Welcome to Sott.net
Sat, 25 Feb 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit
Map

Laptop

Mindless data consumption leads to web-based brain damage

"Even though we think we're getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient." ~Daniel J. Levitin, Neuroscientist
Web-Based Brain Damage

Evidence is mounting that our haphazard info-consuming ways on the web are adversely affecting our neurological and cognitive functioning - as well as wasting time by making us far less efficient - and far more distracted - than we think we are. The internet is a wonderful (read: essential) thing for humanity, but the way we use it seems to need some tweaking.

According to a study in the Journal of Digital Information, people who read documents online containing hypertext didn't retain as much information as people reading without hypertext. The temptation to click on hyperlinks caused breaks in focus and attention, interrupting the flow of the material, thus compromising memory retention.[i]
Long-term memory is essential for building models, maps, or schemas - a.k.a. context. When we are poor in context, our ability to make informed assessments of incoming information is crippled. New information may be rejected simply because no groundwork (context) has been laid within which to assimilate it. Learning is stifled.
There is also the issue of "multi-tasking." MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller states that our brains are "not wired to multitask well...When people think they're multitasking, they're actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there's a cognitive cost in doing so."[ii]

Headphones

Giving the brain a break: We do our best work in silence


Shhh.
Hear that?

No? That's surprising. Odds are, you can hear something right now: A siren, the hum of a fan, the blur of background conversations, the ticking of a watch. It's seldom our worlds are fully silent - so seldom that complete silence feels shocking.

We welcome sound into our lives sometimes to our detriment. Silence, perhaps, is our most under-appreciated productivity tool.

So let's talk about noise.

The Problems with Noise

It's common knowledge that the jarring sound of a jackhammer—or the loud blasts of a rock concert—can damage our hearing, but that's not the only type of harmful noise.

Two types of everyday noise can be bad for us. One is excessive noise, such as the prolonged loud noise of being near an airport. The other is simply the distraction of general noise around us, such as conversations or interruptions from colleagues in the workplace.

The former may seem worse, but both can be detrimental to our productivity—and sanity.

Comment: More on the benefits of silence:


Cross

Brain tumor causes visions of Virgin Mary & hyper-religiosity for woman in Spain

© Regis Duvignau / Reuters
A Spanish woman suddenly became obsessed with religion and had visions of the Virgin Mary as the direct result of an aggressive brain tumor, a report by her medical team has revealed.

The 60-year-old woman from Murcia, southern Spain, had religious apparitions over a two-month period before doctors performed an MRI scan, which revealed she had been suffering from brain cancer.

As a result of her condition, she began to suffer from hyper-religiosity, causing her to believe she was "seeing, feeling, and conversing with the Virgin Mary," her medical team said in a report published in the journal Neurocase.

Family

Connections discovered in mothers and infants - through song

As one of the first records of human music, infant-directed singing permeates cultural boundaries and parenting traditions. Unlike other forms of caregiving, the act of mothers singing to infants is a universal behavior that seemingly withstands the test of time.

On the surface, the exchange between mother and child may seem standard, but to Shannon de l'Etoile, professor of Music Therapy and associate dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, there is much more to the infant-directed song than meets the eye -- and ear.

"We know from previous research that infants have the innate ability to process music in a sophisticated manner," explained de l'Etoile. "Initially, I set out to identify infant behaviors in response to live infant-directed singing compared to other common maternal interactions such as reading books and playing with toys. One of the main goals of the research was to clarify the meaning of infant-directed singing as a human behavior and as a means to elicit unique behavioral responses from infants," she added.

Comment: Singing is beneficial in a number of ways: ...not to mention that singing stimulates the vagus nerve:


Cassiopaea

Past life recall as evidence of reincarnation

Reincarnation is frequently rejected as impossible by those who worship at the altar of rational materialism and mainstream science. Yet, for those with an open mind who realize that logic and reason cannot possibly grasp and account for all the phenomena existing in the Universe, it is amusing to see how perplexed those with "scientific minds" are when presented with information which is beyond rational explanation. Beliefs in reincarnation have been around a long time; reincarnation is still widely regarded as real in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, and even the Catholic Church held reincarnation as true before the 4th century AD (when its doctrines become standardized at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD).

Evidence of Reincarnation

Reincarnation researchers such as Dr. Ian Stevenson (3000 cases) and Carol Bowman (1000 cases) have collected impressive (at the very least) evidence of reincarnation, if not outright proof of reincarnation by compiling thousands of cases of children who have demonstrated accurate past life recall. The accounts are truly incredible. Many of them have similar themes, such as children being able to fluently speak other languages (which they never learnt in this life) and describing how they died in graphic detail (e.g. being injured or shot in a certain part of the body, and then synchronistically having an ailment in that exact part of their body in this life). In some cases their stories can be proven in black-and-white: some children even remember the military colleagues they served with, whose names match those on veterans' lists.

Below is a selection of 3 cases of modern-day reincarnation, out of literally thousands that have been recorded, documented and compiled.

Comment: The science behind reincarnation - The research of Dr Jim Tucker


Bandaid

Karma: It's not about 'what's coming to you'

The concept of Karma, which dates back thousands of years, is taught by various cultures throughout human history. Despite its ubiquitousness, the idea of karma seems to be generally misunderstood and frequently tossed around without any real understanding of its true meaning.

What is Karma?

In the Bhagavad Gita (one text out of many from multiple cultures that speak of Karma), there are constant dialogues about how to attain what's referred to as "moksha," which is the release from the cycle of rebirth. It is a sort of transcendent state or freedom from the world we currently know — a world in which our senses deceive us. It's a state of bliss that can only be attained when we have freed ourselves from the web of karma. Once we reach that point, our soul is ready to move on to another experience that goes beyond rebirth.

According to Hindu philosophy, the only "higher" activity one can engage in other than performing selfless, fruitful action is the quest and cultivation of spiritual knowledge, contemplation, and truth.

Comment: If you hold to the hypothesis that collective karma exists, what does that say in regards to the current condition of the planet and the amount of suffering human beings are experiencing? We've allowed psychopaths to run the world and have largely ignored what they are doing and haven't taken any action against that, so if the literal definition of karma is "action" or "deed", that means the human race as a whole has accumulated quite a bit.


Brain

Do all humans perceive color the same?

© Alexandre Surrallés
Anthropologist Alexandre Surrallés’ work with the Candoshi people of the Peruvian Amazon led to results that contradicted those of The World Color Survey, which has shaped current thinking in the field of color research.
In a Candoshi village in the heart of Peru, anthropologist Alexandre Surrallés puts a small colored chip on a table and asks, Ini tamaara? ("How is it?" or "What is it like?"). What Surrallés would like to ask is, "What color is this?" But the Candoshi, a tribe of some 3,000 people living on the upper banks of the Amazon River, don't have a word for the concept of color. Nor are their answers to the question he does ask familiar to most Westerners. In this instance, a lively discussion erupts between two Candoshi about whether the chip, which Surrallés would call amber or yellow-orange, looks more like ginger or fish spawn.

This moment in July 2014 was just one among many similar experiences Surrallés had during a total of three years living among the Candoshi since 1991. His fieldwork led Surrallés to the startling conclusion that these people simply don't have color words: reliable descriptors for the basic colors in the world around them. Candoshi children don't learn the colors of the rainbow because their community doesn't have words for them.

Though his finding might sound remarkable, Surrallés, who is with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, isn't the first to propose that this cultural phenomenon exists. Anthropologists in various corners of the world have reported on other small tribes who also don't seem to have a staple vocabulary for color. Yet these conclusions fly in the face of those found in the most influential book on the topic: The World Color Survey, published in 2009, which has at its very heart the hypothesis that every culture has basic color words for at least part of the rainbow.

The debate sits at the center of an ongoing war in the world of color research. On the one side stand "universalists," including the authors of The World Color Survey and their colleagues, who believe in a conformity of human perceptual experience: that all people see and name colors in a somewhat consistent way. On the other side are "relativists," who believe in a spectrum of experience and who are often offended by the very notion that a Westerner's sense of color might be imposed on the interpretation of other cultures and languages. Many researchers, like Surrallés, say they stand in the middle: While there are some universals in human perception, Surrallés argues, color terms don't seem to be among them.

It is almost incomprehensible at first to imagine that the rainbow is not viewed similarly by all people, that there might be more, or fewer, colors in the world than we thought, or that someone might not bother to give colors a name. And yet once one gets beyond the initial, startling blow of these ideas, they begin to seem obvious. There are, after all, no actual lines in a real rainbow. There's no reason to think that orange is any more or less a legitimate color than, say, cyan, or that one culture's list of colors is more "real" than another's.

Or is there?

Magnify

New research: What's so good about lying?

© Image Zoo/Getty Images
Black Lies • White Lies • A Gray Area
Do you teach children to lie?

I do. All the time. And you do, too! If you're like most American parents, you point to presents under the Christmas tree and claim that a man named Santa Claus put them there. Or, you insinuate that a creature called the Tooth Fairy swapped out your child's fallen tooth for a dollar. Those are false statements, deliberately made to people who trust us adults.

But your lying probably goes beyond these benign deceptions. How many of us tell our kids (or students) that everything is fine when, in fact, everything is totally wrong, in order to preserve their sense of security? Have you been honest about everything having to do with, say, your love life, or what happens at work? We don't just lie to protect our kids from hard truths, either; we actually coach them to lie, as when we ask them to express delight at tube socks from Aunt Judy or Uncle Bob's not-so-delicious beef stew.

These are what scientists call "prosocial lies"—falsehoods told for someone else's benefit, as opposed to "antisocial lies" that are told strictly for your own personal gain.

Most research suggests that children develop the ability to lie at about age three. By age five, almost all children can (and will) lie to avoid punishment or chores—and a minority will sporadically tell prosocial lies. From ages seven to eleven, they begin to reliably lie to protect other people or to make them feel better—and they'll start to consider prosocial lies to be justified. They're not just telling white lies to please adults. The research to date suggests that they are motivated by strong feelings of empathy and compassion.

Why should that be the case? What is going on in children's minds and bodies that allows this capacity to develop? What does this developmental arc reveal about human beings—and how we take care of each other? That's what a recent wave of studies has started to uncover. Taken together, this research points to one message: Sometimes, lying can reveal what's best in people.

Hearts

Writing your own obituary to inspire others

Death is a common fear. How will we die? What will it feel like? Where will we go? Like trying to understand our existence or our place in the universe, death can hurt to think about. There are so many questions that cannot be answered, frustrating many to the point of refusing to think about it at all.

While most of us can try to turn it off, people who are terminally ill don't have that luxury. We all know we are going to die, but for many, the idea that we are too young, too healthy, too happy, or too strong to die just yet, or for a very long time, gives us comfort. But people who know their days are numbered typically have a shift in perspective; a new viewpoint on death.

Sonia Todd, a 38-year-old woman diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, was one of those people. She knew death was coming sooner than later, and this led her to look at life a little differently. In a way, she embraced her death as a chance for leaving behind an image of herself on her own terms. Writing her own obituary, Todd wanted to do things her way, but not just for her — for anyone who cared to read her last words as well.

Info

Exhaustion: Why it is not unique to our overstimulated age

© Wellcome images
Is ours the most exhausting age ever? Many sociologists, psychologists and cultural critics argue that the rapid spread of exhaustion syndromes such as depression, stress and burnout are consequences of modernity and its challenges. The argument goes that human energy levels have basically remained static throughout history, while the cognitive, emotional and temporal demands on the modern subject have increased so sharply that a chronic deficit of inner resources ensues. The most frequently named 'exhaustion generators' are the social changes resulting from acceleration, new technologies and the transformation of manufacturing into service and finance economies. Email and mobile phones, for example, make workers perpetually reachable, eroding the boundary between work and leisure, therefore making it difficult for employees to ever switch off from their jobs. Add to this the intensified competition from globalised capitalism and the result is that, today, the worker rarely leaves work. No wonder everyone is exhausted.

What often goes unnoticed, though, is that anxieties about exhaustion are not peculiar to our age. Those who imagine that life in the past was simpler, slower and better are wrong. The experience of exhaustion, and anxieties about exhaustion epidemics in the wider population, are not bound to a particular time and place. On the contrary: exhaustion and its effects have preoccupied thinkers since classical antiquity.