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Fri, 20 Oct 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The destruction caused by gaslighting

Many of us have probably heard of gaslighting. In this article, we will explore what is behind this concept and why it is so destructive, disturbing, and toxic.

Origins and definition

Gaslighting is a term used in psychology and common speech that refers to manipulation whose purpose is to create doubt in a person or a group of people. It includes but is not limited to denial, lying, deflection, and contradiction to make the target question their perception of reality.

Comment: See also - Gaslighting: An insidious form of emotional abuse


Corpus callosum: When you split the brain, do you split the person?

© Courtesy Wellcome Image
Charles Bell The Anatomy of the Brain.
The brain is perhaps the most complex machine in the Universe. It consists of two cerebral hemispheres, each with many different modules. Fortunately, all these separate parts are not autonomous agents. They are highly interconnected, all working in harmony to create one unique being: you.

But what would happen if we destroyed this harmony? What if some modules start operating independently from the rest? Interestingly, this is not just a thought experiment; for some people, it is reality.

Heart - Black

Addicted to love: The chemistry of addiction

"Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff, oh yeah / It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough / You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love." - Robert Palmer
Love. We are all addicted to love indeed. Not just the idea, not just the feeling, but the neurochemistry of love. The experience of love favorably changes our neurophysiology in both mind and body. When we experience love, our body produces its own natural opiates, endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters. Among these chemicals is oxytocin, often called our "love hormone" because of its crucial role in mother-child relationships, social bonding, and intimacy (oxytocin levels soar during sex).

Interestingly, oxytocin has also been shown to mitigate fear. When oxytocin is administered to people with certain anxiety disorders, activity declines in the amygdala-the primary fear center in the brain. As a result, people feel less fearful. Thus exogenous oxytocin, along with other fear-reducing compounds in clinical development, may eventually be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other fear-related conditions.

Comment: Social connections and bonding: Everything we think we know about addiction is wrong


Straight from the narcissistic parent's mouth

Below is a list of things a narcissist might say to anyone - friends, family or even their own children.

"After all the money I have lent you"

To change the subject of the argument, this is to make you feel guilty and put the ball back in their court. How can you argue with this wonderful person who lends you money. When in this situation, remember what the original argument was about and do not get side tracked from it. Say "No, you're going off the point now, I'm talking about...."

"After everything I have done for you"

Again, if the narcissist feels like they are losing the argument they will change the subject to a time when you needed them... "After all I have done for you, when you needed a place to stay, when you needed a lift, when you needed that favour" This will be completely off the subject but if you let them you will end up arguing about it and ultimately apologising for your disrespectful behaviour.

Comment: Readers should make sure not to take this list as any sort of diagnostic criteria for narcissism. Sure, a narcissist might say any of the above lines for any of the above reasons. But an ordinary person might say them too. It's not as if only narcissists use some of the examples described. Context is key here. It's good to keep that in mind whenever reading pop psychology and the endless stream of "expert" bloggers telling readers how to spot a narcissist or psychopath.

That said, learning to set boundaries is a key strategy in protecting oneself from the manipulations of actual narcissists. This is particularly important for those who have grown up in narcissistic families where they have never learned to discern what they need or how to express those needs because they have spent most of their lives tending to those of their narcissist parent.


Boys who fail to join in laughter with their peers could become psychopaths, says new study

© Nick Moir
Kindergarten students enjoying a laugh. A child disinclined to join in could have signs of psychopathic traits.
Boys who have personality traits associated with psychopathy do not laugh along with other children, new research has found.

When exposed to laughter, the boys at risk of developing psychopathy reported less interest in joining in and showed less activity in the emotional centre of the brain.

The study's lead researcher Essi Viding said such children did not experience the world in the same way as other children.

"That does not mean that these children are destined to become antisocial or dangerous," she said. "Rather, these findings shed light on why they often make different choices from their peers."

Comment: It may not be "appropriate" but with some children it's the only explanation that fits. Can a Kid Be a Psychopath?


Warmth, not lavish praise, boosts self-esteem in children

How do children construct views of themselves and their place in the world? Children's social relationships turn out to be critical. For example, children develop higher self-esteem when their parents treat them warmly. But they develop lower self-esteem when their parents lavish them with inflated praise. These and other findings are included in a special section edited by Eddie Brummelman (University of Amsterdam) and Sander Thomaes (Utrecht University) and soon-to-be published in the journal Child Development. In a series of articles, now available online in 'early view',' the researchers share the results of research on the origins of the self-concept in children.

Who am I and what is my place in the world? Children are born without an answer to these pressing questions. As they grow up, though, they start to formulate answers seemingly effortlessly. Within a few years, they recognise themselves in the mirror, refer to themselves by their own name, evaluate themselves through the eyes of others and understand their standing in a social group.

Research by Christina Starmans from the University of Toronto shows that even toddlers have an idea of what it means to have a 'self'. Young children see the self as something that is unique to a person, separate from the body, stable over time, and located within the head, behind the eyes. Research by Andrei Cimpian (New York University) and his colleagues shows that even toddlers have the cognitive ability to form self-worth (i.e., how satisfied they are with themselves as individuals).

2 + 2 = 4

Be impeccable: Commonly misused phrases that will make you sound ignorant

© Getty Images
It's easy to fall into language traps that are all around us. And, of course, there's something to be said for the ever-changing nature of common terms and phrases. After all, the dictionary is an ever-evolving entity that adds phrases and words all the time to reflect common usage. But that doesn't mean you can't at least strive for impeccable speech by understanding the best - or most commonly accepted - ways of saying certain words and phrases. Little tweaks in your language can help convey that you understand exactly what phrase you're saying and are using it properly. Plus, if you're writing an email or typing a response - and let's be honest, so much communication that happens these days happens online - you'll stay on top of using the right spelling and phrasing. And, hopefully, understanding the full context of where these common phrases come from

Keep in mind, too, that some of these common phrases you'll won't be able to hear the difference between the so-called "right" and "wrong" versions. And sometimes the "wrong" way to say something still has a perfectly legitimate meaning, even if it's not the feeling you're going for in that conversation.

Any advantage you can give yourself in the professional world, including use of proper language and phrases, can be really beneficial in your life and career. So, we researched common words and phrases that people too often get wrong. There's a good chance you already know some of these, especially if you're the type of person who is interested in language. But in case you want a quick refresher, here you go.

Comment: Another is "imply" versus "infer":
To imply is to express something indirectly. For example, you might imply that it's time for a guest to leave by saying that you are getting tired. To infer is to surmise or conclude, especially from indirect evidence. For example, if you were to tell a guest that you're getting tired, the guest might infer that it's time to leave.
Also "toe the line" versus "tow the line":
The idiom is toe the line, not tow the line. The phrase derives from track-and-field events in which athletes are required to place a foot on a starting line and wait for the signal to go. Race officials used to shout "Toe the line!" where now they shout "On your marks!" Since entering the language, the idiom has developed to mean do what is expected or act according to someone else's rules or expectations.
See also: Commonly misused words that make smart people look stupid


Combat veterans and near death experiences

Surveys of military veterans have shown that more than a third report having had a near-death experience (NDE). And yet many of them don't even know that NDEs are a recognized phenomenon, and so they often don't mention their experience to others, and when they do it is often misdiagnosed as PTSD or mental illness.

In response to this sad situation, Diane Corcoran - a past President of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS), and a veteran herself - has worked to raise awareness of NDEs with both veterans and care-givers. In recent years she had the idea to create a video to train veterans and their care providers about NDEs and their aftereffects.

You can find out more at a special page at the IANDS website devoted to the topic, "Impact of the Near-Death Experience on Combat Veterans":

Comment: For more on near death experiences see:


Study finds people with highest psychopathy scores prefer rap music, dislike classical music

© Orion Pictures/Rex/Shutterstock
Contrary to the movie trope epitomised by Alex in A Clockwork Orange and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, psychopaths are no fonder of classical music than anyone else, though they do appear to have other musical preferences, psychologists say.

In a study of 200 people who listened to 260 songs, those with the highest psychopath scores were among the greatest fans of the Blackstreet number one hit No Diggity, with Eminem's Lose Yourself rated highly too.

The New York University team behind the work stress that the results are preliminary and unpublished, but the scientists are sufficiently intrigued to launch a major study in which thousands of people across the psychopathy spectrum will be quizzed on their musical tastes.

Tests on a second group of volunteers suggest the songs could help to predict the disorder. Whatever their other personality traits might be, fans of The Knack's My Sharona and Sia's Titanium were among the least psychopathic, the study found.

Eye 1

Supporters of nasty leaders share negative personality traits

Have you ever worked with a leader who manipulates others to get their own way? Or is there someone in your team who is so completely self-obsessed that they disregard other's opinions and contributions? Hostile personality characteristics such as these might help people climb the career ladder, but it could be a very lonely journey to the top - unless their colleagues also share these personality characteristics.

In our research, we replicated previous findings that leaders with negative personality traits were perceived by their subordinates as displaying poorer leadership behavior. However, we also found that if followers shared those same traits, they were more likely to get along with their nasty manager.

We set out to explore when and why a leader's negative personality traits might hurt perceptions of their leadership, even though we know from other research that those same traits actually help leaders get ahead. Specifically, a study conducted in Germany found that "narcissism was positively related to salary, Machiavellianism was positively related to leadership position and career satisfaction, and psychopathy was negatively related to all analyzed outcomes." If these traits - often called "the dark triad" by researchers - are so disliked by many people, why would they correlate with positive career outcomes?