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Wed, 07 Dec 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Honesty is not always the best policy: Children's truth perception becomes more nuanced with age

© Arian Zwegers/Flickr
Younger children have a black and white take on truth and lies, whereas older children take intent and outcomes more into consideration, a new study suggests.

Researchers led by Victoria Talwar of the educational and counseling psychology department at McGill University wanted to know how a child's moral understanding develops. They studied the behavior of close to 100 children, ages 6 to 12.

The researchers showed the children a series of short videos in which childlike puppets either told the truth or lied. The variable was the outcome of the puppets' words. Sometimes what they said caused harm to someone else, for example blaming an innocent person for their own misdeeds.


Professor explains the increase of 'precious snowflakes' - cites narcissism, over-nurturing

'People now experience the entire world as a form of bullying'

The political correctness movement that has swept college campuses, corporate America and mainstream life can be traced back to a few psychological trends.

Howard Schwartz, professor emeritus of Oakland University, has for years studied the psychology underlying political correctness, and in his new book Political Correctness and the Destruction of Social Order: Chronicling the Rise of the Pristine Self, he offers some clarity on why the term "snowflakes" is now synonymous with college students today.

Schwartz, who taught classes in social and behavioral science within its business school, said the term stems from what he calls "the rise of the pristine self."

Schwartz writes in the book that "this is a self that is touched by nothing but love. The problem is that nobody is touched by nothing but love, and so if a person has this as an expectation, if they have built their sense of themselves around this premise, the inevitable appearance of the something other than love blows this structure apart."

Comment: See also: Senseless abuse: U.S. public schools are still legally beating children, injuring thousands of kids


Ancient Stoic wisdom to help achieve greater happiness

There's no shortage of evidence that happy people live longer, healthier lives. For example, one study found that the tendency to always expect the worst was linked to a 25 percent higher risk of dying before the age of 65. This means a pessimistic attitude can shave more than 14 years off the average lifespan.

But just HOW to "be happy" is an elusive mystery for many. We all seek it, yet many feel they're missing the mark on any given day. Part of the problem may be rooted in your concept of happiness. If you rate your level of happiness as being low, consider reevaluating your notion of happiness.

Perhaps you're subconsciously equating happiness with a certain lifestyle or level of materialism. Perhaps you've fallen into the trap of thinking that "when xyz happens, then I'll be happy."

A recent article in Time magazine delves into the concept of how to become happier, noting that the clues to a happy life are more apt to be found in classic writings than modern self-help books.

People 2

Is our addiction to technology flattening the range of our emotional experiences?

© Victor Blue
Over the past generation there seems to have been a decline in the number of high-quality friendships.

In 1985, most Americans told pollsters that they had about three confidants, people with whom they could share everything. Today, the majority of people say they have about two. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.

All of this has left people wondering if technology is making us lonelier. Instead of going over to the neighbor's house, are we sitting at home depressingly surfing everybody else's perfect lives on Facebook?

Comment: The Complete Guide to Breaking Your Smartphone Habit


Pot-belly of ignorance: What you read changes how effectively your mind operates

© Luke MacGregor / Reuters
What you eat makes a huge difference in how optimally your body operates. And what you spend time reading and learning equally affects how effectively your mind operates.

Increasingly, we're filling our heads with soundbites, the mental equivalent of junk. Over a day or even a week, the changes, like those to our belly, are barely noticeable. However, if we extend the timeline to months and years, we face a worrying reality and may find ourselves looking down at the pot-belly of ignorance.

If you think of your mind as a library, three things should concern you.
  1. The information you store in there — its accuracy and relevance;
  2. Your ability to find/retrieve that information on demand; and
  3. Finally your ability to put that information to use when you need it — that is, you want to apply it.
There is no point having a repository of knowledge in your mind if you can't find and apply its contents (see multiplicative systems).

Let's take a look at what you put into your mind.

Comment: You are what you read: How deep reading is effective brain exercise

2 + 2 = 4

Commonly misused words that make smart people look stupid

© Getty Images
We're all tempted to use words that we're not too familiar with. We throw them around in meetings, e-mails and important documents (such as resumes and client proposals), and they land, like fingernails across a chalkboard, on everyone who has to hear or read them.

No matter how talented you are or what you've accomplished, using words incorrectly can change the way people see you and forever cast you in a negative light. You may not think it's a big deal, but if your language is driving people up the wall you need to do something about it.

It's the words that we think we're using correctly that wreak the most havoc, because we don't even realize how poorly we're coming across. After all, TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people and found that self-awareness is the area where most people score the lowest.

We're all guilty of this from time to time, myself included.

When I write, I hire an editor to review my articles before I post them online. It's bad enough to have a roomful of people witness your blunder and something else entirely to stumble in front of 100,000!

Comment: You can read more on commonly misused words below:

Commonly Misused Words and Phrases


What happens in the brain when it comes to decision making?

© Family Business / Fotolia
Results of a new study challenge the traditional view of decision making.
Choices, it is commonly understood, lead to action - but how does this happen in the brain? Intuitively, we first make a choice between the options. For example, when approaching a yellow traffic light, we need to decide either to hit the breaks or to accelerate the car. Next, the appropriate motor response is selected and carried out, in this case moving the foot to the left or to the right. Traditionally, it is assumed that separate brain regions are responsible for these stages. Specifically, it is assumed that the motor cortex carries out this final response selection without influencing the choice itself.

Two Tübingen Neuroscientists, Anna-Antonia Pape and research group leader Markus Siegel of the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN) and MEG Center, have found evidence that challenges this intuitive division between a 'deciding' and a 'responding' stage in decision making. The results of their study have been published in the latest Nature Communications.

While recording brain activity using magnetoencephalography (MEG) to monitor activity in motor areas, Pape and Siegel set 20 human subjects the simple task of deciding whether or not a field of dots on a screen was slowly moving together. The subjects could respond "yes" or "no" by pressing a button with either their left or their right hand. The mapping from choice (yes/no) to response (left/right button) changed randomly on each trial, with a short cue telling subjects the current configuration. This ensured the participants' brains could not plan a motor response, i.e. the correct button press, during choice formation. Astonishingly, while the test subjects were able to press the 'correct' button most of the time, subjects still showed a strong tendency towards motor response alternation. In other words, they often simply pressed the button they had not pressed in the trial just prior to the current one. This tendency was pronounced enough to detract from subjects' overall decision task performance.

Comment: See also:

Light Saber

Learning from failure: Why our mistakes are fundamental to future success

Ask a hundred people you meet this week what instances spurred their biggest growth in life (any dimension of it) and I'll wager most of those stories will fall under the umbrella of "mistakes." And the bigger the flub, you'll find, the more learning (and benefit) they probably received in the long-term. You'd think that knowing this we'd welcome the missteps and embrace them as the natural, productive, and highly potent opportunities they are. But not so much. Instead, we live in fear of them, try to circumvent them, endeavor to hide them even when they inevitably happen. We get thrown off by a skewed perception (social media and otherwise driven) that others magically operate out of perfection. We fall prey to the idea that when we make a mistake, we have a problem instead of an opening. It's too bad really—because in doing so we cut ourselves off from perhaps our most effective catalysts for change...and success.

When we think of success, our minds naturally zero in on the desired outcome. Success is the ultimate goal, the end product, the final result we wanted all along. While successfully attaining an individual outcome is gratifying, there's the whole process from desire to result that we tend to gloss over, not to mention the bigger perspective we get on what's possible to desire (and achieve). Mistakes are an essential part of any transformation. Not only do they underscore the whole fallible humanity we're working with, but they bust open the entire process of transformation, helping us break through into deeper dimensions of commitment while redirecting us toward more constructive pathways.

Comment: Growth mindset: Your reaction to failure determines your potential for future success


Neurosculpting: Can we relieve stress & anxiety by sculpting the mind?

Neurosculpting is a relatively new therapy. When you first hear the term, you may conjure an earnest Michelangelo chiselling away at a block of quarried marble. And what would emerge from his concentrated efforts? The exquisite human brain, of course, with each hemisphere shimmering in perfect symmetry. Neurosculpting may not equal Michelangelo, but it does reflect certain principles that flowered during the Renaissance: balance, perspective, and grace.

So what exactly is Neurosculpting? In essence, it is the fusion of Science and Spirituality; where current research in brain function and anatomy informs the ancient practice of meditation. The main objective of Neurosculpting, is to shape our thoughts in ways that will enhance an inner sense of calm and well-being.


Being kind to others does make you 'slightly happier'

© highwaystarz / Fotolia
An act of kindness.
Researchers conclude that being kind to others causes a small but significant improvement in subjective well-being. The review found that the effect is lower than some pop-psychology articles have claimed, but also concluded that future research might help identify which kind acts are most effective at boosting happiness.

The claim that 'helping makes you happy' has become a staple of pop psychology and self-help manuals. Performing 'random acts of kindness' has been touted as a sure-fire way of boosting your mood -- doing good makes you feel good, as well as benefiting others. But do these claims stack up, or are they 'too good to be true'?

In order to find out, a team from the universities of Oxford and Bournemouth carried out a systematic review of the scientific literature. They analysed over 400 published papers that had investigated the relationship between kindness and happiness, and identified 21 studies that had explicitly put the claim to the test -- that being kind to others makes us happier. They then conducted a meta-analysis, which statistically combines the results of these previous studies. On this basis, they calculate that there is indeed an overall effect of kindness on happiness, but that the size of the effect is relatively modest -- equivalent to less than one point on a 0-10 happiness scale.

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