Science of the Spirit
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Expressing Your Emotions Can Reduce Fear

© Katharina Kircanski, Matthew Lieberman, Michelle Craske
A tarantula. Subjects in the study were told to walk close to it, and touch it, if they could.
"Give sorrow words." -- Malcolm in Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Can simply describing your feelings at stressful times make you less afraid and less anxious?

A new UCLA psychology study suggests that labeling your emotions at the precise moment you are confronting what you fear can indeed have that effect.
The psychologists asked 88 people with a fear of spiders to approach a large, live tarantula in an open container outdoors. The participants were told to walk closer and closer to the spider and eventually touch it if they could.

The subjects were then divided into four groups and sat in front of another tarantula in a container in an indoor setting. In the first group, the subjects were asked to describe the emotions they were experiencing and to label their reactions to the tarantula -- saying, for example, "I'm anxious and frightened by the ugly, terrifying spider."

"This is unique because it differs from typical procedures in which the goal is to have people think differently about the experience -- to change their emotional experience or change the way they think about it so that it doesn't make them anxious," said Michelle Craske, a professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study. "Here, there was no attempt to change their experience, just to state what they were experiencing."
Better Earth

10 Signs That You're Fully Awake

Isn't it obvious that there is a significant global awakening happening? Just as the Mayans predicted so many years ago, the apocalypse would become apparent in 2012. But many misinterpret the apocalypse to be the end of the world, when in fact it actually means an "un-covering, a revelation of something hidden."

As many continue to argue the accuracy of the Mayan calendar, it can no longer be argued that a great many people are finally becoming aware of what has been hidden from them for so long. Of course this awakening is not an overnight process. It takes time to peel away the many layers of lies to get to the core of the ultimate truths.

It would be beyond pretentious for us to claim to know all of the secrets of the universe. We don't. Everyday we are humbled by what we don't yet know.

However, it is becoming clearer by the day what isn't true. And by that measure alone, it is possible to determine if you're one of the people beginning to wake up.
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Neuroscientists Successfully Control the Dreams of Rats. Could Humans be Next?

Mice in Maze
© Fer Gregory/Shutterstock.com
Researchers working at MIT have successfully manipulated the content of a rat's dream by replaying an audio cue that was associated with the previous day's events, namely running through a maze (what else).

The breakthrough furthers our understanding of how memory gets consolidated during sleep - but it also holds potential for the prospect of "dream engineering."

Working at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, neuroscientist Matt Wilson was able to accomplish this feat by exploiting the way the brain's hippocampus encodes self-experienced events into memory.

Scientists know that our hippocampus is busy at work replaying a number of the day's events while we sleep - a process that's crucial for memory consolidation. But what they did not know was whether or not these "replays" could be influenced by environmental cues.

To see if this could be done, Wilson and his team trained a group of rats to run through a maze using two distinct audio cues. The rats quickly learned that the tones were helpful; one sound indicated that food could be found by going left, while the other sound indicated that a food reward awaited them on the right. And while the rats were doing this, the neuroscientists were recording their neural activity.
Info

Men and Women Really Do See the World Differently

Eye
© IKO, Shutterstock
Guys' eyes are more sensitive to small details and moving objects, while women are more perceptive to color changes, according to a new vision study that suggests men and women actually do see things differently.

"As with other senses, such as hearing and the olfactory system, there are marked sex differences in vision between men and women," researcher Israel Abramov, of the City University of New York (CUNY), said in a statement. Research has shown women have more sensitive ears and sniffers than men.

"[A] recent, large review of the literature concluded that, in most cases females had better sensitivity, and discriminated and categorized odors better than males," Abramov and colleagues write Tuesday (Sept. 4) in the journal Biology of Sex Differences.

Abramov and his team from CUNY's Brooklyn and Hunter Colleges compared the vision of males and females over age 16 who had normal color vision and 20/20 sight - or at least 20/20 vision with glasses or contacts.

In one part of the study, the researchers asked the volunteers to describe different colors shown to them. They found that the guys required a slightly longer wavelength of a color to experience the same shade as women and the men were less able to tell the difference between hues.
Dollar

Affluent people less likely to reach out to others in times of trouble?

Affluent People
© Credit: iStockphoto/Rob Friedman
While chaos drives some to seek comfort in friends and family, others gravitate toward money and material possessions, a new study finds.
Crises are said to bring people closer together. But a new study from UC Berkeley suggests that while the have-nots reach out to one another in times of trouble, the wealthy are more apt to find comfort in material possessions.

"In times of uncertainty, we see a dramatic polarization, with the rich more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones," said Paul Piff, a post-doctoral scholar in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

These new findings add to a growing body of scholarship at UC Berkeley on socio-economic class -- defined by both household income and education -- and social behavior.

Results from five separate experiments shed new light on how humans from varying socio-economic backgrounds may respond to both natural and human-made disasters, including economic recessions, political instability, earthquakes and hurricanes. They also help explain why, in times of turmoil, people can become more polarized in their responses to uncertainty and chaos.

For example, when asked if they would move across the country for a higher-paying job, study participants from the lower class responded that they would decline in favor of staying close to friends, family and colleagues. By contrast, upper class participants opted to take the job and cut ties with their community.

Although the study does not provide a definitive reason for why the upper class, when stressed, focuses more on worldly goods than relationships, it posits that "material wealth may be a particularly salient, accessible and preferred individual coping mechanism ... when they are threatened by perceptions of chaos within the social environment."

Each experiment was done with a different group of ethnically and socio-economically diverse participants, all of whom reported their social status (household income and education) as well as their level of community mindedness and/or preoccupation with money.
Magic Wand

Familiar music soothes people with brain damage

© Unknown
Familiar music soothes
Listening to a favourite song might boost the brain's ability to respond to other stimuli in people with consciousness disorders, a new study has revealed.

Music has been shown to have a beneficial influence on cognitive process in healthy people and those with brain damage.

For the study, Fabien Perrin at the University of Lyon, France, and colleagues recorded brain activity in four patients - two in a coma, one in a minimally conscious state, and one in a vegetative state, while they were read a list of people's names, including the subject's own name.

The list was preceded either by the subject's favourite music that was chosen by family and friends or by "musical noise".

While one patient listened to The Eagles' Hotel California, another was played the Blues Brothers' Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.
Heart

Birds hold 'funerals' for dead

bird
© Samsara
Some birds, it seems, hold funerals for their dead.

When western scrub jays encounter a dead bird, they call out to one another and stop foraging.

The jays then often fly down to the dead body and gather around it, scientists have discovered.

The behaviour may have evolved to warn other birds of nearby danger, report researchers in California, who have published the findings in the journal Animal Behaviour.

The revelation comes from a study by Teresa Iglesias and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, US.

They conducted experiments, placing a series of objects into residential back yards and observing how western scrub jays in the area reacted.

The objects included different coloured pieces of wood, dead jays, as well as mounted, stuffed jays and great horned owls, simulating the presence of live jays and predators.
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Neuroscience Of 20-Somethings: 'Emerging Adults' Show Brain Differences

© Facebook
Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls.
In the opening scene of Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls, the Horvaths tell their 24-year-old daughter Hannah that they will no longer support her - or, as her mother puts it: "No. More. Money." A recent college graduate, Hannah has been living in Brooklyn, completing an unpaid internship and working on a series of personal essays. The Horvaths intend to give Hannah "one final push" toward, presumably, a lifestyle that more closely resembles adulthood. Hannah protests. Her voice quavers. She tells her parents that she does not want to see them the following day, even though they are leaving town soon: "I have work and then I have a dinner thing and then I am busy - trying to become who I am."

Across the United States - and in developed nations around the world - twenty-somethings like Hannah are taking longer to finish school, leave home, begin a career, get married and reach other milestones of adulthood. These trends are not just anecdotal; sociologists and psychologists have gathered supporting data. Robin Marantz Henig summarizes the patterns in her 2010 New York Times Magazine feature:
"One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation."
These demographic shifts have transformed the late teens through mid twenties into a distinct stage of life according to Jeffrey Arnett of Clark University, who calls the new phase "emerging adulthood." Arnett acknowledges that emerging adulthood is relevant only to about 18 percent of the global population, to certain groups of twenty-somethings in developed nations such as the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan and Australia. To make some broad generalizations, people living in the rest of world - particularly in developing countries - are much more likely to finish formal education in their teens and marry by their early twenties.
Bacon

Presentation: The Living System, Evolution, the Purpose of Life and the Sixth Extinction

In this first part of her fascinating presentation at the World Trade Center, Barcelona on October 15th 2011, Laura Knight-Jadczyk gives an overview of the Cassiopaean experiment and introduces the science behind the origins of life on planet earth and the theory of "rational design".

Watch parts 2 and 3 at the links below.


Part 2

Part 3
Magic Wand

People Merge Supernatural and Scientific Beliefs When Reasoning With the Unknown, Study Shows

Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, published in the June issue of Child Development, offers new insight into developmental learning.

"As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems - from God to atoms to evolution - they engage in coexistence thinking," said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. "When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways."

Legare and her colleagues reviewed more than 30 studies on how people (ages 5-75) from various countries reason with three major existential questions: the origin of life, illness and death. They also conducted a study with 366 respondents in South Africa, where biomedical and traditional healing practices are both widely available.
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