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Science of the Spirit

Magic Wand

Feeling angry? Say a prayer for another and the wrath fades away

© Unknown
Saying a prayer may help many people feel less angry and behave less aggressively after someone has left them fuming, new research suggests.

A series of studies showed that people who were provoked by insulting comments from a stranger showed less anger and aggression soon afterwards if they prayed for another person in the meantime.

The benefits of prayer identified in this study don't rely on divine intervention: they probably occur because the act of praying changed the way people think about a negative situation, said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.

"People often turn to prayer when they're feeling negative emotions, including anger," he said.

"We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally."

The power of prayer also didn't rely on people being particularly religious, or attending church regularly, Bushman emphasized. Results showed prayer helped calm people regardless of their religious affiliation, or how often they attended church services or prayed in daily life.

Bushman noted that the studies didn't examine whether prayer had any effect on the people who were prayed for. The research focused entirely on those who do the praying.

Magic Wand

Tame Your Stress With Yoga

© n/a
Do you respond to stress with a fiery growl or a cold shoulder? Yoga can transform your reactions, improve your health, and help you embody grace under pressure.

Meet Mark: When something stressful happens, he feels energized. His heart races, his senses heighten - he even feels as though his thoughts speed up. Mark prides himself on his ability to face problems head-on, but he admits that it's becoming difficult to turn this intensity off. Lately he's been feeling more on edge than on top of his game. He's developed headaches and insomnia, and he's beginning to wonder if they're related to stress. He'd like to feel better, but he can't imagine himself changing his full-throttle approach to life. Without stress, how would he ever get anything done?

Mark's wife, Sue, doesn't feel energized by stress - it exhausts her. She feels so depleted by stress that she's begun to cut back on the things that generate the most stress, such as planning big family gatherings. To maintain her composure, she tries to walk away when conflicts arise. She's even considering leaving her challenging job to find something less intense. Sue proudly sees in herself the ability to "just let things go," which she's been cultivating through her yoga practice.

But even though she's simplified her life, she's been feeling depressed. She has a nagging feeling that her attempts to be stress free are getting in the way of fully living her life. Mark and Sue are characters based on real people, and are designed to represent two real responses to stress - one or both of which may seem familiar to you. As Mark and Sue are discovering, stress is inescapable, but it is also paradoxical: While excess stress can take a toll on you, the very things that cause it are often the same things that make life rewarding and full. Take a moment to think about the pressures in your life: family, work, having too much to do. Now imagine a life without those things. Sound ideal? Not likely. Most people don't want an empty life; they want to possess the skills to handle a busy and, yes, even complicated life.


A Little Meditation Goes a Long Way

© technoccult.net
A new study offers the strongest evidence to date that meditation can change the structure of your brain.

I consider myself something of a prospective meditator - meaning that a serious meditation practice is always something I'm about to start... next week.

So for years, I've been making a mental note of new studies showing that meditation can literally change our brain structure in ways that might boost concentration, memory, and positive emotions.

The results seem enticing enough to make anyone drop into the full lotus position - until you read the fine print: Much of this research involves people who have meditated for thousands of hours over many years; some of it zeroes in on Olympic-level meditators who have clocked 10,000 hours or more. Pretty daunting.

Well, a new study offers some hope - and makes the benefits of meditation seem within reach even for a novice like me.


We remember what is meaningful to us: Think you'll ace that test? Think again. Then start studying

© Unknown
We hold many beliefs about memory - for instance, if you study more, you learn more. We are also constantly making judgments about particular instances of learning and remembering - I'll never forget this party! That was easy to understand. I'll ace it on the test.

But do beliefs influence judgments, and how do judgments affect memory performance? "There's a disconnect among beliefs, judgments, and actual memory," says Williams College psychologist Nate Kornell. Ask people to predict how or what they will learn and "in many situations, they do a breathtakingly bad job."

Why? A new study by Kornell - with Matthew G. Rhodes of Colorado State University, Alan D. Castel of University of California/Los Angeles, and Sarah K. Tauber of Kent State University - posits that we make predictions about memory based on how we feel while we're encountering the information to be learned, and that can lead us astray. The study will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


Hunter-Gatherer Societies: Research shows child rearing practices of distant ancestors foster morality, compassion in kids

hunter gatherer
© Unknown
Ever meet a kindergartener who seemed naturally compassionate and cared about others' feelings? Who was cooperative and didn't demand his own way? Chances are, his parents held, carried and cuddled him a lot; he most likely was breastfed; he probably routinely slept with his parents; and he likely was encouraged to play outdoors with other children, according to new research findings from the University of Notre Dame.

Three new studies led by Notre Dame Psychology Professor Darcia Narvaez how a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.

"Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support," says Narvaez, who specializes in the moral and character development of children.

The three studies include an observational study of the practices of parents of three-year-olds, a longitudinal study of how certain child rearing practices relate to child outcomes in a national child abuse prevention project, and a comparison study of parenting practices between mothers in the U.S. and China. The longitudinal study examined data from the research of another Notre Dame psychologist, John Borkowski, who specializes in the impact of child abuse and neglect on development.

Comment: Although this research brings up several valid points, it is important to mention that concepts like breastfeeding and "no spanking" require some clarification:

Extended breastfeeding, for example, perhaps was very beneficial to children back in the days where level of toxicity was low. But today, SOTT editors have a growing feeling of concern, that extended breastfeeding is being promoted among populations that are not aware of mercury and detox diet for the express purpose of toxifying children - of hitting hard another segment of society that Powers That Be see as desirable to destroy: the middle class.

There's a big movement to urge women to engage in prolonged breastfeeding, while Powers That Be know that the milk could include toxic concentrations, and while the well-to-do may only breast feed for 6 to 9 months and have nannies and better food. Meanwhile, the very poor find it cheaper and easier to get formula with WIC.

Ideally, a future mother should detoxify before she gets pregnant. Ideally. At the very least, she should decrease toxicity exposure as much as possible. She can take some nutritional supplementation and modify her diet so that it will be a healthy one. There are detox protocols for children, but for children less than 2 years old, it should be done under a supervision of a health care provider.

Read Diet and Health section of the Cassiopaea forum to educate yourself on the topic.

As for "no spanking", consider the following excerpt from Superluminal Communications dated 22 July 2010:
Q: (L) Alright, what else? There's one question I'd like to ask. There was a discussion on the forum the other day about spanking. And it is my contention that there are some situations where that is the only thing to do, but that it should be very rare. I mean, special situations. Maybe I myself did not follow that model, but there were some instances where that was the only solution. Am I just self-justifying? (Ark) For me it was good. Otherwise probably I would become a criminal. {laughter}

(Andromeda) What if a child is gonna go play in the traffic? Is he gonna take you seriously? I mean, for their protection they need that.

(Ark) I was playing on the railways, and my mother came and saw me and she grabbed my ear and pulled me back home. For a week I couldn't touch my ear!

(Andromeda) That might have saved your life.

(L) Did it keep you off the railroad tracks?

(Ark) Oh yeah.

(L) Would anything else have worked?

(Ark) Um...

(L) If she had told you it was bad to play on the railroad tracks, would you have listened?

(Ark) I knew it!

(L) So it was the fear of consequences that prevented you.

(Ark) You just don't think about it.

(L) So, you think that spanking makes you think about things?

(PoB) It makes you remember.

(Ark) Spanking made me pass a history exam. Otherwise it was another year in the same class.

(L) Alright, so let me ask my question again: Is...

A: Let us ask you: Are there situations in life where asserting yourself physically is appropriate?

Q: (L) Well I would have to say yes. (Andromeda) Definitely. (L) In a world populated by psychopaths, crazy people, bullies, and behaviors that are hurtful and harmful to you and people that you love...

A: Okay, then how will children learn about those situations if they do not have a model of behavior?

Q: (L) Well, I mean a model of behavior seeing an adult stand up to another adult, not an adult to a child.

A: Children can be bullies and manipulators, too!

Q: (Atriedes) In fact that's usually what children who don't get spanked by their parents become: manipulators.

(L) I've never seen a child who didn't have firm limits drawn that were stuck to that did not become completely obnoxious. I've heard people say that they've never spanked their child and little Johnny is oh so wonderful. And they don't know what little Johnny is really like.

(Atriedes) Also think about how society is, how it outlaws any physical reaction between adults in the sense that you don't have a physical recourse anymore. It's against the law to get into a fight. If someone's hurting you, or doing something and taking your stuff, and you resist them, you're in trouble. They're not. So you have no way of enforcing any kind of social order because your hands are tied that way. And that's kind of happened after the whole "don't spank your child" thing. They make all these laws about "no violence" and the world has just gotten more violent. Because, of course, the rules only apply to normal people, not psychopaths, and especially not the psychopaths at the top.

(L) Yeah, it's kind of a thorny issue. So I guess kind of the way we discussed on the forum is how it is.

(Ark) Rare and just.

A: Yes

Q: (Ailén) That's the problem. Most parents don't do it in the right situations or in the right way.

(Atriedes) And there's a difference between abuse and spanking. One's a way to dominate someone else, and the other is a way to enforce structure and rules. If your purpose is to enforce structure and rules, and you are thoughtful about it, then it's not abuse.

(L) It's also about consequences. If you don't learn it at a certain age, you never learn it. It's like the time is gone, and you have to have it put into your physiology at a young age. And I don't say at a really young age. Children younger than three shouldn't be spanked, but only after they're three or four years old, and even then it should be just a smack on the butt or something minor...

(Ark) You can teach a child something, and it will take ten years. And there will be recursion. You spank once, and... (L) And they learn it forever. (Atriedes) The sad thing is that pain is a lot more effective to form memories.

(L) That's true because most of us when we're growing up only understand what someone else is going through if we understand it ourselves. You see someone else cut their finger and you know what it feels like because you cut your finger. It's like a physical thing that you get in your body. Then you do something that hurts somebody else and maybe you're too young to understand intellectually the seriousness of it, but then you get a smack on the butt and you understand in a kind of genetic or physiological way that you did something that hurt somebody else and you got a smack. Later on when you're older it's explained, but you have a foundation on which that explanation can make sense. If you've never had anything physical happen to you as a consequence or repercussion of anything you've ever done, and then all of a sudden when you're ten years old and your cognitive facilities start to kick in and somebody starts explaining things to you, you will not understand. You will not understand what pain or suffering really is because you've never had anything, no consequence.

A: Very close. Remember the woman described in Ponerology as a characteropath?

Q: (L) The one with the brothers where they defended everything she said and everything she did. She never had to have any consequences for anything she ever did. But then wasn't that supposed to be some kind of brain damage?

A: The same can result from indulgence.

Q: (Galaxia) Does being an only child cause some of them to be missing something in their brain because they didn't have any siblings? Do they have brain damage or something?

A: Sometimes, yes. The important thing about discipline for children is activation of brain chemistry mixes at certain windows of imprinting. The human organism is largely a product of evolutionary pressures. To act as if there are no dangers in the environment, to raise a child without exposure to the natural consequences of growing in a hostile environment, is to deprive the child of many systemic cascades of brain activity necessary for proper growth and development.

Q: (Ailén) In other words, no discipline, no activation of a sense of reality.

(L) Yeah, they live in a bubble forever.

Better Earth

Religion may have evolved because of its ability to help people exercise self-control

© Unknown
A study by a University of Miami psychologist reveals that religion facilitates the exercise of self-control and attainment of long-term goals.

Self-control is critical for success in life, and a new study by University of Miami professor of Psychology Michael McCullough finds that religious people have more self-control than do their less religious counterparts. These findings imply that religious people may be better at pursuing and achieving long-term goals that are important to them and their religious groups. This, in turn, might help explain why religious people tend to have lower rates of substance abuse, better school achievement, less delinquency, better health behaviors, less depression, and longer lives.

In this research project, McCullough evaluated 8 decades worth of research on religion, which has been conducted in diverse samples of people from around the world. He found persuasive evidence from a variety of domains within the social sciences, including neuroscience, economics, psychology, and sociology, that religious beliefs and religious behaviors are capable of encouraging people to exercise self-control and to more effectively regulate their emotions and behaviors, so that they can pursue valued goals. The research paper, which summarizes the results of their review of the existing science, will be published in the January 2009 issue of Psychological Bulletin.

Comment: It is clear that throughout the history, religions have been used to perform horrendous atrocities. But it wasn't always this way, or it wasn't their initial intention. There were times, when people followed "The Way". "The Way" referred, in ancient times, to the inner secrets of the Mystery religions which influenced the formation of Gnosticism and some forms of early Christianity. These were groups of individuals who worked to know themselves, to master their emotions, who aspired to higher thought and Truth as the ultimate ideals; Plato was a follower of "The Way." Some of these mystery religions were co-opted by psychopaths and turned into wild frenzies such as the religions that worshiped Bacchus and Dionysus leading to some pretty awful stuff. People, who were part of these religions fell into confluence with ponerized elements, since psychopaths have an insidious and corrupting influence on the minds of normal humanity, dulling their ability to think and feel in humane categories.

Fellowship of the Cosmic Mind Statement of Principles has the following to say about the process of Ponerogenesis:
We recognize that the inability to recognize pathological forms of behavior, and thus pathology itself, within one's social milieu is the First Criterion of Ponerogenesis. When groups base their understanding of Evil on unfounded and simplistic beliefs, as are propagated by the vast majority of religious organizations, they risk being used as tools by the very Evil they claim to oppose. In such a dynamic, the aforementioned lack of discernment works in conjunction with human moral failings, and it is common to see religious groups denouncing the "Evil" of others, whether homosexuals or people of different ethnicities or religious, while ignoring the deplorable behavior of their own members, and even engaging in pathological behavior themselves. As such, we repudiate the notions that a "statement of faith" absolves one of the "sins".

Psychopaths cannot change their nature, nor should they, and yet the mere declaration of being a "good Christian" or "born again", for example, is often taken to be sufficient grounds for the inclusion in religious groups, and denial of the psychopath's true nature. PaleoChristianity has thus always taken efforts to protect against the inclusion of psychopaths within their midst by refusing their access to positions of influence within the group. The first reaction of those who would destroy fairness and justice to such exclusion is of course the cry that such groups are "unfair" and "unjust". We repudiate such interpretations, asking instead, is it "fair" to allow the fox to enter the hen-house or the wolf to guard the sheep?


Functional Families, Dysfunctional Brains: If Murderer's Upbringing Provides Few Clues, Brain Dysfunction May Explain The Crime

© Unknown
Dysfunctional brains -- not dysfunctional families -- may explain some murders, especially when the murderer comes from a "good" home, according to research published in the current issue of the journal Neuropsychiatry, Neuropsychology and Behavioral Neurology. "If you're antisocial but you come from a good home, the reasons for your violent behavior may have more to do with biology than your upbringing," says University of Southern California psychophysiologist Adrian Raine, Ph.D., the article's lead author.

Murderers from relatively benign backgrounds are more likely to have reduced activity in two key brain areas than murderers from homes wracked by conflict, deprivation and abuse, Dr. Raine reports. Raine directed a study in which scientists from USC and the University of California at Irvine used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan the brains of 38 men and women charged with murder. Some of the subjects had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, while the rest had been found incompetent to stand trial. PET scans measure the uptake of blood sugar (glucose) in various brain areas during the performance of simple, repetitive tasks. (Glucose is the basic fuel that powers most cell functions. The amount used is related to the amount of cell activity.)

Comment: There is one main flaw in this article, and it's that it talks primarily about individuals who performed acts of physical violence, while there are scores of those who go through life, while leaving a trail of destruction behind them. They are fearless, shameless, without insight or conscience. They are called psychopaths.

From Robert Hare's 'Without Conscience':
Several years ago two graduate students and I submitted a paper to a scientific journal. The paper described an experiment in which we had used a biomedical recorder to monitor electrical activity in the brains of several groups of adult men while they performed a language task. This activity was traced on chart paper as a series of waves, referred to as an electroencephalogram (EEG). The editor returned our paper with his apologies. His reason, he told us: 'Frankly, we found some of the brain wave patterns depicted in the paper very odd. Those EEGs couldn't have come from real people."

Some of the brain wave recordings were indeed odd, but we hadn't gathered them from aliens and we certainly hadn't made them up. We had obtained them from a class of individuals found in every race, culture, society, and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming - but always deadly - individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person's expense. Many spend time in prision, but many do not. All take more than they give.
To read and participate in a discussion on psychopaths go to 'Important Notes on Psychopathy' from the SOTT forum.


Why Preschool Shouldn't Be Like School

New research shows that teaching kids more and more, at ever-younger ages, may backfire.

Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents instruct their children more and more, at younger and younger ages, until they're reading books to babies in the womb. They pressure teachers to make kindergartens and nurseries more like schools. So does the law - the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act explicitly urged more direct instruction in federally funded preschools.

There are skeptics, of course, including some parents, many preschool teachers, and even a few policy-makers. Shouldn't very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover, they ask? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity - abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run?

Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognition - one from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley - suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution.


Want more zest for life? Consider gardening!

© Tina Marie (Waliczek) Cade
Researchers at Texas A&M and Texas State found that gardening contributes to increased life satisfaction in older adults.
Older adult gardeners report enhanced optimism, more physical activity, higher energy levels than nongardeners.

Does gardening contribute to quality of life and increased wellness for older adults? Researchers from the Texas A&M and Texas State Universities asked these questions in a survey of people aged 50 and older. The survey revealed some compelling reasons for older adults to get themselves out in the garden.

Aime Sommerfeld, Jayne Zajicek, and Tina Waliczek designed a questionnaire to investigate older adult gardeners' and nongardeners' perceptions of personal life satisfaction and levels of physical activity. According to Sommerfeld, lead author of the study published in HortTechnology: "The primary focus of the study was to determine if gardening had a positive impact on perceptions of quality of life and levels of physical activity of older adults when compared with nongardeners".

A 2007 Administration on Aging report titled A Profile of Older Americans noted that one in every eight Americans is considered an "older adult" (65+ years). The older adult population is at greater risk for disease as a result of decreased levels of exercise and poor dietary and/or lifestyle choices; a combination of moderate physical activity and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables has been reported to dramatically reduce an adult's risk for many chronic diseases. "Gardening is one of the most popular home-based leisure activities in the United States and has been reported as the second most common leisure activity, after walking, of adults older than age 65 years", the researchers noted.


Courage of the Fukushima fifty: This is suicide, admit workers trying to avert a catastrophe

  • Nuclear workers accept their fate 'like a death sentence'
  • Fears for their health as one expert says it is 'perhaps a suicide mission'
  • Radiation levels rise in Japan as crisis continues
  • Power will be connected to knocked-out coolant pumping system 'within hours'
  • Radioactive steam still billows from reactors and fuel storage pools after helicopter missions
  • Police water cannons move in to spray overheating fuel rods
  • Radioactive plume to hit U.S. west coast tomorrow
  • 17,000 British nationals could be evacuated as last-ditch efforts are made to stop nuclear catastrophe
  • Foreign Office provides free-of-charge rescue flights from Tokyo
  • FO's new 'worst case scenario' says radiation in capital could harm humans
Poignant messages sent home by the workers trying to prevent full-scale nuclear catastrophe at Japan's stricken nuclear plant reveal that they know they are on a suicide mission.

One of the 'Fukushima Fifty' said they were stoically accepting their fate 'like a death sentence'.

Another, having absorbed a near-lethal dose of radiation, told his wife: 'Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.'
© Reuters
Dangerous work: officials wearing protective clothing and respirators head towards the Fukushima nuclear plant