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Tue, 07 Feb 2023
The World for People who Think

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Our Brains Have Multiple Mechanisms for Learning

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© ZME Science
One of the most important things humans do is learning this kind of pattern: when A happens, B follows. A new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, examines how people learn, and finds that they use different mental processes in different situations.

"There's a long history in the field of psychology of two different approaches to thinking about how we learn," says James McClelland of Stanford University, who cowrote the paper with graduate student Daniel Sternberg. One is learning by association; Pavlov's dog learned to associate food with the sound of a bell. "You learn things because they occur together in time," McClelland says. In the brain, this probably happens when the neurons that are associated with food and the sound of the bell form a connection.

But there's another way to learn, too, McClelland says. "If you go into a restaurant, eat two different foods, and get sick, you don't know which one it was. It could have been the peanut sauce or the shrimp. If you go out the next day and eat shrimp and don't get sick, you learn, aha, it's the peanuts that make you sick. But you're using an explicit reasoning process there." The experience with the shrimp indirectly influenced what you know about the peanuts.

Bug

Do You Have an "ANT" Infestation? How to Deal with Automatic Negative Thoughts

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How do you deal with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs?

Are you aware of your self-talk and thinking patterns?

Many people suffer from an ANT infestation, which stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. Our self-talk is often automatic and can be difficult to notice. We go through life making decisions and behaving based on these automatic thoughts, and instead of controlling what we think about, our thoughts control us.

The thoughts than run our life are often self-defeating, irrational, and simply not true. Negative self-talk leads us to believe we must be perfect, that we're helpless, or that we're a victim. If we're not careful negative self-talk will lead to anxiety, worry, and depression.

You can learn to identify your ANTs and begin to separate and rationalize your negative thoughts before reacting to them.

Comment: There is one proven technique that can assist you with reducing your stress, calming and focusing your mind, creating better links between body and mind and thus improving quality of life, increasing sense of connection with others in your community. It will help you to have improved overall health, a stronger immune system, better impulse control, reduced inflammation, etc. It will also help you to heal emotional wounds; anything that may hinder or prevent you from leading a healthy and fulfilling life.


Butterfly

Compassion and the Shadow

We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. He is the great danger. And we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man ... far too little. His psyche should be studied -- because we are the origin of all coming evil." --C.G. Jung

"Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species." --The Dalai Lama
compassion
Humans are wired for empathy, love and cooperation. Because we are psychological animals, however, one recurring factor undermines many of our actions. Our "shadow," as C.G. Jung called the repressed (hidden and often projected) aspect of the personality, tends to assume a life of its own because it is composed of the parts of myself I don't acknowledge and therefore can't integrate into my conscious life. What makes this shadow even more problematic is that it isn't only an individual matter. Our shadows can fuse together, as often happens in wartime, for example, when the enemy comes to symbolize everything evil and despicable about our human nature.

Cognitive neuroscience has discovered that the human brain possesses mirror neurons that automatically enable us to share and enact the experiences of others. Looking at someone else eat a juicy piece of fruit on a hot day, I "virtually" experience those flavours and textures, as well as the refreshment of the person eating it. Looking at television footage of tsunami survivors stirs a deep emotional identification with their devastated choices. Mirror neurons are one of the main drivers of empathy, an automated response over which we have limited control. We may choose or fail to act on empathy, but except for a small percentage of us -- those we call psychopaths -- nobody is immune to another's situation. It has even been suggested that mirror neurons may save the human species because they might inspire an emerging pattern of compassionate response to the on-going global cascade of extreme weather disasters, high-tech accidents and geophysical events such as earthquakes.

Comment: Empathy and compassion result from the inter-communication of neurons, hormones, and organs of the viscera with the brain. The breathing and meditation program, Eiriu Eolas, helps strengthen those connections and improves our capacity for compassion and empathy - among a long list of health benefits.


Bad Guys

United State of Narcissism

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© Caravaggio
Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.
Imagine a person who does what he wants, regardless of how it affects other people. He refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes, and he believes he's unbeatable at anything he undertakes, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Sounds like a textbook narcissist, right? Well, these days, it also sounds a lot like the United States.

Narcissism is on the rise in the US. It's likely to get worse before it gets better, and the economic consequences will likely be severe. Americans today are happy to spend rather than sacrifice, leaving future generations with the bill instead of accepting higher taxes themselves. They choose to keep bathing in a sea of cheap credit rather than cracking down on the practices and institutions that led to the financial crisis. And all along, they insist that their economic system is the best even while neglecting future investments in the very things that make a productive society: education, infrastructure, and scientific research.

So how did this happen? In their book, The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean M Twenge and W Keith Campbell find the origins of self-obsession in the 1960s, when people began to cast off societal constraints and expectations in favour of exploring their own human potential. This movement did not begin with a purely narcissistic slant, yet by the 1970s it had morphed into self-admiration, self-expression, and self-absorption. In the 1980s those qualities gave way to self-centredness and self-indulgence, and it was all downhill from there.

Family

How to Talk to Little Girls

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© Unknown
I went to a dinner party at a friend's home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, "Maya, you're so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!"

But I didn't. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

What's wrong with that? It's our culture's standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn't it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.

Hold that thought for just a moment.

This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they'd rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.

Info

Is Google Messing with Your Mind? Search Alters Memory Patterns

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© Simon Cataudo
Search engines are making people more likely to rely on computers to “remember” things for them, computers and online search engines have become a kind of external memory system that can be accessed at will -- and that human memory is adapting to it.
Whether the Internet is making us smarter or stupider may be up for debate, but new research shows that search engines are changing the way we learn and remember things.

People are using the Internet as an external "expert" to be accessed at will. This phenomenon, called transactive memory, isn't new; it's been around as long as humans have communicated. We've always relied on experts within our group (which used to be other humans) and, with the invention of the printing press, stored information in books. In those cases, we had to remember only who or what held the information.

"We've always had these people that know things. For example if I want to know about baseball I'd ask my husband," said study researcher Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University. "The Internet is no different, there is just so much more information."

Sparrow's research showed how this link to the Internet means we're more likely to forget the actual information but remember where we can find it. So while this reliance on "the cloud" may make us stupider in some sense, it leaves us with more knowledge at our fingertips.

Another scientist suggests the Internet is hurting humans' social intelligence - their ability to interact face to face.

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Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter?

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© iStockphoto
Don't trade in your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.

A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.

Children who don't learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.

Writing is more complicated because it integrates the following three brain processes:
Visual: Seeing what is on the paper in front of you.
Motor: Using your fine motor skills to actually put the pen to paper and form the letters to make the words.
Cognitive: Remembering the shapes of the letters requires a different type of feedback from the brain.
As adults, we know that writing by hand is a much slower process than typing on a keyboard. And we're all in a hurry to share our every thought with our social networking worlds. But, as an experiment, sit down and write a letter. See how different it feels to actually hold the pen and to have to plan out your thoughts. It'll be good for your brain. Handwriting may be slower, and there is no spell check, but this is precisely why picking up a pen and writing your thoughts down on paper may actually help you exercise your brain.

Heart

Researchers explore the source of empathy in the brain

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© Unknown
Your brain works hard to help understand your fellow person - no matter how different they may be.

According to a new study from USC, even failing to possess a full complement of limbs will not stop your brain from understanding what it is like for someone else to experience pain in one of them. It may, however, change the way your brain does so.

In a paper published online by Cerebral Cortex, USC researcher Lisa Aziz-Zadeh furthered her ongoing work in mapping out the way the brain generates empathy, even for those who differ physically from themselves.

According to Aziz-Zadeh's findings, empathy for someone to whom you can directly relate - or example, because they are experiencing pain in a limb that you possess - is mostly generated by the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. However, empathy for someone to whom you cannot directly relate relies more on the rationalizing part of the brain.

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Meditation Keeps Your Brain Healthy

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© iStockphoto
A study has suggested that people who meditate also have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy.

Having stronger connections influences the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. And significantly, these effects are evident throughout the entire brain, not just in specific areas.

Eileen Luders, a visiting assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, and colleagues found that the differences between meditators and controls are not confined to a particular core region of the brain but involve large-scale networks that include the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes and the anterior corpus callosum, as well as limbic structures and the brain stem.

"Our results suggest that long-term meditators have white-matter fibers that are either more numerous, more dense or more insulated throughout the brain," said Luders.

"We also found that the normal age-related decline of white-matter tissue is considerably reduced in active meditation practitioners," added Luders.

Bulb

Spellbinding as a key to success in the world governed by psychopaths: Research reveals dynamics behind magical thinking and charismatic leadership

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© Unknown
Study depicts how charisma can emerge from the psychology of followers.

Research by Columbia Business School's Michael Morris, Chavkin-Chang Professor of Leadership; Maia Young, assistant professor of Human Resources and Organization Behavior, UCLA Anderson School of Management and Vicki Scherwin, Assistant Professor, Management and Human Resources Management, California State University, Long Beach, suggests that we attribute certain leaders to be charismatic through "magical thinking". The paper, recently published in the Journal of Management, reveals how this deep-seated process in human cognition is involved in the attribution of charisma.

The researchers wanted to explore why some managers become hailed as charismatic, visionary leaders, with consequences for employees' attitudes and actions toward them. A well-known example of this phenomenon is Steve Jobs; his mystique as a charismatic visionary has been earned in part by his spellbinding presentations of Apple products. Would audiences be as wowed by his informal, spontaneous pitches if they observed the ten hours of practice Jobs commits to every ten minute pitch? Would knowing his method make him seem less magical?

Comment: Read the following excerpt from Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes by Andrew M. Lobaczewski, to understand the nature of spellbinders and what role they play in the genesis of macrosocial Evil:
In order to comprehend ponerogenic paths, especially those acting in a wider social context, let us observe the roles and personalities of individuals we shall call "spellbinders" who are highly active in this area in spite of their statistically negligible number. They are generally the carriers of various pathological factors, some characteropathies, and some inherited anomalies....

Spellbinders are characterized by pathological egotism. Such a person is forced by some internal causes to make an early choice between two possibilities: the first is forcing other people to think and experience things in a manner similar to his own; the second is a feeling of being lonely and different, a pathological misfit in social life. Sometimes the choice is either snake-charming or suicide.

Triumphant repression of self-critical or unpleasant concepts from the field of consciousness gradually gives rise to the phenomena of conversion thinking, or paralogistics, paramoralisms, and the use of reversion blockades. They stream so profusely from the mind and mouth of the spellbinder that they flood the average person's mind. Everything becomes subordinated to the spellbinder's over-compensatory conviction that they are exceptional, sometimes even messianic. An ideology emerges from this conviction, true in part, whose value is supposedly superior. However, if we analyze the exact functions of such an ideology in the spellbinder's personality, we perceive that it is a nothing other than a means of self-charming, useful for repressing those tormenting self-critical associations into the subconscious. The ideology's instrumental role in influencing other people also serves the spellbinder's needs.

The spellbinder places on a high moral plane anyone who has succumbed to his influence and incorporated the experiential method he imposes. He showers such people with attention and property, if possible. Critics are met with "moral" outrage. It can even be proclaimed that the compliant minority is in fact the moral majority, since it professes the best ideology and honors a leader whose qualities are above average.

Such an individual fishes an environment or society for people amenable to his influence, deepening their psychological weaknesses until they finally join together in a ponerogenic union. On the other hand, people who have maintained their healthy critical faculties intact, based upon their own common sense and moral criteria, attempt to counteract the spellbinders' activities and their results. In the resulting polarization of social attitudes, each side justifies itself by means of moral categories. That is why such commonsense resistance is always accompanied by some feeling of helplessness and deficiency of criteria.

The awareness that a spellbinder is always a pathological individual should protect us from the known results of a moralizing interpretation of pathological phenomena, ensuring us an objective criteria for more effective action. Explaining what kind of pathological substratum is hidden behind a given instance of spellbinding activities should enable a modern solution to such situations. ...

Doubletalk is only one of many symptoms. Others are the specific facility for producing new names which have suggestive effects and are accepted virtually uncritically, in particular outside the immediate scope of such a system's rule. We must thus point out the paramoralistic character and paranoidal qualities frequently contained within these names. The action of paralogisms and paramoralisms in this deformed ideology becomes comprehensible to us based on the information presented in Chapter IV. Anything which threatens pathocratic rule becomes deeply immoral. ...

Whenever a society contains serious social problems, there will also be some group of sensible people striving to improve the social situation by means of energetic reforms, so as to eliminate the cause of social tension. Others consider it their duty to bring about a moral rejuvenation of society.

Elimination of social injustice and reconstruction of the country's morals and civilization could deprive a pathocracy of any chance to take over. Such reformers and moralists must therefore be consistently neutralized by means of liberal or conservative positions and appropriately suggestive catchwords and paramoralisms; if necessary, the best among them has to be murdered. ...

Protecting one's mind from the effects of paralogistic propaganda, as well as one's personality from the influence of paramoralisms and the other techniques already described, sharpens controlled thinking processes and the ability to discern these phenomena. Such training is also a special kind of common man's university.