Welcome to Sott.net
Mon, 19 Mar 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Study: Meditation won't necessarily make you a calmer person: Buddhist practice leaves people just as aggressive and prejudiced

© Shutterstock/GlebStock
Scientists have revealed the trendy Buddhist practice of meditation does not make you more compassionate, less aggressive or prejudiced
'If every eight-year-old in the world is taught meditation, the world will be without violence within one generation,' the Dalai Lama claims.

But it appears the respected monk could be wrong.

For scientists have revealed the trendy Buddhist practice does not make you more compassionate, less aggressive or prejudiced.

Meditation, incorporating a range of spiritual and religious beliefs, has been touted for decades as being able to make the world a better place. However, researchers from the UK, New Zealand and The Netherlands, have found meditation doesn't change how adults behave towards others.

Comment: The type of meditation being practiced can have different effects. Meditation is useful for bringing limiting emotional or behavioral issues to consciousness, but then it may be necessary to use other healing techniques or therapies to deal with the new information.

Blue Planet

Panpsychism: The idea that everything from spoons to stones are conscious is gaining academic credibility

earth consciousness
Is everything conscious?
Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it's the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter.

This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the "panpsychist" view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose.

"Why should we think common sense is a good guide to what the universe is like?" says Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. "Einstein tells us weird things about the nature of time that counters common sense; quantum mechanics runs counter to common sense. Our intuitive reaction isn't necessarily a good guide to the nature of reality."


Study says narcissistic perfectionists like Steve Jobs are toxic to society

smiling Narcissist
© Unknown
"They're thinking really negative, hostile, critical things about other people."

Narcissistic perfectionists - like the late Steve Jobs - are arguably the worst type of narcissists.

They are grandiose, see themselves as special, have a high sense of entitlement and extremely high expectations of others.

Plus, they love to criticise.

Comment: See also:


Adolescence is lasting much longer than it used to

young adults
There is something very strange happening to adolescence.

The period of adolescence is lasting much longer than it used to, according to some psychologists.

Traditionally, the period of adolescence - when people transition to adulthood - ended at 19-years-old.

Now some researchers believe this transition is not happening until 24-years-old.

Comment: The Health & Wellness Show: The Millennial Syndrome: Why they gotta be like that?

Cloud Grey

How language can be marker of depression

depression bus rain
From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing.

Sometimes this 'language of depression' can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture.

Comment: Depression is a complex issue and it won't manfiest itself the same in everyone - for example, some people find the state of the world depressing, others are more focused on the state of their own lives - but this article is interesting since it provides us with clues with some of the surrounding issues:

Book 2

Children best learn social skills from storybooks about human characters

child reading

A new study finds that young children learn greater social skills when they’re read books with main characters who are humans, not cute animals.
Take a hike, Paddington! Children learn social skills best when storybook characters are humans rather than the cute, furry ones seen in so many children's books and other media.

A University of Toronto study found that children ages four to six were more likely to share with others after hearing stories read to them that featured human characters as opposed to the commonly-used anthropomorphic (human-like) animals.

"Many people believe children find stories with human-like animals captivating and relatable, but what we're finding is that this is not the case," says lead researcher Dr. Patricia Ganea, an associate professor of early cognitive development, in a university release.

For the study, researchers measured how altruistic the children were before and after listening to three different storybooks. Children were given 10 stickers that they could share with another child before the books were read to them. They then listened to one of three types of stories.

Comment: And what are some of the components that make for a good, constructive story - for an adult ?

2 + 2 = 4

Young kids are creative geniuses but the education system destroys it

hot air balloons
Dr. George Land and Beth Jarman were commissioned by NASA to help the space agency identify and develop creative talent. The two were tasked to research school children in an attempt to identify creative individuals from which the agency could pick to help with their many products. In a recent TED talk, Land described his team's surprising findings on the education system which are nothing short of shocking.

It seems American schoolchildren lose their ability to think creatively over time. As students enter their educational journey, they retain most of their abilities to think creatively. In other words, children are born with creative genius. Employing a longitudinal study model, Land and Jarman studied 1,600 children at ages 5, 10, and 15.

Surprisingly, Land said they discovered if given a problem with which they had to come up with an imaginative, and innovative solution, 98 percent of 5-year-olds tested at the "genius" level. Simply put, their answers to how the problem should be solved were brilliant.



The toxic effects of loneliness on the human body

lonely old man
© KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Loneliness is distinct from the number of friends a person has or how much time he or she spends alone, but is rather defined by a longing for greater social interaction.
Dr. Chris Fagundes wanted to study how loneliness affected the way people felt when they were ill. So the assistant professor of psychology at Rice University and his team recruited 213 healthy participants and asked them about how lonely and socially isolated they were.

Then, the researchers gave each participant nasal drops containing rhinovirus 39, one of the viruses responsible for the common cold, sequestered them in separate hotel rooms for five days and asked them to record how they felt.

When Fagundes and his team analyzed the study results, they made a curious finding.

"Put simply, lonelier people feel worse when they are sick than less lonely people," Fagundes and his co-authors wrote in their 2017 paper, published in the American Psychological Association journal Health Psychology.

Fagundes says he suspects the increased misery is not just a matter of perception. Loneliness, it seems, actually does make people sicker. Study after study suggests loneliness is a health hazard, raising a person's risk of a wide range of illnesses from cardiovascular disease and cancer to depression and dementia. An oft-cited 2015 meta-analysis from researchers at Brigham Young University showed loneliness and social isolation are as deadly as well-established risk factors, such as obesity, smoking and lack of physical activity.


The optimism bias causes people to see themselves and others through rose-colored glasses

rose colored glasses
© renonevada
New research from City, University of London, University of Oxford and Yale University has shown that we see our own lives, and also those we care about, through 'rose-tinted glasses'.

The study, which is the first to show that such an 'optimism bias' extends beyond the self, found that people readily changed their beliefs about a person they like when receiving good news but barely changed their opinions about them after receiving bad news. This 'vicarious optimism' in their learning about others was found to be stronger the more people cared about another person, and was even seen for strangers.

To examine how far this optimism bias extended, the researchers studied a mechanism known as 'good news/bad news effect' that generates and protects our optimism.

In life we sometimes change our beliefs about ourselves based on new information we receive. For example, when told we are more intelligent than we thought-good news-we update our beliefs, but if we hear we are less intelligent than we suspected-bad news-we change little. This learning bias appears to arise from the desire to feel good about ourselves and our future.


Sex differences in brain structure obvious early in development

Differences in Brain
© Figure via Dean III et al, 2018
On average, men and women differ psychologically in small but reliable ways, such as in personality, interests, and cognitive performance, but the basis of these differences is up for debate. Are they innate or due to how we're socialised?

Neuroscientists look for traction on this question by studying sex differences in the brain, premised on the idea that these might contribute to the observed psychological differences. However, studying the brains of adults, or even teenagers, still leads to spinning wheels, because culturally produced differences will show up in the brain too. But how about one-month old infants, the subjects of a paper published in the journal Brain Structure and Function? Since birth, babies at this age have spent most of their time sleeping and suckling with limited eyesight, so profound socialisation effects aren't going to be a factor. And yet, the new findings reveal that sex differences in a number of brain areas are already apparent.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison team led by Douglas Dean III recruited 149 expectant mothers who brought in their infants - 77 girls and 72 boys - for brain scanning one month after giving birth.

I remember doing MRI scans, and it was awfully noisy. So kudos to the infant neuroimaging community for developing a top-rate comfy environment for the little ones. They were popped into a vacuum immobilisation bag, surrounded with foam for comfort and sound insulation, and issued with ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones. These conditions allowed the scans to be performed while the infants slept, which was vital because even minor movements could have distorted the results.