Science of the Spirit


Women more talkative than men because their brain is designed that way

We've all heard the oft-repeated statistics about women talking more than men. And to back up those statistics, one previous study has shown that a part of the brain responsible for processing communication is simply larger in a woman than a man. Now, a new study adds to those claims by moving a step further, showing that the female brain is actually designed with communication in mind.

Performed by doctors at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, this study has linked being talkative with a particular protein found in the brain called FOXP2. Women have been found to have more of this protein in their brains, leading the researchers to believe this is why women are more vocal than men.

The results of this study have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

"This study is one of the first to report a sex difference in the expression of a language-associated protein in humans or animals," explained the study's co-author Margaret McCarthy, PhD, in a prepared statement. "The findings raise the possibility that sex differences in brain and behavior are more pervasive and established earlier than previously appreciated."

Science, it seems, has been forever curious about a female's tendency to be more communicative and has been looking for this answer for years. The link between FOXP2 and speech was first discovered at the turn of the century and was found to connect vocalization in a host of different animals, such as bats, mice and rats. This latest study started off by observing this correlation in rats before moving on to young children.

Magic Wand

How human language could have evolved from birdsong

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Linguistics and biology researchers propose a new theory on the deep roots of human speech.

"The sounds uttered by birds offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language," Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man (1871), while contemplating how humans learned to speak. Language, he speculated, might have had its origins in singing, which "might have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions."

Now researchers from MIT, along with a scholar from the University of Tokyo, say that Darwin was on the right path. The balance of evidence, they believe, suggests that human language is a grafting of two communication forms found elsewhere in the animal kingdom: first, the elaborate songs of birds, and second, the more utilitarian, information-bearing types of expression seen in a diversity of other animals.

"It's this adventitious combination that triggered human language," says Shigeru Miyagawa, a professor of linguistics in MIT's Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, and co-author of a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The idea builds upon Miyagawa's conclusion, detailed in his previous work, that there are two "layers" in all human languages: an "expression" layer, which involves the changeable organization of sentences, and a "lexical" layer, which relates to the core content of a sentence. His conclusion is based on earlier work by linguists including Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser.

Magic Wand

Hypnosis study unlocks secrets of unexplained paralysis

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Hypnosis has begun to attract renewed interest from neuroscientists interested in using hypnotic suggestion to test predictions about normal cognitive functioning.

To demonstrate the future potential of this growing field, guest editors Professor Peter Halligan from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and David A. Oakley of University College London, brought together leading researchers from cognitive neuroscience and hypnosis to contribute to this month's special issue of the international journal, Cortex.

The issue illustrates how methodological and theoretical advances, using hypnotic suggestion, can return novel and experimentally verifiable insights for the neuroscience of consciousness and motor control. The research also includes novel brain imaging studies, which address sceptics' concerns regarding the subjective reality and comparability of hypnotically suggested phenomena that previously depended on subjects' largely unverifiable report and behaviour.


Mother's intuition is real - science shows link between mother and son's brains

Research from the University of Washington says living cells from sons can live in their mother's brains for her entire life.
Is your son's behaviour playing on your mind? Perhaps it's because of piece of him is living inside your brain.

Women have claimed an intuitive link with their children for centuries. Now science has discovered their living cells in the brains of their mothers.

The bond between a pregnant mother and their unborn child is both physical and psychological. It relies totally on her for nutrition, warmth, comfort and protection.

A new study published in the science journal PLOS ONE suggests elements of this mother-baby connection may linger long after birth.

It found fetal DNA and cells from male children cross the blood-brain barrier and end up living in the mother's brain.


We know when we're being lazy thinkers: New study shows that human thinkers are conscious cognitive misers

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Are we intellectually lazy? Yes we are, but we do know when we take the easy way out, according to a new study by Wim De Neys and colleagues, from the CNRS in France. Contrary to what psychologists believe, we are aware that we occasionally answer easier questions rather than the more complex ones we were asked, and we are also less confident about our answers when we do. The work is published online in Springer's journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Research to date on human thinking suggests that our judgment is often biased because we are intellectually lazy, or so-called cognitive misers. We intuitively substitute hard questions for easier ones. What is less clear is whether or not we realize that we are doing this and notice our mistake.

Using an adaptation of the standard 'bat-and-ball' problem, the researchers explored this phenomenon. The typical 'bat-and-ball' problem is as follows: a bat and ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The intuitive answer that immediately springs to mind is 10 cents. However, the correct response is 5 cents.


Powerful people are looking out for their future selves

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Would you prefer $120 today or $154 in one year? Your answer may depend on how powerful you feel, according to new research in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Many people tend to forego the larger reward and opt for the $120 now, a phenomenon known as temporal discounting. But research conducted by Priyanka Joshi and Nathanael Fast of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business suggests that people who feel powerful are more likely to wait for the bigger reward, in part because they feel a stronger connection with their future selves.

In the first of four experiments, the researchers randomly assigned participants to be a team manager (high-power role) or a team worker (low-power role) in a group activity. Afterwards, the participants were asked to make a series of choices between receiving $120 now or increasing amounts of money ($137, $154, $171, $189, $206, $223, and $240) in one year.


If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?

As XKCD's Randall Munroe recently pointed out, it's a question worth considering. Psychologists and sociologists agree with him. Here's why.

When we hear about the psychology of crowds, it's often in an unsavory context. "Group-Think Makes Killers," reads the title of this article by social psychologist Bernd Simon, who cites the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment as an example of how giving up "I" for "We" can have nasty consequences.

Crowd psychology is often singled out as the catalyst that drives the transformation of a civil protest into an unruly riot. "When you are in a crowd, you are more likely to behave as others do, even if it is against your own personal belief system," explains psychologist Stephanie Sarkis in Psychology Today.

"And others' behavior can be contagious - people get "wrapped up" in the behavior. Those with ulterior motives (looting, for example) take an opportunity in the midst of chaos to commit an anonymous act." Still, exceptions, caveats, and counterarguments to nefarious instances of group-think abound.


Telepathy Between Couples: Is It Real?

When Julie Beischel met Mark Boccuzzi at a conference and agreed to participate in an experiment on telepathy, she didn't immediately tell him about the powerful connections she'd felt to him; after all, they were strangers.

Now married, however, Beischel and Boccuzzi credit telepathy for helping them meet and fall in love.

"It was like nothing I had ever encountered," Beischel said.

The data from the experiment backed up her perception, however, and the couple eventually asked Dean Radin, senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) that conducted the summer study program, to marry them. Now, they are co-writing a book, Psychic Intimacy: A Handbook for Couples, that will highlight practical applications of telepathy for couples. In fact, they've suggested that Radin turn the experiment into a dating service.

People 2

Genders Not So Different?

Turns out men and women aren't so different.

That's according to new research by psychologists who examined personality traits, such as being good at math, being aggressive, being a good listener or empathetic, playing video games or talking with friends -- that many of us believe split men and women.

"Just because men and women look very different and sometimes have different interests and behaviors, we shouldn't assume that what goes on in our heads is just as different, at least with the psychological characteristics we looked at," said Bobbi Carothers, a data analyst at the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis. At the risk of being cliche, I'd say the take-home message is "Don't judge a book by its cover."


A Valentine for the world: The lost story


Una valentina para el mundo; la historia perdida

Valentine's Day Alert, Anywhere USA: A woman punches another woman to seize the last red-flocked candy box at the drug store. Children fear going to school for they might not get as many valentine cards as some other kids.

What used to be honorable behavior during an onslaught of the citadel, has become 'aggression normale'? in Buy-Me-Land. What used to be a place of learning for the kidlettes, has in some places become a daily injection of the poison called, 'If I don't have proof from all others by acclamation, I am a nobody.'

Commerce can be admired for advertising those many artifacts which help people to better live; those remedios and medicines that are thereby shown within reach of some and the many.

But, how can we understand the kind of commerce that $ee$ only it$elf and nothing more... and by $o doing, $teals the bedrock of our culture by covering over the real stories that sustain us?