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Sat, 24 Jun 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


'Love hormone' Oxytocin could help spread kindness between strangers

© Shutterstock/funnyangel
Love hormone injections could help us to be kinder to strangers, new research suggests
An experiment was conducted among wild grey seals given shots of the hormone oxytocin - known to forge emotional bonds between mothers and babies, and romantic partners.

Scientists found that after the jabs, newly introduced seals instantly hit it off, seeking out each other's company and keeping physically close.

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The human brain detects disease in others even before it breaks out

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The human brain is much better than previously thought at discovering and avoiding disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reports. Our sense of vision and smell alone are enough to make us aware that someone has a disease even before it breaks out. And not only aware - we also act upon the information and avoid sick people. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The human immune system is effective at combating disease, but since it entails a great deal of energy expenditure disease avoidance should be part of our survival instinct. A new study now shows that this is indeed the case: the human brain is better than previously thought at discovering early-stage disease in others. Moreover, we also have a tendency to act upon the signals by liking infected people less than healthy ones.

"The study shows us that the human brain is actually very good at discovering this and that this discovery motivates avoidance behaviour," says principal investigator Professor Mats Olsson at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

Post-It Note

Tips on overcoming confirmation bias

If you have ever heard someone say something that completely disagreed with your own understanding of a topic and immediately dismissed it as, "Oh, that can't possibly be true!" then you have been guilty of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a cognitive process in which the brain unconsciously uses a system of defenses to protect you from potentially incorrect knowledge or information. The mind will automatically try to reject new information and instead seek evidence to support the current belief.

This entire process can happen in a moment, and it can be helpful in quickly identifying direct threats (scams, liars, false reports), but it can also be a hindrance when you need to fully understand a multi-faceted problem and seek potentially conflicting evidence.

Overcoming confirmation bias can be difficult, but psychologists have determined that some biases can be corrected by applying a deliberate process to problem-solving and decision-making. Try these approaches to help you neutralize your confirmation bias in daily leadership activities:

Comment: See also: Daniel Kahneman: How your cognitive biases act like optical illusions

Magic Wand

Gratitude: How it motivates us to become better people

© spineuniverse.com
Gratitude has become a hot topic in recent years. Celebrities from Oprah to James Taylor to Ariana Huffington have promoted an "attitude of gratitude," and gratitude journals, hashtags, and challenges have become immensely popular. Much of this enthusiasm has been fueled by research linking gratitude to happiness, health, and stronger relationships.

Yet there has been a backlash. Some critics and skeptics have charged that gratitude breeds self-satisfaction and acceptance of the status quo. Several articles, including a New York Times essay by journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, have recently asserted that gratitude may be selfish and self-indulgent, prompting people to feel satisfied with where they are in life rather than pursuing bigger personal goals or working to help others. The author of a piece in the Harvard Crimson argued that gratitude can "act as a form of complacency" and that the indebtedness engendered by gratitude may "get in the way of progress."

Does gratitude lead to complacency? Do all those benefits of gratitude come at a price—laziness, apathy, and the acceptance of inequities?

People 2

5 insidious phrases sociopaths and narcissists use to undermine your confidence

© Men's Health
Have you ever wondered if someone you know is a narcissist or sociopath? How do you tell the difference? First let me say that all sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths. Confused? Let me try to explain. While there are definite similarities between the two personality types, the motives behind what they do and say are different. The sociopath wants to control every facet of your life, while the narcissist wants you to devote all of your time and attention to them.

However, both personality types will say similar things to get you where they want you. Below are 5 sentences that both narcissists and sociopaths use that make you feel like you're crazy.

1. I hate drama

They will tell you that they hate drama, but you'll soon learn that there's more drama surrounding them than anyone you've ever known. At first, they idolize you above everyone else, praising you for your perfect easy-going nature.


Overscheduling kids prevents self-discovery

Are children scheduled to the max these days? Are there any waking moments that give children the freedom to express themselves in unstructured environments? Children should be allowed to get bored so they can develop their innate ability to be creative, an education expert says.

Deschoolers maintain that a child's learning should be curiosity-driven rather than dictated by teachers and textbooks, and that forcing kids to adhere to curricula quashes their natural inclination to explore and ask questions because children think differently.

Dr Teresa Belton says cultural expectations that children should be constantly active could hamper the development of their imagination.

The senior researcher at the University of East Anglia's School of Education and Lifelong Learning interviewed a number of authors, artists and scientists in her exploration of the effects of boredom.

There are activities and summer camps galore to fill children's time and supply much needed childcare when kids are out of school. But psychologists and child development experts suggest that over-scheduling children during the summer is unnecessary and could ultimately keep kids from from discovering what truly interests them.



Does living with less actually make one happier?

Will having more wealth actually make you happier? According to a number of studies an addition to your income isn't only unlikely to make you happier, but it can make those around you less happy, and you for the fear of losing it.

To explain, we must first look at a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Two economists, David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald of Warwick, set out to document the relation that age has to overall happiness. What they found was that as income tends to increase steadily over time, happiness follows a U-shape pattern, dipping to its lowest point at around age 45, then quickly climbing up thereafter.

A large-scale survey from the General Social Survey, which included around 20,000 men and 25,000 women of 16 years and older supports these findings. After asking Americans to rank their happiness on a 3 point scale ranging from "very happy" to "pretty happy" to "not too happy", they found a resulting average of 2.2, or just over "pretty happy". The Eurobaromoter, after conducting a similar survey on close to 400,000 men and women in 11 European countries from 1975 to 1998 found that the average self-assessed happiness score across Europe is 3 out of 4.


7 signs that you are probably smarter than average, no IQ test required

No IQ test required, here are some hints that your intelligence might be above average.

Other studies now suggest a link between intelligence and mental illness that may go back into our evolutionary past.

The increased intelligence of Homo sapiens was originally a result of gene mutations.

The cost of these gene mutations, however, may have been an increase in mental illness (Nithianantharajah et al., 2012).

Comment: Not included in this list is the benefits of cigarette smoking. See also: Secret health benefits of Nicotine


To understand others, know thyself

© saramarchessault.com
Through targeted training, people can be guided to develop a better inner awareness about their own mental states, and to have a better understanding of the mental states of others. In fact, the better people understand themselves, the more easily they can put themselves in other people's shoes.

Such training therefore ultimately helps us deal with current global challenges, says Anne Böckler of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science and Julius Maximilians University Würzburg in Germany. She, together with Tania Singer and Lukas Hermann, is an author of a study in Springer's Journal of Cognitive Enhancement which looked at the influence of a three-month contemplative training course in a group of adults.

During the three months, various methods were used to teach two groups of 80 and 81 participants, aged between 20 and 55 years, how to develop their perspective-taking skills . The training was inspired by the Internal Family Systems model which views the self as being composed of different complex inner parts or subpersonalities, each with their own defining set of behaviours, thoughts and emotions. Participants were taught to identify and classify their own inner parts. They explored how being identified with different inner parts such as their caring, managing or pleasure parts affects their everyday experiences.


40 more 'intelligence' genes found

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SMART GENES A large genetic study turns up more genes that may help build intelligence into the brain.
Smarty-pants have 40 new reasons to thank their parents for their powerful brains. By sifting through the genetics of nearly 80,000 people, researchers have uncovered 40 genes that may make certain people smarter. That brings the total number of suspected "intelligence genes" to 52.

Combined, these genetic attributes explain only a very small amount of overall smarts, or lack thereof, researchers write online May 22 in Nature Genetics. But studying these genes, many of which play roles in brain cell development, may ultimately help scientists understand how intelligence is built into brains.

Historically, intelligence research has been mired in controversy, says neuroscientist Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine. Scientists disagreed on whether intelligence could actually be measured and if so, whether genes had anything at all to do with the trait, as opposed to education and other life experiences. But now "we are so many light-years beyond that, as you can see from studies like this," says Haier. "This is very exciting and very positive news."

The results were possible only because of the gigantic number of people studied, says study coauthor Danielle Posthuma, a geneticist at VU University Amsterdam. She and colleagues combined data from 13 earlier studies on intelligence, some published and some unpublished. Posthuma and her team looked for links between intelligence scores, measured in different ways in the studies, and variations held in the genetic instruction books of 78,308 children and adults. Called a genome-wide association study or GWAS, the method looks for signs that certain quirks in people's genomes are related to a trait.