Science of the Spirit


Disagreeable men earn more, says study

Crazy Boss
© iStockPhoto
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.


Humans Hard-Wired to Respond to Animals

© Caroline Kjall/stock.xchng
A specific part of your brain, your right amygdala, responds more to this animal face than that of another person, a study has found.
A part of your brain is hard-wired to respond to animals, whether cute and fluffy or ugly and threatening, a new study has found.

A research team showed pictures of people, landmarks, animals or objects to epilepsy patients, who were already wired up so doctors could watch brain activity related to seizures. The researchers monitored the activity in the patients' amygdalae, two roughly almond-shaped structures in the brain associated with emotions, fear and the sense of smell.

"Our study shows that neurons in the human amygdala respond preferentially to pictures of animals, meaning that we saw the most amount of activity in cells when the patients looked at cats or snakes versus buildings or people," said Florian Mormann, lead study researcher and a former postdoctoral scholar at Caltech.

"This preference extends to cute as well as ugly or dangerous animals and appears to be independent of the emotional contents of the pictures. Remarkably, we find this response behavior only in the right and not in the left amygdala," Mormann said.

Remembering the Past Negatively Worsens Health

Going back to work after the holidays is a nightmare for many. Can you improve your health by remembering the past in a positive way? A study by the University of Granada (UGR) reports that people's attitude to past events, present experiences or future expectations, influences their perception of health and their quality of life.

"We have observed that when people are negative about past events in their life, they also have a pessimist or fatalistic attitude towards current events. This generates greater problems in their relationships and these people present worse quality of life indicators," explained Cristián Oyanadel, UGR researcher and co-author of the study published in the journal Universitas Psychologica.

Researchers assessed 50 individuals (25 women and 25 men between 20 and 70 years old) from a randomized sample, using questionnaires and time orientation tests. The time orientation profile was measured by applying the "Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory", designed in the United States and validated in several countries including Spain. This test includes five dimensions that describe attitudes towards the past, the present and the future.

Psychopaths on Wall Street? You Betcha!

Is your boss egocentric, charming, manipulative and lacking in empathy? Take heed. According to a BBC documentary which aired last night, they could be a psychopath who has found their "perfect environment".

Bateman American Psycho
© Moviestore Collection
Christian Bale as investment banker Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
Are you good or evil, a BBC Horizon documentary which aired last night, examined what makes humans liable to violence.

The programme charts the research of criminal psychologist Professor Robert Hare, who developed the Pyschopathy Checklist, which is used to diagnose cases of psychopathy and to ascertain the likelihood of violent behaviour, and neuroscientist Professor Jim Fallon.

The two main factors in ascertaining whether an individual is liable to become a psychopath, according to the programme, are: the existence of the so-called 'warrior gene', the Monoamine oxidase A enzyme, and a violent childhood.

At this point, the TV cameras scanned to the New York skyline, with the narrator rather dramatically telling viewers: "Scientists could be looking for psychopaths in a place near you."

Comment: For more on the workplace psychopath, see:

Ponerology 101: Snakes in Suits


Your Brain on Politics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Liberals and Conservatives

brain scan
© Unknown
Can neuroscience provide evidence for a liberal and conservative thinking style?

It may seem like a stretch to say that one could predict whether you lean left or right by looking at a brain scan - no questions asked, no opinions voiced - purely based on your neuroanatomy. However, this might not be too far from reality - at least insofar as predicting thinking style, which has been shown to be somewhat distinct based on party association.

Does brain structure determine your beliefs, or do your beliefs change your brain structure? What about those who switch parties at some point? How do they fit in to this model? We'll be discussing all of this. It's a complicated issue with lots of variables in play, so we're going to take a pretty deep look into this topic from all angles, so we can draw the most accurate conclusions.

Please keep in mind from the beginning that this is not an endorsement of any one political party. This is science - we'll just be discussing the data. Ready?
Light Sabers

When Men Become Truly Free

When men become truly free:

Heart - Black

Beyond PTSD: Soldiers Have Injured Souls

© Photo: United States Marine Corps / Flickr
John Fisher got his soul back when he visited a cemetery in Greece.

Shelley Corteville felt "rocketed" into healing when she told her story at a veterans' retreat after 28 years of silence.

Bob Cagle lost his decades-long urge to commit suicide after an encounter at a Buddhist temple.

Comment: For more information concerning the effects of trauma, read In An Unspoken Voice by Peter Levine.


Trust in Your Neighbors Could Benefit Your Health, Study Shows

© Unknown
Here's an easy way to improve your health: trust your neighbors. A new study from the University of Missouri shows that increasing trust in neighbors is associated with better self-reported health.

"I examined the idea of 'relative position,' or where one fits into the income distribution in their local community, as it applies to both trust of neighbors and self-rated health," said Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of sociology in the MU College of Arts and Science. "Because human beings engage in interpersonal comparisons in order to gauge individual characteristics, it has been suggested that a low relative position, or feeling that you are below another person financially, leads to stress and negative emotions such as shame, hostility and distrust, and that health suffers as a consequence. While most people aren't aware of how trust impacts them, results indicated that trust was a factor in a person's overall health."

© University of Missouri
Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of sociology in the MU College of Arts and Science, found that people reported better health when they trusted their neighbors.
In the study, Bjornstrom examined the 2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. Contrary to expectations, she found that respondents with a higher income, relative to their community, were more likely to be distrustful of their neighbors. Simultaneously, while taking into account factors such as level of education, income, and age, people who reported that "their neighbors can be trusted" also reported better health on average.