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Thu, 23 Mar 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Path of least resistance is hard wired, say researchers

We are biased towards perceiving anything challenging to be less appealing, suggests a new study from University College London. The amount of effort needed to do something influences what we think we see, the study found.

Imagine you are in an orchard, trying to decide which of the many apples to pick. On what do you base your decision?

Most research into this type of decision-making has focused on how the brain uses visual information - about features such as color, size and shape - to make a choice. But what about the effort required to obtain the apple?

Does an apple at the top of the tree look more or less tempting than the low-hanging fruit?


Dr Nobuhiro Hagura, who led the UCL team before moving to NICT in Japan, said:


Here's why empathy is so important in everyday life (Video)

You've surely heard the saying, "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes." The person who first offered this wisdom is lost to history, but it's become so ingrained in our vernacular because of the importance empathy has in life.

Because each and every one of us is an individual, with our own unique outlook on life, it can be incredibly easy to disagree; to misunderstand; to offend. Think of a time you were crying, and someone couldn't seem to wrap their head around how your emotions matched the situation. That alone is enough to make your tears flow harder.

Empathy is truly about trying to understand other people's experiences and perspectives. If you think about your strengths and weaknesses in this area, you might find it's very easy for you, or people you know, to subconsciously practice empathy, like when you see a stranger get hurt. You find yourself truly concerned for their well-being. Our egos can make it difficult, however, to see someone else's feelings as valid when they differ from our own. But just because someone has, for instance, different sensitivities, doesn't make them any less real, or any less important.


Paradox of human behavior: The myth of radical change

The natural tendency of life is to find stability. In biology we refer to this process as equilibrium or homeostasis.

For example, consider your blood pressure. When it dips too low, your heart rate speeds up and nudges your blood pressure back into a healthy range. When it rises too high, your kidneys reduce the amount of fluid in the body by flushing out urine. All the while, your blood vessels help maintain the balance by contracting or expanding as needed.

The human body employs hundreds of feedback loops to keep your blood pressure, body temperature, glucose levels, calcium levels, and many other processes at a stable equilibrium.

In his book, Mastery, martial arts master George Leonard points out that our daily lives also develop their own levels of homeostasis. We fall into patterns for how often we do (or don't) exercise, how often we do (or don't) clean the dishes, how often we do (or don't) call our parents, and everything else in between. Over time, each of us settles into our own version of equilibrium.

Like your body, there are many forces and feedback loops that moderate the particular equilibrium of your habits. Your daily routines are governed by the delicate balance between your environment, your genetic potential, your tracking methods, and many other forces. As time goes on, this equilibrium becomes so normal that it becomes invisible. All of these forces are interacting each day, but we rarely notice how they shape our behaviors.

That is, until we try to make a change.

People 2

Personality transformations: Study says human personality changes radically from teens to old age

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh carried out personality tests on people at the age of 14 then again over sixty years later when they were 77 years old. The team found hardly any relationship at all between adolescent and older-age characteristics
It's good news for awkward teenagers the world over, as it turns out you really do become a completely different person as you get older.

Scientists carried out personality tests on people at the age of 14, and then again more than sixty years later when they were 77 years old.

The team found hardly any relationship between traits people had as adolescents and those in their golden years.

They did, however, pinpoint some specific trends.

As a teenager, many of us become less conscientious, impulsive, moody and irritable.

We also become more social for a few years, then reverse those trends as we move into adulthood.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh expected to see some evidence of personality stability over 63 years.


Does handedness influence beliefs?

If you're left-handed, you know the world is not built for you. All cultures assign certain acts to the right hand such as shaking hands or swearing oaths, but how does this affect our consciousness?

Previous research has found that mixed handers (i.e., those that are more ambidextrous) were more likely than strong handers to update their beliefs. It was assumed that this was due to greater degrees of communication between the two cerebral hemispheres in mixed handers made connections between this model of updating beliefs and metacognitive processing.

Studies on twins have bolstered the belief that there may be a gene that distinguishes righties from lefties.

A preference for the left or the right hand might be traced back to asymmetry that allow us to develop specific brain patterns. "These results fundamentally change our understanding of the cause of hemispheric asymmetries," conclude the authors. The team report about their study in the journal eLife.


Book 2

Reading better: How to retain more of everything you read

Finishing a book is easy. Understanding it is harder.

In recent years, I have focused on building good reading habits and learned how to read more. But the key is not simply to read more, but to read better. For most people, the ultimate goal of reading a nonfiction book is to actually improve your life by learning a new skill, understanding an important problem, or looking at the world in a new way. It's important to read books, but it is just as important to remember what you read and put it to good use.

With that in mind, I'd like to share three reading comprehension strategies that I use to make my reading more productive.


Chained to the desk: Do some trauma survivors cope by overworking?

Hypervigilance and an inability to relax without guilt may lead some people to blunt their emotions through work.

The link between traumatic experiences and the development of addiction has been well-documented. Edward Khantzian, who originated the self-medication hypothesis of substance abuse, writes that "human emotional suffering and pain" and an "inability to tolerate [one's] feelings" are at the root of addiction. People may use alcohol, drugs, or gambling to numb or control distress, low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression.

But there is virtually no empirical research on the potential link between trauma and overwork or work addiction. While a 2015 study on women survivors of intimate partner violence and a 2013 study on survivors of childhood sexual abuse both indicate that these populations may be inclined toward workaholic behaviors, there is no research on why trauma survivors might turn to work to cope with their feelings.

But a number of researchers and clinicians—and people who self-identify as workaholics or overachievers—believe the connection between trauma and overwork is likely. Some believe coping with trauma is at the very heart of a work addiction

Comment: Are you a workaholic? Tool to tell


'We can turn memory on and off': Scientists demonstrate traumatic memories can be erased

© Anonymous Content This is That
In the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, a couple erase memories of each other after breaking up.
Scientists have demonstrated "proof of principle" that traumatic memories can be erased from the brain - as seen in the science fiction film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

Studies in mice demonstrated that fearful memories prompted by a sound associated with an electric shock could be turned off and on. The researchers said attempting to do this in humans was full of ethical problems and was some way off. But their studies suggest it will be possible at some point in the future, for example to treat people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or drug addiction.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, Professor Sheena Josselyn said they had been able to discover the specific brain cells where a particular memory was stored. "So we can target where in the brain a memory has gone," she said. "We can then decrease the activity in these cells ... And it is as if we erase the memory."

After this was done, the mice were unperturbed when they heard the sound they had previously learned to associate with the shock. Increasing the cells' activity restored the memory of the shock - enough to be unpleasant but not to cause lasting harm - to the mice. "We can turn memory on and turn memory off," Professor Josselyn said.

Comment: See also: New brain cells erase old memories


Processing internal information through meditation & staying centered

In life, we lose ourselves - our awareness of our life purpose, Spirit, and our Genuine Self - whenever our minds are too full. When our thoughts are too loud, and our minds are not clear, quiet and focused. This occurs when our thoughts and emotions aren't processed on a regular basis, which returns us to a state of simple openness and receptivity. But more importantly, we must process this information in order to return to our natural state. For when we always take in information, and never consciously resolve, process, and essentially amalgamate it within ourselves, it just clutters our minds and our awareness, eventually distorting it. Like throwing rocks into a stream every day. It doesn't matter how big or small the rocks are, because if you do it every day without fail, then eventually it will dam up the stream. So it is with ourselves as well. Except in this case we obstruct the natural expression of spirit and who we really are.

A quiet mind is a clear lens through which Spirit can enter into our awareness. Or at least a higher energy and expanded state of consciousness which humans call Spirit. Yet that word might be misleading in our understanding of what that force is, due to all of the oftentimes erroneous beliefs, superstitions, and connotations of this word, and others like it, which have become attached to it.

In any case, when our mind is quiet - calm, peaceful, and focused - we are open and receptive not just to elevated levels of consciousness, but also to inspiration, creativity, insight, and direct knowledge. Moreover, when our minds are clear, quiet, and precise, our ability to think, to learn, and to understand is dramatically increased.


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]