TIME Mental Health/Psychology

The Smell of Your Sweat Can Make Other People Happy

sweat exercise
Getty Images

Another reason happiness might be contagious

People seem to be able to send happy vibes through their sweat, according to a new study in Psychological Science. The study found that women showed more signs of happiness when they sniffed sweat made by happy men than when they smelled sweat generated by men in a neutral emotional state.

“Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state,” said study author Gün Semin, a professor at Utrecht University, in a statement. “Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness.”

MORE: What Pheromones Really Reveal About Your Love Life

Determining how sweat affects the happiness of the people who smell it required some unusual experiments. Researchers showed film clips to a group of 12 men that inspired either fear or happiness. A control group of men was shown neutral scenes. After screening the clips, researchers collected sweat samples from the men by placing pads in their armpits and asked 36 women to smell a vial with the scent of the pads. Researchers measured the facial expression prompted by each sweat sample. Women smiled more when they smelled the sweat of happy men than sweat made after men watched a neutral video clip.

The study is small and more research is needed. Previous research has shown that chemosignaling—or conveying emotion through smell—can inspire negative emotions in others, but these findings show that smells might be able to inspire happy emotions, too.

Read next: 6 Signs You’re Not Working Out Hard Enough

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Simple Exercise Will Make Sure You Spend Time on What Makes You Happy

Getty Images

Here's a simple three-step solution

The Muse logo

Wake up. Go to work. Stay a little late. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed. Do it all over again.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Before you know it, a week has passed, the month ends, the year is over, and you haven’t done a thing that mattered to you. Somehow, you managed to be busy and bored all at the same time.

So, how do you break the cycle? Is there a way to actually spend time on what makes you happy—to separate the urgent from the important?

Marika Reuling, chief of staff at Harvard University, might have a simple three-step solution.

Step 1: Start a Life Audit

At the 2015 Greater Boston Women in Leadership Symposium, Reuling spoke about completing a life audit once or twice a year to help her reevaluate how she spends and prioritizes her time. To get started, you’ll need a bunch of sticky notes, a pen, a blank wall or floor, and privacy. You should probably turn your phone off, too.

A life audit, as serious as it sounds, is simply the process of writing down every tangible goal or vague ambition, both professional and personal, on a Post-it note and sticking it on a blank wall. Ximena Vengoechea, after completing her own life audit, suggests shooting for at least 100 wishes for yourself.

Step 2: Define Your Vision

From there, try to place each of your goals into a bucket: travel, health, family, career, and more. Whatever theme comes up can have its own bucket. Move the sticky notes around until they’re all under the right theme, and consider whether these themes capture what you want your career and life trajectory to be. Continue adding more sticky notes, if necessary.

What you have in front of you now are guidelines for how to spend your time in a way that’s rewarding for you. For Reuling, this step helped her realize she needed something in her professional life that allowed for more artistry. Now, not only does she help manage resources and staff at Harvard, she co-runs a vineyard with her husband in Sonoma Valley, California.

Step 3: Design Your Day

Now that you have your guidelines, plot your day around these goals. Mark each note with an “S” for short term, an “L” for long term, or an “E” for every day. From there, you can decide how to work toward your short and long term goals. This is where you want to get specific. Set weekly or monthly goals and be exact about the time you hope to spend.

Reuling suggests using the Timely app (or something similar) to help you plan and keep track of how you’re spending your time. If you’re having trouble figuring out where you can actually fit more into your day, consider doing a time audit to see where you’re spending all your time and whether it makes sense or not.

Working toward a hundred goals big and small may sound like a daunting task—and it is, but no one ever said you had to do it alone. As Reuling concludes, “Think about your team, both at work and at home.” No one ever found success on their own, so don’t forget to lean on others as you try to break the cycle and refocus your goals.

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article above was originally published on The Muse.

More from The Muse:

TIME Research

Health Problems Linger for 9/11 First Responders

Firefighter walks through the rubble of the World Trade Center after it was struck by commercial airliners in a terrorist attack, Sept. 12 2001. after the first.
Todd Maisel—New York Daily News/Getty Images Firefighter walks through the rubble of the World Trade Center after it was struck by commercial airliners in a terrorist attack, Sept. 12 2001. after the first.

Emergency medical services workers who arrived at the World Trade Center site were twice as likely to show signs of depression than those who didn't

It’s been more than a decade since the attacks of 9/11, but many of the first emergency workers to arrive at the World Trade Center site continue to feel health effects. Nearly 17% of emergency medical service (EMS) workers who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks display symptoms of depression and 7% show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a new study in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

“Our findings are part of a pattern of adverse health outcomes found among those who were exposed to the disaster,” said study author Mayris Webber, a health official at the New York City Fire Department, in an email. “We highlight the importance of continued medical monitoring and treatment of FDNY EMS workers, and indeed, of other responders and individuals who were affected by the [World Trade Center] disaster.”

Read More: Why 40% of Americans Misremember Their 9/11 Experience

The study, conducted by researchers for the New York Fire Department, evaluated the health of nearly 2,300 New York City Fire Department EMS workers over a 12-year period. In addition to depression and PTSD, EMS workers experienced a number of conditions that affected their physical health including 12% who experienced acid reflux disease and 3% who experienced cancer. And the earlier a medical worker responded, the greater his or her risk for medical conditions.

The study adds to a body of research that has found long-term health effects on police officers and firefighters who responded to 9/11, but it’s the first research to look specifically at EMS workers, whose primary responsibility is to provide medical care. Because of the difference between the roles of EMS workers and police officers and firefighters, EMS workers tend to be at lower risk of health conditions than EMS workers, researchers said.

The findings suggests that 9/11 responders still need to be monitored to protect their health, researchers said. The New York City Fire Department plans to do just that.

“At the Fire Department, in addition to providing treatment, we will continue our efforts to identify emerging health conditions and to identify individuals who are at high risk for developing these conditions,” said Webber.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood?

There's a big difference between thinking you're taking a probiotic—and actually taking one

Bacteria appears to do a body a lot of good, from bolstering immunity to easing digestion. Recent evidence also points to certain bacteria as influencing mood, by producing compounds that travel from the intestine to the brain. (There’s even the name for this feel-good superhighway: the gut-brain axis.) Now, a new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity suggests that taking a probiotic supplement may in fact help improve mood.

Researchers from the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition at Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a randomized controlled trial of 40 healthy young adults who didn’t have mood disorders. Half took a powdered probiotic supplement, which they dissolved in water or milk and drank nightly for four weeks. The probiotic, called Ecologic Barrier and supplied for free by its manufacturer Winclove BV, contained eight different types of bacteria, including several strains of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Lactococcus—types of bacteria that some research suggests are effective at easing anxious and depressive symptoms. (Some studies show that multispecies probiotics like these might be more effective than those with just one species.) The people who didn’t get a probiotic took a powdered placebo; everyone thought they were getting the probiotic.

(Winclove BV was not involved in the study design, data collection or data analysis.)

MORE: You Asked: Should I Take Probiotics?

Before the four weeks started and after they were up, researchers tested everyone on a depression sensitivity scale, which measured levels of cognitive reactivity to sad mood—a strong marker of depression, meaning that when a person gets sad, they’re more vulnerable to dysfunctional thoughts that can lead to a lingering depressive episode.

There was no difference between the two groups before the intervention began. But after four weeks, people who took the probiotic reported significantly less reactivity to sad mood than the control group—meaning that when they were put in a sad mood, they had fewer recurrent distressing or aggressive thoughts.

The current study wasn’t able to determine possible mechanisms by which probiotics could improve mood. But the authors have some ideas, including the possibility that beneficial bacteria help tamp down inflammation and permeability of the gut, or that intestinal bacteria increase levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that’s required to make serotonin in the brain.

Probiotic research in humans is limited, and bigger, longer studies are needed before being able to determine if probiotics might have any clinically relevant effects on mood. The researchers also didn’t measure what the people in the study ate, which may skew the results if they started eating lots of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchi.

“Even if preliminary, these results provide the first evidence that the intake of probiotics may help reduce negative thoughts associated with sad mood,”says Lorenza S. Colzato, principal investigator at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition in a statement. “As such, our findings shed an interesting new light on the potential of probiotics to serve as adjuvant or preventive therapy for depression.”

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Ways Your Commute Is Hurting Your Health

Getty Images

Long hours in transit can negatively affect your body and mind

The average American commute to work lasts 25 minutes, according to U.S. Census data, but many workers travel far above and beyond that number. In Los Angeles, drivers spend an average of 90 hours a year stuck in traffic alone, and employees in New York City spend an average of 48 minutes a day getting to their jobs, often switching trains or busses along the way.

Commuting is rarely anyone’s favorite time of day, but it can be more than just an inconvenience: All those hours spent in home-work limbo can have physical and mental health implications, as well. Here are five ways your car, train, or bus ride to the office can affect your well-being, plus what to do about it.

It may contribute to weight gain

A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that the farther Texas residents commuted every day, the more likely they were to be overweight. Unsurprisingly, the farthest commuters were also less likely to get the recommended amount of daily physical activity. “It’s not so easy to move or change your job, so if you do have a long commute it’s important that you make a bigger effort to be active during the day,” says lead study author Christine Hoehner, PhD. “Take walking breaks, get up from your desk often, take the stairs, and make it a priority to exercise whenever you do have time.”

If you can, it might also be a good idea to try public transportation: men and women who drove to work weighed about 6.6 and 5.5 pounds more, respectively, than their peers who walked, cycled, or took trains or buses, a 2014 study in The BMJ found.

Read more: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

It’s a pain in the neck—literally

A third of people with commutes of more than 90 minutes say they deal with ongoing neck and back pain, according to a 2010 Gallup poll. While back pain is one of the most common health complaints, only one in four people who commute 10 minutes or less reported pain in the same poll.

The extra time spent sitting slumped forward in the driver’s seat or on the train could contribute to these issues, says Andrew Wolf, exercise physiologist at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. But making an effort to sit up straight—with a lumbar support behind your lower back, and your head evenly over your shoulders—can help you reverse bad habits. “It’s a lifestyle choice that requires that you think about it a bit every day,” he says. “Do enough of this and it will become automatic.”

Read more: 15 Exercises for People in Pain

It affects your mood

People who drove, carpooled, or took public transportation to work were less able to enjoy daily activities and had more trouble concentrating compared to walkers or cyclists in a 2014 study from the University of East Anglia. Interestingly, the researchers found that wellbeing scores decreased for car commuters as time spent behind the wheel increased. But for walkers, the opposite held true: Those who traveled farther to work on foot had better mental health scores.

If there’s no getting around public transportation for you, one thing you might try is talking to strangers. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, bus and train commuters reported more positive experiences when they connected with other riders than when they kept to themselves.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

It stresses you out

People who commute by private car (no matter how long the trip)—or those whose trips lasted longer than 30 minutes by train, bus or on foot—had higher anxiety levels compared to people who made shorter trips, according to a 2014 report from the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics.

Hoehner’s research also found that the longer people’s car commutes were, the more likely they were to have elevated blood pressure—even when she controlled for physical activity level. “That finding suggested that there’s something going on independent of the fact that people are less active, potentially something related to stress,” she says. (Other risk factors for hypertension, like lack of sleep, poor diet, and social isolation, could also play a role.)

“One way to combat this could be for employers to allow people to commute at different times of the day, so they’re not spending so much time in traffic,” Hoehner adds. Can’t switch up your schedule? Turn on a soothing playlist or practice slow, deep breathing when you feel yourself tensing up.

Read more: 12 Superfoods for Stress Relief

It exposes you to more pollution

In a 2007 study of Los Angeles residents, up to half of their exposure to harmful air pollution occurred while they traveled in their vehicles. Driving with the windows up, using recirculated air, and driving slower than 20 miles per hour can reduce exposure, say the study authors, but not as much as cutting back on driving time.

Cycling to work increases exposure to pollutants, as well, according to a 2010 Dutch study—but the same research also found that its health benefits of getting your heart rate up on your ride still outweigh its risks by at least nine times.

Read more: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: The Surprising Upside to America’s Worsening Traffic Jams

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Ways to Deal With Caregiver Stress

Getty Images

Here's how to take care of yourself while taking care of a loved one

We’re not called the sandwich generation for nothing. Almost a third of U.S. adults (29 percent) act as a caregiver for an ill, elderly or disabled relative, per the National Alliance for Caregiving. Of those, roughly 66 percent are female, many of them also caring for children at home. The role can take a serious toll on your health and well-being. There’s of course the emotional strain, especially if you’re caring for a relative with dementia or another illness that requires constant monitoring. Moreover, 17 percent of caregivers in an AARP report said that their own physical health had worsened from caregiving.

“Caregiving can be very isolating, is a job most people didn’t apply for and never received proper training in and does not pay very well,” says Jerri Rosenfeld, a social worker at Northern Westchester Hospital’s Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center in Mount Kisco, N.Y. But you don’t have to go it alone. Try these resources.

Read more: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

Start with a support group

“Sometimes all you need is an opportunity to share your feelings and swap strategies in a nonjudgmental and supportive atmosphere,” Rosenfeld says. Check to see if your local hospital, church or synagogue offers resources. Or try your town’s rec center, which may have a senior or elder program that also gives caregiver support.

Read more: How to Help a Loved One Cope With Breast Cancer

Find the right online help

About 25 percent of family caregivers seek support online, whether in discussion forums or on social media channels like Facebook, according to a 2011 Caring.com survey. Look for groups that focus on just caregivers, not ones that combine patient and family. “You need to be able to be frank about your own issues, feelings and concerns without worrying about hurting someone else’s feelings,” Rosenfeld explains.

A few places to get started: Caring.com features caregiver support groups for a wide range of conditions (including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, MS and Parkinson’s) at caring.com/support-groups. AARP’s online caregiving resource center offers a space to connect to others facing issues around caregiving for the elderly; so does the caregiver support section at AgingCare.com.

Keep a journal

It’s a safe place to write out your thoughts, even if they don’t make any sense, Rosenfeld says, and research shows that journaling can help relieve stress. Try a gratitude journal, where you jot down everything that you’re grateful for; a venting diary (self-explanatory!); or a reminiscence log, where you record memories of your loved one.

Organize with an app

Apps for caregivers alleviate stress by helping you stay on top of the details. You can, for example, track appointments and medications and take notes at office visits. A good one to try: CareZone (free; iTunes and Google Play).

Read more: Hidden Stress Triggers

Steal time for you

“Often a caregiver brings in her loved one for an appointment and just sits in the waiting room, when she could be taking a quick walk outside or phoning a friend,” Rosenfeld says. Set aside time for things that nourish you; simply sipping your coffee on your patio for an extra 15 minutes can help renew your energy.

“People frequently say, ‘You need to take time for yourself so you can be a better caregiver,’ but they’ve got it completely wrong,” Rosenfeld says. “You need to take time for yourself because you’re a human being.”

Read more: Your Secret to Happiness at Every Age

Want to help a friend?

You may not be tending to aging parents yourself—but chances are you know someone who is. Instead of just saying vaguely, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” offer to take on specific jobs, like helping to watch her kids or bringing dinner once a week. Even better: Allow her to tell you exactly what she needs. StandWith (free; iTunes), a new app from FCancer co-founder Yael Cohen Braun, enables users to post not just updates but also tasks they need done (buying groceries, giving rides, etc.) so that folks know what will really help.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Types of Friends You Need to Avoid

Getty Images

Close relationships that cause stress may lead to faster cognitive decline as you age

With the end of winter (supposedly) here, now’s a good time to spring clean your life. You might be looking forward to re-organizing your closet, opening up your windows to let in some fresh air, and re-committing to those New Year’s resolutions. But have you given any thought to making over your social circle?

While research shows that our friendships are super important for our health and well-being, not all relationships are created equal. “Negative friendships can cause stress, frustration, and even put you in harm’s way if their behavior puts you in situations that could jeopardize you and your loved ones,” says sociologist and friendship coach Jan Yager, PhD, author of When Friendship Hurts ($13, amazon.com).

Investing time and energy into people who don’t pay it back—or who only have toxic contributions to offer—can have a negative effect on both your physical and mental health. In fact, a recent University of College London study found that close relationships that cause stress or worrying may even contribute to faster cognitive decline as you age.

Read more: 17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain

On that note, here are five types of friends you may want to sweep out of your life.

The negative Nancy

Moods—both good and bad ones—are contagious: Research has shown this to be true in both real life and online social networks. And while there’s nothing wrong with venting to coworkers or crying to your BFF when you’re feeling low, it’s still important to balance those lows by sharing happy experiences, too.

“When you talk on the phone with your friend, exchange e-mails or text messages, or get together in person, do you feel positive and optimistic—or does a particular friend make you feel bad about yourself, agitated, or even physically ill?” asks Yager. If that friend is going through an especially trying time, it’s normal to feel pulled into the drama. But ask yourself, she says: “Is this an occasional thing, or a chronic pattern that’s making it too difficult for you to handle your emotions or your own life?”

If the latter’s the case, it’s time to seriously consider phasing them out.

Read more: 12 Ways Pets Improve Your Health

The nit-picky neighbor

You live next door to her so you’ve tried, on many occasions, to be nice: You’ve had her over for dinner, carpooled, and encouraged your kids to play together. But if your friendly gestures are mostly returned with complaints about noise or the look of your lawn, her constant demands could be harming your health.

A 2014 Danish study found that frequent arguments and conflicts within a person’s social circle, including neighbors, were associated with an increased risk of death in middle age. Conflict management may help reduce these dangers, the study authors say—so the next time she picks a fight, try sitting down and hashing out your differences (or at least agreeing to ignore each other) once and for all.

Read more: 17 Surprising Reasons You’re Stressed Out

The backstabber

So a friend let you down in some way, but she’s promised to make it up to you. Everyone deserves a second chance, but maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve felt betrayed by her. Where do you draw the line? Personal relationships are complex, so there isn’t a clear-cut way to decide.

Yager says that in her research she’s found that what’s considered a “deal breaker” is different for everyone. “One person said that for her, it was when her former friend was not there for her when her mother died. Another woman didn’t see it as a deal breaker when she walked in on her roommate and found her kissing her boyfriend…but she ended that same friendship years later, over a work-related betrayal.”

Before deciding to immediately cut out a friend who’s done you wrong—or to immediately take them back—sit down and consider all aspect of this breach of trust, including how bad it made you feel, Yager suggests. “Can you [honestly] forgive them? Do they even ask for forgiveness or apologize? Is this a one time thing or a pattern? And what does your gut tell you about this friend, and about the future of your friendship?” These questions can help you decide whether mending the relationship is possible or if it’s time to let the friendship fade out.

Read more: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

The chronic canceler

If you spend more time waiting around for this person to show up—or trying to schedule and reschedule plans—than actually hanging out together, you may want to let this friendship run its course.

First, take a careful look at why your friend has such trouble keeping plans; if it’s truly a good excuse, like a new baby or an ongoing health issue, ask if there’s anything you can do to make staying in touch easier. Yager also recommends weighing what you get out of the friendship against what it’s costing you. “If the cost is minimal in terms of occasional aggravation, but the benefits are huge—like the laughs you still share on the phone and the fun nights out at the movies you still have—don’t be so quick to end it.”

On the other hand, if you’ve done all you can and you’re not getting much in return, it’s time to stop wasting your energy. We’re all busy. Constantly being put last by a “friend” can only lead to negative feelings that you don’t need.

Read more: 14 Things Heart Doctors Tell Their Friends

The bad example

She drags you along on her smoking and heavy-drinking nights out. She scoffs at your new healthy eating and exercise plan and shoves the Cheetos in your direction. Whatever this friend’s fault, if you feel yourself getting sucked into bad behavior whenever you spend time together, it’s time to back off.

Research shows that, in addition to bad moods, plenty of other qualities can spread among friends—including loneliness, obesity, and even divorce. Even your dietary choices can be affected by your companions: In one University of Illinois study, people were more likely to order the same foods at a restaurant as their lunch partners.

You may not need to ditch these friends entirely—especially if they also have good qualities you value, or if you know they have the potential to change. But be aware of how their unhealthy habits are rubbing off on you, says Yager. Try talking to these friends about why you can’t be around them when they act a certain way, or avoid situations that enable that side of them.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 5 Types of Friends That Everyone Has

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Military Suicides Aren’t Linked to Deployment, Study Finds

Military soldier with bag in airport, low section
Mike Powell—Getty Images Military soldier with bag in airport, low section

Service members who were not honorably discharged had a 21% higher suicide rate than those with honorable discharges

In certain branches of the military, suicide rates have almost doubled in the last decade. Now, sweeping new research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that the reasons are much more complicated than just deployment. In a comprehensive new study that looked at all 3.9 million members of the U.S. military from 2001-2007—including the Air Force, Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve. Marine Corps and Navy—suicide was not associated with deployment in the U.S.’s two most recent major conflicts: Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Those findings may be counterintuitive, says study author Mark A. Reger, PhD, Deputy Director at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology and chief of research, outcomes, and investigations, but some interesting theories have emerged.

“As the wars went on and deployments were occurring among our service members, the suicide rates were rising at the same time, so it’s very tempting to assume that it must be because of the deployment,” Reger says. But the strongest research from the Vietnam and Gulf War eras shows there’s not a significant difference in suicide rates between those who are deployed and the general population, he says. And that held true for the more recent conflicts. The authors looked at deployment in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations and found no association between deployment and suicide.

MORE: Military Suicides Down Overall, But National Guard Rates Up

He suspects part of the reason is that military members who are chosen for deployment may be among the most mentally fit. Prior to deployment, all service members go through pre-deployment screening to ensure that they’re mentally and physically ready for the challenges. “It is possible that those who deploy are healthier than those who did not deploy,” Reger says, although he adds that they didn’t have data to confirm that.

The authors didn’t look at data related to mental health status, medical status, combat exposure or combat injuries, so they were unable to see if those factors were linked to increase suicide risk. “All of these deserve future study,” Reger says.

Some patterns linked to suicide risk factors did emerge, however. Those who left the military early had a 63% higher suicide rate than people who had not separated from service. People with the fewest years of military service were also most at risk; service members who left the military after just a short stint of less than four years were at higher risk for suicide than those who left after serving four or more years, regardless of whether or not they’d been deployed. The study didn’t look at possible reasons for this, but the authors speculate that difficulty finding work, losing their military identity and having to find new social support may all play a role.

MORE: 22 Veterans Die By Suicide Every Day

Another big risk factor, the study authors concluded, was the nature of a service member’s discharge. Those who were not honorably discharged from the military had a 21% higher suicide rate than those who had an honorable discharge.

Making use of limited resources to prevent suicide is a key objective of the military, Reger says. Based on these findings, it’s possible that targeting prevention efforts more narrowly to those who leave the military early and those with a less-than-honorable discharge may be more efficient and impactful than casting a wide net and focusing prevention efforts on everyone who’s deployed, Reger says.

“I think the entire nation has a responsibility for working with service members and veterans, wherever they end up,” he says. “If our paper has the effect of influencing some of those in the prevention community beyond the military, that would be a good outcome.”


How Google Tricks You Into Thinking You’re Smarter

It's like a knowledge confidence booster, study suggests

Searching the Internet may inflate your perception of how knowledgeable you are, a new study says.

Researchers found that participants using Google search to answer specific questions believed they could later answer unrelated questions more accurately, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published online Monday.

Even when participants couldn’t find answers on the Internet, they still felt an increased self-assessment of how much knowledge they had. As a result, people may unintentionally exaggerate how much information they can recall on their own, the study said.

“It becomes easier to confuse your own knowledge with this external source,” said lead researcher Matthew Fisher of Yale University. “When people are truly on their own, they may be wildly inaccurate about how much they know and how dependent they are on the Internet.”

The study adds to existing research that suggests searching the Internet for information creates an increase in “cognitive self-esteem,” though not necessarily an increase in intelligence.

Read next: 11 Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Why Being Put on Hold Drives You Crazy

Changing the music makes customers happier

Waiting on hold with an airline, cable provider or credit card company is a reliably irritating experience. So reliable, in fact, that researchers decided to study it—and might have come up with a fix. Playing pop music instead of instrumental elevator music may make callers less angry when someone finally answers, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Elevator music, with an easy-listening melody that can repeat endlessly, invokes a feeling of dread in many of us. “You learn to associate that kind of background music with waiting or complaining—those things that normally happen when you call a call center,” says study author Karen Niven, a lecturer at Manchester Business School in England. “When you have some pop music that you wouldn’t expect to hear, it doesn’t prime those same negative thoughts, it provides something of a buffer.”

Niven took control of the music at a call center for three weeks to conduct the study. Instead of playing standard instrumental music without lyrics, she played pop songs. Some had so-called prosocial lyrics, which talked about helping, like The Beatles’ “Help!” and Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.” Others were just standard pop songs like Jackson’s “On the Line.” Niven also played the standard instrumental music as a control.

After the phone calls ended, the call center operators assessed the callers’ level of anger. Customers were the least angry when they heard standard pop songs, and they acted more upset—equally so—when they heard songs with prosocial lyrics or instrumental elevator music.

Read more: Recording of Man’s Attempt to Cancel Comcast Will Drive You Insane

That surprised Niven, who expected callers who listened to prosocial lyrics to be less angry when they finally spoke to a person. But they seemed to find it annoying, she concluded, since they were likely calling with a complaint or service issue. “If you’re played a song about helping other people and healing the world, maybe that makes you kind of angry,” she says.

Even though people on the other end of the line didn’t hear the hold music, they too were affected by it. Call center operators who picked up the phone reported feeling less emotionally exhausted when dealing with customers who heard standard pop music.

Switching to pop music is not always a welcome fix for call centers, Niven acknowledges, since the centers often have to pay licensing fees to play it. But, as these findings suggest, call centers may make conversations more pleasant on both sides of the line simply by changing their tune.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com