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Fri, 23 Jun 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Bookworms are kinder and more empathetic than those who only watch television, study finds

Spending most of your time with fictional people might actually make you nicer to real ones, new research suggests.

A study carried out by Kingston University London researchers found that people who regularly read - particularly fiction - tend to be kinder and more empathetic to their fellow human beings. Those who only watch television, on the other hand, are less compassionate and understanding with others.

Researchers questioned 123 people on their preferences regarding books, TV shows and plays, then quizzed them about the genres of entertainment they prefer to consume - comedy, romance, drama or non-fiction.

Participants were then tested on their interpersonal skills, with researchers asking them about how they behaved toward others, whether they considered other people's perspectives or feelings and whether they went out of their way to help others.

The findings showed that people who read more tended to have more positive social behaviours and empathy, while those who watched a lot of television demonstrated more antisocial behaviours.



Mindfulness training indirectly counters cognitive biases associated with prejudice

Today, prejudice against people who don't share our race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political persuasion is creating an atmosphere of distrust and hostility that is dividing the United States. Citizens and researchers alike are desperate to understand where these divisions come from and how to heal them.

Some answers might be found in the scientific literature on mindfulness.

For those who don't know, mindfulness is a state of being—often practiced through meditation—that involves an increased awareness of our emotions, thoughts, and surroundings, accompanied by a sense of acceptance and non-judgment. Several studies have suggested that practicing mindfulness can reduce prejudice and bias.

For example, one study found that a brief loving-kindness meditation reduced prejudice toward homeless people, while another found that a brief mindfulness training decreased unconscious bias against black people and elderly people. In a third study by Adam Lueke and colleagues, white participants who received a brief mindfulness training demonstrated less biased behavior (not just attitudes) toward black participants in a trust game.

Wine n Glass

Strangers to ourselves: Study finds getting drunk doesn't change one's personality as much as you think

© Daniel Munoz / Reuters
US researchers got a group of test subjects tipsy and asked them and neutral observers to record how their personalities changed. While drinkers thought they turned nicer and more open-minded, outsiders said they became more sociable, but otherwise stayed the same.

"We were surprised to find such a discrepancy between drinkers' perceptions of their own alcohol-induced personalities and how observers perceived them," said Rachel Winograd of the University of Missouri, the lead author of the new study, which has been published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science. "Participants reported experiencing differences in all factors of the Five Factor Model of personality, but extraversion was the only factor robustly perceived to be different across participants in alcohol and sober conditions."

The 156 people recruited for the study were invited into the lab in friend groups of three or four, with half given enough vodka and Sprite to reach a blood alcohol of .09 - equivalent of five shots for a 90kg man - and the others just the lemonade as a placebo.

Once breathalyzed, the participants were given group activities such as puzzles and discussion questions, during which they displayed their personalities. They were also asked to describe their own 'drunk personality' throughout the experiment.


15 myths about losing a beloved pet

© Animal Rescue Foundation
"I didn't know anyone else felt as deeply as I do towards animals," a number of people have confided in me.

When it comes to your love of animals, you may not be as alone as you think! Some pet owners are extraordinarily attached and dedicated to their animal companions. So when their good (or best) friends die — or otherwise leave their lives — they are heartbroken and sometimes devastated.

Since more and more animal lovers are "coming out of the closet," fewer animal lovers are feeling as alone with their intense pet-related grief. More and more animal lovers are openly talking about their deep bonds with their furred, feathered, finned, and scaled friends. Peoples' attitudes towards pet loss have really changed in the last 40 years - especially in the last decade. Despite growing enlightenment, misperceptions about pet loss still persist. These myths hinder healthy mourning. Here are some of the myths followed by the realities.

Top Myths About Losing Your Pet

Myth 1. People who experience intense grief over the loss or anticipated loss of a pet are crazy, weird, or strange.

Reality: Individuals who say this, or believe this, are judgmental. Experiencing powerful feelings of distress over the loss of a loved animal companion is, usually, normal and healthy. People who have strong feelings about the loss of a pet have them because they are capable of intimate attachments and deep emotional bonding. This is something to be proud of, not something to put down.

Snakes in Suits

How to deal with psychopaths & toxic people

I know what some people are thinking: I'm never going to deal with psychopaths. This is just more sensational clickbait junk.

Wrong. The experts are betting you probably encounter a psychopath every day. In fact, a lot of what you think you know about psychopaths is very wrong.

Yes, psychopaths are more likely to be in jail than most people — but the majority of them aren't. There's a whole class of people who don't have a conscience or feel empathy, and in all likelihood you deal with at least one all the time.

And they probably make your life miserable. They're "subclinical psychopaths." With biology, you either have tuberculosis or you don't. Black and white. There's no "kinda." In psychology there's a lot of "kinda." People with subclinical psychological disorders are like this. Not bad enough to go to prison, but plenty bad enough to make your life awful.

The Machiavellian manipulators at work who do all kinds of nasty — but without leaving fingerprints. The bad boyfriends and girlfriends who drive you crazy — sometimes quite deliberately.

Comment: A Warning from the Ancestors - Psychopaths in Folklore and Fairy Tales
Mythology and folklore are really an early form of psychology. In a pre-scientific era - it was the only means by which average people could anchor their frustration and warnings to others regarding the Consciousness Parasites and other pathological predators within the material world - without having to rely exclusively on supernatural-religious concepts such as demons, succubi and so on. This was probably to avoid charges of witchcraft and blasphemy. So rather than deal with purely religious motifs - from around the Middle Ages on - the psychopath entered into the world of children's fairy tale.

Just about all European fairy tales from this period on are about psychopaths and psychopathic behaviour. How to recognise their traits, and deal with them. This is not by accident - a collective folk memory was generated in the guise of children's stories of wicked stepmothers, wolves disguised as kindly and familiar people turning out to be killers. This repository of pathological awareness was essentially the only option available to a mainly illiterate population of the time. A powerful method to warn others in such a way that would be passed on and without risking ridicule and censure - by application of a linguistic folk art to develop changes in the collective consciousness. Ultimately, this is what these fairy tales were attempting to achieve going forward - a warning of sorts. While also serving the function of an allegorical collective therapy session to heal past trauma within a community caused by psychopaths in the past.


Do the ends ever justify the means?

I think the U.S. citizenry is being afflicted by a sort of mass insanity at the moment. There are no good outcomes if this continues. As a result, I feel compelled to provide a voice for those of us lost in the political wilderness. We must persevere and not be manipulated into the obvious and nefarious divide and conquer tactics being aggressively unleashed across the societal spectrum. If we lose our grounding and our fortitude, who will be left to speak for those of us who simply don't fit into any of the currently ascendant political ideologies?

- From February's post: Lost in the Political Wilderness
Given our increasingly hysterical, polarized and downright rabid political environment, I think it's important for those of us who see ourselves as relatively conscious individuals to reflect upon our principles and how they play a role in our everyday lives. As such, today's piece will examine the concept of whether "the ends justify the means" when it comes to achieving ones objectives, political or otherwise. It's an extraordinarily important philosophical exercise to undertake, particularly since the turbulent period we inhabit is likely to get far more insane and divisive before it gets better.


The ancient power of mantra chanting validated by modern science

Chanting (mantra) is an ancient technology that modern science reveals connects us in a very real way to the farthest reaches of the universe.

I love chanting mantras, and I do so daily as an integral part of my kundalini yoga practice. I don't need to know the specifics of how it produces a calming and sometimes even transcendent effect on my consciousness, but I've always been deeply curious about the mechanisms that may be at play beneath the surface of my awareness. This is why I am both deeply grateful and amazed by the work of John Reid, the UK inventor of the cymascope -- a technology that renders sound visible. In an article published on his website titled, "Cymatics - A Bridge To the Unseen World," John and his wife Annaleise reveal facts about sound that are simply mind-blowing and worthy of far greater dissemination. First, did you know that sound is actually not a wave but spheroidal phenomenon? In their words:
"Before looking at cymatics more closely let us dispel the popularly held misconception that "sound is a wave": It isn't. All audible sounds are, in fact, spherical in form or spheroidal, that is to say audible sounds are sphere-like but not necessarily perfectly spherical. For the sake of simplicity we'll call these spheroidal sound spheres "Sound bubbles."


The secret to crushing your anxiety? Strengthening your vagus nerve

Mental Health Month is all about awareness. After all, mental health is the lens through which we all view the world around us. If you haven't had an experience with depression or anxiety yourself, it's likely you know someone who has struggled with a mental health condition. This month, our goal is to feel more connected through the struggle and talk more openly about what works, what doesn't, and what our experiences have really been like. Because at the end of the day, we're all on the road to better mental health together.

Anxiety can be a real doozy; it's impossibly complicated, deeply personal, and really, really hard to predict. There are times when we think our anxiety is behind us—that we are finally one step ahead—but then something shifts and we are on our heels again, fighting to get back to a place of peace and calm. We are all students of our anxiety and that's why understanding exactly how our nervous system works—and what we can do to calm it—can be incredibly empowering.

But what does calming your nervous system really mean? Many people would describe it as slowing the heart rate, deepening the breath, and relaxing different muscles—but what actually connects these sensations to the brain? Well, allow us to introduce you to the vagus nerve, the part of the body that seems to explain how our minds control our bodies, how our bodies influence our minds and might give us the tools we need to calm them both.

Comment: Waking the Vagus: Wandering nerve could lead to range of therapies


After 62 years of marriage, Texas couple dies together while holding hands

© wthr.com
Tom and Delma Ledbetter
After nearly 62 years of marriage, Lake Jackson couple Tom and Delma Ledbetter left this world about two weeks ago.

"Mama was from Nebraska, and daddy was from Arkansas," said Donetta Nichols.

Nichols is one of the Ledbetters' daughters. She tells us the couple first met in their early 20s through mutual friends. "He was stationed in Florida and my mother and her girlfriend had moved to Florida," she said.

Their first date of sorts happened when Tom had to "just move his car."

"They drove around two, three different blocks or whatever and they came back and they parked and he said he reached over and he grabbed her hand and he said, 'I don't know what made me do it.' He said, 'I just reached over and gave her a kiss on the cheek,'" Nichols said.

Three weeks later, they were married. Two daughters soon followed, then grandchildren and then great-grandchildren. It was a life filled with love and laughter. Then, in April of this year, Delma fell ill and did not recover.


Conversations on parenting in dark times

© desmogblog.com
For many of us, it is insanely difficult to wrap our hearts and minds around the prospects which lie ahead for humanity. The list of potential calamities is long and varied, and the scenarios that rise to the top of the 'most probable today' column shift all the time. Are we looking at full-blown nuclear war, or will it 'just' be Fukushima cesium making its way into our food and water? Could it be rising acidified oceans, unpredictable weather fueled by hotter seas, or maybe a methane 'burp' that leads to an abrupt end to agriculture? And then, even if we somehow evade all of these and manage to survive, what about the social and political chaos that is being fomented by right-wing 'populists' around the globe? What will happen when climate refugees are either: a. us, or, b. camping in large numbers in our backyards? Where will water come from? Food? Security of any sort seems less than certain looking into the decade ahead.

It is entirely possible that things will unfold in a manner none of us can foresee and if that happens, then we will have to be nimble and respond accordingly. No guarantees, no promises. We are in uncharted waters and not only is there no easy answer for the collective, but we must all find our own way, both in this limbo time, when for many of us, things continue pretty much as before, and in the years ahead, as the status quo collapses.