Welcome to Sott.net
Tue, 01 Dec 2020
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Moral Outrage is Actually Self-Serving, NOT Altruistic, Say Psychologists

Perpetually raging about the world's injustices? You're probably overcompensating
black lives matter

It makes you *look* like you care, but really, you only care about yourself and your more immediate in-group
When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don't affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism — a "disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others." But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern — what social scientists refer to as "moral outrage" — is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one's own status as a Very Good Person.

Outrage expressed "on behalf of the victim of [a perceived] moral violation" is often thought of as "a prosocial emotion" rooted in "a desire to restore justice by fighting on behalf of the victimized," explain Bowdoin psychology professor Zachary Rothschild and University of Southern Mississippi psychology professor Lucas A. Keefer in the latest edition of Motivation and Emotion. Yet this conventional construction — moral outrage as the purview of the especially righteous — is "called into question" by research on guilt, they say.
Feelings of guilt are a direct threat to one's sense that they are a moral person and, accordingly, research on guilt finds that this emotion elicits strategies aimed at alleviating guilt that do not always involve undoing one's actions. Furthermore, research shows that individuals respond to reminders of their group's moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing. These findings suggest that feelings of moral outrage, long thought to be grounded solely in concerns with maintaining justice, may sometimes reflect efforts to maintain a moral identity.

Comment: This is why conservatives, who tend to have more moral taste buds than liberals/lefties, just don't scream and holler on the streets as much. They do care about issues, but they're not as narcissistic and have too little time on their hands because they're busy actually doing caring things for friends, family, community and so on.

See also:

Wedding Rings

Why evolutionary psychologists are wrong about COVID-19 leading women to cheat

sad wife holding wedding band
© Adobe
Is it really true that, as a recent column in a psychology magazine claims, women are more likely to cheat during the COVID-19 crisis? An evolutionary psychologist thinks so; let's explore this a bit.

Subrena E. Smith
First, philosopher Subrena E. Smith (right) has recently pointed out that evolutionary psychology (EP) is a doubtful enterprise in science, maybe an "impossible" one.

EP's basis is modern folklore: The claim that we inherited modules from the Stone Age that govern our behavior with respect to "predator avoidance, mate selection, and cheater detection" — which sold paperbacks in the 1980s — do not correlate with neuroscience findings about the human brain. We have not found any such modules. We have no way of knowing whether the neural correlates of our behavior are the same as those of humans who lived under very different circumstances 50,000 years ago. Neuroplasticity (the tendency of brains to change with types of use) raises doubts. Brains don't fossilize. Smith calls this lack of clear correlation the "Matching Problem."

No similar problem exists for understanding the behavior of, say, gorillas. We have no reason to believe that they behave differently today from the way they did in the human Stone Age. Humans, by contrast, have a detailed and varied history since then, which includes trips to the Moon. Something happened to us that did not happen to them.

Smith makes an important contribution to the debate by identifying the "subpersonal" approach of evolutionary psychology, an approach that deforms and misdirects discussions. The evolutionary psychologist melds what humans can obviously know and what animals can obviously know into a huge, confusing mess. Explicitly, EP seems to deny the assumption that abstract thinking makes any difference to human behavior. But of course it does and it must.

Consider, as noted earlier, issues around "fatherhood." Perhaps the gorilla is driven by some (so far unidentified) inner force to spread his selfish genes. That might explain why gorillas continue to exist. Very well, but many factors play a role in why gorillas continue to exist, including the fact that they are now protected by humans from other humans.


The World Desperately Needs The Wisdom of Bobby Kennedy, Now More Than Ever

RFK robert kennedy

Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, assassinated 5 June 1968
Today's fires which have spread across America in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the knee of Minnesota police officer Derick Chauvin has presented America with the chance to do some serious soul-searching. It has also presented certain Deep State opportunists, color revolutionaries and anarchism-financing billionaires a chance to unleash what some are calling an "America's Maidan" in the hopes of accomplishing what four years of Russiagate failed to do.

The fact that these riots have occurred at a moment when America finds itself seriously reviving the spirit of JFK's space vision is an irony that in many ways parallels the earlier "pregnant moment" of 1968. (In case you are not aware, NASA has officially revived manned space launches on May 28 for the first time since Obama killed the Saturn rocket program in 2011, establishing a new program to return to the Moon before going to Mars under the Artemis Program established in 2017. The Artemis Accords of May 15 lay out the framework for international cooperation in space closely dovetailing similar commitments made by Russia and China).

Comment: It didn't have to be this way, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Alas, here we are.

Only one thing is going to get 'us' out of this: love.

But it is down to each to choose.

The environment - that is, the planet's climate and the even the near-Earth cosmic environment - will be helping us choose in the coming months and years.

Watch as weather becomes significantly more extreme, in reflection of the increasing suffering brought on by terror and confusion of the species as a whole. There may also be an astronomical surprise or two to drive home the point to people.

As RFK learned,
"He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." (Aeschylus)
Perhaps then, united in suffering, people will stop hating, fighting, and learn to truly love one another.


Music synchronizes brains of audiences with their performers

© Yang Liu/Getty Images
The more people enjoy music, the more similar their brain activity is to that of the musician

When a concert opens with a refrain from your favorite song, you are swept up in the music, happily tapping to the beat and swaying with the melody. All around you, people revel in the same familiar music. You can see that many of them are singing, the lights flashing to the rhythm, while other fans are clapping in time. Some wave their arms over their head, and others dance in place. The performers and audience seem to be moving as one, as synchronized to one another as the light show is to the beat.

A new paper in the journal NeuroImage has shown that this synchrony can be seen in the brain activities of the audience and performer. And the greater the degree of synchrony, the study found, the more the audience enjoys the performance. This result offers insight into the nature of musical exchanges and demonstrates that the musical experience runs deep: we dance and feel the same emotions together, and our neurons fire together as well.

In the study, a violinist performed brief excerpts from a dozen different compositions, which were videotaped and later played back to a listener. Researchers tracked changes in local brain activity by measuring levels of oxygenated blood. (More oxygen suggests greater activity, because the body works to keep active neurons supplied with it.) Musical performances caused increases in oxygenated blood flow to areas of the brain related to understanding patterns, interpersonal intentions and expression.

Comment: See also:


New research shows for the evolution of intelligence, parents matter

New Caledonian crows
© Natalie Uomini
A juvenile wild New Caledonian crow (right) using a tool to probe together with a tolerant adult.
Humans are not the only species that enjoy prolonged childhoods: elephants, whales, dolphins and some bats and birds do also.

Is this what makes us smart? And if so, how important are long-suffering parents?

Exploring this with corvids - songbirds that hang around their parents in and out of the nest and have large brains relative to body size - researchers found those that spent more time with parents learned faster and lived longer.

How intelligence developed has long fascinated evolutionary scientists, with several theories such as brain-to-body size ratio. But, considering large brains take a long time to grow, not many theories have given due credit to parents for shaping their offspring's cognitive development.

Michael Griesser, from the University of Konstanz, Germany, recognised there must be an evolutionary perk to extended parenting.

"Brains are weird adaptations - they come empty and are very costly," he says. "So it takes individuals a lot of time to make this adaptation worthwhile.

"The problem of most studies looking into this is that they are very focused on the outcomes of having a large brain but overlook the issue of having them until brains make up for their cost. That's where the extended parenting comes in."

It can't just be nepotism that benefits children, as they still need to leave the nest and become independent at some point, so Griesser realised skill learning had to be involved, facilitating cognitive development.

Arrow Up

First-of-its-kind study hints at how psilocybin works in the brain to dissolve ego

magic mushrooms
© gilaxia/Getty Images
The psychedelic experience can be rough on a person's ego. Those who experiment with magic mushrooms and LSD often describe a dissolution of the self, otherwise known as ego-death, ego-loss, or ego-disintegration.

For some, the experience is life-changing; for others, it's downright terrifying. Yet despite anecdote after anecdote of good trips and bad trips, no one really knows what these drugs actually do to our perception of self.

The human brain's cortex is where the roots of self awareness are thought to lie, and growing evidence has shown the neurotransmitter, glutamate, is elevated in this region when someone is tripping.

But up until now we've only had observational evidence. Now, for the first time, researchers have looked directly into how taking psilocybin affects glutamate activity in the brain. And the evidence suggests that our tripping experience, whether good or bad, might be linked to glutamate.

Comment: See also:


Strongest solar flares in years coincide with riots, reminding us that solar activity and unrest are historically linked

solar flare and riots
With so many dramatic and consuming events taking place in our world, it's easy to forget that as human beings we are deeply affected by all of the cosmic events taking place in the universe around us. We are beings of frequency in a universe made of energy.

Major civil unrest, protesting and rioting began to foment in the United States on the 28th of May, and on the night of the 29th, the unrest spread to over 30 American cities, marking the most significant incident of unrest many of us have ever seen.

While these events are deeply rooted in societal tension that has been building for decades, the timing of recent flare ups of unrest happens to coincide with a new wave of solar activity including the strongest solar flare we've seen in three years.
"Solar flares are intense blooms of radiation that come from the release of the magnetic energy associated with sunspots. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ranks solar flares using five categories from weakest to stongest: A, B, C, M, and X. Each category is 10 times stronger than the one before it. Within each category, a flare is ranked from 1 to 9, according to strength, although X-class flares can go higher than 9. According to NASA, the most powerful solar flare recorded was an X28 (in 2003)." [Source]

Comment: For more on the "human-cosmic connection," see:

People 2

Intelligence distribution: Why so few female CEOs? Same reason few women on death row

Male/Female brain
© YouTube
Despite all the efforts of equalization, women in high-ranking corporate positions are still exceedingly rare. But they are almost as rare in the dredges of society - and the reasons for both run deeper than sexism.

It is more than passing curious that at a time when women constitute roughly half the workforce, and are in the actual majority in terms of earning college degrees, there are still so few female CEOs. The distaff side accounts for CEOs in only 167 out of 3,000 large companies, which translates into a rather modest 5.5 percent of the total.

Various explanations have been put forth to account for this fact. Women do a disproportionate share of household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, childcare, shopping. This accounts for some of the gap, but not all of it. Females are less ambitious; they do not as readily seek promotions as do males.

Why not? They are more attached to home and hearth, and realize that the higher up you go in the work hierarchy, the more on the job responsibility there is, which will detract from their family obligations. This, too accounts for their greater reluctance to seek greener pastures in more lucrative employment elsewhere; the wife is more likely to be the trailing spouse, who has to accept whatever is available in another city or state, than her husband.

Recently, a new elucidation has been added to these more traditional accounts. It is that men are more likely to occupy positions that feed into CEO jobs than women. For example, more males than females take on line roles which are directly responsible for profits and losses, such as heading up a division of a large firm. In contrast, women specialize in areas that do not as readily account for the bottom line, such as heading up human resources, the legal team, or administration.

Comment: See also: Sex Hormones May Sway Women's Career Choices

Blue Pill

Spiritual emergency: Western treatment of psychosis is thoroughly wrong-headed

psychosis environment
What do you think of hallucinations? Do you wonder how they work? Recently I talked about this with a woman I know well, who was experiencing some as we spoke. Her hallucinations included 'bugs' - microphones that she saw scattered around the room that she assumed had been put there because she was coming in, by people who wanted to keep track of everything she said, and might hurt her at any point. She could see the bugs, but I could not.

Martha is in her mid 30s. Her bright blonde hair is natural. She sat on one side of a corner from me, her body tense and passive at once, the odd mixture one sees with people who are gripped with inner distress but whose musculature is flattened out by atypical antipsychotics. She carries the tight, extra weight that also accompanies those drugs. Her eyes are shy and furtive, checking the room, checking my face.

She is a very intelligent person and is vexed by people telling her that such things are not real. She cannot doubt her senses, and she sees them. (I say: 'I agree. I don't doubt my senses either.') Same thing with the voices speaking to her on the turned-off radio. She understands that I do not see and hear these things, but she does.

She frames a question that carries deep implications of challenge and shame: 'Do you think they are real?'

An answer came out of my mouth that I had never quite thought before, but as I heard the words, they seemed true: 'It's not as simple a question as we usually think. We usually think that whatever we perceive is what is there. Perception equals reality. But research shows that every perception we have is actually constructed by the unconscious mind, which then instantly hands it to consciousness. What the unconscious mind uses to do this constructing is largely sensory stimulations. We grasp this information with our senses, we process it with our brains unconsciously, and the product enters our consciousness. Because we all share this sensory world, we do very similar unconscious constructing. We can both look at a lamp like this one and see the same lamp, as far as we can ever know. It's easy to say, this lamp is real.'

Comment: For more on Dr. Carpenter's work, see:


How kind is humankind? Kinder than we imagine

fireman london bombing
© Getty Images
A fireman rescues a toddler after a bombing raid in London in 1940. Our true colours reveal themselves in times of crisis, according to Rutger Bregman.
Augustine had it that 'no one is free from sin, not even an infant'. Machiavelli deemed that humans are 'ungrateful, fickle hypocrites', and even the founding father John Adams, the paragon of American democracy, was sure that all men would be tyrants if they could. Thucydides, Luther, Calvin, Burke, Bentham, Nietzsche, Freud — all were wrong about our natures. So was William Golding, creator of Lord of the Flies, himself a child-beater and a drunk. For a treatise on human kindness, Rutger Bregman's new book Humankind has surprisingly many villains.

Here's 'a radical idea... a mind-bending drug... denied by religions and ideologies', we're told. Humans are not evil. Deep down, at least most of us are pretty decent. Left to their own devices, children will not tear each other apart on an island: quite the opposite. In the clash between Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it was the Genevan, not the man of Malmesbury, who had it right. How do we know? Hobbes and Rousseau were armchair theorists, but today we have science. And science, according to Bregman, says that we're good.

This wasn't always true. Scientists have been lying to us for a long time. Take, for example, Stanley Milgram, of obedience to authority fame, who showed that ordinary people would administer electric shocks of up to 450 volts to innocents if only told to do so by a person dressed in a white lab coat. Turns out Milgram was after fame and fudged his results. Most participants didn't actually believe they were inflicting pain, and a majority of those who did quickly called it quits.

Comment: See also: