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Fri, 20 Oct 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The psychology of sex predators

© ABC News
Harvey and Georgina Weinstein attend the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon.
Hollywood is in a tailspin over how Harvey Weinstein concealed sexually abusive behavior from friends, colleagues, and perhaps an entire industry for decades. But while the investigation into Weinstein continues, recent research offers clues into why so many stars are prone to exploiting others.

London - The Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal shows no sign of winding down. Just the opposite: police in the United Kingdom are now investigating several allegations involving the Oscar-winning film producer. While Weinstein has "unequivocally denied" allegations of non-consensual sex, and no arrests have been made, more than two dozen women - including the actors Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowan - have publicly accused him of harassment. The allegations stretch over nearly three decades.

Hollywood is struggling to explain how one of its most visible figures could have gotten away with such behavior for so long. Woody Allen offered an important clue. Despite working with Weinstein on several films, he claims that no one ever brought allegations of abuse to his attention.

"And they wouldn't, because you are not interested in it," Allen told the BBC. "You are interested in making your movie." Others who worked with Weinstein over the years have made similar statements.

Is this the Hollywood equivalent of a police officer's "blue wall of silence," or is there something more clinical at work?

One possible answer may be found in the results of recent psychological research. According to scientists in the United States and Israel, there are certain personality traits - the "dark triad" of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism - that are more commonly associated with sexually abusive behavior.

One intriguing finding from this research, published in 2016 in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, is that personality traits associated with a proclivity for harassment may be "specialized psychological adaptations" that allow individuals to exploit "niches" in society. In other words, some sexual predators may seek careers in particular industries that allow them to exploit others.


Scientists discover the mind still works after the body shows no sign of life - meaning they have awareness of their own death

Some report having seen light at the end of a tunnel, while others claim to have floated above their body, watching as medics save their lives.

But the reality of near-death experiences has always been debated.

Now scientists have discovered that a person's consciousness continues to work after the body has stopped showing signs of life - meaning they have awareness of their own death.

And there is evidence to suggest someone who has died may even hear their own death being announced by medics.

Comment: Scientists with a materialistic mindset are incapable of considering the possibility that consciousness survives death, thus continually strive to find scientific reasons supporting their limited views.

Pocket Knife

The gates of the mind: Openness to experience

© syolacan Getty Images
What does it mean to be "open-minded"? Are some people genuinely more inclusive in their thinking, more expansive in how they process information? Experiments in personality psychology show that open-minded people do indeed process information in different ways and may literally see the world differently from the average person.

The personality trait that best reflects the lay concept of open-mindedness is called "openness to experience," or simply "openness." Open people tend to be intellectually curious, creative and imaginative. They are interested in art and are voracious consumers of music, books and other fruits of culture. They also tend to be politically liberal.


Whales and dolphins have rich 'human-like' societies where they call each other by name, talk in dialects

© Shutterstock/Paul Vinten
Whales and dolphins live in tightly-knit social groups, have complex relationships, and talk to each other - much like human societies, new research has revealed (stock image)
Whales and dolphins live in tightly-knit social groups, have complex relationships, and talk to each other - much like human societies, new research has revealed.

These intelligent creatures are even more sophisticated than we thought and have regional group dialects, look after friends' children and teach each other how to use tools, the study found.

Researchers found dolphins sometimes use a call associated with an individual when they're not there - suggesting they gossip about each other too.


Looking lives: How our visual memories are made

© Rex Features
Another life: Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada and Zekeria Ebrahimi in The Kite Runner (2007).
Meeting a young Syrian refugee inspires Mark Cousins to imagine how different our defining images can be

We have work lives and love lives, but we also have looking lives. If we're lucky enough to have eyesight, an inner photo album accrues throughout our lives. On its pages are the sunsets we've seen, the dead bodies, and many other defining images - these are the visual shocks and pleasures which help us understand and read emotion.

In a refugee camp in Calais last year, I played football with a young teenage boy from Syria. We had no common language, but we had a laugh as we played. Afterwards I wondered what he had seen in his life so far.

Gift 2

Wellbeing enhanced more by places than objects

© Zac Kaplowitz/GuardianWitness
The research found places that are intensely meaningful invoke a sense of calm, space to think and a feeling of completeness.
Research using brain scans finds people experience feelings of contentment from places more than from objects such as photographs or wedding rings

The poet W.H. Auden is credited with first coining the word "topophilia" to describe a strong emotional pull to a special place.

Now scientific research, using cutting-edge brain imaging, suggests Auden was on to something. According to a study commissioned by the National Trust, people experience intense feelings of wellbeing, contentment and belonging from places that evoke positive memories far more than treasured objects such as photographs or wedding rings.


Researchers discover what happens to the eyes of children when they play outside

Being outdoors has been proven to have a positive effect on our mental health, and just by taking one walk, your brain will experience immediate positive effects. By choosing to walk for 90 minutes in a natural environment, you can experience low levels of rumination or 'brooding,' and more than one study showed that the subgenual prefrontal cortex had less blood flow and reduced neural activity; this is the area of the brain that relates to mental illness.

Psychologists have also found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Living in big cities exposes people to urban noises and when you couple that with technology, it is disruptive to our daily thinking and is constantly demanding our attention and preventing us from focusing, all of which can be taxing to our cognitive functions. A nice long hike, sans technology, can reduce mental fatigue, soothe the mind, and boost creative thinking.

Comment: Learn more about the healing benefits of being outside, both for children and adults:


Adrastia: The Goddess and cosmic law that punishes arrogance and hubris

We have observed that one of the themes of ancient literature is the concept of Fate or Fortune. We find it first expressed in the plays and heroic poems of the Greeks; the idea then seeped into the writing of history and biography. Closely associated with this concept is the idea of divine retribution for offending the gods. Those who showed contempt for divine or human law would be humbled by the harsh blows of Fate: no man could expect to thumb his nose at the laws of the universe and get away with it.

So Sallust reminds us that Catiline and Jugurtha went down to ruin because their blind hubris caused them to scorn the laws of decency and human society. Livy and Polybius practically endorse the idea that Rome rose from nothing to rule the world because the gods had fated that it should be so. Tacitus and Suetonius chronicle every pernicious vice of the Julio-Claudian emperors to make the point that they deserved to go down in ignominious destruction. Cicero's philosophical writings are occasionally flavored by this idea as well.

Comment: Whether you call it Adrastia, or Gaia, or 'cosmic retribution', or make reference to 'end times' tribulations - an argument can be made for the fact that the Universe can and does respond, in its own way, to human behavior. And if that's true, then we ignore the very negative political, cultural and societal developments all around us at our own peril.

Read: Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection: The Secret History of the World - Book 3


Anger is temporary madness: A Stoic guide to anger management

© Photo by Rex Features
Rockwell Kent's illustration of Captain Ahab from the 1937 edition of Moby Dick.
People get angry for all sorts of reasons, from the trivial ones (someone cut me off on the highway) to the really serious ones (people keep dying in Syria and nobody is doing anything about it). But, mostly, anger arises for trivial reasons. That's why the American Psychological Association has a section of its website devoted to anger management. Interestingly, it reads very much like one of the oldest treatises on the subject, On Anger, written by the Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca back in the first century CE.

Seneca thought that anger is a temporary madness, and that even when justified, we should never act on the basis of it because, though 'other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men's minds plunge abruptly into anger. ... Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings.'

Comment: Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius - timeless stoic philosophy that is essential to the human spirit

Pumpkin 2

Dark humor: The funniest sign of high intelligence

People who appreciate dark humor are likely to be more intelligent, research finds.

Those who prefer twisted comedy also score higher on tests of emotional stability.

To get twisted humor, it seems you need to be laidback and clever.