With a mere seven days to go until Christmas, we’ve found seven studies that will help you maximise the big day…or at least hallucinate your way through it.
Christmas is right around the corner, bringing with it all its joys—and stresses. How does one maximise the former while reducing the latter, exactly? Helpful scientists have been looking for the answers. Occasionally, they’ve yielding some useful advice for the festive season. Other times, however, the results are just hilarious.
This year, PsyBlog has neatly rounded up 12 recent holiday-related psychology studies. But with seven days to go until Christmas (Jesus Christ), consider the following a teensy-tiny peer-reviewed advent calendar.
First, time-honoured Christmas tradition of tripping balls. The most famous example, of course, was Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who welcomed ghostly apparitions into his house, only for them to heavily criticise him.
As the story goes, Ol’ Scrooge figured it was due to the contents of his gruel, a case published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine believes that hypothermia may be the true source of the hallucinations. “A combination of undernutrition and hypothermia is as likely an explanation of the delirium as any,” the study noted.
As The Guardian noted, “There are similarities with other cases. In 2008, the BMJ reported on a couple who had recently converted to Buddhism, who both hallucinated that they saw a Buddhist holy man in the Cairngorms during cold weather. Climbers on Everest have described hallucinating benign companions, presumed to be due to a combination of hypothermia and the thin air.”
However, another study has blamed Bing Crosby for the commencement of Christmas hallucinations. According to PsyBlog, this “neat little study” had participants listen to white noise and press a button when they heard Bing Crosby singing ‘White Christmas’. Almost one-third of the participants pressed the button at least once despite the noise being white-only with not a hint of Christmas. Now, while Bing Crosby was not someone you’d want around for Christmas, the more paranoid among us may suggest that it’s all part of some post-capitalism MK-Ultra plot to get us to spend more during the silly season. After all, the song isn’t even about Christmas, it’s about a lack of Christmas, a pursuit of the perfect Christmas, just like the ones we used to know.
Good food is mostly in the mind
Don’t be afraid to take on the Christmas feast responsibility; according to science, you can’t mess it up if you put in some effort. Research claims you can trick your loved ones into enjoying your mediocre cooking just by presenting it well.
Food psychologist Brian Wansink describes in the study an assortment of tricks for boosting people’s perceptions of the food they are eating. Apparently, it’s all about harnessing the ‘halo effect‘.
“Leave parsley and chervil lying around, talk about the organic turkey farmer you know, use evocative labels for the food you’re serving, tell them the wine is first-rate, even if it’s all just talk,” suggests PsyBlog.
Christmas can be good, as long as you’re present…and don’t spend too much on presents
We all want a happy Christmas, but how do we get it? Research into happiness and Christmas suggests that a focus on family and religious experiences is positively correlated with more happiness, while an emphasis on spending and consumption is associated with less happiness.
You probably didn’t a scientific study to tell you that, but at least you now have a study that backs up your decision to show up to your family gathering without presents; it’s the time that counts.
Science finds the best chocolate to give, before eating it all in front of us
If you’re looking for scientific guidance on which chocolate to gift over the holidays (or indulge in yourself), the findings are in. Spoiler alert, they’ll all suffice.
“What to choose for maximum pleasure: normal chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate? For the answer, we turn to the Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness study. That’s right, the CHUMP study. It’s a real thing, and it’s a randomised controlled trial. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive so you’ll be forced to conduct your own research,” jokes PsyBlog.
Don’t give money, money is a terrible gift.
The fact of the matter is, people just aren’t into money as a gift, no matter what economists and deluded spouses tell you.
“This study finds money is probably a bad gift perhaps because it can’t send a meaningful message about intimacy and tends to send the wrong message about status differences,” notes PsyBlog. Clearly, you cannot give it away, but you must waste it. Make sense?
People make value judgements about you via your Christmas decorations
Research suggests that decorations on a home’s exterior make other people think you’re more sociable and perhaps more integrated with the community and with its social activities. The site suggests that you should “make sure you don’t tip over into Christmas lighting addiction”. Ah, the marginalisation of addiction, one of the truest tenets of Christmas.
The smell of Christmas is a thing
According to this study, “research suggests that olfactory and musical stimuli can influence individuals’ perceptions and behaviours, the combined or interactive effects of these environmental cues is not well understood.”
Translation: In a retail setting, Christmas music manufactures a Christmas smell that increases our likelihood of visiting them, but we’re not really sure how.
You know what? Christmas does have a smell, and it’s entirely subjective and therefore worthless to everyone else. To me, it’s hanging heat, pool chlorine, and that the smell of a dying tree my mother purchased in 1996; before vowing to never to do the same again and drunkenly explaining that Santa was stupid.
Merry Christmas, y’all.