Science of the Spirit


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

Eye 1

Is your partner a sociopath?

Partner Sociopath
Sociopaths are people with little or no conscience or ability to empathize with other peoples' feelings. One sociopath in the course of their lifetime will harm many people but hurt most those with whom they have intimate and close relations. Although many operate as seeming 'model citizens', behind the façade they have interpersonal deficits such as grandiosity, arrogance and deceitfulness, lack of guilt and empathy, and impulsive and occasionally criminal behaviours.

It's easy to miss these traits in someone you love because you are not expecting to see them. Sociopaths are more numerous than is supposed; some estimates suggesting one person in every 25 has sociopathic traits. Here's a story about one sociopath who almost destroyed his wife and family's life.

Comment: See also:

SOTT Talk Radio: Women Who Love Psychopaths - With Sandra L. Brown


Out of body experiences validated by scientific study

© Louish.Pixel -
Are out-of-body experiences valid? Dr. Crookall at the University of Aberdeen has written 9 books on out-of-body cases due to the overwhelming amount of evidence in their favour. A survey of 380 Oxford students showed that 34% had an OBE. A separate survey of 902 adults revealed that 8% have had an OBE. In a study of 44 non-Western societies, only 3 did not hold a belief in OBEs. Another study showed that out of 488 world societies, 89% had at least some tradition regarding OBEs. So this phenomenon is familiar and lots of people claimed to have experienced it before, but is there any scientific credibility to this phenomenon?

A fascinating experiment was done by Dr. Charles Tart, who was a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California. He had also served as a Visiting Professor in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and as an Instructor in Psychiatry at the School of Medicine of the University of Virginia. A study he published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research may be the most infamous OBE study ever done.

Liars find it more rewarding to tell truth than fib when deceiving others

A University of Toronto report based on two neural imaging studies that monitored brain activity has found individuals are more satisfied to get a reward from telling the truth rather than getting the same reward through deceit. These studies were published recently in the neuroscience journals Neuropsychologia and NeuroImage.

"Our findings together show that people typically find truth-telling to be more rewarding than lying in different types of deceptive situations," says Prof. Kang Lee from the University of Toronto.

The findings are based on two studies of Chinese participants using a new neuroimaging method called near-infrared spectroscopy. The studies are among the first to address the question of whether lying makes people feel better or worse than truth-telling.

The studies explored two different types of deception. In first order deception, the recipient does not know the deceiver is lying. In second order deception, the deceivers are fully aware that the recipient knows their intention, such as bluffing in poker.

The myth of cognitive decline: Elderly know more and use it better

© Todd Baker
A steady decline? Experts question whether the human brain really slows down with age.

Linguistic experts argue in new research that people's brains do not slow down with age, but actually show the benefits of experience.

Tests that had previously been taken to show cognitive decline as people age, they maintain, are actually showing the effects of having more information to process.

The linguists, from the German University of Tübingen, publish their findings in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science (Ramscar et al., 2014).

While accepting that physiological diseases of old age clearly exist, they say that the usual cognitive changes associated with age are exactly what you'd expect as the brain gathers more experience.

Remembering names

As linguists, they decided to test their theory using words - specifically the number of words that a person learns across their lifetime.

They set up a computer simulation to model this. As the simulation got 'older', it began to slow down as it learnt more words - exactly as people do with ageing.

In the brain, timing is everything

© Takashi Kitamura
This cross-section of the hippocampus shows island cells (green) projecting to the CA1 region of the hippocampus.
Suppose you heard the sound of skidding tires, followed by a car crash. The next time you heard such a skid, you might cringe in fear, expecting a crash to follow - suggesting that somehow, your brain had linked those two memories so that a fairly innocuous sound provokes dread.

MIT neuroscientists have now discovered how two neural circuits in the brain work together to control the formation of such time-linked memories. This is a critical ability that helps the brain to determine when it needs to take action to defend against a potential threat, says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the Jan. 23 issue of Science.

"It's important for us to be able to associate things that happen with some temporal gap," says Tonegawa, who is a member of MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "For animals it is very useful to know what events they should associate, and what not to associate."

The interaction of these two circuits allows the brain to maintain a balance between becoming too easily paralyzed with fear and being too careless, which could result in being caught off guard by a predator or other threat.

The paper's lead authors are Picower Institute postdocs Takashi Kitamura and Michele Pignatelli.
Snakes in Suits

Corruption of Science: U.S. psychology body declines to rebuke member in Guantánamo torture case

© motesjj
Mohammed al-Qahtani was twice charged by the Pentagon in 2008 with war crimes related to 9/11.
Complaint dropped against John Leso, involved in brutal interrogation of suspected 9/11 hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani

- APA: 'We cannot proceed with formal charges' - full letter

America's professional association of psychologists has quietly declined to rebuke one of its members, a retired US army reserve officer, for his role in one of the most brutal interrogations known to have to taken place at Guantánamo Bay, the Guardian has learned.

The decision not to pursue any disciplinary measure against John Leso, a former army reserve major, is the latest case in which someone involved in the post-9/11 torture of detainees has faced no legal or even professional consequences.

In a 31 December letter obtained by the Guardian, the American Psychological Association said it had "determined that we cannot proceed with formal charges in this matter. Consequently the complaint against Dr Leso has been closed."

But the APA did not deny Leso took part in the brutal interrogation of the suspected 20th 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed al-Qahtani, whose treatment the Pentagon official overseeing his military commission ultimately called "torture".