Science of the Spirit
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Your elusive future self

© Joshua Lott/Reuters
Will you love her forever? A new study suggests that people’s tastes change more than they think they will.
Are you going to love Taylor Swift just as much in 10 years as you do now? Sure, you might think, I'll be basically the same person then, with roughly the same preferences, values, and personality traits. But you're probably wrong, according to a new study, whose authors claim that many people underestimate how much they'll change in the future.

From picking a job to selecting a spouse, we face many decisions that will affect our lives far into the future. Those choices rest on some assumptions, notes Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard University. "Any kind of lifetime commitment is based on your belief that you know the person you're going to be in 10 years."

To investigate people's predictions about their future selves, Gilbert teamed up with Harvard postdoctoral fellow Jordi Quoidbach and Timothy Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The trio devised a series of online experiments in which a total of more than 19,000 people participated. In one, adults between ages 18 and 68 filled out a questionnaire, scoring themselves on basic personality traits such as extraversion, emotional stability, and openness to new experiences.

Then the researchers asked them to do it all again, this time answering either as they would have 10 years ago, or as they thought they would 10 years in the future. The surveys from participants of all ages indicated that on average people felt they had changed more in the past decade than they would in the next, the researchers report online today in Science.

Question

Did psychic powers save child from shooting?

© Hollywood Life
A mother at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn. is claiming that her son's psychic powers saved him because he had panic attacks that took him out of school before the Dec. 14 shooting occurred.

According to reporter Sandra Clark, "Karen Dryer's worst nightmare started to unravel when her young son Logan Dryer, 5, became so anxiety ridden when he went to kindergarten at Sandy Hook Elementary School that she decided to pull him out of school just two weeks before the deadly massacre.

"Logan started kindergarten in September 2012. He was perfectly fine in September and October, and then in November he started acting strange. I got an email from his teacher saying he was a little weepy and then I started getting phone calls that Logan was crying and wanted to go home. Eventually it got so bad that I took him to the doctor who ran tests, saying that Logan was perfectly healthy."

Logan's doctor suggested that he be home-schooled for several weeks, though he and his mother visited the school once a week so he could socialize with friends. During those visits, his mother said, the boy would become visibly upset as if he knew something bad would happen. Karen Dryer came to believe that her son's concerns and fears revealed his gift of prophecy: "My mother, Milly, who passed away a couple of months ago was very psychic, and I know now without a doubt that my son has the same gift."

Einstein

Study: Alzheimer's linked to brain changes at birth

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Researchers at the University of North Carolina school of Medicine have found that certain brain patterns in adults with Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and autism can also be seen in the brain scans of infants.

"These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life," said lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry at UNC, Rebecca C. Knickmeyer. In addition to early detection, the study may also lead to early intervention breakthroughs in the degenerative brain disorder.

According to the report on UNC's website:
The study included 272 infants who received MRI scans at UNC Hospitals shortly after birth. The DNA of each was tested for 10 common variations in 7 genes that have been linked to brain structure in adults. These genes have also been implicated in conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety disorders and depression.

For some polymorphisms - such as a variation in the APOE gene which is associated with Alzheimer's disease - the brain changes in infants looked very similar to brain changes found in adults with the same variants, Knickmeyer said. "This could stimulate an exciting new line of research focused on preventing onset of illness through very early intervention in at-risk individuals."

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Newborns know their native tongue, study finds

© Marina Dyakonova | Dreamstime.com
Just hours after they're born, babies seem to be able to tell the difference between sounds in their native tongue and a foreign one, according to a new study that suggests language learning begins in utero.

"The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain," researcher Patricia Kuhl, of the University of Washington, said in the statement. "The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them."

Researchers examined 40 babies (an even mix of girls and boys) in Tacoma, Wash., and Stockholm, Sweden. At about 30 hours old, the infants in the study listened to vowel sounds in their native language and in foreign languages. The babies' interest in the sounds was measured by how long they sucked on a pacifier wired to a computer.

The study found that, in both countries, the infants listening to unfamiliar sounds sucked on the pacifier for longer than they did when exposed to their native tongue, suggesting they could differentiate between the two. Lead author of the study, Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, said the results show that fetuses can learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother's language.

Eye 1

Awakening Within a Network of Mutuality

© Unknown
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

- Martin Luther King Jr.
If it is awakening or spiritual elevation we wish to attain, we must stop living only for ourselves and start living for others, work not only for our own pleasure, comfort, security, and self-image, but work for the liberation of all people from slavery and oppression.

There is no other work to be done, and all "spiritual work" done without this intention is inherently selfish and ultimately self-defeating.

Bulb

Milton Glaser: Ten Things I Have Learned

© Sam Haskins
Milton Glaser
Part of AIGA Talk in London, November 22, 2001

1. 
You can only work for people that you like.

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn't particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.

Music

Birdsong study pecks theory that music is uniquely human

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© Unknown
A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

"We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like," says Sarah Earp, who led the research as an undergraduate at Emory University.

For male birds listening to another male's song, it was a different story: They had an amygdala response that looks similar to that of people when they hear discordant, unpleasant music.

The study, co-authored by Emory neuroscientist Donna Maney, is the first to compare neural responses of listeners in the long-standing debate over whether birdsong is music.

"Scientists since the time of Darwin have wondered whether birdsong and music may serve similar purposes, or have the same evolutionary precursors," Earp notes. "But most attempts to compare the two have focused on the qualities of the sound themselves, such as melody and rhythm."

Earp's curiosity was sparked while an honors student at Emory, majoring in both neuroscience and music. She took "The Musical Brain" course developed by Paul Lennard, director of Emory's Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology program, which brought in guest lecturers from the fields of neuroscience and music.

"During one class, the guest speaker was a composer and he said that he thought that birdsong is like music, but Dr. Lennard thought it was not," Earp recalls. "It turned into this huge debate, and each of them seemed to define music differently. I thought it was interesting that you could take one question and have two conflicting answers that are both right, in a way, depending on your perspective and how you approach the question."

Bulb

Study shows early cognitive problems among those who eventually get Alzheimer's

People who study or treat Alzheimer's disease and its earliest clinical stage, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), have focused attention on the obvious short-term memory problems. But a new study suggests that people on the road to Alzheimer's may actually have problems early on in processing semantic or knowledge-based information, which could have much broader implications for how patients function in their lives.

Terry Goldberg, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and director of neurocognition at the Litwin Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, said that clinicians have observed other types of cognitive problems in MCI patients but no one had ever studied it in a systematic way. Many experts had noted individuals who seemed perplexed by even the simplest task. In this latest study, published in this month's issue of theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry, investigators used a clever series of tests to measure a person's ability to process semantic information.

Do people with MCI have trouble accessing different types of knowledge? Are there obvious semantic impairments that have not been picked up before? The answer was "yes."

In setting out to test the semantic processing system, Dr. Goldberg and his colleagues needed a task that did not involve a verbal response. That would only confuse things and make it harder to interpret the results. They decided to use size to test a person's ability to use semantic information to make judgments between two competing sets of facts. "If you ask someone what is bigger, a key or an ant, they would be slower in their response than if you asked them what is bigger, a key or a house," explained Dr. Goldberg. The greater the difference in size between two objects, the faster a person -- normal or otherwise -- can recognize the difference and react to the question.

Yoda

Martha Stout demolishes Kevin Dutton's book on the 'wisdom' of psychopaths

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Another 'punk rock' psychologist?
The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, by Kevin Dutton

Years ago, as a student, I attended some lectures by a prominent anthropologist who regaled his listeners with odd and engaging stories about a group of indigenous people he had lived among in a far-flung corner of the planet. The tales stuck in the mind. Indeed, some of them were so amazing that I came away from his talks sure that counterintuitive but vital truths about human behavior had just been revealed. Only during the final lecture was I granted an inkling that these truths might not bear much relationship to reality. Fairly gleeful in her disdain, one of his indentured graduate assistants whispered to me that, in the field, the anthropologist had offered his subjects chocolate bars in exchange for stories about themselves - the more fantastic the stories, the more plentiful the candy. Avidly scrawling notes, his audience had become an illustration of how easily the foreign and the fascinating can assume the aura of science.

Though I have no reason to think chocolate was involved, I am concerned that a similar phenomenon may occur among readers of The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton, a research psychologist at the University of Oxford. Dutton's eye-catching thesis is this: "Psychopathy is like sunlight. Overexposure can hasten one's demise in grotesque, carcinogenic fashion. But regulated exposure at controlled and optimal levels can have a significant positive impact on well-being and quality of life." Psychopathy, proposes Dutton, is "personality with a tan."

Hearts

Kindness facilitates happiness and acceptance for children

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© momentsformommy.blogspot.com
Children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside.

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC's Faculty of Education, and co-author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, say that increasing peer acceptance is key to preventing bullying.

In the study, published December 26 by PLOS ONE, researchers examined how to boost happiness in students aged 9 to 11 years. Four hundred students from Vancouver elementary schools were asked to report on their happiness and to identify which of their classmates they would like to work with on school activities. Half of the students were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness -- like sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt stressed -- and half were asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited -- like the playground or a grandparent's house.