Insights on Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time (DST), which begins on Sunday, March 8,  is the practice of advancing clocks during summer (and spring and fall) months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. In effect, DST causes a lost hour of sleep in the spring and an extra hour of sleep in the fall. DST disrupts our internal clock and temporarily contributes to productivity wanes at work, significant pedestrian and traffic accidents increase and serious health impacts.

Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology

Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He is able to address questions on how DST affects the mind and body’s ability to cope with lost sleep and disruption in the circadian rhythm.

“Brain regions that receive direct information about light, such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, must re-entrain to the adjusted time of day following a time change,” Gall says. “It takes our bodies longer to adjust to the spring time change as compared to the fall time change, similar to when we travel east, due to the phase advance in our biological clock.

“One way to help your bodies adjust more quickly is to wake up about 15 minutes earlier each day starting several days before the time change, and go to bed earlier and earlier each night. Doing so will start to adjust your internal clock before the time changes in the early hours of Sunday morning.”

The Positive Psychological Effects of Giving Thanks

The Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time to reflect on everything we are grateful for in our lives. Research shows that gratitude has daily benefits, both psychologically and physiologically, no matter the time of year.

Dr. Lindsey Root Luna

Dr. Lindsey Root Luna, associate professor of psychology at Hope College, is a clinical psychologist who investigates how virtues are connected to our physiology. In particular, she is interested in the how embodying gratitude, mindfulness, forgiveness, and hope impact our psychological and physiological functioning.

In a recent study, led by Dr. Charlotte Van Oyen-Witvliet and in collaboration with Dr. Daryl VanTongeren, Root Luna found that engaging in gratitude led to increased hope and happiness. The two-study assessment of states and traits was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

To Friend or to Unfriend: That’s the Question!

“To friend or to unfriend: That is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler on Facebook or Twitter to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous populace drama,

Or to click ‘Unfriend’ against a sea of troubles

And thus end them?”

Apologies to Sir William Shakespeare, but if he had lived in the age of the internet, perhaps the bard would have asked his famous questions this way in regard living life online. He was a pretty preceptive fellow, after all. Instead, Jimmy Kimmel asked those questions about 21st virtual life, then he made a national day out of it.

(I bet you never thought you’d see Jimmy Kimmel and William Shakespeare’s names used in the same paragraph, but there it is!)

Dr. Jayson Dibble, Associate Professor of Communication

Actually, as a comedian, Kimmel is an astute observer of human behavior, too. As such, he founded Unfriend Day in 2014 with the idea that we needed a judgment-free opportunity to simplify our online connections and combat the growing trend of amassing large amounts of ‘friends’ through social media outlets, many of whom are barely known to the account holder.

Dr. Jayson Dibble, associate professor of communication, teaches and researches about interpersonal and relational communication and how technology plays a role in both. He has co-authored articles addressing how Facebook affects romantic relationships. He is also able to comment on how Facebook and other social media have changed our society’s communication tendencies, priorities and, yes, friendships. Or, un-friendships.

Here’s something that Dibble wants you to think about before embracing Kimmel’s big holiday. “The thing is, unfriending doesn’t necessarily come without consequences,” says Dibble. “For example, although Facebook doesn’t intentionally notify users that they’ve been ‘unfriended’ by anyone, the unfriended will often learn of their fate through other Facebook features, such as when you show up (again) in their ‘People You May Know’ section. It doesn’t take long. Unlike offline relationships, Facebook doesn’t really let you simply fall out of touch with somebody.”

Researching Ways to Get More Zzzzz

With the end of daylight saving happening on Sunday, November 3, sleep is back in the spotlight. Hope’s Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, has a number of things he can say about that topic.

Dr. Andrew Gall

Gall is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He has had two recent studies about sleep quality published in peer-reviewed journals.

In 2018, Gall and a team of student researchers studied how dim light, a winter malady, is capable of disrupting the expression of circadian rhythms. Specifically, dim light causes a shift in behavioral patterns, such that it is more difficult to be awake during the day and can lead to more wakefulness at night. In the Journal of Comparative Psychology, Gall wrote that Nile grass rats — a day-active species — became more night-active when they were presented with dim light during the day. This has implications for us living in West Michigan, where about 70 percent of the days in the winter are cloudy, thus resulting in dim light. In fact, across the country, humans are exposed to less light in the winter, which can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and mood swings.

Dr. Alyssa Cheadle

This year, Gall and Hope colleague Dr. Alyssa Cheadle, working with Dr. Loren Toussaint of Luther College, researched how forgiveness of self and others plays a role in sleep quantity and quality. Their findings were recently published in Psychology and Health. Surveying 1,423 American adults regarding how likely they would be to forgive themselves or others due an episode of hurt or harm, as well as asking how well they had slept in the past 30 days, the research team found that respondents who were more forgiving usually slept longer and better. As a result, they had better physical health and were happier with life.

When is Forgiveness Day?

Google search “forgiveness day” and a number of different dates pop up on the internet. June 26. July 7. October 26.

The date proliferation for forgiveness day is telling. Most national or international “days” focus on a topic for a single date. But the practice of forgiveness is so important to the well-being of individuals, families and societies that it is highlighted for three.

Maybe it should be for more. Such as on October 2. That’s when the latest profound — and controversial — display of forgiveness happened between Brandt Jean, the brother of Botham Jean who was wrongly killed inside his apartment while eating ice cream, and Amber Guyger, the police officer who killed him. In a Texas courtroom, Jean forgave Guyger immediately after the trial with a teary embrace.

Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet

When Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet, professor of psychology and chair of the department at Hope College, sees and hears of acts of forgiveness, she’s well-acquainted with their emotional and physical side effects from decades of research. She values the importance of safety and accountability in relationship to forgiveness — a moral response to relational injustice that resists both minimizing offenses and reducing people to their offenses, instead seeing the humanity of the offender and desiring that person’s genuine good. Forgiving does not necessarily mean reconciling or restoring a person to a role; sometimes that is unsafe, unwise, or impossible even when a person genuinely forgives another. 

vanOyen-Witvliet has produced extensive research projects and papers on forgiveness. As a result, she has conducted more than 120 media interviews about forgiveness, with her research featured in TimeNewsweekUSA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ABC, CBS, Michigan Radio and international newspapers. Her research is referenced in blogs and books, including The Book of Joy, co-authored by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama in 2016, and The Science of the Virtues: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church by Mark McMinn in 2017.

Get Smart About Credit

Need a car loan?  A house loan?

Thinking about adding another credit card to your wallet?

Before you do, have you asked, “how smart am I about credit?”

Get Smart About Credit Day, on Thursday, October 17, takes a specialized look at one of life’s daily necessities: credit. Established by the American Bankers Association to help young people get an early understanding about credit, Get Smart About Credit Day focuses on educating all people about various forms of credit and how to properly manage and protect their credit scores.

Dr. Brian Porter, professor of management, is an expert in behavioral finance as well as personal finance and investment. His writing focuses on financial planning and management, retirement planning and pedagogy. He has spoken with WalletHub about credit cards for college students, with AARP about Five Rules for Financial Freedom, and with U.S. News about Five Times to Splurge and Five Times to Save.

National Clean Energy Week

Monday, September 23 marks the beginning of National Clean Energy Week, the goal of which is to advance the support for our nation’s energy sector through new methods of market development, policy change, and technological innovation.

For Hope College’s Dr. Jeffrey Christians, this is his kind of week. The assistant professor of chemical engineering was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado for three years before coming to Hope in 2018. At NREL, he worked on clean energy initiatives for next generation solar power technology.

Dr. Jeff Christians

Today at Hope, Christians’ research looks into the development of semiconductor materials (such as perovskites, a photovoltaic material) that can become working components of solar cells to make them more broadly accessible. He also works on non-traditional applications of solar cells, such as color-switching solar cells which could be integrated into building facades. 

Managing Hurricane Dorian’s Psychological Aftermath

Hurricane Dorian may be over but not its aftermath. The physical damage it left behind in communities and to people in the Bahamas, Carolinas, even reaching up to Canada, is devastating. Unfortunately, the psychological effects of the natural disaster will inflict suffering for days, weeks and months to come, too.

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, the author of The Courage to Suffer: A New Clinical Framework for Life’s Greatest Crises, recently wrapped up a three-year study on how survivors find meaning after natural disasters strike and how those events affect their views about God. He conducted a half dozen field studies following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, plus another half dozen lab-related studies. The project was funded by a $1.8 grant from the John Templeton Foundation and also involved colleagues at Wheaton College, Georgia State University and the University of North Texas.

And their findings? The people who were most resilient after a natural disaster had high intrinsic religiousness. “Religion was a central part of their identity; they didn’t have faith for social reasons,” Van Tongeren said in a recent Spera magazine article. “They hold their beliefs because they believe them to be true, and their religion permeates every aspect of their life. Those are the folks who are really doing the best.”

Tennis, Anyone? The U.S. Open Is About to Get Underway

Can Serena Williams put her 2018 U.S. Open meltdown behind her and earn a record-setting Grand Slam title? Can anyone other than the dominant trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic raise up and win a men’s Grand Slam title at the 2019 U.S. Open? Or, will young upstarts — we’re looking at you, Coco Gauff — and determined underdogs — maybe it’s your time, John Isner — have their day in the August sun at the USTA Billy Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, N.Y.?

Jorge Capestany

The U.S. Open starts on Monday, August 26, for its 139th edition, and Hope’s Jorge Capestany is an expert about professional tennis and the event. Capestany, manager of the DeWitt Tennis Center and founder of the Hope College Summer Tennis Academy, is a member of the USTA National Tennis Center Professional Advisory staff. He is a frequent speaker at the Tennis Teacher’s Conference at the U.S. Open, too. A multiple national and international award winner in the tennis teaching profession, Capestany is a USPTA master Professional and PTR International Professional. He is one of 10 people worldwide who have earned Master Professional distinction with both the USPTA and PTR.

Water Research for the Global Good

It’s World Water Week beginning Monday, August 25, and this year’s theme is “Water for Society — Including All.”

Top left to right, Dr. Aaron Best and Dr. Jonathan Peterson Bottom left to right, Dr. Mike Pikaart and Dr. Brent Krueger

Four Hope College professors have been conducting research with that theme in mind for three years now. Dr. Jonathan Peterson of the geological and environmental sciences department, Dr. Aaron Best of the biology department, and Dr. Mike Pikaart and Dr. Brent Krueger of the chemistry department are members of an interdisciplinary research team that is on a reconnaissance mission, looking at samples collected via Sawyer® water filters from 30 countries so far, including Kenya, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Costa Rica and Senegal. The research team’s goal is to help improve drinking water quality in less developed countries. They have presented their findings about particulates, bacteria, and heavy metals in global water at scientific professional meetings and are in the process of preparing a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.