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Stress can make people 'bossy'

health-and-fitness Updated: Oct 04, 2008 11:45 IST

PTI
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Believe it or not, stress makes people "more superstitious".

A new study has revealed that stress makes people to "see" things that actually do not exist.

And, according to researchers, feeling lack of control over their life fuels many people's desire to impose order and structure on the world, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Lead researcher Prof Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University said: "The less control people have over their lives, the more likely they are to try and regain control through mental gymnastics.

"Feelings of control are so important to people that a lack of control is threatening. While some misperceptions can be bad or lead one crazy, they are extremely common and most likely satisfy a deep and enduring psychological need."

For their study, the researchers asked half of a group of volunteers to remember a situation when they felt a lack of control, such as a car crash, when a close family member had been ill or when they had felt under threat.

They then conducted a series of experiments, including asking the participants if they saw images in "snowy" pictures made up of dots. Half of the photos contained dots arranged randomly, while the other half made up faintly recognisable pictures, such as a chair, a boat or a planet.

While the volunteers saw 95 per cent of the hidden images, the group under pressure also "saw" images in 43 per cent in the random dots. They were also more likely to believe in superstitions like having "lucky" socks, the study found.

The subjects also saw more conspiracy theories behind imagined scenarios, such as why an employee had been passed over for promotion.

"People see false patterns in all types of data, imagining trends in stock markets, seeing faces in static, and detecting conspiracies between acquaintances. This suggests that lacking control leads to a visceral need for order -- even imaginary order," co-researcher Jennifer Whitson said.

However, volunteers who were made to feel more secure about their lives were less likely to fall back on conspiracy and superstition, the study found -- the results of which are published in the 'Science' journal.

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