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Fri, 28 Oct 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


New study suggests that religious people have less understanding of the world

© Getty Images
The researchers compared believers in God to people with autism, saying both struggle to distinguish between the physical and the mental.
Religious people are more likely to have a poorer understanding of the world and are more likely to believe objects like rocks and paper have human qualities, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki compared believers in God or the paranormal to people with autism after finding they tend to struggle to understand the realities of the world around us.

Comment: Right there they have conflated two distinct things and thus potentially corrupted their results. Religion and paranormal phenomena are not equivalent. An uneducated "believer" doesn't really compare to an unreligious parapsychologist with academic degrees, for example. What was the overlap between these two groups? Where there some who believed in the paranormal but not God? Vice versa? How did their results compare?

Religious beliefs were linked with a weaker ability to understand physical and biological phenomenon such as volcanoes, flowers, rocks and wind without giving them human qualities.

Believers were more likely to think that inanimate objects such as metal, oil, clothes and paper can think and feel, and agree with statements such as "Stones sense the cold".

Comment: Funnily enough, that's probably closer to a philosophically sound way of looking at the universe. Stones may not 'think' as humans do, but it's a valid hypothesis that every 'thing', from subatomic particles to humans, 'senses' in some way. Panpsychism trumps materialism any day of the week.

Comment: Despite the overly materialistic view of the researchers (even quantum physics can seem a little mystical) the brains of religious people have been found to work 'differently'.


'Train your brain': Forget apps, learn to play a musical instrument

© Sophie Wolfson
'Music probably does something unique. It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.’
The multimillion dollar brain training industry is under attack. In October 2014, a group of over 100 eminent neuroscientists and psychologists wrote an open letter warning that "claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading".

Earlier this year, industry giant Lumosity was fined $2m, and ordered to refund thousands of customers who were duped by false claims that the company's products improve general mental abilities and slow the progression of age-related decline in mental abilities. And a recent review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of such products found "little evidence ... that training improves everyday cognitive performance".

While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older. One of these is musical training. Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument is beneficial for children and adults alike, and may even be helpful to patients recovering from brain injuries.

Comment: See also: Musical training accelerates children's cognitive, social and emotional development


Viewing selfies linked to lower self-esteem

© Lindsey De Laet CC BY
Frequent viewing of selfies through social network sites like Facebook is linked to a decrease in self-esteem and life satisfaction, report Penn State researchers.

Ruoxu Wang, graduate student in mass communications, said:
"Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we're now starting to look at the effect of viewing behavior."
Viewing behavior is also called "lurking". That is when a person does not participate in posting or liking social content, but is just an observer.

This form of participation in social media may sound like it should have little effect on how humans view themselves, but the study revealed the exact opposite.

Comment: Men who take more selfies have higher than average narcissistic, psychopathic traits - study

Blue Planet

Taking responsibility for LIFE

How many times have you felt like a hapless onlooker in a world seemingly gone insane?

How many times have you wondered how things ever managed to get into the unprecedented mess they are in today?

How many times have you longed to escape this crazy turmoil?

I'm confident to predict that the answer is 'many'.

But reflect on this: there must be thousands, if not millions and quite possibly billions, who feel exactly the same way. Let us assume the possibility that the majority of those living on this planet have had such thoughts from time to time. What does this tell us?

It tells us that we see our lives and what goes on 'out there', as two separate realities. It suggests that we feel largely removed and alienated from the goings-on of the planet, regardless of the fact that we live off its (unequally) shared resources.

Now the trouble with all this is that, in truth, we are actually a part of the problem we see as separate from ourselves. We are part of the reason there is such a mess 'out there' in the first place.


Over time lies may desensitise brain to dishonesty

© malerapaso/Getty Images
The study suggests that telling small, insignificant lies desensitises the brain to dishonesty, meaning that lying gradually feels more comfortable over time.
American fraudster Frank Abagnale, played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Catch Me If You Can, started out swindling his father out of small change for date money and ended up impersonating an airline pilot, despite the admission that he "couldn't fly a kite".

Now scientists have uncovered an explanation for why telling a few porkies has the tendency to spiral out of control. The study suggests that telling small, insignificant lies desensitises the brain to dishonesty, meaning that lying gradually feels more comfortable over time.

Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London and senior author, said: "Whether it's evading tax, infidelity, doping in sports, making up data in science or financial fraud, deceivers often recall how small acts of dishonesty snowballed over time and they suddenly found themselves committing quite large crimes."

Sharot and colleagues suspected that this phenomenon was due to changes in the brain's response to lying, rather than simply being a case of one lie necessitating another to maintain a story.

In the study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, 80 volunteers played a game in which they estimated the value of pennies in a jar and sent their guess to an unseen partner. Sometimes participants were told they would secretly benefit at their partner's expense if they overestimated the cash in the jar, incentivising them to lie.

Neil Garrett, also of UCL and a co-author, said: "We knew by how many British pounds they lied on each trial. The amount by which participants lied got larger and larger."

At first, volunteers tended to alter the jar's value by around £1, but this typically ramped up to about £8 by the end of the session.

Comment: For more on how being dishonest and lying can affect your brain, here are a few links that adds more to the picture.


Dr. Kelly Brogan: Depression is the medicine

"Tears are a river that take you somewhere. Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life. Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace new, someplace better." - Clarissa Pinkola Estés
What if depression is an almost essential part of the process of awakening to yourself, to your wildness?

Understand me when I tell you, depression is a gift. Thank yourself and your body for sending you the message rather than complacently agreeing to make room for toxicity.

Comment: Depression is not all in your head


Slippery slope: Telling small lies desensitizes your brain to self-serving dishonesty

Telling small lies desensitises your brain to the associated negative emotions and may encourage you to tell bigger lies in the future, suggests new research at University College London.

The research provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and shows how this happens in our brains.

The team scanned volunteers' brains while they took part in tasks where they could lie for personal gain. They found that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with emotion, was most active when people first lied for personal gain. The amygdala's response to lying declined with every lie while the magnitude of the lies escalated.

Comment: To read more about how lying can affect the brain.

Magic Wand

Reshaping your brain with meditation

There are many forms of meditation but all promote the quieting or calming of the mind. Meditation can be deeply personal and may be done whilst you are gardening, walking or going about your daily life. Likewise, there are many different practices that focus on different aspects of mediation. For example, yoga practices encourage focussing on the breath, guided meditation takes you through a step by step process verbally, creative visualization takes you on a guided journey. Additionally, techniques from Buddhist monk's meditation practices have been adapted to mindfulness meditation and are becoming widely accepted in today's society.

Mindfulness meditation can be a way of life and more than a quiet moment each day. The surging popularity of mindfulness meditation in today's global society has initiated a number of recent scientific investigations and reports, with the scientific benefits for holistic well-being now widely researched and publicized.


Overcoming self-centeredness leads to increased self-control

The mechanism for overcoming egocentricity also leads to increased self-control, new research shows. The finding opens up new possibilities for therapeutic interventions.

Should I buy a new car now or save the money for retirement? Such situations require self-control in order to resist the immediately tempting offer for the sake of more important outcomes in the future.

It is widely accepted that self-control is regulated by mechanisms in the brain area called the prefrontal cortex, with the ability to keep oneself at bay when tempted by immediately appealing offers. This study, from a team at the Department of Economics University of Zurich and the University of Dusseldorf, shows that a second mechanism is also important for self-control.

Comment: See also:

People 2

Road rage affects women more than men; Female drivers lose their cool faster than males, claims study

A new study suggests that road rage affects women more than men, and that females are far more likely to lose their cool behind the wheel.

A new study suggests that road rage affects women more than men, and that females are far more likely to lose their cool behind the wheel.

The researchers suggest that women have an instinctive 'early warning system' which dates back to our early female ancestors who had a sense of danger for threats.

But this finding contradicts previous studies, which shows that men are predominantly affected by road rage.

Comment: Stress and anger are a real part of daily life. If you'd like to gain more emotional balance, then take a few minutes to visit our website: eiriu-eolas.org. There you will find our free breathing and meditation program scientifically designed to reduce stress and process past emotional trauma.
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