As Mark Twain once said, ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.’

by Randy Malamud, Georgia State University

When I overcame a flying phobia, I resolved to make up for lost time by visiting as much of the world as I could.

So in the course of a decade, I logged over 300,000 miles, flying everywhere from Buenos Aires to Dubai.

I knew intuitively that my travels would “make me a better person” and “broaden my horizon,” as the clichés have it. But I’ve come to believe that travel can, and should, be more than a hobby, luxury or form of leisure. It is a fundamental component of being a humanist.

At its core, humanism is about exploring and debating the vital ideas that make us who we are. We study music, film, art and literature to do just that. And while it’s important to explore these ideas in our own communities, people and places that are not like us have a role to play that’s just as crucial.

This is where travel comes in. It’s what sent me packing to see some of the places I have spent so long reading about. And it’s what compelled me to write “The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist,” in which I wanted to make a case for a new approach to travel.

The imperialist tourist

In academia, travel studies have long looked at the intersection between imperialism and tourism, describing how they flourish in tandem.

From the 16th to 19th centuries, European empires gobbled up territories around the world, planting their flags and building embassies, banks, hotels and roads. Imperialists traveled to collect cinnamon, silk, rubber and ivory, using them, upon returning home, for pleasure and profit.

The golden age of travel roughly coincided with that period. Not long after the military and commercial incursions began, tourists followed imperialists to these far-flung locales.

Both tourism and imperialism involved voyages of discovery, and both tended to leave the people who were “discovered” worse off than they had been before the encounters.

Globalism’s impact on the way we travel

Over the last century, globalism – a vast and daunting concept of transnational corporate and bureaucratic systems – has replaced imperialism as the dominant network of international relations.

Globalism can be overwhelming: It involves billions of people, trillions of dollars, innumerable inventories of goods, all ensconced in a technocratic vocabulary of geopolitics and multinationalism that’s anathema to those of us who approach the world on a more human scale.

It has also made travel much easier. There are more airplane routes, more ATMs on every corner and international cellphone service. You can travel elsewhere without ever leaving the comforting familiarities of home, with McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and Holiday Inns now dotting the globe.

But why bother traveling if you want familiar comforts?

I would argue that we need a new travel guide that acknowledges the sweeping interconnectedness of globalism, but balances this with a humanist mindset.

Because beneath the innocuous activities of visiting cathedrals, lounging on the beach and collecting souvenirs, travelers can still harbor selfish, exploitative desires and exhibit a sense of entitlement that resembles imperial incursions of yesteryear.

In a way, globalism has also made it easier to slip into the old imperialist impulse to come with power and leave with booty; to set up outposts of our own culture; and to take pictures denoting the strangeness of the places we visit, an enterprise that, for some, confirms the superiority of home.

The right way to be a tourist

Humanism, however, is proximate, intimate, local. Traveling as a humanist restores our identity and independence, and helps us resist the overwhelming forces of globalism.

There’s nothing wrong with going to see the Colosseum or the Taj Mahal. Sure, you can take all the same photos that have already been taken at all the usual tourist traps, or stand in long lines to see Shakespeare’s and Dante’s birthplaces (which are of dubious authenticity).

But don’t just do that. Sit around and watch people. Get lost. Give yourself over to the mood, the pace, the spirit of elsewhere. Obviously you will eat new and interesting foods, but think of other ways, too, of tasting and “ingesting” the culture of elsewhere, of adapting to different habits and styles. These are the things that will change you more than the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Psychologists have found that the more countries you visit, the more trusting you’ll be – and that “those who visited places less similar to their homeland became more trusting than those who visited places more similar to their homeland.” Immersion in foreign places boosts creativity, and having more diverse experiences makes people’s minds more flexible.

With the products and conveniences of globalism touching most parts of the world, it simply takes more of a conscious effort to truly immerse yourself in something foreign.

My own empathy, creativity and flexibility have been immeasurably enhanced by such strange and fascinating destinations as a Monty Python conference in Lodz, Poland; a remoteness seminar near the North Pole; a boredom conference in Warsaw; Copenhagen’s queer film festival; Berlin’s deconstructed Nazi airport; a workshop in Baghdad on getting academics up to speed after Iraq’s destruction; and an encounter as an ecotourist with Tierra del Fuego’s penguins.

There’s an especially vital argument to make for travel in these fractious times of far-right ideologies and crumbling international alliances, burgeoning racism and xenophobia. The world seems as if it’s becoming less open.

A trip is the greatest chance you’ll ever have to learn about things you don’t experience at home, to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. You’ll probably find that, in many important ways, they are the same as you – which, in the end, is the point of doing all this.

The ConversationHumanists know that our copious insights and deliberations – about identity, emotions, ethics, conflict and existence – flourish best when the world is our oyster. They dissipate in the echo chamber of isolationism.

Randy Malamud, Regents’ Professor of English, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


by Selin Malkoc, The Ohio State University

It can seem like there’s never enough time – not enough for sleep and not enough for play, not enough for cooking and not enough for exercise.

There’s a relatively new term to describe this feeling: time famine, or the sensation of having too much to do without enough time to do it.

In order to structure what little time we feel we have, one strategy we deploy is scheduling. In fact, reliance on organizational tools like daily planners has been on the rise. In two recent surveys, 51 percent of respondents said they regularly used their calendar app, while 63 percent of office workers consider calendars “very important.”

The idea is that scheduling will make you more efficient: When you allocate your time, it organizes your day into a series of appointments, meetings and calls, while blocking off free time for other activities or tasks.

But in a series of eight studies, Gabriela Tonietto, Steve Nowlis and I found that scheduling can sometimes backfire – and actually make us less productive.

An appointment approaches – and time ‘shrinks’

Much of scheduling’s downside has to do with the anticipation of a meeting or appointment. When we know a scheduled meeting or phone call is looming, it can make us feel like we have less time to do what we need to do.

In one study, we asked attendees of an academic conference whether they would go to the presidential address taking place about an hour later. Some said they would, and others said they wouldn’t. Those who planned to attend the address reported that the hour leading up to it felt shorter.

In another study, we had half of the participants imagine that a friend would be coming over in an hour, while the other half were told to imagine they had no plans. We asked all of the participants how many minutes they “subjectively” felt like they could spend reading during that same hour.

Those who were told to imagine that a friend would be coming over reported that the hour leading up to the visit had only 40 usable minutes for reading. Those who were told to imagine they had no plans felt as if they had 49 minutes to read.

So the presence of an upcoming activity seems to have shrunk how much time people felt they had to do something.

Why might this happen?

We believe that when there’s an appointment looming, we direct our attention to it, whether it’s mentally preparing for it or simply dreading it. This makes the future appointment feel more substantial; as a result, the time interval leading up to the scheduled activity feels limited and insufficient.

Free to do … less?

But in the end, you still have the same amount of time leading up to a scheduled event.

So feeling like you have less time shouldn’t really matter, right? But it does. The feeling by itself can influence what people decide to do.

We know that when something is scarce, people consider it more valuable and are less willing to part with it.

The same is true for time. If time feels limited, people are less likely to use it – even when it’s in their best interest.

So in another study, we gave participants an empty calendar for the next day and asked them to fill it up, as accurately as possible, with what they had scheduled (including preparation or transition times). This allowed us to correctly calculate how much free time they had in between each planned event.

We then gave participants an opportunity to participate in a second study. Everyone made a choice between participating in a 30-minute online study that would earn them US$2.50, or signing up for a 45-minute online study to receive $5.00. Each would take place during an hourlong window.

On our end, we strategically chose the hourlong window for the participants. We told half of them that the study would take place within an hour of an event they’d scheduled. The other half would take the study during a time period that concluded with a half-hour cushion before their scheduled event.

We found that participants in the first group were much less likely to choose the longer but more lucrative study – despite having more than enough time to complete the study.

In yet another study, we wondered if the mere reminder of an upcoming event could have a similar effect.

Before beginning an unrelated study, we told half of the participants that they would have about five minutes to do whatever they wanted. We told the other half they had about five minutes before we would “get started.”

For those in the latter group, the simple mention of “starting something” was enough to change their behavior. We found that they engaged in significantly fewer activities, whether it was answering emails or checking social media, in this short five-minute period.

You’re less famished than you think

Some might think that time famine arises because they have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

While this may certainly be the case at times, our results suggest that the fault also lies in our own perception of what we feel can be done with the time we have. In other words, it’s important to realize that we might be contributing to our time famine.

If you love scheduling and planning out your days, a trick could be to schedule events or tasks back-to-back, which leaves you with larger chunks of unscheduled time. Several uninterrupted hours of unscheduled time will feel longer, especially if there’s nothing scheduled looming.

It can be effective to remind yourself that time isn’t as short as it feels. Even if you don’t think you’ll have enough time to complete something, you can still start a task and finish it later.

The ConversationAs Aristotle once said, “Well begun is half done.”

Selin Malkoc, Associate Professor of Marketing, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


3 Pro Tips to Smash Hangry

| Estimated read time:
Hangry Hulk, SMASH

by Jennifer MacCormack, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

You’re ready to blow your top – but how much is due to your internal hunger and how much to external annoyances? Have you ever been grumpy, only to realize that you’re hungry?

Feeling hangry has become a meme, even used in ads. But how does it work, psychologically? Snickers

Many people feel more irritable, annoyed, or negative when hungry – an experience colloquially called being “hangry.” The idea that hunger affects our feelings and behaviors is widespread – from advertisements to memes and merchandise. But surprisingly little research investigates how feeling hungry transforms into feeling hangry.

Psychologists have traditionally thought of hunger and emotions as separate, with hunger and other physical states as basic drives with different physiological and neural underpinnings from emotions. But growing scientific evidence suggests that your physical states can shape your emotions and cognition in surprising ways.

Prior studies show that hunger itself can influence mood, likely because it activates many of the same bodily systems, like the autonomic nervous system and hormones, that are involved in emotion. For example, when you’re hungry, your body releases a host of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, often associated with stress. The result is that hunger, especially at greater intensity, can make you feel more tense, unpleasant and primed for action – due to how these hormones make you feel.

But is feeling hangry just these hunger-induced feelings or is there more to it? This question inspired the studies that psychologist Kristen Lindquist and I conducted at UNC-Chapel Hill. We wanted to know whether hunger-induced feelings can transform how people experience their emotions and the world around them.

Negative situations set the scene for hanger

An idea in psychology known as affect-as-information theory holds that your mood can temporarily shape how you see the world. In this way, when you’re hungry, you may view things in a more negative light than when you’re not hungry. But here’s the twist.

People are most likely to be guided by their feelings when they’re not paying attention to them. This suggests that people may become hangry when they aren’t actively focused on their internal feelings, but instead wrapped up in the world around them, such as that terrible driver or that customer’s rude comment.

To test whether hungry people are more likely to become hangry in negative situations when they aren’t focused on their feelings, we designed three different studies. In the first two, run online with U.S. adults, we asked people – some hungry, some full – to look at negative, positive and neutral emotional images. Then they saw an ambiguous figure: a Chinese character or pictograph they’d never seen before. We asked participants whether they thought the pictograph meant something pleasant or unpleasant.

Each trial consisted of either a randomly selected negative, positive or neutral emotional image, meant to serve as emotional context, followed by a randomly selected Chinese pictograph, meant to be ambiguous to English speakers. Participants then used their gut feelings to judge whether the ambiguous pictograph meant something unpleasant, pleasant, or neutral. Jennifer MacCormack, CC BY-ND

Each trial consisted of either a randomly selected negative, positive or neutral emotional image, meant to serve as emotional context, followed by a randomly selected Chinese pictograph, meant to be ambiguous to English speakers. Participants then used their gut feelings to judge whether the ambiguous pictograph meant something unpleasant, pleasant, or neutral. Jennifer MacCormack, CC BY-ND

Hungry people who saw negative images thought the pictographs meant something more unpleasant. However, hungry people’s ratings after positive or neutral emotional pictures were no different than the not-hungry people.

This suggests that the hangry bias doesn’t occur when people experience positive or even neutral situations. Instead, hunger only becomes relevant when people confront negative stimuli or situations. But why would hunger only matter in negative situations?

Affect-as-information theory also suggests that people are more likely to use their feelings as information about the world around them when those feelings match the situation they’re in. Hunger likely only becomes relevant in negative situations because hunger itself produces unpleasant feelings – making it easier to mistake the cause of those feelings to be the negative things around you, rather than your hunger.

Tuning in to your feelings

In the final study, we recreated in the laboratory a frustrating situation to test how hunger and awareness – or lack thereof – might cause hanger.

We assigned two random groups of undergraduate students to fast for at least five hours or eat a full meal before coming to our lab. There we assigned them to write a story that was meant either to direct their attention to emotional information, or to not focus on emotions at all. Then everyone did a long, tedious computer task. At the end of the task, we secretly programmed the computer to “crash.” The researcher blamed the participant for the computer malfunction and told them they’d have to redo the task once it was fixed.

It turned out that hungry people who hadn’t focused on feelings beforehand exhibited more signs of being hangry. They reported feeling more stressed, hateful and other negative emotions and rated the researcher as being more “judgmental,” compared to full individuals and the hungry people who did write about emotions earlier.

These findings suggest that feeling hangry occurs when your hunger-induced negativity gets blamed on the external world around you. You think that person who cut you off on the road is the one who made you angry – not the fact that you’re ravenous. This seems to be a fairly unconscious process: People don’t even realize they’re making these attributions.

Our data suggest that paying attention to feelings may short circuit the hangry bias – and even help reduce hanger once you notice it.

The hungry/hangry connection is a reminder that bodies influence brains and vice versa. Ana Blazic Pavlovic/Shutterstock.com

The hungry/hangry connection is a reminder that bodies influence brains and vice versa. Ana Blazic Pavlovic/Shutterstock.com

Although these studies provide a valuable glimpse into the ways that physical states, like hunger, can temporarily shape our feelings and behaviors, they are only a first step. For example, our studies only address hunger effects in healthy populations where individuals eat regularly. It would be interesting to look at how feeling hangry could change with long-term dieting or conditions like diabetes or eating disorders.

These studies alongside other emerging science suggest that our bodies can deeply shape how we think, feel and act – whether we realize it or not. We’re generally aware that emotions like feeling stressed can influence our health, but the reverse direction is also true. Our bodies and physical health have the power to shape our mental lives, coloring who we are and the way we experience the world around us.

3 Pro Tips for Warding off hanger

Here are three pro tips to help keep your hunger from going full-blown hangry.

Healthy foods filled with slow-release nutrients keep you satiated and impervious to hanger. Tetiana Bykovets on Unsplash, CC BY

Healthy foods filled with slow-release nutrients keep you satiated and impervious to hanger. Tetiana Bykovets on Unsplash, CC BY

  1. First, it may seem obvious, but pay more attention to your hunger. People vary a lot in how sensitive they are to hunger and other bodily cues. Maybe you don’t notice you’re hungry until you’re already ravenous.
  2. Plan ahead – carry healthy snacks, eat a protein-filled breakfast or lunch to give you lasting energy – and set yourself reminders to eat regularly. These basic precautions help prevent you from becoming overly hungry in the first place.
  3. But what if you’re already super hungry and can’t eat right away? Our findings suggest people are more likely to be biased by hunger in negative situations. Maybe you’re stuck in bad traffic or you have a stressful deadline. In these cases, try to make your environment more pleasant. Listen to an amusing podcast while you drive. Put on pleasant music while you work. Do something to inject positivity into your experience.

The ConversationMost importantly, your awareness can make all the difference. Yes, maybe you’re hungry and starting to feel road rage, overwhelmed with your task deadline, or wounded by your partner’s words. But amid the heat of those feelings, if you can, step back for a moment and notice your growling stomach. This could help you recognize that hunger is part of why you feel particularly upset. This awareness then gives you the power to still be you, even when you’re hungry.

Jennifer MacCormack, Ph.D. Student in Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

This article was originally published on The Conversation.