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Thu, 27 Oct 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Do the dead greet the dying?

© thinkstock
For those that experience it, a deathbed vision can be a miracle that carries a person though the transition of death.
Throughout my years of working with the dying and the bereaved, I have noticed commonly shared experiences that remain beyond our ability to explain and fully understand. The first are visions.

As the dying see less of this world, some people appear to begin looking into the world to come. It's not unusual for the dying to have visions, often of someone who has already passed on. Your loved one may tell you that his deceased father visited him last night, or your loved one might speak to his mom as if she were there in the room at that time.


Alarm Clock

Worked to death: It's not the stress, but the lack of control over workflow that can lead to an early grave

Previous academic research has found that having greater control over your job can help you manage work-related stress. But it's never suggested that it was a matter of life and death -- until now.

New research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business finds that those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

Using a longitudinal sample of 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven-year period, they found that for individuals in low-control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death, compared to low job demands. For those in high-control jobs, high job demands are associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low job demands.

"We explored job demands, or the amount of work, time pressure and concentration demands of a job, and job control, or the amount of discretion one has over making decisions at work, as joint predictors of death," said Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School and the paper's lead author.


When do children develop a sense of self-awareness?

© Richard Leeming/Flickr
From the moment they are born, babies are exposed to information that can teach them about who they are. By touching their own face and body, or by kicking and grabbing things, they start to enjoy the influence of their actions on the world. But it is not until children approach their second birthday that they start to develop a sense of self and are able to reflect on themselves from the perspective of somebody else.

One indication of this new objective self-awareness is that children start recognising themselves in a mirror or photograph - something most children do by the age of two. This kind of self-awareness can be assessed scientifically by surreptitiously putting a small mark on a child's forehead, such as by kissing them while wearing lipstick.

The child can't feel the mark so their sense of touch can't alert them to its presence, but they can see it if they look in a mirror. If the child has the capacity to see themselves as another person would, they will reach up to touch the mark when shown a mirror, indicating that they equate the mirror image with their own body.


Autistic people eschew the framing effect and make more logical decisions

Decisions are based on the way choices are framed. This is because people use emotion when making decisions, leading to some options feeling more desirable than others. For example, when given £50, we are more likely to gamble the money if we stand to lose £30 than if we are going to keep £20.

Although both options are mathematically equivalent, the thought of losing money evokes a powerful emotional response and we are more likely to gamble to try to avoid losing money. This cognitive bias, first described by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman in the 1980s, is known as the "framing effect". Despite this phenomenon being well documented, scientists are still trying to understand why our emotions have such a powerful influence on decision making.

My colleagues and I at King's College London investigated how the perception of internal bodily sensations is related to emotion and how this may, in turn, be linked to how we make decisions. First, we gave a group of typical adults a gambling task to measure their susceptibility to the framing effect.


Consciousness moves on after death

One of the biggest questions modern day science seeks to answer about human consciousness has to do with its origin — whether it is simply a product of the brain, or if the brain itself is a receiver of consciousness. If consciousness is not a product of the brain, it would mean that our physical bodies are not necessary for its continuation; that awareness can exist outside our bodies.

Asking these questions is fundamental to understanding the true nature of our reality, and with quantum physics gaining more popularity, questions regarding consciousness and its relationship to human physicality become increasingly relevant.

Max Planck, the theoretical physicist credited with originating quantum theory — a feat that won him the Physics Nobel Prize in 1918 — offers perhaps the best explanation for why understanding consciousness is so essential: "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness."(source)

Bad Guys

Playing God with nature and biting the hand that feeds

We shouldn't underestimate nature — it could easily take this planet back. Not only do I think we should respect it, I think we should revere it.

Nature is sacred, and it's alarming that humans are so unwilling to give it even a shred of respect given all that it's done for us. Instead we prioritize maintaining the civilization we've built on top of it. But nature is not here for us to plunder in any way we please; it is life itself, and living in harmony with nature helps all life prosper — and help us prosper. But as far as humanity is concerned, it's been misunderstood, misused and abused for far too long. And we're biting the hand the feeds...

No More Fracking

Fracking, along with other forms of resource extraction, is a good example. We were already successfully stealing the earth's most precious resources long before we started fracking, but the industry didn't think our current extraction methods were environmentally harmful enough now, so now we do it in a way that's even worse for the environment than oil drilling...

Comment: Though their actions are harmful, damaging and disrespectful, corporations will not kill the earth. After a period of cleansing the Earth will bounce back.
Earth is a living entity. It is not in man's destiny to destroy the Earth. That's arrogance. What it is man's destiny to do is destroy civilized man's ability to live with the Earth. We as human beings, if we take responsibility for our lives, and live our lives in a coherent manner, as coherent as we possibly can anyway, then we will have an influence in curing this disease. But Earth will not allow... the antibiotic will come, in a planetary sense. If it means opening up the ozone [layer] and letting it wipe out civilized man, then the Earth will do that. The Earth will continue on.


Reduce teenage anxiety & depression with free unstructured play

I remember the car ride home when my parents found out my brother skipped school for the first time. We turned the corner and crossed the train tracks as they calmly told him not to do it again.

They weren't mad. There was no punishment. I couldn't believe it.

I was a model student. I went to school, got good grades and didn't cause any trouble. I thought my brother's behaviour was wrong; he needed to be reprimanded or he'd do it again. Surely my parents needed to exert their control.

But looking back through the lens of a new parent trying to make sense of our modern world for our young son, I understand and surprisingly even applaud my brother's behaviour. He was trying to take control of his life. It was HIS life after all. Didn't he have the right to decide how he spent at least some of his time?

Didn't he have the right to do what made him happy?

Comment: Rising anxiety & depression in children and adolescents related to declining childhood play


Honesty is not always the best policy: Children's truth perception becomes more nuanced with age

© Arian Zwegers/Flickr
Younger children have a black and white take on truth and lies, whereas older children take intent and outcomes more into consideration, a new study suggests.

Researchers led by Victoria Talwar of the educational and counseling psychology department at McGill University wanted to know how a child's moral understanding develops. They studied the behavior of close to 100 children, ages 6 to 12.

The researchers showed the children a series of short videos in which childlike puppets either told the truth or lied. The variable was the outcome of the puppets' words. Sometimes what they said caused harm to someone else, for example blaming an innocent person for their own misdeeds.


Professor explains the increase of 'precious snowflakes' - cites narcissism, over-nurturing

'People now experience the entire world as a form of bullying'

The political correctness movement that has swept college campuses, corporate America and mainstream life can be traced back to a few psychological trends.

Howard Schwartz, professor emeritus of Oakland University, has for years studied the psychology underlying political correctness, and in his new book Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self, he offers some clarity on why the term "snowflakes" is now synonymous with college students today.

Schwartz, who taught classes in social and behavioral science within its business school, said the term stems from what he calls "the rise of the pristine self."

Schwartz writes in the book that "this is a self that is touched by nothing but love. The problem is that nobody is touched by nothing but love, and so if a person has this as an expectation, if they have built their sense of themselves around this premise, the inevitable appearance of the something other than love blows this structure apart."

Comment: See also: Senseless abuse: U.S. public schools are still legally beating children, injuring thousands of kids


Ancient Stoic wisdom to help achieve greater happiness

There's no shortage of evidence that happy people live longer, healthier lives. For example, one study found that the tendency to always expect the worst was linked to a 25 percent higher risk of dying before the age of 65. This means a pessimistic attitude can shave more than 14 years off the average lifespan.

But just HOW to "be happy" is an elusive mystery for many. We all seek it, yet many feel they're missing the mark on any given day. Part of the problem may be rooted in your concept of happiness. If you rate your level of happiness as being low, consider reevaluating your notion of happiness.

Perhaps you're subconsciously equating happiness with a certain lifestyle or level of materialism. Perhaps you've fallen into the trap of thinking that "when xyz happens, then I'll be happy."

A recent article in Time magazine delves into the concept of how to become happier, noting that the clues to a happy life are more apt to be found in classic writings than modern self-help books.