Category Archives: Psychology

Juan Dual

Juan Dual is the kind of person who stops at nothing to enjoy life. He lost his stomach, colon, rectum and gall bladder due to a genetic disease which made him more prone to suffer from cancer. Whereas some people can become depressed under so devastating health changes, he took advantage of biking and humor to overcome problems. Indeed, he has a tattoo in his right forearm with the following message: Do not give much thought to things, rather do them.

After successfully being physically cured, he needed to cure his head. Everybody goes through tough issues and sometimes we forget the most important: We only have one life and must enjoy it. A simple and powerful idea. His bicycle helped him to avoid pessimism. The most difficult moment was when he started pedaling after all the surgery. Relatives and friends told him not to do sport sometimes because of fear or ignorance, or simply because love, but he disregarded them. Today he reckons that did the right thing and has rode mainly on Latin American countries and Spain.

As it comes to great trips, he follows the three days rule. He gives away everything he has not used in the first three days of route as a way to avoid overweight. Moreover, he recommends consulting everything about your desired great trip before starting it and do not be afraid asking locals for information.

Was it really an accident?

Media surrounds us and we constantly are informed by it. It has an impressive power to both educate and manipulate people, and we should demand seriousness and rigor. After all, narrating reality should not be so difficult.

Regarding biking, media makes mistakes with the word “accident” often. Take for example a rider runned over by a car. Usually, media expresses it as an “accident” in order to probably show a shocking word to attract reader’s attention. In reality, a reflection is needed to express what is behind the event since the complete piece of news is explained only after the striking headline. It also happens in the TV news.

The Associated Press style book, which is published since 2016, recommends the use of “crash” instead of “accident” in such cases. This way blaming the biker is avoided because “accident” implies the car has had nothing to cause the death while this it not true. Due to the fact that the rider is usually the weaker actor on the road, he typically suffers the injuries. The word “accident” seems to accept that the crash is unpredictable, whereas it could surely have been avoided and prevented. In the end, small changes in media contribute to modify public opinion about biking which in turn will provoke an increment in public pressure to reduce casualties on asphalt.

Avoid bicycle thefts

How can I avoid bike thefts? There are several points you can do:

  • Always use good bike locks when locking it. For instance, follow the advices here and here

  • Lock your bike to solid, robust objects.

  • Lock your bike in place of passages. This way someone can see a theft and call the police or at least threaten him to do it.

  • If you can, select strategist places to lock your bicycle near such as police stations.

  • Do not let your bike rest at night under the stars, better allow it to do it indoor.

  • Perhaps use a psychological trick like this one

  • Never buy a bicycle without receipt. If you do not follow this advice, you are probably supporting bike thieves and the black market.

  • If you can, do not legally buy a colorful bike since this fact attract people eyes including the thieves ones.

  • Decorate your bike with an anti theft sticker. Not sure if this would stop a theft, but at least it can make you laugh:

Bike and psychology (3/3)

I can not conclude this post series (which started here) without writing about an undesirable piece in the bicycle world. I am talking about the bike thieves. Millions of bikes are stolen every year by mainly young males in gangs. Then, they sell the bikes both on the street and online.

Why stealing bikes is so prevalent? According to police services, it is attractive because represents a low risk and cost activity. However, most of stolen bikes are sold at low, sometimes ridiculous, prices. Thus, the psychology here lies in the economic thinking of earning some money with low risk.

The reasons of bike thieves are varied and range from envy to experience a shot of adrenaline. But I think the most important facts is poverty and sometimes related to drug addiction. In fact, this is closely linked to the low cost point that I have mentioned in the previous paragraph. And I reckon, it is partially and indirectly motivated by the shameful fines this action is punished in most countries. Even in relapses, thieves just spend few months in jail. If only politicians feel the importance of having a bike for whatever need (going to college, university, etc., going to work or to buy, practicing sport, fight against climate change, feeling better, you name it).

Few psychological studies have being carried out in this field. One of them was conducted at the Newcastle University campus. Here, the researchers analyzed the impact of installing signs with images of “watching eyes” with a written message as it comes to bike theft. They monitored thefts for 12 months after an before the signs installation. Several location were divided as control (no signs were installed) and experimental (signs were installed). While experimental locations thefts were reduced by 62 per cent, they increased in control ones by 65 per cent. This suggested the importance of signs, but also that crime was displaced to the control locations. Nevertheless, the importance of surveillance was shown.

According to the report, humans have fast, automatic psychological mechanisms which have evolved to respond to eye-like stimuli, and that even mere representations of eyes affects us. We are eye-animals.

On he other hand, it would be great if thefts perception changes towards a more punishable, risky and highly economic cost activity. Fines and prison sentences should increase in bikes thefts as well as bicycle parts.

Bike and psychology (2/3)

Continuing with the post series about bikes and psychology that I started here, this time I am going to write about the benefits of cycling at mental level. Generally speaking, pedaling helps build a better brain, structurally and functionally, no matter if you do it indoors or outdoors.

Beneath the brain‘s there is the white matter, which has been likened to a subway system connecting different regions of the brain. A reduction in the activity in this system can slow thinking and provoke other cognitive deficits. Some scientific studies (like this) show the benefits of pedaling. In this case, two populations were compared: healthy individuals and schizophrenia patients. In turn, they were divided into two groups, half of they were randomly selected for a six-month exercise program using a stationary bike, whereas the other half continued with its lives. Brain scans demonstrated that the group who pedaled on a regular basis increased the integrity of white matter in both healthy and schizophrenic brains.

We have a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that helps maintain existing neurons and create new ones. Moreover, BDNF collaborates in restraining some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Studies like this one brought to light increases in BDNF levels in volunteers with either type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome, both groups practicing regular exercise on a stationary bike for three months.

Using bikes also helps increasing memory and reasoning. In this study young men pedaled a stationary bike at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, and completed a series of cognitive tests before and afterward. As you can imagine, scores were higher on memory, reasoning and planning, and were able to finish the tests more rapidly than before. And after pedaling for just 30 minutes!

Furthermore, a lot of studies have demonstrated that regular physical activity helps prevent stress, anxiety and depression. It also applies to bikes. For instance, this study focused on people with depression who were treated with antidepressants. After using a stationary bike for 15 minutes, their level of cortisol, a stress hormone, declined.

Most studies have been conducted for stationary bikes because of controlling the studies environment. However, cycling outdoors, specially in natural surroundings, enlarges these benefits. It is due to spending time in nature usually reduces stress and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. What’s more, there is evidence that the green exercise boosts enjoyment and motivation.

Related to the previous paragraph, in this study this effect was demonstrated on pedaling indoors, though this could be ironic. Specifically, scientists encouraged volunteers to pedal a stationary bike while watching a five-minute video of a green, leafy trail. Three forms of the video were shown: unedited, edited to look red and edited to look gray. Those who watched the unedited green video reported a less negative mood overall. In addition, bicyclers expressed that they felt like less work, even their heart rate and breathing remained the same for all conditions.

Additional benefits of riding a bike are:

  • It helps you sleep better: Riders who ride regularly are able to get their circadian rhythm in sync by lowering the levels of cortisol. Besides, it can positively affect brain serotonin to improve sleep cycles.

  • Creative thinking and problem-solving are also improved by cycling.

  • Studies have shown that employees who ride a bike to work are more productive. Moreover, a quick afternoon bike ride can boost energy levels and help have a more productive evening.

To sum up, mental health highly benefits from riding a bike that every person should do it on a regular basis.

Bike and psychology (1/3)

I open a three-post series dedicated to psychology and bicycle. The subject of psychology is a field so large that it can not be explained in detail here. Rather, I am going to give some broad brushstrokes.

The first one is the use of psychology as a trick to teach someone to ride a bike. In particular, I am writing about the use of operand conditioning for such a purpose. Operand conditioning is the use of rewards and punishments effectively to encourage and teach whatever behavior to anyone. This theory was explained by the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner in the midst of the 1900s. Specifically, he claimed that learning involves changes in behavior in response to external stimuli. Do not confound this theory with the classical conditioning which involves reflexive, involuntary behaviors.

In operand conditioning, a reinforcement is anything that encourage or strengthen a desired behavior. A positive reinforcement may be giving something that a person really enjoys after the target behavior is done. On the other hand, negative reinforcement means stopping or removing something that the person does not want. For instance, when teaching how to ride a bicycle to a child, a negative reinforcer could be a day without chores, whereas a positive reinforcer is encouraging words.

Moreover, operand conditioning contemplates punishment. Again, punishment can be positive (introduction of something unenjoyable after a behavior: use of angry words) or negative (restricting access to something enjoyable such as taking away TV or play time).

Overall, punishments are less effective and desirable than reinforcements, being positive reinforcement the most effect conditioning method. Thus, you could try to minimal punishment (better: no punishment) while teaching to ride a bike. The better strategy is reinforce each small step because every step makes a path with teaching how to ride a bike as the finish line. Such action allows teaching to ride a bike faster since the novice gets encouraged and enjoys the process. Furthermore, reinforcements should be sincere, otherwise the learner will not take it seriously.