Science of the Spirit
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Bulb

Expectation is important: Seeing is not always remembering

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People may have to "turn on" their memories in order to remember even the simplest details of an experience, according to Penn State psychologists. This finding, which has been named "attribute amnesia," indicates that memory is far more selective than previously thought.

"It is commonly believed that you will remember specific details about the things you're attending to, but our experiments show that this is not necessarily true," said Brad Wyble, assistant professor of psychology. "We found that in some cases, people have trouble remembering even very simple pieces of information when they do not expect to have to remember them."

2 + 2 = 4

Men and women process emotions differently

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© MCN, University of Basel
Red and yellow indicates the more active areas of the brain when images are rated as highly stimulating. Green indicates the areas that specifically become more active in women.
Women rate emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men do and are more likely to remember them. However, there are no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal as far as neutral images are concerned. These were the findings of a large-scale study by a research team at the University of Basel that focused on determining the gender-dependent relationship between emotions, memory performance and brain activity. The results will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Comment: Men and Women May Respond Differently to Danger, Study Finds


Eye 1

How psychopaths see sex and why

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By definition, the psychopath doesn't have successful relationships. Actually, the truth is more about capacity than quality. With the psychopath, there is an absence of emotional connection and true empathetic feeling. The psychopath simply isn't capable of trusting and depending on another individual. To sit with them and assess them as I have in forensic settings, it's as if you're talking with someone who's part-human, part-ice. Though they engage in sex and relationships, their experience of sex is vastly different from their non-psychopathic peers.

First, let's quickly review the most disturbing traits of the psychopath. According to the Antisocial Personality Questionnaire (Blackburn & Fawcett, 1999), primary psychopathy is characterized by hostility, extraversion, self-confidence, impulsivity, aggression, and mild to moderate anxiety. Though the psychopath may commit illegal crimes, a psychopath can go through life wreaking harm on others and yet never commit an actual crime. The traits of the psychopath are deeply troubling when applied to sex and relationships.

Cult

Why the Dalai Lama is wrong to think meditation will eliminate violence

© Unknown
This quote by the Dalai Lama is going viral on the internet, "If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation." Marianne Williamson shared this quote via her Facebook account and it received a tremendous reception. Google the quote and you will find tens of thousands of web sites, Facebook pages and twitter feeds where it has appeared. Needless to say, the enthusiasm over the Dalai Lama's statement is profound. It has struck a cord for sure.

His words reflect the more widespread belief that spiritual practices can provide grounding for more ethical and wise action. One could substitute meditation in the quote with yoga, prayer, chanting or sacred dancing and people would generally agree that these types of things will inspire compassion, kindness and generosity. Through meditation one can hopefully gain a better realization of the interconnectedness of all things. Many believe, or at least hope, like the Dalai Lama, that this renewed sense of awareness will inspire us to take action against injustice in the world.

While for much of my life I've also shared this popular sentiment I've now come to see it much differently. Based on years of research and writing as well as personal practice of yoga, meditation and Chi Kung I've discovered some very strong flaws in the Dalai Lama's argument. Furthermore, I actually see these types of statements are very irresponsible as they mislead the public about the causes and solutions to violence. The real conversations about these very challenging issues that need to take place could potentially be minimized by these types of statements.

Boat

Transforming trauma into recovery

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With unusual honesty, Barry Lessin highlights the indefatigable work and refusal to submit to multiple frustrations and setbacks that is often required in psychotherapy with challenging clients. He describes how his long-term work with a woman whose history of severe sexual, physical and emotional abuse leads to hope and healing in a larger family context. This piece lays bare the complexity of mental health and addiction work, allowing old wounds to heal in a atmosphere of trust and safety. -Richard Juman


Each person's path to recovery is unique. Because the possible combinations of life history, pre-morbid personality and substance misuse are practically infinite, my work as an addiction psychologist is always intriguing. I look forward to each opportunity to share in my clients' journeys.

By the time people see me for consultations about their substance-using family member, they're generally feeling pretty battered and bruised. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness often aren't far behind, but the very fact that they present for treatment indicates that they still believe that change can happen. That part of the family psyche is my ally in treatment, the aspect that I rely on to help me move the family forward to a new way of responding to problems and, ultimately, a new paradigm for operating as a system. Here, things get even more complicated when a woman's history of trauma and substance misuse have multiple ramifications on the work that we do as a family around her son's substance misuse.

Books

Sad prospect for Finland's kids: Typing takes over as handwriting lessons end

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© AFP
Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place, it's reported.

Learning joined-up writing, often in fountain pen in the UK, is almost a rite of passage for primary school students. But Finland is moving into the digital age by ditching the ink in favour of keyboards, the Savon Sanomat newspaper reports. From autumn 2016, students won't have to learn cursive handwriting or calligraphy, but will instead be taught typing skills, the report says. "Fluent typing skills are an important national competence," says Minna Harmanen from the National Board of Education. The switch will be a major cultural change, Ms Harmanen says, but typing is more relevant to everyday life.

Comment: Another unfortunate sign of ongoing degradation of creative and critical thinking faculties among the world population. Handwriting is one of the most important skills that any child should have a proper grasp on. Read the following articles to learn more:


Handcuffs

Total recall? People can be convinced they perpetrated a crime that never happened

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© iStock
Evidence from some wrongful-conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes they didn't actually commit. New research provides lab-based evidence for this phenomenon, showing that innocent adult participants can be convinced, over the course of a few hours, that they had perpetrated crimes as serious as assault with a weapon in their teenage years.

The research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, indicates that the participants came to internalize the stories they were told, providing rich and detailed descriptions of events that never actually took place.

"Our findings show that false memories of committing crime with police contact can be surprisingly easy to generate, and can have all the same kinds of complex details as real memories," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Julia Shaw of the University of Bedfordshire in the UK.

"All participants need to generate a richly detailed false memory is 3 hours in a friendly interview environment, where the interviewer introduces a few wrong details and uses poor memory-retrieval techniques."

Comment: This is a well-known phenomenon that now has been proven in a lab environment. But the ramifications go much further: It also applies to witnesses of crimes, which can be influenced to arrive at testimonies that are entirely fabricated.


Toys

Don't be a helicopter parent! Autonomous tots have higher cognitive skills

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© TheOtherNate
Researchers look at how mothers support their babies' autonomy and the effect on executive functioning.

This news release is available in French.

Higher cognitive skills are found in the children of mothers who are consistently able to support the development of their baby's sense of autonomy, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Montreal. The researchers specifically looked at executive functioning, which refers to a range of cognitive processes that are essential for cognitive, social and psychological functioning. "We have shown that the child's executive functioning is linked to the mother's ability to support his or her autonomy.

Autonomy support includes things such as teaching children problem solving skills and involves taking the child's perspective while ensuring he or she takes an active role in completing tasks," said Célia Matte-Gagné, who led the study. "Importantly, the study shows that it's not just about getting off to a good start. While many studies have confirmed that a mother's support are critical, few have looked at how these skills might change over time and what effect that might have."

Eye 2

Blinded by Darkness: The collective denial of evil and its impact

A therapist advises a woman who's been stalked and harassed by her psychopathic ex-husband to meet him over coffee to address co-parenting. A young woman with severe somatization of trauma is told by her therapist that her psychopathic brother was engaging in sexual "play" when he was raping her vaginally with objects as children. A young man avoids necessary treatment because his perpetrator, his father, is an iconic philanthropist.

Why is the burden of proof on the victim to establish a legitimate case for his/her suffering? Why aren't these victims believed, and why are facilitators of an empirical science denying the psychological reality of evil?

Comment: From Andrew Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology:
If societies and their wise people are able to accept an objective understanding of social and sociopathological phenomena, overcoming the emotionalism and egotism of [assuming we are all capable of good and empathy] for this purpose, they shall find a means of action based on an understanding of the essence of the phenomena (of evil). It will then become evident that a proper vaccine or treatment can be found for each of the diseases scourging the earth in the form of major or minor social epidemics.



Bulb

Got the smarts? IQ helps protect against schizophrenia

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© Gioia De Antonlis
High IQ could protect against schizophrenia amongst those at genetic risk from developing the condition, a new study finds.

The findings are in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that those with high intelligence are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

The largest study of its kind to date found that intelligence actually had a protective effect.

The study's lead author, Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, said:
"If you're really smart, your genes for schizophrenia don't have much of a chance of acting."
Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study was conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden and Virginia Commonwealth University (Kendler et al., 2014).

Comment: For more on schizophrenia, see: Smarts may help, but so can leaving the SAD (standard American diet) behind and going keto!