Tag Archives | Psychology

“Real” positive thinking

Photo: Newthoughtdocumentary (CC)

Photo: Newthoughtdocumentary (CC)

Swami Lego Ver explains the benefit of letting go of pessimistic fears.

via Anxiety Culture

Once upon a time, people performed ritual sacrifices in an attempt to avert natural disasters. Nowadays, the most popular ritual for avoiding disasters is to accumulate money. Our ancestors didn’t know when to stop spilling blood, as their gods never announced: “That’s enough”. Modern people can’t stop accumulating money for a similar reason.

A conviction (or suspicion) that the world is essentially hostile probably underlies this behaviour. In which case, no amount of sacrifice or money will remove the underlying sense of insecurity. No burglar-alarm can make you feel safe, if you believe the neighbourhood is dangerous enough to require it.

Feeling safe requires an alteration of your belief-system to remove the archaic “programming” concerning the hostile/dangerous “nature” of things. The gimmick is to do this without offending your sense of “reality” (which might be difficult if you live in a war zone).

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Herpes Medication Produces “Walking Corpse Syndrome”

pillsVia New Scientist, the bizarre, unintended side effect of a cold sore medication suggests that it may be possible to engineer a drug that induces the living-dead mental state:

Pharmacologists have discovered a mechanism that triggers Cotard’s syndrome – the mysterious condition that leaves people feeling like they, or parts of their body, no longer exist. With the ability to switch the so-called walking corpse syndrome on and off comes the prospect of new insights into consciousness.

Acyclovir – also known by the brand name Zovirax – is a common drug used to treat cold sores and other herpes infections. However, about 1 per cent of people who take the drug orally or intravenously experience some psychiatric side effects, including Cotard’s. These occur mainly in people who have renal failure.

One woman with renal failure began using acyclovir to treat shingles. She ran into a hospital screaming. After an hour of dialysis, she started to talk: she said the reason she was so anxious was that she had a strong feeling she was dead.

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Why The News Is A Waste of Your time

fear_tvIt’s not what’s important; it’s what’s selling.

How does the news keep your attention? With negativity, shock, and sensationalism.

Warren Francke, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, designed a study that revealed just how essential negative storylines were to editors of newspapers. That study was described in the book Sensationalism, where the authors wrote:

Francke’s study found sensational content was printed for entertainment and in order to sell newspapers, but editors rarely admitted that these were the reasons for including sensational content. An interesting finding in Francke’s study was that if crime news came in without grotesque details, the editors often would add them. Most criminal cases were not seen firsthand, so the editors would imagine the crime scene and would add in “the rotting body” or “brains thrown throughout the room.”

In addition to Francke’s research, I have also heard a popular tale about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.… Read the rest

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Snacking Makes Movie-Goers Resistant to Advertising

Let's_All_Go_to_the_LobbyHeard you don’t want to be affected by ads that want you to eat junk food, so we got you a bag of junk food to eat while you watch commercials that want you to junk food. They’ve got you coming and going. You’ll want a soft drink with that popcorn, right?

Via Discover Magazine:

Popcorn and movies are inextricably linked—like cotton candy and county fairs, or coffee and the morning commute. Equally ubiquitous in theaters is the reel of advertisements that show before the film.

New research suggests the two are at odds: popcorn actually makes advertisements ineffective.

Researchers in Germany sent 96 people to the cinema. Some of the movie-goers got free popcorn (score!) while the others were given a sugar cube (for real?!). Before the film, participants watched advertisements for unfamiliar products—things like Scandinavian butter.

When the researchers brought participants back into the lab a week later and asked them to rate various products (those advertised at the theater among them), the sugar-cubers showed a preference for the advertised products whereas popcorners did not.

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Everyone Is Self-Deluded But Me

1649928_300John Horgan writes at Scientific American’s Cross-Check blog:

In 1995, I critiqued evolutionary psychology in “The New Social Darwinists,” an article in the December issue of Scientific American. Afterwards I got a scathing letter from Robert Trivers, whose work on altruism, parent-offspring conflict and other tendencies helped lay the foundations for evolutionary psychology, which like its precursor sociobiology attempts to explain human thought and behavior in Darwinian terms. Trivers called my article “shallow” and accused me of “acting out the old Scientific American‘s long-standing inability to look at human sociobiology objectively.” I was annoyed at the implication that I was just parroting the magazine’s party line. And yet the letter stung, not because I agreed with Trivers but because I respected him; unlike some of the hacks who jumped on the Darwinian bandwagon, he is a truly original thinker.

I recalled that letter when I reviewed Triver’s book The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life (Basic Books, 2011) for The New York Times.

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The Decline In Children’s Freedom And Rise In Mental Disorders

children_playVia Aeon Magazine, psychologist and researcher Peter Gray writes that children’s free time to play is an essential form of learning which is  now being denied them:

For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids unsupervised.

Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. It’s not just that we’re seeing disorders that we overlooked before.

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The Musical Universe

Via orwellwasright:

What is it about music that moves us in so many different ways? The rhythm begins and we slide onto the dancefloor, gyrating to the beats; a guitar strikes a chord and we throw ourselves into the crowd, surfing across a sea of hands; a favourite song comes on the radio and we sing along at the top of our voices, oblivious to the looks of bemusement coming from other drivers stuck in the traffic jam. The right songs can change the way we feel in an instant, as effective as the mood pills consumed in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I recently had the good fortune to attend a live performance of Beethoven’s legendary 9th Symphony. While it is something of a cliché - and perhaps exaggeration – to call this “the greatest music ever written” it’s certainly an intensely powerful experience which has endured the test of time, remaining one of the most popular pieces on the classical repertoire.… Read the rest

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Libertarianism’s Deficient Models of Human Nature and Society

mmw-fair-society-0711Peter Corning writes at Psychology Today (two years ago):

Who can object to the libertarian principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the right to hold property – at least in the abstract?  The problem is that the real world is never “abstract.”  All philosophies must ultimately confront reality, and the more radical versions of libertarianism (there are many, from extreme anarchism to limited government “minarchism”) rely on terminally deficient models of human nature and society.  Let’s (very briefly) take a look at the problem.

The libertarian model of individual psychology is grounded in the utilitarian, neo-classical economics model of “Homo economicus” (economic man).  Our motivations can be reduced to the single-minded pursuit of our (mostly material) self-interests. Accordingly, mainstream economists seem to consider it their mission in life to help us do so more “efficiently.” The Nobel economist Amartya Sen many years ago scathingly characterized this simplistic model as “rational fools who are decked out in their one, all-purpose preference function.”

The selfish actor model of human nature was tacitly endorsed with the rise of “Neo-Darwinism” in evolutionary biology during the 1970s, as epitomized in biologist Richard Dawkins’ famous book The Selfish Gene.  As Dawkins summed it up, “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes….I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness….we are born selfish.”

A line from libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s path-breaking book, Anarchy, State and Utopia, says it all: “Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group [or state] may do to them without violating their rights.” (When asked to specify what those rights are, libertarians often cite philosopher John Locke’s mantra “life, liberty, and property.”)  Not to worry, though.

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The Science Behind Belief In Conspiracy Theories

ConspiraciesDean Burnett questions how supposedly rational people get caught in the tangled webs of conspiracy theories, writing in the Guardian:

With constant revelations about government surveillance and possible impending war, this must be a fertile time for conspiracy theories.

You know when you put the bins out and you realise there’s a bag in the corner that you’d forgotten about and you pick it up but it’s so old it splits and you are suddenly surrounded by swarms of furious flies and you run indoors screaming and spend three hours in the shower, shuddering? I imagine it’s a bit like that.

I’m involved in several conspiracies (apparently). When Channel 5 aired a shockingly non-critical show about moon landing conspiracies, I responded by “confessing” it was true, and inventing other “true” conspiracies, to emphasise how ludicrous the notion was. I made up conspiracies so far-fetched that I thought nobody could possibly believe them, revealing my naiveté about what people are able/willing to take at face value.

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Study Finds Atheists More Intelligent Than Believers

Richard Dawkins

Well, as it turns out, atheists have one more thing to be smug about.

(Where is your god now?!)

VIA Yahoo

Religious people are less intelligent than non-believers, according to a new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades.

Previous studies have tended to assume that intelligent people simply “know better”, the researchers write – but the reasons may be more complex.

The studies used in Zuckerman’s paper included a life-long analysis of the beliefs of a group of 1,500 gifted children – those with IQs over 135 – in a study which began in 1921 and continues today.

Even at 75 to 91 years of age, the children from Lewis Terman’s study scored lower for religiosity than the general population – contrary to the widely held belief that people turn to God as they age. The researchers noted that data was lacking about religious attitudes in old age and say, “Additional research is needed to resolve this issue.”

As early as 1958, Michael Argyle concluded, “Although intelligent children grasp religious concepts earlier, they are also the first to doubt the truth of religion, and intelligent students are much less likely to accept orthodox beliefs, and rather less likely to have pro-religious attitudes.”

A 1916 study quoted in Zuckerman’s paper (Leuba) found that, “58% of randomly selected scientists in the United States expressed disbelief in, or doubt regarding the existence of God; this proportion rose to nearly 70% for the most eminent scientists.”

The paper, published in the academic journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, said “Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme—the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who “know better.”

 

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