Category Archives: Human Behavior

Are women attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes?

Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes claims a research which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent. This made me ponder on my attitude towards benevolent sexism. 

The concept of benevolent sexism was first developed in 1996 by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Peter Glick is a psychologist who studies benevolent sexism — “the paternalistic belief that women are pure, fragile flowers in need of men’s protection.” Benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, feels positive and well-intentioned. According to the research, the warm feeling surrounding benevolent sexism come at a cost – and that cost is gender inequality.

So does that mean opening the door for a woman, paying the bill for a dinner, pulling the chair for the lady to sit – a display of benevolent sexism? Well the old-fashioned way of describing this exact behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry! It reminds me of the SRK style of wooing women (and of course the women adored it :))  But things have quite changed with the millennials and Gen Z in terms of the gender equation and expectations. The good ol’ SRK wooing style would probably freak out the millennial women. Check the two videos below and one can find the transition in  the male – female equations. SRK in the first one is flattering while Irfan in the second one seems much more relatable, vulnerable and hence more authentically humane. You get the vibes of an equal relationship between the characters in the second video.

The old-fashioned way of describing this exact same behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry!

But according to the research  women are still attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitude.The study proposes an explanation drawn from evolutionary and socio-cultural theories (parental investment theory) on mate preferences. As biologically woman’s reproductive success is tied to her ability to complete months of gestation and lactation –  she is wired to choose a mate who was able and willing to assist in this process – by providing food or protection from aggressors to increase her reproductive success. Evolution, therefore, shaped female psychology to prefer mates whose characteristics and behaviors reveal the willingness to invest (i.e. protect, provide and commit). Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Hence there is a conflict between the evolutionary response to benevolent sexism and her current state of autonomy. Probably that’s why women tend to send conflicting signals on how they would like to be treated.This leads to confusion for many men. Should they pay the bill  on a dinner date or should they go dutch? Should they open the door or should they not? Would she feel being treated as less equal or would she consider it being rude? 

Recent studies show men are acting less like a “gentleman” and that has to do with the conflicting signals they receive from the society and women. 

The new generation of independent women certainly are not expecting a knight in a shining armor. So should we consider chivalry to be dead?  Probably yes in the way it used to be defined earlier but chivalry could be redefined.  It could be redefined as kindness and thoughtfulness. Holding a door for someone with hand full of grocery irrespective of the gender is chivalry. Being emotionally supportive and supporting her growth can be the new age chivalry. Chivalry now may look a lot less like FLATTERY but more like genuine RESPECT – oh boy! that definitely is attractive.

What are your thoughts on this? Would like to hear from you.

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The changing timetable for adulthood.

Why aren’t the millennials (defined as the group those who are born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter) settling down? The word “settling down” unsettles this lot. This topic gets quite uncomfortable around the dinner table with parents and quite weird with relatives at a  family function. Most of the time the settling down question is a polite way of asking – “When are you getting married ?”

The earlier generation is not to be blamed because sociologists traditionally defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: 1) Completing school 2) Leaving home 3) Becoming financially independent 4) Marrying and  5) Having a child. Well in the Indian context and especially for women milestone 2 might be listed after 4 :).

But what they fail to realize is how the definition of adulthood today has remarkably changed. The 2014 Clark University Established Adult Poll found that the top three markers for adulthood were – 1)Accepting responsibility for self, 2) Financial independence and 3) Making independent decisions.

That’s exactly what the millennials are trying to achieve. We’re in an era of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Jeffery Jensen Arnet a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is leading the movement to view the 20s as a distinct life stage, which he calls “Emerging Adulthood”. Emerging adulthood is identified as a stage of – identity exploration, instability, self-focus, feeling in-between and a rather poetic characteristic he calls “a sense of possibilities”. Emerging adults are on an intense search for personal authenticity, awareness, and personal definition. Robbins and Wilner in their book Quarter Life Crisis state that twenties are ripe with self-doubt and intense with introspection.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated.

The whole idea that the path towards adulthood meant crossing one milestone after another in a linear mode – is getting outdated. The path to adulthood is taken now at an uneven, highly individual pace. Some never achieve all five milestones –  adults could stay single or couples could stay childless by choice.

The “emerging adults” who are in an identity exploration phase, the idea of “settling down” is naturally quite unsettling. But the question is – why do we consider committing to a long-term relationship as “settling down”? Why does it feel like there is a lot to be ticked off from the bucket list before that “settling down” happens?

Wouldn’t it make better sense if the idea of committing to a relationship rather “stir” up our lives with possibilities – bigger dreams and a bigger appetite for taking risks, because now you got a partner in crime.

  • Have a start-up idea – now you have a partner to support.
  • Caught up with wanderlust- now you get a partner to travel with.
  • Always dreamt of publishing your book – now there is someone who pushes you to get it done or even better you co-author with them. Like this couple.

Sharing that wanderlust with your spouse and even your children or allowing your dreams to grow even larger to include your spouse and family – makes your aspirations even more worthwhile. According to a US research, nearly 70 percent of the founders of high-growth successful businesses were married when they became entrepreneurs (Jeff Bezos quit his high paying job and started Amazon.com with his wife MacKenzi, immediately after their marriage). Talking about the initial days of Infosys, Sudha Murthy mentioned – “I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape.”  

Think about it – the companionship in marriage should rather unsettle us with new perspectives, new journeys and new experiences. It should not be a full stop to our aspirations but an exclamation mark in our life stories. This would only happen when we free ourselves from the burden of societal expectations on what a picture perfect settled life should look like – considering the fact that the “emerging adulthood” is a new concept and traditional milestones of adulthood are still relevant in the minds of many around us.

Let the path of adulthood be uneven and individually paced – to  each, their own. Let it not be a rush towards ticking off societal check boxes and let committed relationship be an exclamation mark in your life story because as the quote goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

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Understanding the Quiet Ones

We all know someone in our respective circles who would prefer a quiet weekend reading books, someone who often makes an excuse when asked to join an office party, someone who seems to have ideas but isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the loudest in a brain storming session. We often call them the “serious types”, the loner or even a snob. They are the introverts amongst us. And believe me, most of them are used to being misunderstood, misinterpreted and probably have been asked to change their behavior since an early age.

Our school system favors and promotes extroversion making introversion seem like a personality flaw. Extroversion becomes the standard that all of us feel we need to conform to. To put things into perspective, until recently left handedness was also frowned upon, and left handed kids were forced to become right handed (sounds weird now)! Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

It becomes important to understand where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum – because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature. When we make life choices that are congruent with our temperament, we unleash vast stores of energy. With a misunderstanding about introversion and the social conditioning of extroversion being a desirable behavioral trait, most introverts end up spending their life emulating extroverts to fit in. The stress of not being “true to yourself” results in a feeling of void.

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. – Laurie A. Helgoe, Introvert Power

Understanding Introversion

Neither is introversion shyness nor are introverts anti-social or arrogant people. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Elon Musk, Emma Watson and Mark Zuckerberg are all introverts. It just proves that – you don’t have to be the loudest personality in the room to be at the top of your game.

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Carl Jung brought the terms `intro vert’ and `ex trovert’ into the spotlight in the 1920s. He defined an introvert as a person who gets his energy from within. An extrovert, however, is charged due to external stimuli. So while introverts need solitude to think things through, extroverts are stimulated by activities, people and places around them. As per Jung’s clinical studies, there are no pure extroverts or introverts – most people fall in different ranges of the spectrum.

Recent scientific research have found that the brains of introverts and extroverts are activated  differently. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they need more of it to feel happy. While introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so too much of it makes them feel overstimulated. Also, the Introverts prefer to use a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to pleasure; the difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward.

 Introverts & Relationships

One of the gifts of introversion is that we have to be discriminating about our relationships.  We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.

~ Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power

It’s a misconception that introverts are not interested in people or relationships. The truth is they actually crave intimacy more than extroverts do. They are built for deep connections. They usually avoid small talk. They  love to share emotions, feelings and ideas.

Does an introvert – extrovert relationship work? Yes, it can. An introvert – extrovert combination can be a complimentary relationship as long as the extroverted partner understands the introverted partner’s need for recharging and downtime and the introvert partner respects the extrovert partner’s need for significant social interaction.

Relationships make everyone happier and that very much includes the introverts too.

Here is a TED talk from Susan Cain who is the author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is also the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, which empowers introverts for the benefit of everyone.

Empath and Narcissist – A match made in hell.

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As I gazed at the famous painting of Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, my eyes were stuck on Echo, wondering how long will she wait for him to notice that she exists. Her desperation is more painful than his self-absorption. You feel like telling her – “move on honey, move on”.  Probably that is the most logical reaction one could have. But sometimes it just seems like rationality and logic doesn’t necessarily work. Else we wouldn’t find so many Narcissus – Echo combination. We all  know of such relationships or even would have experienced it ourselves at some point in our lives. 

To be honest, it’s quite natural to be attracted to a narcissist. Why wouldn’t you – in their first impression they are quite charming, open, entertaining and attractive. Research has showed that strangers’ initial impressions of narcissists for the first seven meetings are mostly positive.

Research has showed that strangers’ initial impressions of narcissists for the first seven meetings are mostly positive.

Initial attraction to a narcissist is quite natural but what about love? How does one fall in love with someone who can’t see anything beyond themselves. Why does someone make these self-destructive choices? And the most ironical part is that – most of the time the one in love with a narcissist tends to be an Empath. It surely is an example of opposites attract but it also is a toxic attraction that is destined for disaster.

As per psychiatrist Judith Orloff, empaths absorb feelings from other people easily, like an “emotional sponge”, which is an attractive trait to a narcissist as they see someone who will fulfill their needs in a selfless way.

But what attracts the Empaths and keeps them stuck in a relationship with a Narcissist?

Empaths find happiness in healing. When they see someone whom they perceive to be in a lot of pain, they ache to nurture and balm those wounds. And most of the time they consider a Narcissist as wounded souls who need to be healed with their love and compassion.

Most of the time they consider a Narcissist as wounded souls who need to healed with their love and compassion.

An empath falling in love with a narcissist, could also result due to a subconscious need of an empath to feel loved and wanted because in their  childhood they had been with a primary caregiver who was mostly emotionally unavailable. This results in the adult empath seeking validation and seeking a sense of self worth even from toxic people.

Sometimes it is difficult for them to comprehend the fact that they are in a narcissistic relationship. As per Judith Orloff in her book “Emotional Freedom”, these are a few questions that one could ask to self check if one is dealing with a narcissist.

  • Does the person act as if life revolves around him/her?
  • Do I have to compliment him/her to get his attention or approval?
  • Does the person constantly steer the conversation back to him or herself?
  • Does he or she downplay my feelings or interests?
  • If I disagree, does he or she become cold or withholding?

If  the answer is “yes” to one or two questions, it’s likely one is dealing with a narcissist.

Okay, falling in love could be explained but even sometimes when they realize the fact that they are in a toxic relationship – why do they still  stay put?

They’ll stay in the relationship much longer than they should do, in the hope that their narcissist partner will change. Sometimes when they do not see any reciprocation from the narcissist they blame themselves for not trying hard enough. They hope their unconditional love will eventually create authentic connection. But sadly, with a narcissist, the wait is in vain as the narcissist sees nothing beyond himself/herself.

Rationalizing unacceptable behavior of narcissist partner is simply evidence of an inability  to set and enforce healthy boundaries. Healthy boundary is  about letting people know what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable way of treating you.

Keep in mind – we teach people how to treat us.

Let me reiterate –  being an Empath is a rare gift and you should never consider it as your weakness.  But understanding the flip side of our very nature , it is important that we mature as an empath – which means learning how to create healthy boundaries, resilience, self acceptance, self love and to accept that hard truth that – your love ain’t enough to fix a narcissist.

 

The Warmth in your Heart!

A letter to your Own Heart! From one loving Heart to another!

Just pause, maybe even for a second and feel the warmth in your Heart.

A warmth that belongs to All Life!

Some call it Gratitude, some Compassion and some Heart

That’s the most beautiful thing about Wisdom, Beauty, Truth and Love

 It doesn’t belong to any one of us.

It’s always from and for the bounty of Life

At the Feet of this Mystery of Life, as it reveals itself deeper and deeper,

I find Love at its very core,

I find myself utterly human, my very real insecurities, my constant battles,

The ever present tension of the world and helplessly so.

There is a strength in that,

In holding it all together and surrendering without fighting or succumbing.

An exquisite tenderness and freshness, moist eyes and hands grounded, as hard as iron.

The sooner we acknowledge that we’re failures at this thing called life,

The easier Grace can take over,

And take over it will. 

When things seem rough, and the absurdities of life seem to take control.

When all else fails..go to your heart.

In genuine surrender, just pause,

Maybe even for a second and feel the warmth of your heart.

That’ll do.

The Beautiful World beyond Small Talk.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

What’s so fascinating about the HONY (Human’s of New York) concept?  The concept is quite simple: Brandon Stanton, the creator of HONY, approaches people on the streets of New York for a photograph and a chat. And the results are nothing short of profound, life-changing quotes. In just a few years, he has become one of the most vitalizing visual storytellers and humanists of our time through Humans of New York. The popularity of HONY was never about the quality of the photographs or how beautiful someone looked. But it was about how we connected with the stories of regular people on the streets. Brandon didn’t see them as people on the streets, he saw each one of them as unique stories walking down the street. The stories when shared gave a more humane feel to the city of sky scrappers. The universal appeal of the concept comes from the common “yearning for connection” and no wonder the concept has been replicated in many cities across the world. 

Now think about the million missed opportunities when the mindless questions we only ask someone else are – What’s up? How is it going? or How is the weather? Most of the time responded in monosyllables. Do these questions demand an answer? Not really. These are the so called “Small Talk”. Small talk is defined as the polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions. I wouldn’t deny the need of small talk to break the ice and get a conversation started. Like Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk said – Small talk is the appetizer for any relationship.” But the point is, what if the only thing we have are appetizers? Ideally appetizers should lead to the main course right :). Socrates pointed out long ago that the least important things, we think about are talked about the most, while the most important things, we think about are talked about the least. 

Deep Conversation
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In the myriad meaningless notifications and updates, the memory of a middle-aged man from my high school days are so very etched in my mind. He had started a coffee shop opposite our school. I can’t recollect how we got talking, but I soon realized that he had lost both his kidneys and was living on dialysis. I still have vivid memories of how he would look into my eyes and say – “Sophy I want to live!” He celebrated each day as he cheerfully and courageously fought death. I liked being part of this cheerful celebration doing the ordinary things but with total mindfulness – arranging the flowers, tasting a new coffee flavor and genuine conversations about life. After the board exams were over, we moved out of that city and in a few months, I realized,  death ultimately won. He taught me how grateful I should be for all that I would otherwise take for granted, and how we can find joy in the ordinary and the most mundane.

What do you ask people whom you hardly know? Won’t it feel like intruding their personal space? What I have realized is that most people love to talk beyond the small talk if they feel you would genuinely listen without being judgmental. I remember an 80 year old US biker whom I frequently crossed paths during my evening walks in the summer. Once I asked him about what his tattoos meant and the conversation went on about his daughter and life and more, or the hair stylist from Argentina when I told her I recently watched “The Motor Cycle Diaries” and the conversation went on and on about Che (Che Guevara) and his early years in Argentina, a taxi driver from Afghanistan on what he felt about  the Syrian problem,  or a Hazara family when I told them the only window  I had to the life and struggles of the Hazara community was from reading Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and  here I got the chance to listen to their stories of struggle first hand. All these conversations went on and on until we stopped it forcibly due to time constraints. There is a story behind every person, and a soul beneath their skin. It’s up to us to get enriched. Or move on with polite smiles and thoughtless questions.

There is a story behind every person, and a soul beneath their skin. It’s up to us to get enriched. Or move on with polite smiles and thoughtless questions.

I know of someone in Bangalore, who is doing very well with his corporate job, but chooses to offer Uber taxi service to people while commuting to work. You may wonder why? Like Brandon Stanton he sees these passengers as human stories and this is a chance to connect to people from different walks of life. Isn’t that interesting?

The Case for “Big Talk”

Psychologists have long said that connecting with others is central to human well-being. In one study headed by Dr. Matthias Mehl, researchers eavesdropped on undergraduates for four days, then cataloged each overheard conversation as either “small talk” (“What do you have there? Popcorn? Yummy!”) or “substantive” (“So did they get divorced soon after?”). They found that the second type correlated with happiness.

The happiest students had roughly twice as many substantive talks as the unhappiest ones. Small talk, meanwhile, made up only 10 percent of their conversation, versus almost 30 percent of conversation among the least content students. 

Dr Mehl proposed that the substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: 1) human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because 2) we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

But then, what stops us from moving beyond the small talk and the predictable superficiality? As Krista Tippett puts it – “Vulnerability is at the heart of listening.” To genuinely ask a question and engage in an authentic conversation, you have to be willing to accept that the answer might change or affect you in some way. But beyond the fear of vulnerability lies the opportunity to enrich yourself with wider perspectives, becoming  self aware of one’s own prejudices and a chance to open up.

Leaving you with a thoughtful TED Talk and just in case you are pressed on time, here is a quote from the talk that just sums it all up.  Ciao!

“There are 7 billion people in this world, each with an amazing, and unique story to share. That makes 7 billion treasure boxes full of life lessons, wisdom, and experience. Even when we’re surrounded by the smartest people, and the people that have the most interesting stories to share, we default to the lowest common denominator and small talk prevails.” – Omid Scheybani

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The “Feels Too Much” Tribe in a “Just Chill” World.

Have you felt like a sponge soaking up all emotions around you – from people around you, characters in a movie you just watched, the books you read or a tragic news you heard? You carry these feeling as your own and it takes you hours or sometimes days to get over it. When you have tried explaining your state of mind to someone you would have quite often been advised to – “Just chill”.  In a generation that considers the “chill” factor as a mark of being uber cool and is considered as an attribute most desirable, you sometimes tend to feel like a total misfit and you wonder – “Is something wrong with me?”. You might even have tried forcing yourself to play along being the “uber cool” but deep inside it doesn’t feel quite “you”.  And that is simply because you are a special breed called the “empath” – and there is nothing wrong being one.

Just like some people have better hearing or vision, empaths have a more acute sensitivity to emotional signals – which indeed is a strength. But every strength comes with its own complexities.

According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic. She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions than the rest of the population.

Empaths tend to feel a lot more, compared to other people –  the highs as well as the lows. Many great artists, writers and authors have all been empaths. Their art becomes their medium to pour these emotions. You will find empaths working with people, animals or nature with a true passion and dedication to help. They are often seen as great teachers, healers, volunteers for causes and are ready giving up personal time to help others without any pay or recognition. Empaths may be excellent storytellers with their endless imaginations and can be hardcore old romantics at heart. They are the greatest listeners you would ever find in life. Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about their most personal matters.

Now, those of us who are familiar with the movie – this might sound like the character sketch of Dulquer Salmaan straight out of the Malayalam movie “Charlie”. Yes, the empaths look really good in movies – the storytellers, the arty free thinkers, the volunteers. We see Charlie helping the suicidal doctor, celebrating birthday with the HIV positive sex worker, rescuing the little girl about to be sold into prostitution, and more – absorbing the traumas of each one them as if the pain were his own.

This sponge like absorption of emotions makes being an empath quite emotionally draining. Empaths see the world differently from the majority of the population leading their heart to get broken constantly for cruelty, injustice and inequalities that they see around them. To recoup, and keep their emotional balance they need their  “alone” time  – and probably that’s why we see Charlie drifting out of people’s lives after an emotional event, leaving no trace of his where about.

The crazy wise maverick  – that was Charlie’s highlighted characteristics in the movie and that’s probably because we as viewers only come to know about Charlie through Tessa’s (the actress) search for Charlie leading her to people who tell their experiences with him which are absolutely magical. But that’s a one dimensional magical persona created. The rest of him for everyone is a mystery and not quite elaborated in the movie. There were only very subtle hints of him too having his needs for help.  Charlie as a child never had a real father-son relationship. This to a large extent resembles real life, the childhood of an empath could be very challenging because quite often their parents or teachers don’t understand the nuances of the child’s emotional framework and are unavailable to guide them. Often times as a child their abilities go overlooked, left to cope with overwhelming emotions and asked to fit in.

It’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned.

So to all the Tessas or the ones in love with an empath – it’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned. But what one needs to understand is that along with the magical connection is also a human being who could be just drained out absorbing feelings from all around. Here is a person who would hardly prioritize their self-care. Someone who is always on the giving end and the last one to ask. Someone who has chances of turning to addiction like alcohol or drugs to tone down their life. So loving such a person would mean – reminding them of prioritizing their self care, showing them your love because they might never ask for it, giving them their extra space in a relationship for them to balance out their emotions, giving them the extra time to heal. The one thing they would need from you is to be  authentic and honest  to the core because they can easily see beyond the superficial.

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And to all the  empaths out there, it’s okay if you feel too much. That’s just how you are and a self awareness of your highly sensitive emotional construct will help you handle it. Make peace with it – “Just Chill” , I mean “Just Feel”  🙂

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