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Sun, 18 Mar 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Cause of synesthesia identified in the brain

© Unsplash/YouTube/Outer Places
Have you ever looked at the number four and decided that it must, logically, be a red number? Or heard a person's name and instantly associated them with the color blue before even meeting them?

If so, you might have synesthesia, a condition in which the brain color-codes random stimuli in an arbitrary but consistent fashion. People with synesthesia will often tie various senses together, creating colorful images in their heads spontaneously based solely on otherwise intangible concepts ranging from musical notes to emotions.

As far as mental abnormalities go, synesthesia is pretty cool. There aren't any real downsides (beyond the social stigma of course), and you always have something to talk about at parties.

(If you're unsure whether you have synesthesia, it's possible to take an online test, but this can be easily defeated if you have a decent memory for your choices as all the test does is check whether you'll give the same answer multiple times.)

Because synesthesia is so difficult to pin down, scientists have a hard time figuring out exactly what causes it. The condition seems to appear a lot within the same family, which has led to genetic research that has attempted to explain what's going on in a person's brain.

Eye 1

New study shows psychopaths' disregard for others is not automatic

Psychopathic man
© stock.adobe.com
Psychopaths exhibit callous disregard for the welfare of others, suggesting an inability to understand the perspective of people around them. Yet they can also be extremely charming and manipulative, seemingly indicating an awareness of the thoughts of others. This paradox has perplexed researchers, clinicians, legal authorities, and the lay public.

A new Yale study shows that psychopaths lack the ability to automatically assess thoughts of those around them, a process which underlies the formation of human social bonds. However, if asked to deliberately assess thoughts of those around them, they can process the thoughts of others.

"Psychopaths can be extremely manipulative, which requires understanding of another's thoughts," said Yale's Arielle Baskin-Sommers, professor of psychology and senior author of the study published March 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "But if they understand the thought of others, why do they inflict so much harm?"


The necessity of proper socialization and shame in society


That's a damn, dirty shame.
I recently participated in a conversation about the epidemic of so-called toxic shame in society, and about how it stems from socializing children at a young age. Although it was unclear to me how one caused the other, I disagreed that proper socialization was a bad thing, or that it led to adults becoming paralyzed with chronic, or 'toxic', shame.

Furthermore, depending on one's conduct, a certain level of shame is appropriate, even necessary. If someone were to do something embarrassing, hurtful or harmful, either to themselves or someone else, isn't it appropriate to feel some shame or guilt because of what they did or said? Without shame, there would be no motivation to reflect on past actions and decide to do and be better human beings in future.

Take 2

'Hold onto your kids' - Dr. Gabor Maté talks about the effects of childhood trauma

Gabor Mate
© The Relationship School
Do you feel like you have a broken heart from your childhood? Do you feel like it's affected your health? Are you struggling as a parent with how you are raising your own children? Or, perhaps you just feel really unhappy with your life and with yourself? If this is you, then you are not alone.

Depression, anxiety and suicide among teens and adults in first world countries, is the highest it's ever been. According to recently published data, 12.7% of USA citizens 12 and older are taking anti-depressant medication and female use is almost double that of males.

Comment: Additional information about trauma and illness:


The law of unintended consequences: Logical fallacies and mental models

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe"
- John Muir
In 1890, a New Yorker named Eugene Schieffelin took his intense love of Shakespeare's Henry VI to the next level.

Most Shakespeare fanatics channel their interest by going to see performances of the plays, meticulously analyzing them, or reading everything they can about the playwright's life. Schieffelin wanted more; he wanted to look out his window and see the same kind of birds in the sky that Shakespeare had seen.

Inspired by a mention of starlings in Henry VI, Schieffelin released 100 of the non-native birds in Central Park over two years. (He wasn't acting alone - he had the support of scientists and the American Acclimatization Society.) We can imagine him watching the starlings flutter off into the park and hoping for them to survive and maybe breed. Which they did. In fact, the birds didn't just survive; they thrived and bred like weeds.

Unfortunately, Schieffelin's plan worked too well. Far, far too well. The starlings multiplied exponentially, spreading across America at an astonishing rate. Today, we don't even know how many of them live in the U.S., with official estimates ranging from 45 million to 200 million. Most, if not all, of them are descended from Schieffelin's initial 100 birds. The problem is that as an alien species, the starlings wreak havoc because they were introduced into an ecosystem they were not naturally part of and the local species had (and still have) no defense against them.

Life Preserver

Parenting behaviours that cut suicide risk 7 times

sad child
Missing out these simple parenting behaviours increases suicide risk in adolescents.

Children who are not shown by their parents that they care are significantly more likely to contemplate suicide, research shows.

The study's authors identified three behaviours which, when lacking, were linked to suicidal thoughts in adolescence:
  1. Telling the child they are proud of them.
  2. Telling the child they have done a good job.
  3. Helping them with their homework.

Comment: See also:


No hugging allowed! We are living through a crisis of touch

Touch 1
© Harriet Lee-Merrion
Strokes and hugs are being edged out of our lives, with doctors, teachers and colleagues increasingly hesitant about social touching. Is this hypervigilance of boundaries beginning to harm our mental health?

When did you last touch someone outside your family or intimate relationship? I don't mean a brush of the fingers when you took your parcel from the delivery guy. I mean: when did you pat the arm or back of a stranger, colleague or friend? My own touch diary says that I have touched five people to whom I'm not related in the past seven days. One was a newborn and two were accidental (that was the delivery guy). Touch is the first sense humans develop in the womb, possessed even of 1.5cm embryos. But somewhere in adulthood what was instinctive to us as children has come to feel awkward, out of bounds.

In countless ways social touch is being nudged from our lives. In the UK, doctors were warned last month to avoid comforting patients with hugs lest they provoke legal action, and a government report found that foster carers were frightened to hug children in their care for the same reason. In the US the Girl Scouts caused a furor last December when it admonished parents for telling their daughters to hug relatives because "she doesn't owe anyone a hug". Teachers hesitate to touch pupils. And in the UK, in a loneliness epidemic, half a million older people go at least five days a week without seeing or touching a soul.

Sensing this deficit, a touch industry is burgeoning in Europe, Australia and the US, where professional cuddlers operate workshops, parties and one-to-one sessions to soothe the touch-deprived. At Cuddle Up To Me, a cuddle "retail centre" in Portland, Oregon, clients browse a 72-cuddle menu. Poses includes the Alligator, the Mamma Bear and, less appealingly, the Tarantino. In Japan, a "Tranquility chair" has been developed, its soft arms wrapping the sitter in a floppy embrace.

Comment: This 'taboo' against human contact is taking away one of the things that can bring us connection to each other and impedes our ability to empathize with another. As said, it is making us 'less human'. See also:

People 2

CBT: The cure for social anxiety that works for 85% of people

social anxiety
The most common anxiety disorder is social anxiety disorder.

Cognitive therapy on its own is the best treatment for social anxiety disorder, new research finds.

It is better than just taking drugs and better than taking drugs as well as having therapy.

Cognitive therapy resulted in either a cure or significant improvement in 85% of patients.

(Dr Jeremy Dean's ebook "The Anxiety Plan" is based on cognitive therapy.)

Comment: See also:


Certain childhood behaviors can predict occupational success and earnings 50 years later

child intelligence, child behavior occupational success

Certain behaviors at crucial periods could have long-term consequences for a person’s life.
The behaviours were linked to adult occupational success and earning more 50 years later.

Being interested in school, being a responsible student and having good reading and writing skills all predict people's occupational success decades later, new research finds.

Even 50 years after someone had left high school, these factors still predicted if people had a more prestigious job or not.

Being a good student also predicted how much money people earned 50 years later.

Comment: According to Paul Trough who wrote, How Children Succeed, evidence has shown that character skills, such as persistence, curiosity conscientiousness, grit and optimism are at least as important as IQ as predictors of success:


You can never change your life through willpower - connection is what actually works

inspirational will power
© Justin Luebke/Unsplash
The opposite of addiction is connection.

Last week, I did one of the hardest workouts of my life with one of my friends. We were getting pushed by a very good trainer. And we were pushing each other.

I've never felt my legs burn like they did. I barely walked out of the gym. It was 30 minutes of pain followed by several hours of psychological ecstacy and insight.

While driving back to my friend's house, he said, "There's no way I could've done a workout like that by myself."

The Problem of Willpower

When you think of the word, "Willpower," do you think of "individual" or "together"?

Willpower is a solo-battle.

Willpower is all about the individual.

Willpower is trying to go it alone. Willpower is an attempt to win a silent battle. It's the opposite of vulnerability. It's the opposite of connection.