Science of the Spirit


Psychologists Discover Oxytocin Receptor Gene's Link to Optimism, Self-Esteem

© iStockphoto/Mads Abildgaard
Researchers have linked the oxytocin receptor gene to optimism, self-esteem and "mastery," the belief that one has control over one's own life - three critical psychological resources for coping well with stress and depression.
UCLA life scientists have identified for the first time a particular gene's link to optimism, self-esteem and "mastery," the belief that one has control over one's own life - three critical psychological resources for coping well with stress and depression.

"I have been looking for this gene for a few years, and it is not the gene I expected," said Shelley E. Taylor, a distinguished professor of psychology at UCLA and senior author of the new research. "I knew there had to be a gene for these psychological resources."

The research is currently available in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and will appear in a forthcoming print edition.

The gene Taylor and her colleagues identified is the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Oxytocin is a hormone that increases in response to stress and is associated with good social skills such as empathy and enjoying the company of others.

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4 Forensic Psychology Studies That Can Keep You From Being Stupid

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Forensic psychology might sound like a field of brain studying where men in lab coats standing around pristine laboratories smoking pipes and pondering the brain chemistry of prisoners who dream about hacking their mother to death with a frozen fish. Believe it or not, the strides and studies done in the field don't just apply to people who are legally prevented from being able to use forks. Some of the field's most comprehensive and groundbreaking studies apply to the whole spectrum of the human mind and can prevent non-felony carrying citizens of society from being really dumb.

1. James Cattell's Psychology of Testimony

Confidence seems to have been replaced in this day in age with correctness. It doesn't matter if the crazy thing you are spouting into a microphone, through a television camera or at the few pigeons in the park who can stand to be around you is completely wrong. As long as you are 100 percent sure of your assessment of the world, then being wrong about it doesn't matter. For instance, just look at everything Glenn Beck has ever said. The preceding describes this phenomenon perfectly (I'm sure the pigeon thing is just around the corner).

James Cattell, one of psychology's founding fathers who pushed to have it studied as a major scientific field, conducted a study to test the reliability of testimony by asking Columbia University students a series of questions and rate their degree of confidence in the answer they gave. He found the higher their confidence was in the answer, the greater their inaccuracy making it that much harder to shake their belief in it.

Reflections on Love, Healing, and 9/11

911 falling
© Associated Press/Richard Drew
I find it interesting how people in this day and age talk about a 'shift in consciousness' or 'awakening' into a 'New Age' while after 10 years the biggest lie is still in place. Especially many Liberals and people who themselves believe to be 'aware' and 'conscious', yet they dare not to question 9/11 or speak up about it. I think most people simply don't want the truth, for the truth is a tricky thing. It's a can of worms most people are not willing to open, as it will challenge their beliefs and ideals on a core level. For that reason some folks also seem to be reluctant to speak up and afraid that it may affect their image/social status, career, bank account and anything else they've invested in. (Peer pressure, what will my neighbors, co-workers think?, etc.). Hence, they rather defend/ignore the lie and the lies they tell themselves, consciously or unconsciously. To those I ask: What is your life, career and image really worth if you can't even speak the truth or be yourself? What will you tell your children when they ask you what side of history were you on and what did you do and stand for?

It's the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a lie that has shaped the world in ways that affect EVERYONE. Being silent about it at this point is equivalent of complicity in one of the biggest crimes in history.

What will you do?

Four Things You Need To Know About Addiction

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In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. The motivation? Not the ghettos with their drug dealers, nor the hippies invading Woodstock, the embrace of Rock 'n Roll, free love and getting high. No, it was the rampant addiction among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam that had him concerned. He told Congress this addiction was "public enemy number one," and so the war on drugs began. Years later, First Lady Nancy Reagan rebranded the campaign as "Just Say No."

Forty years ago seems like a lifetime, doesn't it? Back then the perception was that treatment was all about the strength to say "no," and that those who could not shake their addiction simply did not have the willpower; they were weak.

Today we know that genetics, brain chemistry and upbringing all play a role in addiction, and it's commonly accepted as a disease of the brain among professionals. So, does this mean that willpower no longer plays a role in the recovery from alcohol and drug abuse?

Here are four things you need to know about addiction:

Have We Met Before? Direct Connections Found Between Areas of Brain Responsible for Voice and Face Recognition

© MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Direct structural connections exist between the two voice recognition areas (blue and red spheres) and the face recognition area (yellow sphere). In comparison, the connection to the area responsible for more general acoustic information (green sphere) is less strong. The connections appear to be part of larger fibre bundles (shown in grey).
Face and voice are the two main features by which we recognise other people. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now discovered that there is a direct structural connection consisting of fibre pathways between voice- and face-recognition areas in the human brain. The exchange of information, which is assumed to take place between these areas via this connection, could help us to quickly identify familiar people in everyday situations and also under adverse conditions.

Theories differ as to what happens in the brain when we recognise familiar persons. Conventionally, it is assumed that voice and face recognition are separate processes which are only combined on a higher processing level. However, recent findings indicate that voice and face recognition are much more closely related.

Katharina von Kriegstein, Leader of the Max Planck Research Group "Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication," found in previous research that areas of the brain which are responsible for the identification of faces also become active when we hear a familiar voice. These activations were accompanied by better voice recognition.

Music to the Ears: Older Musicians Experience Less Age-Related Decline in Hearing Abilities than Non-Musicians

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A study led by Canadian researchers has found the first evidence that lifelong musicians experience less age-related hearing problems than non-musicians.

While hearing studies have already shown that trained musicians have highly developed auditory abilities compared to non-musicians, this is the first study to examine hearing abilities in musicians and non-musicians across the age spectrum - from 18 to 91 years of age.

The study was led by Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and is published online today in the journal Psychology and Aging, ahead of print publication.

Investigators wanted to determine if lifelong musicianship protects against normal hearing decline in later years, specifically for central auditory processing associated with understanding speech. Hearing problems are prevalent in the elderly, who often report having difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise. Scientists describe this as the "cocktail party problem". Part of this difficulty is due to an age-related decrease in the ability to detect and discriminate acoustic information from the environment.

Music Changes Perception, Research Shows

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Music is not only able to affect your mood -- listening to particularly happy or sad music can even change the way we perceive the world, according to researchers from the University of Groningen.

Music and mood are closely interrelated -- listening to a sad or happy song on the radio can make you feel more sad or happy. However, such mood changes not only affect how you feel, they also change your perception. For example, people will recognize happy faces if they are feeling happy themselves.

A new study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen shows that music has an even more dramatic effect on perception: even if there is nothing to see, people sometimes still see happy faces when they are listening to happy music and sad faces when they are listening to sad music.

Disagreeable men earn more, says study

Crazy Boss
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At work, it pays to be a jerk - literally.

A paper co-authored by a University of Notre Dame professor shows that moderately disagreeable men earn an average of 18 percent, or $9,772, more than the average of moderately agreeable men.

Both groups of men, though, earn more than the average salary for women - regardless of their workplace disposition. And while women are still lagging behind men in pay, disagreeable women earned 5 percent, or $1,828, over their more pleasant peers.

"I don't think anyone would look at that and think that's fair, that's OK," said Timothy Judge, a Notre Dame management professor and paper's author. "Our job is not to describe the ideal world but the world as it is."

Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, "Do Nice Guys - and Gals - Really Finish Last? The Joint Effects of Sex and Agreeableness on Income," was written by Judge, Cornell University's Beth Livingston and Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario.
Heart - Black

See no Evil: Why is there so little Psychopathy Awareness?

psychopathy awareness
© Rene Magritte
It seems like people tend to research psychopathy and other personality disorders after they've been burned. I have decided to repost an entry from last year that examines some of the reasons why there is so little psychopathy awareness in the general public. Ideally, this information can reach the general public, so people can spot the symptoms of dangerous personality disorders before they get harmed.

Perhaps because they're so dangerous and destructive - the closest approximation to metaphysical evil that human beings can embody - the general public has a morbid fascination with psychopaths. We see them featured frequently on the news. The media seems to be intrigued by men like Scott Peterson and Neil Entwistle, who remorselessly murder their wives so that they can fool around more easily with other women. The public eats up this sordid information. True crime books about psychopathic killers tend to be best sellers. Similarly, biographical works about Hitler and Stalin continue to sell well. Yet, paradoxically, as fascinated as the general public may be with psychopaths and their evil deeds, they're far less interested in what makes these people tick and how to recognize and avoid them in real life. As mentioned, there are a few highly informative studies of psychopathy, some of which - Stout's The Sociopath Next Door, Babiak and Hare's Snakes in Suits and Brown MA's The Women Who Love Psychopaths - are written for a general audience. These books describe clearly and without unnecessary jargon the psychology of evil individuals. Unfortunately, however, such informative works tend to be less popular than the dramatic news coverage of psychopathic killers or the horror stories we read in true crime and thrillers. Why so?

The Truth About Hair and Why Indians Would Keep Their Hair Long

black elk
© Black Elk
This information about hair has been hidden from the public since the Viet Nam War .

Our culture leads people to believe that hair style is a matter of personal preference, that hair style is a matter of fashion and/or convenience, and that how people wear their hair is simply a cosmetic issue. Back in the Vietnam war however, an entirely different picture emerged, one that has been carefully covered up and hidden from public view.

In the early nineties, Sally [name changed to protect privacy] was married to a licensed psychologist who worked at a VA Medical hospital. He worked with combat veterans with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. Most of them had served in Vietnam.

Sally said, "I remember clearly an evening when my husband came back to our apartment on Doctor's Circle carrying a thick official looking folder in his hands. Inside were hundreds of pages of certain studies commissioned by the government. He was in shock from the contents. What he read in those documents completely changed his life. From that moment on my conservative middle of the road husband grew his hair and beard and never cut them again. What is more, the VA Medical center let him do it, and other very conservative men in the staff followed his example.

As I read the documents, I learned why. It seems that during the Vietnam War special forces in the war department had sent undercover experts to comb American Indian Reservations looking for talented scouts, for tough young men trained to move stealthily through rough terrain. They were especially looking for men with outstanding, almost supernatural, tracking abilities. Before being approached, these carefully selected men were extensively documented as experts in tracking and survival.

Comment: SOTT can't confirm this story or the research it suggests took place, however, we have wondered on many occasions, what is the use of hair and why so many legends refer to hair as being a source of strength, from Samson, to Nazarenes, to the Long Haired Franks.