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Tue, 27 Jun 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Different cultures lie in different ways

People's language changes when they lie, depending on their cultural background, psychologists have discovered. The researchers asked participants of Black African, South Asian, White European and White British ethnicity to complete a Catch-the-Liar task in which they provided genuine and false statements.

They found the statements of Western liars tend to include fewer first-person "I" pronouns than the statements of truth-tellers. This is a common finding and believed to be due to the liar trying to distance themselves from the lie.

Professor Paul Taylor of Lancaster University in the UK said:
"Science has long known that people's use of language changes when they lie. Our research shows that prevalent beliefs about what those changes look like are not true for all cultures."
However, the researchers did not find the difference when examining the lies of Black African and South Asian participants. Instead, these participants increased their use of first person pronoun and decreased their third person "he/she" pronouns—they sought to distance their social group rather than them self from the lie.


Habits versus goals: The benefits of a systemic approach to life

Nothing will change your future trajectory like habits.

We all have goals, big or small things which we want to achieve within a certain time frame. Some people want to make a million dollars by the time they turn 30. Some want to lose 20lb before summer. Some want to write a book in the next 6 months. When we begin to chase an intangible or vague concept (success, wealth, health, happiness) making a tangible goal is often the first step.

Habits are processes operating in the background that powers our lives. Good habits help us reach our goals. Bad ones hinder us. Either way habits powerfully influence our automatic behavior.

The difference between habits and goals is not semantic. Each requires different forms of action. For example:
  • We want to learn a new language. We could decide we want to be fluent in 6 months (goal), or we could commit to 30-minutes of practice each day (habit.)
  • We want to read more books. We could set the goal to read 50 books by the end of the year, or we could decide to always carry one (habit.)
  • We want to spend more time with family. We could plan to spend 7 hours a week with family (goal), or we could choose to eat dinner with them each night (habit.)

Comment: Research-based ways to form positive habits and make them last


Note to parents: Safe spaces are for babies

For human potential, few things are more dangerous than a "safe space." A flourishing life requires what Nassim Taleb calls "antifragility": the adaptive capacity to self-improve in response to challenge and adversity.

When young people are artificially insulated from the trials of life, they are deprived of the opportunity to develop this vital virtue: to become antifragile. The prolonged fragility that results is often used as an excuse by parents for extending dependence, which only prolongs fragility still further.

The campus "safe spaces" that college students have loudly demanded are political in nature. Critics justifiably worry that such safe spaces are danger zones for free speech, open discourse, mutual understanding, and intellectual growth. However, what is far less recognized is that colleges long ago became "safe spaces" in an even more dangerous sense.

This was brought home for me recently when I attended a college graduation. The commencement address, delivered by a student elected to the honor by his classmates, was not very political, yet it was positively dripping with the "safe space" ethos.

Better Earth

Brain scans differentiate two forms of empathy

Using brain scans, researchers have discovered that empathic care and empathic distress have distinct patterns of brain activity that remain remarkably consistent across individuals.

Writing in Neuron, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and colleagues describe how they developed brain markers that could predict the intensity of the two forms of empathy in volunteers as they listened to true accounts of human suffering.

They also found that the brain markers for empathic care and empathic distress link differently to eight other feelings.

In their study paper, the team explains how there has been much debate on the distinction between empathic distress and empathic care.


Why yoga makes us happy

© University of Washington
Can we really unlock our personal power by adopting "powerful" body postures? Unfortunately, the findings that link these so-called "power poses" beloved of certain politicians with a real sense of power and control are difficult to replicate. We may not yet understand the mechanism through which body postures influence our psychological states, but our recent study suggests that we may draw insights from the rapidly expanding research on the psychological benefits of yoga.

In our study, some participants performed two simple yoga poses for two minutes, while others performed "power poses" for two minutes. Afterwards, those who held the yoga poses reported improved subjective feelings of energy, sense of power, and self-esteem compared to the other group.

Comment: Further reading: An interview with Bessel van der Kolk: How yoga helps treat PTSD


For pain, meditation beats meds

© Juice Images, Ltd
Meditation is just as effective as painkillers in alleviating discomfort, a new study has found.

Just 10 minutes of the trendy Buddhist practice could be used as an alternative to paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin.

Taking up the mindset, which has existed for centuries, improves someone's pain threshold, a small trial showed.

The findings bolster evidence that suggests mindfulness, which helps to calm the mind, does work in boosting the power of the brain.

While it also adds to the growing suggestions that painkillers are largely ineffective and that discomfort is just in the mind.

Comment: And the great thing about meditation is that there aren't any horrific side effects. For a free and effective meditation program try Éiriú Eolas here.

Eye 1

This simple 'scratch test' can help identify narcissism

Criticism makes narcissists aggressive, research finds.

But people with high self-esteem are not particularly bothered by criticism.

This is because, at heart, narcissists often have a strange relationship with their self-esteem, so they hate to be criticised.

Any criticism will usually make them aggressive in response.

Psychologists measured the self-esteem, narcissism and aggressive behaviour of 540 undergraduate students.

Comment: To a narcissist, their reality is the only one that exists. Even mild criticism and simple questions challenging the veracity of a narcissist's claims can be met with disproportional and sometimes outrageous responses. When you question them in this way, you are challenging the narcissist's need for control over the way other people think and behave. This doesn't always relate to self esteem because the ego of the pathological is distinctly different than that of normal or even psychologically wounded people. Unfortunately, many wounded people do adopt the traits and tendencies of pathological types. In fact, there is a whole movement that seeks such exploitation: the Social Justice Warriors.

Life Preserver

Intelligence: The trait that most protects your mental and physical health

It is also a generally protective factor against health problems.

More intelligent people are at a lower risk of suicide, research finds.

In fact, intelligence emerges as a generally protective factor against health problems.

People with higher intelligence are also less likely to suffer heart attacks and have accidents.

Comment: Emotional intelligence is often thought to be as, or even more important than IQ to a person's overall performance because people with high EQ are able to use their emotions constructively to solve problems and complete other cognitive tasks.

Eye 1

Genes influence ability to read someone's mind by observing the eyes

© elnariz / Fotolia
Can you clearly identify emotions in the eyes of others?
Our DNA influences our ability to read a person's thoughts and emotions from looking at their eyes, suggests a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Twenty years ago, a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a test of 'cognitive empathy' called the 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes' Test (or the Eyes Test, for short). This revealed that people can rapidly interpret what another person is thinking or feeling from looking at their eyes alone. It also showed that some of us are better at this than others, and that women on average score better on this test than men.

Now, the same team, working with the genetics company 23andMe along with scientists from France, Australia and the Netherlands, report results from a new study of performance on this test in 89,000 people across the world. The majority of these were 23andMe customers who consented to participate in research. The results confirmed that women on average do indeed score better on this test.

More importantly, the team confirmed that our genes influence performance on the Eyes Test, and went further to identify genetic variants on chromosome 3 in women that are associated with their ability to "read the mind in the eyes."


What happens when schools meet trauma with compassion and understanding, not punishment

Disciplining children is a controversial subject matter, and there are a lot of opinions that pit people against one another. One of the biggest issues is, not all children are created equal, and therefore one way of learning, and one way of discipling, may not work for another. So how do programs designed with one student in mind work for all students?

This is a question that New Orleans' privately run charters have had to face.

Hurricane Katrina wiped out the public schools, with many turning into privately run charters. Many of those schools took part in the no excuses discipline model, designed to hone in on and stop even the slightest misbehaviour in order to prevent bigger issues from occurring.

The elementary school Crocker College Prep in New Orleans took part in this model, requiring students to sit up straight at their desks and ensure their eyes remained on the speaker at all times. When walking the halls, they had to do so in silence. Any breaking of the rules, or acting out in any way, resulted in punishment.

But what if kids are acting out because of trauma?

Comment: Just imagine what a difference it would make to children's long-term health and mental well-being if more school systems replaced their 'resource officers' with social workers?