Science of the Spirit


How Dads influence teens' happiness

The influence of fathers on their teenage children has long been overlooked. Now researchers are finding surprising ways in which dads make a difference

In 2011 administrators at Frayser High School in Memphis, Tenn., came to a disturbing realization. About one in five of its female students was either pregnant or had recently given birth. City officials disputed the exact figures, but they admitted that Frayser had a problem. The president of a local nonprofit aimed at helping girls blamed the disturbing rate of teen pregnancy on television.

She pointed to the MTV shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. "So much of our society is sexually oriented," she said, arguing that the fixation on sex was enticing girls to have unprotected sex earlier and more often. A lot of us might say the same thing. We know that teenagers are impressionable, and the idea that they would be swayed by MTV makes sense.


Oxytocin: Why the love hormone is good for you

© Getty images
I've written quite a lot about oxytocin, which also goes by the name of "love hormone," "cuddle chemical," "molecule of kindness," or any other affectionate term that implies something about bonding and connecting.

If you ever wondered about those names, it's because we produce oxytocin when we're feeling love or connection (with a human, animal, tree, spiritual diety) and also when we hug.

Here's a little summary of some of the healthy things that happen in our bodies when we produce oxytocin.

Comment: For more information about Oxytocin - a hormone released by the pituitary gland that affects both the body and the brain, read the following articles:

2 + 2 = 4

The six faces of maternal narcissism

What does the empty mirror reflect for you?

The disorder of narcissistic parenting creates significant emotional damage to children. If not understood, children raised by narcissistic parents grow up in a state of denial, thinking it is their fault and they are simply not good enough. If good enough, they would have been loved by that parent. While this is a cognitive distortion about self, the myriad of internal messages gleaned from childhood have a haunting effect on adult children of narcissistic parents. "Will I ever be good enough?" "Am I lovable?" "Am I only valued for what I do and how I look?" "Can I trust my own feelings?" Sound familiar?

The word "narcissism" is becoming more of a household term, but is usually used in disparaging others. It is not funny, sometimes not understood, and often used to describe a haughty or arrogant person. The reality is, true narcissism is a serious disorder that harms children. I don't find the humor. Narcissists are truly all about themselves and cannot show genuine empathy. They have a limited capacity for giving unconditional love to their children. The alarming effects are cause for concern.


Scientists closer to understanding the brain, teleportation

© Arvid Guterstam
While participants lay in a brain scanner, they experienced the illusion that they were being "teleported" to different locations around the room.
What happens in the brain when a person has an out-of-body experience? A team of scientists may now have an answer.

In a new study, researchers using a brain scanner and some fancy camera work gave study participants the illusion that their bodies were located in a part of a room other than where they really were. Then, the researchers examined the participants' brain activity, to find out which brain regions were involved in the participants' perceptions about where their body was.

The findings showed that the conscious experience of where one's body is located arises from activity in brain areas involved in feelings of body ownership, as well as regions that contain cells known to be involved in spatial orientation, the researchers said. Earlier work done in animals had showed these cells, dubbed "GPS cells," have a key role in navigation and memory.

Comment: Interesting research in how our brain works.


The difference between procrastination and laziness

© Wikicommons
Problems with procrastination or just a 'lazybones'?
We are being lazy if we are able to carry out some activity that we ought to carry out, but are disinclined to do so on account of the effort involved. Instead, we remain idle, carry out the activity perfunctorily, or engage in some other less strenuous or boring activity. In short, we are being lazy if our motivation to spare ourselves effort trumps our motivation to do the right or best or expected thing.

Synonyms for laziness include indolence and sloth. Indolence derives from the Latin indolentia, 'without pain' or 'without taking trouble'.

Sloth has more moral and spiritual overtones than either laziness or indolence. In the Christian tradition, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins because it undermines society and God's plan and invites all manner of sin. The Bible inveighs against slothfulness, notably in the Book of Ecclesiastes: 'By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.'

Comment: For more on willpower, procrastination, and getting things done, check out:
  • New trick could help overcome procrastination
  • Willpower alone is not enough: Unconscious motivation plays a substantial role in how we respond to challenges
  • Use the power of check lists!


Guys like helping attractive female avatars more than ugly ones

© Thinkstock
It may seem like men are always willing to lend an attractive women a hand, and a new study has found this bias extends into virtual worlds.

Published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, the new study looked at how men and women interact with each other in an online game. Researchers saw that women were offered less help in the game when they selected an unattractive female avatar, as opposed to an attractive female or male virtual representative.

"It doesn't matter if you have an ugly avatar or not, if you're a man, you'll still receive about the same amount of help," said study author Franklin Waddell, a doctoral candidate in mass communications at Penn State. "However, if you are a woman and operate an unattractive avatar, you will receive significantly less help."

Waddell said the study's result with respect to virtual attractiveness mirrors what other studies found in the real world.

"Overall, many of the same gender and sexual stereotypes seem to permeate the online worlds," Waddell said. "The study supports the idea that our responses to stereotypes and norms follow us from real life into virtual environments."


New trick could help overcome procrastination

© Thinkstock
"I got so much procrastinating done today!"
Researchers from the University of Southern California say that they've come up with a sure-fire way for people to overcome procrastination and get to work on accomplishing their goals.

The trick, they explain in the journal Psychological Science, is to change the way that you think about the future. Future goals have to feel as though they're important now.

"The simplified message that we learned in these studies is if the future doesn't feel imminent, then, even if it's important, people won't start working on their goals," said Oyserman, who was assisted on the research by co-author Neil Lewis Jr. of the University of Michigan.

In a series of experiments, the duo presented study participants with different scenarios and found that those individuals looked at the future as something that was far more imminent when they evaluated goals and deadlines in terms of days rather than months or years.


The power of kindness


How being good to others can be good for you.

Treating other people well isn't just good for your karma. It's good for your health and vitality, too.

Psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, author of Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection, studies how "micro-moments" of connection with others, like sharing a smile or expressing concern, improve emotional resilience, boost the immune system, and reduce susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

Comment: Kindness holds the power to heal
Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts
Study: Empathy Genes Overcomes Threats and Fear
Kindness facilitates happiness and acceptance for children

People 2

The difference between a mature relationship and an immature relationship

Mature couples don't "fall in love," they step into it. Love isn't something you fall for; it's something you rise for.

Falling denotes lowering oneself, dropping down and being stuck somewhere lower than where you started. You have to get up from falling.

Love isn't like that — at least not with people who are doing it right. Immature couples fall; mature couples coast. Because love is either a passing game, or it's forever. Love is either wrong, or it's right. A couple is either mature or immature.

How do you know? How can you tell if your relationship is in it for the long haul or the two-month plummet everyone predicted behind your love-obsessed back?

First, it should be easy, from the beginning to end. There are no passionate fights with passionate make-up sex. There's no obsessive calling, texting or worrying.

Heart - Black

Study: Bullying as a child has a worse effect on mental health than parental abuse

© Unknown
The severe effect on adult mental health of an experience suffered by one in five children.

Bullying as a child has a worse effect on adult mental health than parental abuse, new research shows.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry found very severe outcomes for bullied children (Lereya et al., 2015).

Professor Dieter Wolke from Warwick's Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School, who led the research, said:
"The mental health outcomes we were looking for included anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies.

Our results showed those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were maltreated.

Being both bullied and maltreated also increased the risk of overall mental health problems, anxiety and depression in both groups."
While both abuse and bullying are known to cause mental health problems later on, this is the first study to compare them.

Comment: Far from being a 'rite of passage', the suffering that children undergo from their peers has long-term negative consequences: