2,800 women after menopause, Johns Hopkins researchers report new evidence that a higher proportion of male to female sex hormones was associated with a significant increased relative cardiovascular disease risk. […]

“Because an imbalance in the proportion of testosterone (the main male sex hormone) to estrogen (the main female sex hormone) may affect   risk, physicians may want to think about adding hormone tests to the toolbox of screenable risk factors, like blood pressure or cholesterol, to identify women who may be at higher risk of heart or vascular disease. But this needs further study.””

–> see the original article (medicalexpress) here

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The Science of Mind & Reality – Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer


see also a corresponding article here: Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer

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What’s Going on With Men? The Mother Wound as the Missing Link in Understanding Misogyny

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“Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male.” ~ bell hooks

As a boy grows today in the modern world, he becomes socialized by his father, by other men, and by society about what it means to be a man. The patriarchal culture of media, education and religion also perform that function. Unfortunately, it’s well-documented that this socialization of the boy involves to some degree learning to dominate others, to shut down his emotions and to devalue women. (See resources below.) This constitutes both a personal and collective trauma.
This leaves white men with a triple wound; an injury to their ability to process their emotions, a blindness about their privilege and a lack of empathy for those they harm. This triple wound in white men has remained relatively unconscious and has caused unspeakable suffering in the world.
The anger belongs with the patriarchal father (personal and/or collective), the “severer of the bond,” who betrayed the boy, who socialized him to give up a vital part of himself to be accepted in this world as a man. The anger also belongs with the mother who was unable to protect him from this patriarchal wound or who may have inflicted it herself.
To do this deep inner work, it’s crucial that men get support from other men who have already done a significant amount of work on this journey themselves, including professional support from male therapists skilled in this area.”
Bethany Webster’s article
Art work by George Blaha.

Posted in I-Self-Me, Psychoanalysis, Social | Tagged , ,

Everyday Misunderstandings: Postponing a Meeting


“When asked to move next Wednesday’s meeting two days forward, English speakers tend to disagree on whether it will move to Friday or Monday depending on their use of ego-moving or time-moving representations of time.
Most participants answered Monday but there was no group consensus, confirming the ambiguity of the question.
Associations between time representations and time orientations were not statistically significant, but the findings suggest time-moving and ego-moving representations to be more associated with future and present orientations, respectively.”
Abstract of the original study – see here (June 2018, Journal of Research in Personality)
Image: rawpixel at pixabay

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