LUNCH, BUT NO BREAK
So what if you want to work through lunch? It’s your right, right? Choice of lunchtime activity can make all the difference in work recovery, found management researchers publishing in the Academy of Management Journal. Over a 10-day period, the authors asked administrative employees at a university what they did during their lunch breaks. They also asked the employees’ coworkers how tired each employee appeared to be at the end of the day. Though we constantly hear that lunch breaks are good for employees’ health and morale, researchers have found that what really matters isn’t what you do during your lunch period or with whom you do it. What matters is whether you had the freedom to choose how you spent your lunch break. Revolutionary! Some social lunch breaks also added to fatigue, especially if the social lunch was forced on workers. Remember that the next time you are about to peer pressure a colleague into joining you and your buddies for a bite. “Come on, it’ll be good for you to take a break with us” might not be true.
Before you kick back, put your feet on your desk and start telling people what to do, you should know that this power stance isn’t universally recognized or acceptable. And not just because putting your feet on sterile surfaces is generally frowned upon. The results of a group of studies published in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology show a number of differences in how “expansive” body postures are viewed by those born in the U.S. and those born in China, South Korea and Japan. Such expansive postures are thought to convey signals about power and confidence. One of the new studies included this useful metric: Americans who had their feet up on a desk for three minutes were more likely to take action to deal with a problem. The same did not hold true for East Asians. (And a related study found that the classic feet-on-desk posture was not in line with East Asian cultural norms.) There were, however, some universal power postures: Hands spread on the desktop, or sitting with an ankle resting on the opposite knee. For examples of dominant power postures in action, simply observe anyone wearing a three-piece suit in films about Wall Street or the ‘80s real estate market.
SOCIAL PAIN NETWORKS
Unfortunately for you, there are no courtesy laughs on Facebook. But if no one Likes your latest hilarious post, your brain will come to the rescue with a soothing opioid response, just as it would respond to physical pain. Building on earlier studies that found similar brain pathways activated by social and physical pain, researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School have determined that the brain’s painkilling system responds to social slights just as it would to a physical injury. After viewing and rating fictitious online dating profiles, 18 study subjects were placed in a PET scanner—and informed that the people they found attractive were not interested in them. Nothing like mean-spirited small talk from your imaging technician. The scans showed opioid release in the same areas of the brain as would be affected by physical pain response. What’s more, the participants actually knew that the dating profiles—and the rejection—were fake, proving the power of the virtual virtual world.