Science of the Spirit

Eye 1

Marianne Williamson and the Elephant in the Living Room

There is one topic that stands like the proverbial elephant in our collective living room, and it's still unacknowledged, ignored or misunderstood by many people. It's the underlying issue for our society and the world's problems. This is the topic of Psychopathy, especially Psychopaths in positions of power, and how it affects our world and society at large. More and more research and studies have been published that prove the existence of this 'intra-species predator', yet it's still being avoided and not sincerely studied and looked at by the many well-meaning people who work actively at trying to make this world a better place. They focus on the symptoms, but not the underlying causes.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk in Topanga Canyon by Marianne Williamson who is running for Congress. I was reluctant to go, knowing that it was futile to try and change the political system through the system. I've written about it before: "Voting, Cognitive Dissonance and Fear of the Unknown" as well as "The Illusion of Choice". However, considering that I like some of her past work and we used a clip of her talk at a festival in our film "Love, Reality, and the Time of Transition", I decided to go see what she had to say...

How willful blindness keeps everyone living a lie‏

Abby Martin speaks with Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book 'A Bigger Prize' about how the notion of willful blindness inhibits humanity's ability to grow, and how the concept of competition is more damaging than we've been indoctrinated to believe.
"Have you ever tried to pass on information so earth-shattering that you felt if people simply knew, everything would change? But instead of acting on it, they chose to bury their heads in the sand. That reaction is called willful blindness, and this notion occurs all around us, every day, from something as small as ignoring an extramarital affair, to corporate accidents like the BP oil spill, and even mass atrocities, like the rise of the Third Reich."

Be happier by spending more money on others

© Sirozha/Shutterstock
A round-up of recent research finds spending money on others can satisfy basic psychological needs and boost happiness.

If you want to feel happier - and who doesn't - what should you do with that $20 you have in your pocket?

The evidence is clear, according to a new research paper: You should use it to help someone in need.

Psychologists Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin, along with Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, report that the benefits of helping others "are evident in givers old and young in countries around the world, and extend to not only subjective well-being, but also objective health."

Writing in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, they demonstrate this counter-intuitive thesis by describing a series of studies, many of which they conducted themselves.

The benefits of helping others "are evident in givers old and young in countries around the world, and extend to not only subjective well-being, but also objective health."

The researchers begin by summarizing their own 2008 study, in which participants were given either $5 or $20 to spend by the end of the day. Half were instructed to buy themselves something; the others used it help out somebody else.

Same-sex parenting does not harm children, research review finds

queer family
Are two mothers better than one?

Children who are raised by same-sex parents do just as well in social development, education and emotionally as those raised by heterosexual couples, an Australian review of the research finds.

In Australia 11% of gay men and 33% of lesbians have children - figures which will likely increase as barriers are reduced.

The review of the research was conduced by Deb Dempsey and commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (Dempsey, 2014).

The research certainly does not support the view that children brought up by same-sex parents are harmed as a result.
Apple Green

Children do as you do, not what you say, so do what is good and right for them: Infants don't instinctively see plants as food

Infants as young as six months old tend to expect that plants are food sources, but only after an adult shows them that the food is safe to eat, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The findings show that, after watching an adult put part of a plant and part of a man-made object in her mouth, infants at 6- and 18-months of age preferentially identify the plant as the food source.

"Plants are often peripheral to modern life, but they were central to fundamental problems of determining what is food and what is fatal across evolutionary time," says psychological scientist and study author Annie Wertz of Yale University. "Humans relied on gathered plant resources for food, but many plants are toxic and potentially deadly."

So how do babies learn what's good to eat and what's not?

"Young children's decisions about what to eat are, famously, not determined by simply copying adult behavior," Wertz and co-author Karen Wynn note.

Wertz and Wynn hypothesized that, instead of imitating an adult's behavior outright, children tend to go for specific types of entities - in this case, plants - but only when an adult does so first. They tested their hypothesis in four experiments.

Full-term 18-month-olds were presented with a realistic-looking artificial plant and an obviously man-made artifact, each of which had dried fruits attached. The infants watched an experimenter take one fruit off each object - the plant and the artifact - and place it in her mouth as if eating it.

Comment: This experiment touches on several important issues. First, it means that on an instinctual level infants don't immediately recognize plants as a possible food source. And for a good reason, since plants, even the ones we eat on a daily basis, contain many anti-nutrients and toxins. This experiment also shows how important it is for parents to teach their children about the types of food that carry the greatest benefit for their health. And plant food isn't one of them. In fact, human beings appear to thrive on a high fat/low carb diet.


Why we're more creative when we're tired, and 9 other surprising things about how brains work

One of the things that surprises me time and time again is how we think our brains work and how they actually do.

On many occasions, I find myself convinced that there is a certain way to do things, only to find out that actually that's the completely wrong way to think about it. For example, I always found it fairly understandable that we can multitask. Well, according to the latest research studies, it's literally impossible for our brains to handle two tasks at the same time.

Recently, I came across more of these fascinating experiments and ideas that helped a ton to adjust my workflow towards how our brain actually works (instead of how I thought it does).

Study finds feeling in control may increase longevity: High sense of self-determination could make a difference in living healthier lives

© Photo/iStockphoto
Do you believe in your own ability to succeed, or do you believe life events are largely beyond your control?

Think carefully about your answer - it could affect your risk of mortality.

People who feel in control and believe they can achieve goals despite hardships are more likely to live longer and healthier lives, especially among those with less education, according to a new study by Brandeis University and the University of Rochester. The study was published online in the journal of Health Psychology.

Previous studies have shown that people with a high school diploma or less education tend to die younger than those with a college degree or graduate training. Yet, that's not a hard and fast rule. Why?

In this study, less educated people with higher perceived control in their life had a mortality rate three times lower than those with a lower sense of control. In fact, a high sense of control seemed to negate the mortality risks of lower education, says Margie Lachman, the Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, and an author on the paper.

How memory rewrites the past

© iStockPhoto
How accurate are your memories?

Do you remember what your mom looked like when you were 4?

Are you sure?

A study published today in the Journal of Neuroscience sheds new light on when memories remain stable and when they get overwritten with new information.

Lead author Donna Jo Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues guided 17 participants through an experiment involving remembering where objects were placed on a computer screen with different backgrounds.

Participants were asked to try to remember where an object was on the original background and place it in the same spot on a new screen. Time after time, they got it wrong.

Then, when they were shown the object in three different locations on the original screen and asked to place it where they first saw it, they couldn't do that, either. They put the object where they themselves had placed it.

But, when researchers changed the experiment slightly, results improved: Researchers told the participants to put the object in a new location -- NOT the original spot. Somehow, this triggered the subjects to remember the original location.

Humans display four, rather than six, basic emotions

Human Emotions
© Fotovika/Shutterstock
Psychologists have long been investigating the connection between facial expressions and emotions. A theory first offered by Paul Ekman, says that there are six primary emotions that are globally recognized and easily construed through specific facial expressions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

According to new research published in the journal Current Biology, scientists at the University of Glasgow have discovered that there are only four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear/surprise and anger/disgust.

In a unique approach, the study team looked at the 'temporal dynamics' of facial expressions, thanks to a unique system developed at the University of Glasgow. They studied the array of different muscles inside the face involved with conveying different emotions, called 'Action Units,' in addition to the time-frame over which each muscle was triggered.

The scientists determined that while the facial expression signals of happiness and sadness are clearly unique across time, fear and surprise share a typical signal - the wide open eyes - at the start of the signaling mechanics. Likewise, anger and disgust share the wrinkled nose.

It is these first signals that could possibly represent simpler danger signals. Later in the signaling mechanics, facial expressions transfer signals that differentiate all six 'classic' facial expressions of emotion, the researchers said.

"Our results are consistent with evolutionary predictions, where signals are designed by both biological and social evolutionary pressures to optimize their function," said study author Rachael Jack, a psychologist at the Scottish university.
Magic Wand

Why meditating is better than taking pills

Finding peace and stillness within yourself is CRUCIAL to your body's health. 90% of all diseases and illnesses are either caused or aggravated by stress, and meditation is a great way to restore balance in your body. A shift in consciousness causes a shift in biology, and when you are peaceful and calm during meditation, you release chemicals such as seratonin, oxytocin, and dopamine which help stabilize the immune system. Did you know that meditation is scientifically proven to:
  • Overcome stress (University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2003)
  • Boost your creativity (ScienceDaily, 2010)
  • Improve your sex life and increase your libido (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2009)
  • Cultivate healthy habits that lead to weight loss (Journal Emotion, 2007)
  • Improve digestion and lower blood pressure (Harvard Medical School)
  • Decrease your risk of heart attack (The Stroke Journal, 2009)
  • Help overcome anxiety, depression, anger and confusion (Psychosomatic Medicine,
  • Decrease perception of pain and improve cognitive processing (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 2010)
  • Increase your focus and attention (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007)
  • Increase the size of your most important organ - your brain! (Harvard University Gazette, 2006)
  • Reduce risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease (American Heart Association, 2012)

Comment: Read the following articles to learn more about the numerous benefits of meditation. In addition try out the Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here and start restoring balance in your mind, body and spirit!

Meditation and Its Benefits
A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way
Meditation can help unclutter the mind
Meditation Makes You More Creative
Brain Scans Reveal Why Meditation Works
Meditation Techniques Have Different Effects
Meditation Can Cut Heart Attacks by as Much as Half
Meditative breathing may help manage chronic pain
Meditation Improves the Immune System, Research Shows
The fascinating ways meditation transforms your brain - and why it makes you feel better