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Wed, 22 Jan 2020
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Yoda

Journal's Paper on ESP Expected to Prompt Outrage

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© unknown
One of psychology's most respected journals has agreed to publish a paper presenting what its author describes as strong evidence for extrasensory perception, the ability to sense future events.

The decision may delight believers in so-called paranormal events, but it is already mortifying scientists. Advance copies of the paper, to be published this year in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, have circulated widely among psychological researchers in recent weeks and have generated a mixture of amusement and scorn.

The paper describes nine unusual lab experiments performed over the past decade by its author, Daryl J. Bem, an emeritus professor at Cornell, testing the ability of college students to accurately sense random events, like whether a computer program will flash a photograph on the left or right side of its screen. The studies include more than 1,000 subjects.

Pills

Newer Antipsychotic Drugs Are Overused

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© unknown
Many people taking powerful psychiatric medications that increase their risk of weight gain and diabetes are prescribed those drugs when there's little evidence that they will get any benefit from them, a new study shows.

What's more, experts say that even when these drugs, which are known as atypical antipsychotics, are prescribed as recommended, they may not be safer or more effective than the less expensive, older medications that they've apparently replaced.

"Atypical agents were once thought to be safer and possibly more effective," says study researcher G. Caleb Alexander, MD, an assistant professor in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago Hospitals. "And what we've learned over time is that they are not safer, and in the settings where there's the best scientific evidence, they are no more effective."

Blackbox

Tears in Her Eyes: A Turnoff for Guys?

Men rarely jump at the chance to catch the latest tear-jerker with their wives or girlfriends, although some grudgingly oblige. And there might be a biological reason for their hesitation.

New research suggests that women's tears emit chemical signals that turn men off.

After sniffing odorless tears from women who cried during a sad movie, men in a study were less attracted to the opposite sex and less sexually aroused, as assessed by self-reports, physiological measurements and neuroimaging tests, than men who sniffed saltwater. Their testosterone levels also sank, according to the study, published in Science Express.

The authors, led by Noam Sobel, associate professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, suggested that this tear-borne "chemosignal" represents a novel, functional role for crying.

Shedding tears has long been considered a form of human communication. Babies, who can't ask for food, cry when they're hungry. And even among speaking adults, tears can provoke empathy and sympathy. But whether emotional tears themselves serve a function has long been a mystery.

Gear

The Uncomfortable Truth About Mind Control: Is Free Will Simply a Myth?

Hitler 1938
© Getty Images
Hitler addressing the Hitler Youth in 1938
In the Sixties, a groundbreaking series of experiments found that 65 per cent of us would kill if ordered to do so.

We have vain brains; we see ourselves as better than we really are. We like to think that we exercise free will, that put into a situation where we were challenged to do something we thought unacceptable then we'd refuse. But, if you believe that, then you are probably deluded.

I make this claim, based partly on the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram devised and carried out ingenious experiments that exposed the frailty and self-delusion that are central to our lives. He showed how easy it is to make ordinary people do terrible things, that "evil" often happens for the most mundane of reasons.

I first read about Milgram's work when I was a banker in the Seventies, working in the City. I was so fascinated by his ideas that I re-trained as a doctor, with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist. Instead I became a science journalist. Recently I got the chance to make The Brain: A Secret History, a television series which reveals how much we have learnt about ourselves through the work of some of the 20th century's most influential, and deeply flawed, psychologists.

In the course of making the series we found rare archive and first-hand accounts of the many inventive and sometimes sinister ways in which experimental psychology has been used to probe, tease, control and manipulate human behaviour. High on the list of psychologists I wanted to learn more about was Stanley Milgram.

The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Milgram struggled to understand how it was that German soldiers in the Second World War were persuaded to take part in barbaric acts, such as the Holocaust. As he once wrote: "How is possible, I ask myself, that ordinary people who are courteous and decent in everyday life could act callously, inhumanely, without any limitations of conscience."

Milgram was working as an assistant professor at Yale University in 1960 when he dreamt up an experiment that would try to answer that question. It was beautifully designed to reveal uncomfortable truths about human nature. Milgram described the moment he had the idea as "incandescent".

Cult

Exclusive: Discovery, Catholic Church Team for Exorcism Series

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Max von Sydow as the priest in the 1973 film The Exorcist.
Discovery Channel is teaming with the Vatican for an unprecedented new series hunting the deadliest catch of all: Demons.

The Exorcist Files will recreate stories of real-life hauntings and demonic possession, based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church. The project includes access into the Vatican's case files, as well as interviews with the organization's top exorcists - religious experts who are rarely seen on television.

"The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we're not going to try to tell people what to think," says Discovery president and GM Clark Bunting.

Bunting says the investigators believe a demon can inhabit an inanimate object (like a home) or a person. The network executive says he was initially skeptical when first meeting the team but was won over after more than three hours of talks.

Butterfly

D.C. Wants to Teach Juvenile Delinquents Yoga, Tai-Chi

The District's troubled juvenile justice agency is looking for a yoga teacher, or maybe a tai-chi instructor, to work with some of the city's most dangerous youths. The idea for the new Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services programming comes from interim deputy director Barry Holman. Late last month, Holman e-mailed the agency's staff to see if they have "hidden talents that might be tapped to further our work with the young people in our care." In the e-mail obtained by The Washington Examiner, Holman said his primary interest was in finding among the staff an instructor certified in yoga, tai-chi, or another "mind-body connection discipline."

Heart - Black

The empathy gap in bullying

bullying

Research has shown that students involved in bullying experience more mental health difficulties and display higher levels of cognitive distortions.
Taunted, harassed and pushed to a deadly breaking point. Last year, stories of teen bullying brought to life the heartbreaking consequences of young lives cut short by ruthless and unchecked behavior. Recent media coverage of these violent acts has heightened the awareness of the deadly consequences of bullying, but has done little to stop it from happening.

According to a new Kellogg School study, people fail to understand the consequences of the social trauma experienced by victims of bullying, teasing and ostracism. This "empathy gap" can be devastating because it means victims often do not get the support, intervention or advocacy they need.

"Everyone knows that social trauma is unpleasant, but people are often blind to the full severity of these experiences and therefore don't do enough to protect or intervene when victims suffer," said study leader Loran Nordgren, assistant professor of management and organizations. "News stories in recent months centered around bully victims who took their own lives out of desperation and fear, whether harassed physically in school, or emotionally via text message, online or through social networks. Only by having a heightened sense of empathy to victims' true suffering can we begin to pave the way for reform and new policies."

Bulb

Gesturing While Talking Helps Change Your Thoughts

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© Unknown
Sometimes it's almost impossible to talk without using your hands. These gestures seem to be important to how we think. They provide a visual clue to our thoughts and, a new theory suggests, may even change our thoughts by grounding them in action.

University of Chicago psychological scientists Sian Beilock and Susan Goldin-Meadow are bringing together two lines of research: Beilock's work on how action affects thought and Goldin-Meadow's work on gesture. After a chat at a conference instigated by Ed Diener, the founding editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science, they designed a study together to look at how gesture affects thought.

For the study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, Beilock and Goldin-Meadow had volunteers solve a problem known as the Tower of Hanoi. It's a game in which you have to move stacked disks from one peg to another. After they finished, the volunteers were taken into another room and asked to explain how they did it. (This is virtually impossible to explain without using your hands.) Then the volunteers tried the task again. But there was a trick: For some people, the weight of the disks had secretly changed, such that the smallest disk, which used to be light enough to move with one hand, now needed two hands.

Book

When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease

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Physician Gabor Maté argues too many doctors ignore what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are implicated in the development of illnesses and in their healing.

Editor's note: the following is an interview with Canadian physician and bestselling author Gabor Mate, on the relationship between emotions and the body.

Dr. Maté came on Democracy Now! this year to discuss his book When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection. Based on medical studies and his own experience with chronically ill patients at the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital, where he was the medical coordinator for seven years, Dr. Maté argues that stress and individual emotional makeup play critical roles in an array of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Speaking to us this time from Vancouver - it was actually during the Vancouver Olympics - Dr. Maté began by explaining his analysis of the mind-body connection.

Heart - Black

Mark Twain: The War Prayer

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spreads of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.


It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came - next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their faces alight with material dreams - visions of a stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! - then home from the war, bronzed heros, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation - "God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!"