How to Haggle for the Right Price

Anyone who has visited Canal St. in New York City knows that half the fun of scoring cheap baubles is haggling on the price. If I can get the pashmina for $3 instead of $5, it is that much more beautiful to me. But on the flip side, I am typically extremely disappointed if someone turns down my offers to bargain and really sticks with their original sticker value. My usual technique is to name a price a bit below what I want to pay, have my high number in mind of what I’ll actually pay to own it, and gradually come up from the low number until we’ve reached a deal. Sometimes they bite on the low number, and sometimes we meet in the middle. Now research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (that I read about on The Scoop) has some handy tips on how to get the deal you want.

Studies completed by the Columbia Business School found that when hagglers gave a specific figure (think $4.35 instead of $5), they were more likely to receive a price closer to the number they wanted. The exact figure shows the seller you know what you’re talking about, and are sure about what you should pay, while rounding off to a $5 figure implies uncertainty. That being said, whenever you’re negotiating for a price, make sure you’ve done the research, and know it’s real worth. The seller knows its value, and picking a price near that will guarantee you more success.

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten after bargaining for the right price?

Keep a Cool Head with Cooler Temps

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When you want someone to stay calm and collected, you tell them to keep a cool head. When someone has a fierce mean streak we call them hot tempered. As a society, we naturally make associations between being emotional and heat, and being rational with cold. Now, as it happens, there is some scientific backing to that generalization.  A study published in Acta Psychologica (that I read about on Women’s Health The Scoop) found that when people experienced exposure to cool temperatures, they were more able to understand other’s point of view. Being cool physically allowed the study participants to place themselves in another person’s shoes, imagining how they would feel in the situation.  Other research has shown that warm temperatures are linked with feeling friendly and similar to those who you share the space with (think sitting around a fire with friends). This may make you feel connected while simultaneously allowing you to project your feelings onto others, imagining they are feeling the same way you are. Physical coolness emphasizes the distance between you and another person, which can limit this reaction, and let you more fully observe their feelings without the interference of your own.

5 Ways Water is Good for Your Health

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I’ll preface this by saying, I drink a lot of water. Ever since I was a little girl, and my mom let me take a pretty water mug with me every where, I have never really been without a water bottle in my purse. While my co-workers may think I’m diabetic because of the number of trips I take to the water cooler daily, I just enjoy being hydrated. Now The Scoop is backing me up with 5 reasons drinking water is awesome (and good for your health).

  1. Though it’s gross to talk about, new research shows that staying hydrated may keep things regular in your digestive tract even more effectively than that bowl of fiber one with a cup of coffee in the morning.
  2. Drinking lots of water is associated with losing weight
  3. Lots of H2O can lower your risk for kidney disease.
  4. Hydrated runners are faster, safer runners who can maintain their body temperature more regularly and keep their heart rates healthier.
  5. It can prevent headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and bad moods (hellooo, remember how you feel when you’re hung over?) by staving off the bad symptoms of dehydration.

Additionally, water keeps your body temperature at a steady place, cushions joints, protects your spinal cord, and clears the body of waste through sweating and peeing. Now drink up!

Energy Drinks May be Worse for You than You Thought

energy drinkI went through a phase when I was really into energy drinks. Like, I had a complex rating system just in case the convenience store was out of my favorite. I would always go for Diet Rockstar because it tasted delicious, then the Mountain Dew Amp because I figured if the soda had a lot of  caffeine, the energy drink must be a mega dose. After those two, I would drink pretty much whatever was in stock (except the Sobe energy drinks-those are gross). I was working full time during my summer off from college,  and still maintaining a social schedule like I had all day free. There was more than one party that I feel asleep on the couch in the middle of  a room full of people. Then one day I picked up a guy friend of mine, and he commented about the creatine in my energy beverage, noting that people on his football team took that to get big, and that’s when I realized maybe I should cut back on the caffeine and factor back in a few hours of sleep instead. Looking back, I laugh about how obviously unhealthy my choices were.

Yet energy drinks remain popular, even in the face of lawsuits alleging they cause serious cardiovascular problems, and even death (we all remember how popular Four LOKO was, no?). I mean, a simple scan of the nutrition label will reveal sugar counts that are through the roof. And now The Scoop reports that they may be even worse than you thought. The beverages may contain ingredients not listed on the label, and not approved by the FDA. They may have compounds known to clog arteries, or linked to cardiovascular problems. And their claims are typically exaggerated or false. So next time you’re looking for a quick pick me up, think twice about the can claiming to improve your focus or stimulate your metabolism, and maybe just reach for a coffee instead (especially since it may even make you live longer).

Do you drink energy drinks?

Make a Choice, Then Be Satisfied with It

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Some choices are easy, and not wrought with self-doubt, pro’s and con’s lists, and endless waffling back and forth. I’m thinking of the decisions in life like, “Do I marry Ryan Gosling or Leonardo DiCaprio?” (a win-win obviously), or “Do I avoid the middle airplane seat?” (you know that’s a guaranteed lose).  Some situations are easy because both options are wonderful, or there is a clear cut definition where one is much much worse. It’s those decisions where both are OK, or there are too many variations on the outcome that leave most of us spinning. Think about how difficult it can be to pick out an outfit when you are confronted with a hundred tops, lots of bottoms, and nearly infinite combinations of the two. But new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research (and blogged about by Women’s Health The Scoop) found that even when making the decision may be hard, there are simple tricks people can use to feel satisfied with the choice they have made.

The short answer is to give the decision a physical act of closure. If you’re between two items on the menu, shut if after you have picked. If you selected a dress from your clset, close the door. If you’ve decided you don’t need to eat any more chips, zip up the bag and put it in the cabinet. After struggling with an email, and sending it-close your laptop. Scientists think that this triggers your mind to believe that the item is final, checked off of your to-do list, and now it’s time to move on. Then it shifts its focus to the item you picked, rather than all of the other options you’ve recently given up by making that choice. (Which sounds a lot like how your mind creates synthetic happiness to me!)

How do you stick with your decisions, after they’re made?

Reshape Your Snap Judgments

teamResearch completed by the University of Oxford, and recounted in an article from the April issue of Women’s Health Magazine found that our brains are wired to make snap judgements – especially those that identify people who look different than ourselves as danger or potential threats. The studies authors suppose that this is because of a long-ago evolved function of the amygdala to stimulate a fear response. Constantly defending territories from invasion conditioned people to instantly categorize anyone they came in contact with as a friend, or a foe who might try to steal their food or shelter. In present day, this part of the brain might make people more likely to form automatic judgments of others based on their appearance, or previous experiences- equating obesity with laziness, a certain race with danger, or a way of dressing with potential theft. Luckily, another part of the brain called the neocortex has evolved to help override these biased and often stereotypical knee-jerk responses. It identifies times when your fear center’s reaction may be in conflict with your overall life ideology, and works to form it into a socially and morally acceptable response.

For example, an older woman may unconsciously tuck her purse more tightly under her arm when passing by a group of teenagers with tattoos when she is not actively thinking like a grandmother. This is the amygdala’s auto-response that occurs most often when people are tired or distracted, and don’t have any excess cognitive energy. In this case, her implicit bias caused her to have a physical reaction, and while it can be very hard to unlearn implicit biases, social neuroscientists have found that it is much easier to reshape these beliefs, and minimize their unwanted effects on our behavior. While people may not be as able to control a spontaneous emotion, they can be very effective at controlling any actions resulting from them. Scientists recommend treating your snap judgements as an addiction, and actively subbing out egalitarian thoughts each time your recognize a stereotype or negative association -this weakens the negative association over time. Studies have found that when a group of people viewed a homeless person, and instead of thinking of his or her soiled appearance, they thought about the types of vegetables the person might like to eat, that the negative reaction was completely shut down and replaced by thoughts of common goals and needs. Another strategy is thinking of yourself as part of the same team as the group you have negative associations with. Studies have shown that when people of different racial and ethnic groups were put on teams, their automatic prejudices were thwarted in favor of group camaraderie.

All in all, the researchers found that implicit bias and knee-jerk reactions were the worst in people who insisted they did not have any implicit bias, were unaware of what biases they held, and made no effort to correct them. While having stereotypical thoughts is undesirable for most, the true measure of a person is how they put these thoughts into action. By acknowledging that everyone has the capacity for bias, and actively working to negate the biases when we notice them, this is the surest way to eliminate them from our lives.

Curious what implicit biases you might have? Pop on over to Harvard’s Implicit Project page. It contains evaluations of your implicit beliefs on race, gender and career, sexual orientation, and mental health. At the end, you can submit your responses to further the research, or you can choose to simply use the information to be aware of your own thoughts, and work towards modifying them to be in line with the ideology you want to live by.

Spice Up Your Popcorn (Literally)

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I’ve always liked popcorn. Some of my first childhood memories with friends are laughing about the gross orange buttery film that gets on the top of your hand when you eat the prepackaged kind. But for the most part, I was an air popped girl. My mom had a popcorn maker, and was convinced that microwave popcorn was full of dangerous chemicals (turns out she was right!). She would pop up huge bowls drenched in butter and salt for slumber party snacks and rented movies. I’ve always kept it pretty simple with popcorn, butter, salt, a little pepper or adobo spice, and potentially some cheese was about as inspired as I got.

And then I went to the Hester St. Fair one weekend, and sampled some of Cultured Confections designer popcorn. They had crumb cake popcorn with REAL crumb cake chopped up and mixed in; there was baklava with deconstructed filo dough and nuts tossed among the kernels. Then I read about Jessica Quirk of What I Wore’s Herbes De Provence popcorn on her lifestyle blog That’s Quirky. She tossed it Herbes de Provence (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, fennel seed) infused olive oil and spice mix.

It got me thinking, why not swap in oil for butter, and try out some different herbs? I’d already used seasoned salt once when I was out of the regular kind, and liked how it turned out. It just so happened the next time I was craving a bowl of popcorn, the only cheese I had in the fridge was crumbled feta. I figured now was my chance, and mixed it up with some dill, salt, pepper and olive oil, and tossed it well with the corn to coat. The result? Delicious Mediterranean popcorn.

Then I picked up this month’s issue of Women’s Health Magazine, and discovered that not only is it delicious, popcorn is actually a pretty healthy snack. Three-cups popped has only 100 calories, as much fiber as a cup of cooked brown rice, and more antioxidants than a day’s servings of fruits and veggies. As a bonus, the article had even more ideas for spicing up this movie snack staple. All mixtures call for 3 cups of air popped corn tossed together with the ingredients to coat evenly.

Rosemary Parmesan

· 1 tsp olive oil

· 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

· 1 tsp grated parmesan

Pina Colada

· 1 tsp extra-virgin coconut oil melted

· 1 finely chopped ring of dried pineapple

· 2 tsp sweetened coconut flakes

Curry Chipotle

· 1 ½ tsp canola oil heated, and whisked with spices until bubbly

· ½ tsp curry powder

· ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle or chili powder

· 1/8 tsp salt

Lemon Dill

· 1 tsp olive oil

· 1 tsp oregano

· ½ tsp dill

· ½ tsp lemon zest

· 1/8 tsp salt

Sugar ‘n’ Spice

· 1 tsp flaxseed oil

· 1 tsp powdered sugar

· ½ tsp cinnamon

· ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

· 1/8 tsp salt

Cran-Chocolate

· 1 tbsp dark chocolate melted

· 2 tbsp dried cranberries

· 1/8 tsp salt