Science of the Spirit
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Alarm Clock

The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues

© iStock
Here is a new post from pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, author of a number of popular posts on this blog, including Why so many kids can't sit still in school today, as well as The right — and surprisingly wrong — ways to get kids to sit still in class and How schools ruined recess. Hanscom is the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England.

By Angela Hanscom

I still recall the days of preschool for my oldest daughter. I remember wanting to desperately enrich her life in any way possible - to give her an edge before she even got to formal schooling. I put her in a preschool that was academic in nature - the focus on pre-reading, writing, and math skills. At home, I bought her special puzzles, set up organized play dates with children her age, read to her every night, signed her up for music lessons, put her in dance, and drove her to local museums. My friends and I even did "enrichment classes" with our kids to practice sorting, coloring, counting, numbers, letters, and yes....even to practice sitting! We thought this would help prepare them for kindergarten.

Like many other American parents, I had an obsession: academic success for my child. Only, I was going about it completely wrong. Yes, my daughter would later go on to test above average with her academic skills, but she was missing important life skills. Skills that should have been in place and nurtured during the preschool years. My wake-up call was when the preschool teacher came up to me and said, "Your daughter is doing well academically. In fact, I'd say she exceeds expectations in these areas. But she is having trouble with basic social skills like sharing and taking turns." Not only that, but my daughter was also having trouble controlling her emotions, developed anxiety and sensory issues, and had trouble simply playing by herself!

Bulb

Practicing different skills in quick succession can lead to massive gains in learning

Despite multiple studies showing the benefits, many people don't know this learning trick.

Mixing up your learning can lead to massive gains, a new study of academic performance reveals.

For years now 'interleaving' has been a secret largely confined to researchers.

Interleaving means practising or learning different skills in quick succession.

When interleaving, tennis players might practice forehands, backhands and volleys altogether.

Interleaving for musicians could mean practising scales, arpeggios and chords all in the same session.

It's quite a different method to how people normally learn.

Comment: From Obsessive practice isn't the key to success - Here's why:
While practicing is vital to learning and memory, studies have shown that practice is far more effective when it's broken into separate periods of training that are spaced out. The rapid gains produced by massed practice are often evident, but the rapid forgetting that follows is not. Practice that's spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility. But these benefits come at a price: when practice is spaced, interleaved, and varied, it requires more effort. What you don't sense in the moment is that this added effort is making the learning stronger.



Cloud Grey

Feeling sadness may actually change how we perceive color

The world might seem a little grayer than usual when we're down in the dumps and we often talk about "feeling blue" — new research suggests that the associations we make between emotion and color go beyond mere metaphor. The results of two studies indicate that feeling sadness may actually change how we perceive color. Specifically, researchers found that participants who were induced to feel sad were less accurate in identifying colors on the blue-yellow axis than those who were led to feel amused or emotionally neutral.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Our results show that mood and emotion can affect how we see the world around us," says psychology researcher Christopher Thorstenson of the University of Rochester, first author on the research. "Our work advances the study of perception by showing that sadness specifically impairs basic visual processes that are involved in perceiving color."

Previous studies have shown that emotion can influence various visual processes, and some work has even indicated a link between depressed mood and reduced sensitivity to visual contrast. Because contrast sensitivity is a basic visual process involved in color perception, Thorstenson and co-authors Adam Pazda and Andrew Elliot wondered whether there might be a specific link between sadness and our ability to perceive color.

House

Homemaking together: Restoring the family ecosystem

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© Sarah Horrigan
Today's parents have high expectations for themselves and for their children. They have an image of where they want their families to be, but daily hassles make that image hard to reach. Anytime we get caught in the gap between reality and the ideal, we are easy targets for frustration and guilt.

Often, then, parents conclude that they or their children are flawed. They aren't. Well, they are. We all are flawed. That is the nature of being human, but our flaws aren't the source of most common parenting struggles. The struggles arise because many of our conventionally held beliefs throw hurdles and obstacles in our way.

Health

Change your thoughts, change your health

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Many people expect a doctor and a pill to cure them of their ailments, ailments that are often preventable and aren't always effectively treated with a pill. This type of mentality typically stems from a lack of knowledge about the tremendous healing capabilities of our bodies and minds. The key to being healthy is to work with this innate wisdom, which requires maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but more so, emotional and psychological well being.

If we believe we aren't going to feel better, we limit any possible solutions for becoming well. If we are caught up in a victim mentality and expect someone or something else to "fix" us, then we will never the take the necessary steps to improve our life. Constantly identifying with disease creates blinders to the blessings and positive aspects of health that exist in one's life. Most healthy people I know are happy, and the ones that are not as healthy, usually have a relatively better quality of life when they have a positive attitude.

Eye 1

First impressions made faster than eye blink

© Wikimedia Commons
People make snap judgments — a quality wired into the eye and brain. Studies show that first impressions are quick to form and hard to change.

People are capable of making judgments faster than a blink of an eye — and researchers have found looks matter. This goes beyond physical attractiveness. People make judgments on nonvisual choices like picking a bottle of wine or a political candidate.

People make snap judgments about whether a person is competent, trustworthy, or fit for a job or second date. They aren't trying to act like snobs, but people are hard-wired to interpret visual information at amazing speed.

Dr. Mary Potter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that research participants could see and interpret images in only 80 milliseconds, which is much faster than previously believed. People can see and make judgments roughly four times faster than a blink of an eye, which takes 300 to 400 milliseconds.

This makes the eye and brain connection especially effective at looking at something and almost instantly recognizing it. A longer look doesn't seem to change people's original impressions. Princeton researchers Janine Todorov and Alexander Willis asked participants to make quick judgments on 66 faces.

They results published in Psychological Science found that when participants were allowed to take longer to make an evaluation, they didn't change their minds. Instead, their confidence with the original impression increased.

2 + 2 = 4

Jealous mothers and their daughters: The last dirty secret?

The toxic behavior no one really wants to talk about but should

"Even now, it's hard to use the word 'jealous' about my mother. The idea that a mother would be, could be, jealous of her own kid paints a picture of a monster. Better cruel or uncaring than jealous, I'd say. It's just so damning."


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© Warner Brothers
A scene from "Gypsy", a movie/musical that illustrates a mother's need to live vicariously through her children.
Those are the words of a woman now in her fifties and a mother herself but they don't surprise me. Talking about maternal jealousy is perhaps the ultimate taboo, inimical to all we hold dear about motherhood and want to believe about mother love, especially that of a mother for her daughter.

Boat

How to move forward once you've hit bottom

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Pema Chodron tells the story of when, having hit rock bottom, she asked her teacher what to do.

I thought I would tell you this little story about Naropa University's founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and my very first one-on-one interview with him. This interview occurred during the time when my life was completely falling apart, and I went there because I wanted to talk about the fact that I was feeling like such a failure and so raw.

But when I sat down in front of him, he said, "How is your meditation?"

Comment: We were made for these times
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.



TV

Culture has made us "Hungry Ghosts": The 40 hour work week & more

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Consumerism is Heavily Nurtured by Corporations


Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business. Companies in all kinds of industries have a huge stake in the public's penchant to be frivolous with its spending, and in the documentary The Corporation, a marketing psychologist shows just how easy it is to increase sales by targeting nagging children, and the effect that nagging has on the parents' spending.

"You can manipulate consumers into wanting, and therefore buying your products. It's a game," says Lucy Hughes, co-creator of "The Nag Factor."

This is only one small example of something prevalent in our culture, that companies don't make sales by promoting the virtues of their products, but by creating a culture of hundreds of millions of people that buy pointless stuff to chase away dissatisfaction. This is reminiscent of the analogy of culture as "hungry ghosts"; a culture of people who constantly want and need, but are never satisfied.

Comment: The Psychopathic Corporation - A Clinical Diagnosis by Dr. Robert Hare


Ambulance

One woman's story as the the sole survivor of an airplane obliterated by a thunderstorm

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© Wings of Hope/Youtube
Koepcke in Werner Herzog's 2000 documentary "Wings of Hope," sitting next to the same kind of seat row she woke up under after falling 10,000 feet into the jungle.
Juliane Koepcke was 17 years old on Christmas Eve 1971, when the plane supposed to fly her and 91 other passengers from Lima, Peru, to Pucallpa, Peru, was struck by lightning and exploded in the air.

Everyone on board died that night except for Koepcke, who was believed to be dead before she reappeared after trekking through the jungle for 11 days.

In a 2010 interview with Vice News and a 2000 German documentary about her story, Koepcke goes over what happened during those days that changed her life.

Seat 19F

Koepcke and her mother boarded a plane to Pucallpa on Christmas Eve 1971 to celebrate Christmas with her father in an outpost in the middle of the Amazon forest where her parents both worked. While they were happy to catch the flight out before Christmas, mixed feelings about the airline's bad reputation — two planes had crashed recently — plagued them as well.