Science of the Spirit


How to maintain a psychologically healthy and free of pathologicals community: Hidden benefits of "gossip" and "ostracism"

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New research shows that gossip and ostracism are useful tools by which groups encourage cooperation and reform bullies.
A Stanford study finds that what you might think of as your worst qualities - talking about people behind their backs and voting others "off the island" - can offer surprising benefits for our greater harmony.

While gossip and ostracism get a bad rap, they may be quite good for society, according to Stanford scholars.

Conventional wisdom holds that gossip and social exclusion are always malicious, undermining trust and morale in groups.

But that is not always true, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science. Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology, explored the nature of gossip and ostracism in experimental groups in collaboration with co-authors Matthew Feinberg, a Stanford University postdoctoral researcher, and Michael Schultz from the University of California - Berkeley.

Their research showed that gossip and ostracism can have very positive effects. They are tools by which groups reform bullies, thwart exploitation of "nice people" and encourage cooperation.

Comment: Words like "gossip" and "ostracism" carry negative connotations, while in reality and throughout the history "gossip", or to be exact an exchange of information, was crucial for the survival of the community. The same is for "ostracism", which in ancient times was the most efficient way of cleaning the community from various pathologicals, who caused trouble and strife, and were no more than parasites. One even has to wonder why and since when such protective measures started to be considered as negative.

"Groups that allow their members to gossip," said Feinberg, "sustain cooperation and deter selfishness better than those that don't. And groups do even better if they can gossip and ostracize untrustworthy members. While both of these behaviors can be misused, our findings suggest that they also serve very important functions for groups and society."

Newly discovered brain region helps make humans unique

© Johan Swanepoel/Shutterstock
Human brain integrates signals simultaneously coming from different senses.
Scientists have identified a part of the brain that seems to be unique to humans.

The brain region, called the lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex, was described today (Jan. 28) in the journal Neuron, and is linked to higher thinking processes.

"We tend to think that being able to plan into the future, be flexible in our approach and learn from others are things that are particularly impressive about humans," Matthew Rushworth, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University, said in a statement.

"We've identified an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human, and is likely to have something to do with these cognitive powers,"

The new brain region is located within a larger region called the ventrolateral frontal cortex, which in past studies has been tied to higher thinking.

For instance, this part of the brain houses Broca's region, which plays a critical role in language.

Differences in the ventrolateral frontal cortex have also been tied to psychiatric disorders such as compulsive behavior disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Magic Wand

University of Montreal study analyzes content of nightmares and bad dreams

Physical attacks are a recurring theme in nightmares.

This news release is available in French.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Montreal, nightmares have greater emotional impact than bad dreams do, and fear is not always a factor. In fact, it is mostly absent in bad dreams and in a third of nightmares. What is felt, instead, is sadness, confusion, guilt, disgust, etc. For their analysis of 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams, researchers obtained the narratives of nearly 10,000 dreams.

"Physical aggression is the most frequently reported theme in nightmares. Moreover, nightmares become so intense they will wake you up. Bad dreams, on the other hand, are especially haunted by interpersonal conflicts," write Geneviève Robert and Antonio Zadra, psychology researchers at the Université de Montréal, in the last issue of Sleep.

"Death, health concerns and threats are common themes in nightmares," says Geneviève Robert, first author of the article, which formed part of her doctoral thesis. "But it would be wrong to think that they characterize all nightmares. "Sometimes, it is the feeling of a threat or a ominous atmosphere that causes the person to awaken. I'm thinking of one narrative, in which the person saw an owl on a branch and was absolutely terrified."

8 ways to emotionally mess up your kids

Our children are the lights of our lives. We all start off as parents envisioning nothing but success, love and happiness for them. However, these dreams often do not manifest because they are not getting the important things they need to become disciplined, mature and motivated adults. Here are eight parenting mess ups. Avoid these things, as they will guarantee your child will suffer from depression, anxiety, anger, tense family relationships, problems with friends, low self-esteem, a sense of entitlement and chronic emotional problems throughout their life.

The children who have near-death experiences - then lead charmed lives: Study reveals youngsters as young as six months can have lucid visions

How old do you need to be to have a near-death experience? Old enough, you may imagine, to be able to construct a narrative in your mind
How old do you need to be to have a near-death experience? Old enough, you may imagine, to be able to construct a narrative in your mind. Or to describe it in language.

The evidence, however, suggests that children as young as six months can have lucid visions - and even remember them years later.

Of course, no one can see into the mind of a baby. But consider a case documented in the medical journal Critical Care Medicine. The researchers writing in the journal had kept in touch with the parents of a six-month-old boy who'd nearly died in hospital during a serious illness.

Three years later, that same child was told by his parents that his grandmother was dying. He had just one question: was she going through the tunnel to meet God?

Comment: Read also:
Near Death Experience - Former Skeptic Shares Glimpse of Heaven
Senator claims angels visited him in hospital
Back from the Dead?
Out of body experiences validated by scientific study

And on the same subject, check out Sunday's show on SOTT Talk Radio which deals with these matters:

Spirit Release Therapy: Patrick Rodriguez & Heather Hayes interview


Study: Believing you've slept well, even if you haven't, improves performance

© The Atlantic
Problem: Who even sleeps anymore? You and everyone you know are probably loading yourselves up with coffee or whatever your stimulant of choice is so you can plod through your day as some semblance of an upright human being.

Then you get home and you don't go to bed early enough because this is the only me-time you get, damn it, and if you want to watch three hours of Netflix, then you will. Or you try to go to sleep but you fail and end up tossing and turning, because sleeping is actually kind of hard, and the more you want it, the more it slips through your grasp.

But maybe the knowledge that you aren't sleeping enough is part of what's keeping you trapped in your swamp of lethargy during the day. Maybe if you were sweetly, blithely ignorant of your somnial failings, you'd feel more chipper and work more efficiently.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from Colorado College tested the effects of being told you're getting enough sleep - "placebo sleep," as they call it.

How Thinking Works: Cognitive Psychology studies everyone should know

brain wiring
How experts think, the power of framing, the miracle of attention, the weird world of cognitive biases and more...

Fifty years ago there was a revolution in psychology which changed the way we think about the mind.

The 'cognitive revolution' inspired psychologists to start thinking of the mind as a kind of organic computer, rather than as an impenetrable black box which would never be understood.

Comment: A few good books that go deeper in how our thinking works - mostly unbeknownst to us - are:
Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
Thinking, Fast and Slow
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself

For discussions on subjects of Cognitive Psychology, check this forum thread.


Is this proof near-death experiences are real? Extraordinary new book by intensive care nurse reveals dramatic evidence she says should banish our fear of dying

near death experiences

The Ascent of the Blessed, detail from a panel of an alterpiece of the Last Judgement. Historic texts are filled with accounts of near-death visions. Are they to be ignored so readily?
As a nurse, I'm always cheered when I see a patient who appears to be making a good recovery. That certainly seemed the case with 60-year-old Tom Kennard, who'd been suffering from sepsis after surgery for cancer.

After a couple weeks in the intensive care ward, he was well enough to be moved from his hospital bed to a chair. Moments later, however, he suddenly slumped into unconsciousness.

There was no doubt at all that he was out cold. He responded neither to my urgent questions nor to the painful pressure of my Biro on his fingernails.

Worse still, his skin became clammy, his oxygen levels dropped and his blood pressure plummeted - clear signs that his condition had become critical.

As I quickly gave him extra oxygen, I called out to the other nurses in the intensive care unit. Four of them immediately flocked to Tom's bedside, and we gently helped return him to his bed as we called for a doctor urgently.

Comment: See also:

Near Death Experience - Former Skeptic Shares Glimpse of Heaven

Senator claims angels visited him in hospital

Back from the Dead?

Out of body experiences validated by scientific study

And on the same subject, listen tonight, Sunday Jan. 26, to our SOTT Radio Show which deals with these matters:

Spirit Release Therapy: Patrick Rodriguez & Heather Hayes interview


Men forget more than women

glasses man
© Daniela Vladimirova
It's a mystery: men report their memory is worse than women. A new study finds for the first time that men, on average, think they are more forgetful than women. The results come from a large study of 48,000 people, conducted in Norway (Holmen et al., 2013). In the study, people were asked nine questions about how good they think their memory is.

The questions asked included:
  • Whether they had problems remembering names and dates.
  • How good they were at remembering details of conversations.
  • If they could remember what they were doing one year ago.
For eight of the nine questions men reported more problems with their memory.

Food addiction linked to impulsive personality in some cases

Food Addiction
© Poznyakov/Shutterstock
New research from the University of Georgia (UGA), published in the journal Appetite, reveals that the same kinds of impulsive behavior that leads some individuals to abuse alcohol and drugs may also contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food.

The research team found that people with impulsive personalities were more likely to report higher levels of food addiction, which can lead to obesity. Food addiction is a compulsive pattern of eating that is similar to drug addiction.

"The notion of food addiction is a very new one, and one that has generated a lot of interest," James MacKillop, associate professor of psychology at the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, told UGA's James Hataway. "My lab generally studies alcohol, nicotine and other forms of drug addiction, but we think it's possible to think about impulsivity, food addiction and obesity using some of the same techniques."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of American adults are obese. This puts them at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Researchers estimated the annual medical cost of obesity to be $147 billion in 2008, while obese individuals pay, on average, $1,429 more in medical expenses than those of normal weight.

MacKillop collaborated with doctoral students Cara Murphy and Monika Stojek on this study. The team hopes that their research will ultimately help physicians and other experts plan treatments and interventions for obese people who have developed an addiction to food, paving the way for a healthier lifestyle.

Comment: One of the good ways to curb cravings and deal with food addiction is following high-fat/low-carb Ketogenic diet.
The Ketogenic Diet - An Overview
Is the Ketogenic Diet the cure for multiple diseases?
Ketogenic diet plan
Low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet fuels rapid weight loss
Opening Pandora's Bread Box: The Critical Role of Wheat Lectin in Human Disease