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Mon, 27 Feb 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


How to react when your child says his first swear word

© Ellie Skrzat/peredniankina/Thinkstock
I vaguely remember my son's first crawl, his first steps, and the first time he said "mama." But I really remember the first time he swore.

It was shortly after he had turned 3. He was playing with his toys in the other room, and I'm guessing he was getting frustrated because, for the zillionth time, his zoo animals weren't fitting in his zoo truck. Suddenly I heard: "Fuck it chuck it!"

I froze.


SOTT EXCLUSIVE: Do humans really have 'free will'? Only if you work on your machine

There was recently a short article in the Guardian by Oliver Burkeman where he pondered the question of free will in the context of some studies done in the recent years. There is clear evidence that our choices are not so free as our conscious experience would tell us. Our bodily states -- like being hungry, tired or wanting sex -- can affect our fundamental beliefs and decision-making processes, therefore making us more prone to biased thinking, especially when these conditions are off balance.
© Poznyakov/Shutterstock
Here Burkeman says:
It's probably the weirdest puzzle in philosophy: do humans really have free will? (Spoiler alert: I won't be resolving the matter here.) It certainly feels as if we do: at the supermarket, as I reach for some cheddar, it's surely up to me to suddenly change plans and go for wensleydale instead. Yet this seems to violate the laws of science: everything that happens, including in our brains, is caused by earlier events, which are caused by earlier ones, and so on, all the way back to the start of time. There's no room for spontaneous choice, cheese-related or otherwise. The problem has big implications: if we don't have free will, for example, does that mean we shouldn't punish murderers? So it was unnerving to learn about a study suggesting people's beliefs on the subject change when they're tired, sexually aroused or need to urinate. All three conditions, the psychologists Roy Baumeister and Michael Ent concluded, make us less likely to believe free will's real.
It's good to keep in mind that there are big holes in hard determinism and the materialistic worldview. It flies in the face of common sense, as philosopher Thomas Nagel has stated in his book Mind and Cosmos. Still it seems that our free will is somehow limited. Recent cognitive science studies have shed light on this topic and improved the understanding of how our mind works.


Emotional health in childhood "is the key to future happiness"

© Linda Nylind/Observer
Lord Richard Layard, who is emeritus professor of economics at the LSE.
Mick Jagger famously couldn't get it, but now economists think they know what's required to get some satisfaction.

After investigating the factors in a person's life that can best predict whether they will lead satisfied lives, a team headed by one of the UK's foremost "happiness" experts, Professor Richard Layard, has come up with an answer that may prove controversial.

Layard and his colleagues at the Wellbeing research programme at the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance conclude that a child's emotional health is far more important to their satisfaction levels as an adult than other factors, such as if they achieve academic success when young, or wealth when older. The authors explain that evaluating the quality of a child's emotional health is based on analysing a range of internal factors in a person's early life, including whether they endured unhappiness, sleeplessness, eating disorders, bedwetting, fearfulness or tiredness.

Comment: More on what it takes to raise a healthy child:
Early Childhood Diet May Influence Future Health
The secret to a happy life?: Close relationships with family and friends when you are a child, say researchers
That's why childhood psychological abuse should be as taboo as sexual or physical abuse: Large new study reveals how harmful psychological abuse in childhood can be


Magic shoes: How to hear yourself instantly happy

© Andrew Lyons
Perception-skewing shoes can make you feel slimmer, happier and full of energy by retuning your body's soundtrack
As a rule, I don't remove my shoes in public. But today I'm making an exception. Surrounded by engineers and psychologists, I pull off my Converse and step into a pair of rather ordinary-looking brown leather sandals.

I begin to walk slowly around the room, and that's when I experience the most peculiar sensations. The sound of my footsteps changes, and suddenly my lower legs feel lighter and longer. My knees feel looser, and I begin to raise them higher and higher as I walk. My walking speed increases until it's all I can do not to break into a trot. I feel slimmer, stronger, and full of energy. These are unlike any shoes I have ever worn.

Such footwear sounds fantastical, but these shoes are just one of a number of new experiments revealing how the noises we make have an immediate and profound effect on the way we experience our bodies, on our emotions and our behavior. The trick here is not in the shoes themselves, but in the way they change the sound of my footsteps.


Meditation sparks 'positive changes' in the brain

I recently reported how 8 weeks of meditation can promote brain growth by fueling grey-matter in the hippocampus - boosting memory, sense of self, empathy, and reducing stress. But did you know that this practice can also positively affect 'white matter' in the brain? Research has now shown that meditators have better communication in their 'white matter' than those who do not meditate at all.

You've likely heard of 'grey matter' in the brain, but what about 'white matter'? This is an important component of the central nervous system, brain, and spinal nerves that encompass numerous glial cells that help to transmit electrical signals from one part of the cerebrum to another as well as through other brain centers. You might say the 'white matter' is the brain's super highway.

Comment: Meditation is good for the mind, body and spirit in every possible regard: Interested in learning more about the numerous benefits of breathing exercises and meditation? Try the easy to use Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.


Kindness holds the power to heal

© ouryearinspain.com
We've all heard the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about a smile?

An extensive scientific literature review sponsored by Dignity Health and conducted by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University reveals a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates kindness holds the power to heal. We now know that this often overlooked, virtually cost-free remedy has a statistically significant impact on our physical health. For example, the positive effect of kindness is even greater than that of taking aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack or the influence of smoking on male mortality. And it doesn't even require a trip to the pharmacy.

Comment: Also read about the importance of kindness when dealing with addiction issues: Killing addiction with kindness


Trouble with your boss? Own it

© G.L. Kohuth
Brent Scott, associate professor of management in Michigan State University's Broad College of Business.
Don't get along with your boss? Your job performance may actually improve if the two of you can come to grips with the poor relationship.

A new study led by Michigan State University business scholars finds that workers are more motivated if they and their supervisors see eye-to-eye about a bad relationship than if they have different views about their relationship. The findings are published in the Academy of Management Journal.

"Seeing eye-to-eye about the employee-supervisor relationship is equally, if not more important than the actual quality of the relationship," said Fadel Matta, lead investigator on the study and a management researcher in MSU's Broad College of Business.

Past research suggests workers and their bosses often have differing views about the quality of their relationship. Matta and his fellow researchers set out to examine whether that affects actual work engagement, or motivation.


Is it possible to rewire your brain to change bad habits, thoughts & feelings?

© sgipt.org
tree of psychotherapay
Advances in psychology offer hope.

Nearly 90 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrman's film version gave renewed currency to the novel's famous final line:
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
What's afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses - however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we're doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way:
"The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Eugene O'Neill penned these words:
"There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now."
Throughout its history, many in the field of psychotherapy have been similarly pessimistic about people's ability to liberate themselves from the past. It can even be argued that most modern cognitive-behavioral approaches are based on the assumption that, at best, therapists can only incrementally create new emotional and behavioral habits that work around - but don't actually transform - the deep-seated emotional programming that causes clients' most visceral distress. This way of thinking, however, doesn't reflect our current understanding of how memory functions, nor do the therapeutic approaches that aim simply to manage or circumvent entrenched emotions, beliefs, and behaviors rooted in painful past experiences.


Study shows mental and physical pain actually use distinct neural circuits

New research may rewrite how we believe pain is processed by the brain.

For the last decade, neuroscientists have believed that the brain processes physical and social pain in a similar manner.

Now, a new study from the University of Colorado shows that the two kinds of pain actually use distinct neural circuits.

Investigators are enthusiastic about the new finding as the discovery may lead to specific treatment protocols for each pathway. Researchers may also gain a better understanding of how the two kinds of pain interact.

2 + 2 = 4

The science of suffering

Kids are inheriting their parents' trauma. Can science stop it?

Lowell, Massachusetts, a former mill town of the red-brick-and-waterfall variety 25 miles north of Boston, has proportionally more Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans than nearly any other city in the country: as many as 30,000, out of a population of slightly more than 100,000. These are largely refugees and the families of refugees from the Khmer Rouge, the Maoist extremists who, from 1975 to 1979, destroyed Cambodia's economy; shot, tortured, or starved to death nearly two million of its people; and forced millions more into a slave network of unimaginably harsh labor camps. Lowell's Cambodian neighborhood is lined with dilapidated rowhouses and stores that sell liquor behind bullet-proof glass, although the town's leaders are trying to rebrand it as a tourist destination: "Little Cambodia."

Comment: For more information on how trauma effects the body, see these links:
When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease
Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"