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Wed, 18 Oct 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


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

Are you a tabloid loving, pop culture obsessed, meme and GIF intrigued person? Do you like sensational novels to pass the time?

According to a new study published in the International Journal of Business Administration in May 2016, your love for "light reading," and web-based aggregators like Reddit, Tumblr and BuzzFeed may not be doing you any good.

The researchers concluded that what students read in college directly affects the level of writing they achieve. In fact, students who pick up academic journals, literary fiction, or general nonfiction wrote with greater syntactic sophistication than those who preferred the former options. Furthermore, the highest scores came from those who resorted to academic journals, and the lowest to solely web-based content.But then again, "good writing" is often subjective. What we're really talking about here is whether our overall ability to convey what we want to say comes across well to the masses.

Comment: More on the benefits of reading:


Is ignorance a choice?

Throughout recorded history, humankind have had very short lifespans. After the advent of agriculture, the average life expectancy shrunk to much less than 40 years. This is not a lot of time to figure out life. On top of that, with the advent of civilization, people had to toil most of the day under feudal lords. Most of them were slaves. Knowledge was scarce. Whatever knowledge was available was held by the elite. The high priests, royalty and the wealthy were the only ones with access to any knowledge. Most people were illiterate. They lived in ignorance.

At the advent of the printing press, knowledge became more available, especially in the developed countries. Libraries became common place and books became affordable. In many places around the world, people are offered a basic education for free. Our life span has nearly doubled, and knowledge exponentiated. Now most people have access to basic knowledge about atoms, quantum theory, stars and galaxies and so many things in between.


Probiotics can be used to help with depression by helping people let go of the past

© Shutterstock
Probiotics may stop sadness turning into depression by helping people let go of the past, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition found that probiotics stopped people ruminating so much. Rumination is when people focus on bad experiences and feelings from the past.

Dr Laura Steenbergen, the study's first author, said:
"Rumination is one of the most predictive vulnerability markers of depression. Persistent ruminative thoughts often precede and predict episodes of depression."
In the study 40 people were given a sachet to take with water or milk every day for four weeks. Half of the people received sachets that contained a multi-species probiotic. The other half received a placebo for the four weeks.


The basic laws of human stupidity

Stupid people are everywhere. And, as we all know, no class, race, sex, occupation, political affiliation, country of origin, or degree of wealth has a monopoly on stupidity. Stupid people cause profound damage to individuals and to society at large. But, for the most part, stupid people operate in a kind of anonymity. Consequently, we are frequently ambushed by them and pay the often hefty price.

I say stupid people operate in anonymity not because we all don't know stupid people, but because stupid people don't have a huge literature identifying them. There are countless books written on how to be smarter, how to improve critical thinking skills, how to learn faster and how to develop acumen in all sorts of fields of endeavor.

There are books on the traits of highly successful people and on the classification of various intellectual skills. But where is the Field Guide to Stupid People, the reference source we need to identify and avoid - as much as is possible - the often irreparable harm such people can inflict? Such a book doesn't exist. Or at least I thought it didn't.

All that changed a few months ago when I was in Paris, roaming through the English language section of my favorite Parisian bookstore, Galignani.


Labelling and describing feelings reduces anxiety even if you don't think it will

Labelling anxiety — putting the feeling into words — can reduce the fear response, research finds.

In fact, the more fearful words people use to describe their anxiety, the more their anxiety reduces.

However, the study also found that people don't expect that labelling their emotions will reduce anxiety.

But, recordings of their skin conductance show that it does.

The study compared labelling anxiety with other common methods of reducing anxiety, including distraction and reappraisal.

Comment: Talking about your feelings will help you cope with scary and stressful situations.


87-year-old man builds intricate cathedral for wife with Alzheimer's

© Inside Edition
When Gerald LeSiege's wife of 60 years came down with Alzheimer's, he took up woodworking as a hobby to help him cope with his wife's illness and be a caretaker to her. After he realized he had a knack for the art, he decided to build something for his wife that she would love without needing to explain why it was for her.

The two apparently loved traveling to Europe, so he chose to build a cathedral reminiscent of those in older European cities to remind her of their time together and to make her happy. LeSiege told Inside Edition:
"What got to our heart, and made us feel real warm and close, was all of the architectural beauty of Europe."
For several months, Gerald spent hours everyday working on his design for a five-foot cathedral with lights and a clock inside of it. He had his wife by his side as he constructed the tower.

People 2

New study says opposites attract, but only if you're single

© redOrbit
When people are single they are more attracted to faces that are dissimilar to their own, new research finds.

But, when people are already in a relationship, they are more attracted to faces that look similar to their own.

In other words: opposites attract for single people, but not for those in a relationship.

The reason that dissimilar faces attract could be down to avoiding incest or other people with similar genes.

So, when people are single, they are automatically less attracted to faces that look like their own.

Comment: More on the opposites attract phenomenon:


Is resilience the key to avoiding the sickening effects of stress?

© Elizabeth Dalziel / AP
A young Maoist soldier walks into a village in Kholagaun, Nepal, in 2004
A gritty attitude seems to prevent chronic inflammation from overwhelming the body in the aftermath of trauma.

It's well known that stress makes people sick, and extreme trauma makes them even sicker. But a new study suggests that not everyone who endures adversity is doomed to chronic illness. There might be a way to prevent the body from attacking itself in the wake of trauma.

For the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a team of researchers examined the effects of resilience—a measurement of grittiness in the face of strife—on the immune systems of former child soldiers in Nepal. From 1996 to 2006, Maoist rebels fought a civil war against Nepal's monarchy and the government forces that protected it. One of their strategies was recruiting children, first in various "cultural" activities, such as dancing, but eventually in military roles. By the time the war was over, thousands of children had served as soldiers.

Comment: Read more about How to develop emotional resilience and why everyone should do it


7 tell-tale emotional signs that dog owners often miss: Submissive behavior

As a pet owner, it's important to take the time to get to know your pooch — not only, for instance, that her favorite toy is the squeaky pig or that she often forgets to bring said pig in from outside, but also how to read her sometimes-subtle body language.

The fact is that while you and your dog may communicate very well overall, there's always room for improvement. And it's surprisingly easy to miss certain nuances of your dog's posture, eye contact or vocalizations and in so doing miss out on an opportunity to connect and strengthen your bond.

Submissive behavior is especially important to be aware of, as it's your dog's way of letting you know that she's not a threat and may, in some cases, be looking for some extra reassurances from you.

Comment: See also: Dogs "catch" emotions from humans
  • Tail-waggers and their people share hormonal bond through mutual gazing
  • Dog 'walks 200 miles to find woman who nursed her back to health after hit-and-run accident'


Why do childhood memories usually completely disappear?

When was your first memory? It's an odd question that somehow makes its way into conversations. When I think about it personally, a field of images come to mind, but one age, day, place, or action seems too concrete to pinpoint. I don't remember being a baby, getting my first tooth, or learning how to walk and talk, but I do remember holding my favorite baby doll, losing my first tooth, and learning how to ride a bike.

According to Carole Peterson, a professor of psychology at Memorial University Newfoundland who studies children's memories, small children are actually capable of recalling events from when they were as young as 20 months, but these memories seem to fade away by the time they're between 4 and 7 years old.