Tag Archives | Psychology

Bread and Circuses

800px-Jean-Leon_Gerome_Pollice_Verso

Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Via San Diego Reader

Roman leaders mollified the masses by providing food handouts and violent games to enjoy. Is this happening again in America?

Bread and circuses. Back in the Roman Empire, those were the keys to diverting the public’s attention from political greed and corruption — and, particularly, from the massive gap between the rich and the poor.

Rome won so many wars that it was overrun with captured slaves, and they performed the physical labor. Idle, unemployed Romans were restive. Julius Caesar perfected the ideal appeasement: give them wheat to eat and violent entertainment to savor — or, bread and circuses (panem et circenses).

It worked. Generally, the plebeians neither starved nor rioted. Salivating, they would watch gladiators slaughter animals and each other. Those gladiators were mainly slaves, but as they won laurels, they could win their freedom and rake in donations from the crowd.

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Global Chilling: The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers

Frédéric BISSON (CC BY 2.0)

Frédéric BISSON (CC BY 2.0)

Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

PEN America published a report this week summarizing the findings from a recent survey of 772 writers around the world on questions of surveillance and self-censorship. The report, entitled “Global Chilling: The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers,” builds upon a late 2013 survey of more than 500 US-based writers conducted by the organization.

The latest survey found that writers living in liberal democratic countries “have begun to engage in self-censorship at levels approaching those seen in non-democratic countries, indicating that mass surveillance has badly shaken writers’ faith that democratic governments will respect their rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and that—because of pervasive surveillance—writers are concerned that expressing certain views even privately or researching certain topics may lead to negative consequences.”

Specifically, more than 1 in 3 writers living in “free” countries (as classified by watchdog Freedom House) stated that they had avoided speaking or writing on a particular topic since the Snowden revelations, and only seventeen percent of writers in these countries felt that the United States offers more protection for free speech than their countries.

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The Nature of Mind and the Holographic Brain

Ardonik (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ardonik (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via War is a Crime

The purpose of this article is to provide evidence that strongly indicates that you are not your brain, or your body for that matter, and that the nature of mind, of memory, and of our brains may actually be vastly different than we have been lead to believe.

Since time immemorial, man has been fascinated by the mind, leading great thinkers from Hippocrates to Descartes to ponder the nature of mind with wonder. Fast forward to modern times and observe how the mind is still revered and is dominating our culture. We have a lot of firm beliefs about the nature of mind, and I believe the ego — our limited perception of ourselves — and thus human ignorance, is intricately tied in with these beliefs.

But the truth of the matter is that we only understand a fraction of the mind’s potential, i.e.

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Muscle Strength Is in the Mind

istolethetv (CC BY 2.0)

istolethetv (CC BY 2.0)

via The Atlantic:

“If there are jocks on one side, and it’s a confrontation, the other side, by definition, has to be nerds,” David Anderegg wrote of what he calls the “archetypal struggle” in Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them.

Of course, there are moments—mostly in Disney musicals—when both camps lay down their footballs and their calculators and realize that really, brain and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive—that, in fact, they have more in common than they ever thought.

This is one of those moments.

In a small study recently published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers found that much of muscle strength is based on brain activity, rather than on the mass of the muscles themselves. Researchers at Ohio University’s Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute, 29 volunteers had their non-dominant arms placed in elbow-to-finger casts for four weeks. (Fifteen others acted as a cast-free control group.) Of the 29, 14 were asked to perform mental-imagery exercises five days a week, imagining themselves alternately flexing and resting their immobilized wrists for five-second intervals.

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After Evolution [Debate]

 

Everything from criminality to love of gossip is in our genes according to some biologists. Yet behaviour varies dramatically between cultures. Does this cultural variation mean that evolutionary psychology is flawed? Can it be rescued with a new theory or is culture beyond genetics?

The Panel — Julian Baggini explores the limits of evolution with philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards, anthropologist Daniel Everett and Oxford evolutionary psychologist Oliver Scott Curry.

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The internet is so damn unpleasant. Do we need fewer humans and more bots?

Jess Zimmerbots

Jess Zimmerbot’s Twitter Photo

Jess Zimmerman writes at the Guardian:

In a welcome sign of the coming singularity, Buzzfeed just announced that it has built a sentence generator that mimics the turgid writing style of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. The auto-Friedman, which also posts to Twitter as @mot_namdeirf, operates on a principle called Markov chaining; essentially, it strings together chunks of Friedman sentences based on how often words tend to appear together.

Friedman isn’t the only writer with a Twitter bot. I’ve got one too, made using a Markov chain-related program and my tweet archives. The guy who made it, Brett O’Connor, made bots for a number of other people I know, and most of us follow each other’s. (Most of our bots follow each others’ bots, leading to some gloriously weird bot-on-bot conversations.) Interacting with the bots is a surreal experience; they seem to develop their own personalities and priorities, distinct from their parent tweeters.

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How Having a Foursome Opened Up My Relationship

Stuart Richards (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Stuart Richards (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via AlterNet:

My boyfriend and I were happily monogamous. We had been together for nearly a year. And until the day it happened, the idea of having sex with other people was just a thought experiment, something we talked about for fun. It was never something we were actually going to do.

Such is the case for most American adults.  According to a recent study, 56 percent of women and 83 percent of men have a fantasy of having sex with someone other than a current spouse or partner.  It’s so widespread that the researchers deemed it a common fantasy. And for most people, it remains a fantasy — a naughty mental space in which the mind can wander, and stay for a while.  It usually doesn’t turn into reality — but it did for me.

My fantasy of a foursome began after college. Dorm life had been something of a wild midsummer night’s dream — one-night stands were common, almost expected amid the fraternity parties, and as I crept into my 20s, I craved something different, something outside the norm. Simple sex with one guy, even if it was someone new, began to lose its excitement after a while.  My mind wandered toward more elaborate scenarios, ones that included more than one partner.

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Controversial DNA startup wants to let customers create creatures

Stuart Caie (CC BY 2.0)

Stuart Caie (CC BY 2.0)

Via SFGate:

In Austen Heinz’s vision of the future, customers tinker with the genetic codes of plants and animals and even design new creatures on a computer. Then his startup, Cambrian Genomics, prints that DNA quickly, accurately and cheaply.

“Anyone in the world that has a few dollars can make a creature, and that changes the game,” Heinz said. “And that creates a whole new world.”

The 31-year-old CEO has a deadpan demeanor that can be hard to read, but he is not kidding. In a makeshift laboratory in San Francisco, his synthetic biology company uses lasers to create custom DNA for major pharmaceutical companies. Its mission, to “democratize creation” with minimal to no regulation, frightens bioethicists as deeply as it thrills Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

With the latest technology and generous funding, a growing number of startups are taking science and medicine to the edge of science fiction.

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The Weird Reason It’s Hard to Empathise And Be Logical At The Same Time

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

via PsyBlog:

When the brain activates the network of neurons involved in empathising, it suppresses the network used for cold, hard analysis.

The reverse is also true: activating the brain’s analytical networks reduces the ability to empathise.

These conclusions come from a study published in the journal Neuroimage, which is the first to find that we are constrained in our ability to be analytical and empathetic at the same time (Jack et al., 2012).

Dr. Anthony Jack, the study’s first author, said:

 “What we see in this study is […] neural inhibition between the entire brain network we use to socially, emotionally and morally engage with others, and the entire network we use for scientific, mathematical and logical reasoning.

“This shows scientific accounts really do leave something out — the human touch.

A major challenge for the science of the mind is how we can better translate between the cold and distant mechanical descriptions that neuroscience produces, and the emotionally engaged intuitive understanding which allows us to relate to one another as people.”

In the study, 45 college students were given a series of problems to think about which either involved physics or considering the feelings of others.

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