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Posts Tagged "psychology"

Anthropology in Practice

The Psychology of Sexting

Photo by Jonas Seaman | CC, Click on image for license and information.

For those of us old enough to remember the deluge of “A/S/L?” messages that predominated the chatroom landscape of the nineties, sexting hardly seems that scandalous. Considering the murky exchanges that often ensued once A/S/L had been satisfied and body measurements had been exchanged, it’s a wonder that we stopped touching ourselves long enough do [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Decoding the Art of Flirtation

To mark Valentine’s Day, I’m posting an early piece that originally appeared on the old home of Anthropology in Practice. Hope your connections are everything you hope for today. A lingering look. A coy smile. Standing just a bit too close. An accidental brush. Flirtation is an art. It is also a deftly employed social [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Colors and Stuttering

It’s Thursday, so that means Research Blogging Editor’s Selections! This week you’ll want to be sure you check out: Quick—what color is the sky? Aatish Bhatia has a fascinating discussion on colors up at Empirical Zeal, demonstrating nicely the ways in which we construct elements of our world that seem so concrete with time. And [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Political Economy and the Grave, and Uniform Colors

Two selections for your holiday weekend (Memorial Day, US): Can grave goods tell us about the political economy of a group? At Bones Don’t Lie, Katy Meyers reports on recent research that examines what burial practices can reveal about the extent of social networks. At bigthink, David Berreby discusses a neat study on the ways [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Meaning of Goodbye

How do you prepare to say goodbye to your social group? | iStock photo.

It took a few days of moping around the house before I finally acknowledged what the problem is: my heart hurts. It’s an expression I use with those closest to me. It means I’m sad, and to some degree I feel helpless. It means my heart is breaking just a little. And it’s also an [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Seeing is Believing: The Story Behind Henry Heinz’s Condiment Empire

Dressings for your dish. | Photo by Michael Rosenstein, CC. Click on image for license and information.

Do me a favor: Go open your refrigerator and look at the labels on your condiments. Alternatively, if you’re at work, open your drawer and flip through your stash of condiment packets. (Don’t look at me like that. I know you have a stash. Or you know where to find one. It’s practically Office Survival [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

On My Shelf: Autophobia (A Review)

Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age | Brian Ladd | University of Chicago Press | 236 pages | $15.00 (Softcover) It’s an experience not at all unfamiliar to many of us: the flush of a first meeting, a growing attraction, a desire to spend every waking moment together, to visit new places and [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

From the Archives: Power, Confidence, and High Heels

Ed. Note:  During 2012, I thought I would use Fridays to share some of my favorite AiP posts from the archives—and this one definitely tops the list. It was selected as a Research Blogging Editor’s Selection. And I hope you’ll enjoy it too. Cinderella got the prince and Dorothy was envied. Why? They well shod. [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

New E-Book Takes Aim at Understanding Autism

The term “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos,” meaning self, used to describe conditions of social withdrawal—or the isolated self. Around 1910, a Swiss psychiatrist first used the term to refer to certain symptoms of schizophrenia. Later, in the 1940s, physicians Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger independently used that name to describe what was [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American MIND Launches a New Home Page and Blog Network

I am thrilled to announce two big developments for Scientific American MIND today. We are launching a new home page, mind.scientificamerican.com, so that fans of the magazine can find our print and online articles, as well as multimedia, in one convenient location. Starting today, you’ll start to see several new contributors in the mix, which [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

No Silly Love Songs? Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Our Latest E-Book: Love, Sex and Science

eBook - Disarming Cupid: Love, Sex and Science

Will “Love Will Keep Us Together” or is it true that “Love Is a Battlefield”? Whereas the topic of romance has provided limitless inspiration for artists, writers and musicians, scientists are just as fascinated by affairs of the heart, though they seldom sing about it. Cupid’s unpredictable arrow explains little, so it can be more [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Philosophy of Creativity

The Philosophy of Creativity

There is little that shapes the human experience as profoundly and pervasively as creativity. Creativity drives progress in every human endeavor, from the arts to the sciences, business, and technology. We celebrate and honor people for their creativity, identifying eminent individuals, as well as entire cultures and societies, in terms of their creative achievements. Creativity [...]

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Bering in Mind

Why I’m Not Proud of Being Gay

The Oxford English Dictionary (hereon "OED", for simplicity’s sake) offers several alternative definitions for the term pride. Almost none of them are positive. For present purposes, let’s skip the more obscure leonine variant—and in fact, a "pride of lions" may actually have its etymological roots in the symbolic representation of this animal during the Middle [...]

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Bering in Mind

Sex, Sleep and the Law: When Nocturnal Genitals Pose a Moral Dilemma

It may seem to you that, much like their barnyard animal namesake, men’s reproductive organs the world over participate in a mindless synchrony of stiffened salutes to the rising sun. In fact, however, such "morning wood" is an autonomic leftover from a series of nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) episodes that occur like clockwork during the [...]

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Bering in Mind

“In God We Trust” (At least until the government gets its act together)

One of the more predictable outcomes of a government shutdown—in fact, the hyperbolic chatter alone regarding the uncertainties of such a major disruption is enough to do the trick—is that there will be a noticeable surge in the nation’s religious beliefs. According to Duke University psychologist Aaron Kay and his colleagues, God and government are [...]

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Bering in Mind

Signs, signs, everywhere signs: Seeing God in tsunamis and everyday events

It’s only a matter of time—in fact, they’ve already started cropping up—before reality-challenged individuals begin pontificating about what God could have possibly been so hot-and-bothered about to trigger last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (Surely, if we were to ask Westboro Baptist Church members, it must have something to do with the gays.) [...]

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Bering in Mind

Natural homophobes? Evolutionary psychology and antigay attitudes

Consider this a warning: the theory I’m about to describe is likely to boil untold liters of blood and prompt mountains of angry fists to clench in revolt. It’s the best—the kindest—of you out there likely to get the most upset, too. I’d like to think of myself as being in that category, at least, [...]

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Bering in Mind

God may work in mysterious ways–but cognitive science is getting a handle on them

Author’s note: The following excerpt is the Introduction to my new book, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life. God came from an egg. At least, that’s how He came to me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fancy egg. More specifically, it was an ersatz Fabergé [...]

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Bering in Mind

Being Suicidal: What It Feels Like to Want to Kill Yourself

Suicide, an “escape from the self,” is driven by a flash flood of strong emotions, not rational, philosophical thoughts

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Bering in Mind

Studying the elusive “fag hag”: Women who like men who like men

As a decades-long fan of The Golden Girls, I was saddened to learn of the death of Rue McClanahan last week. In fact, I think I genuinely shed a palpable, detectable tear, which is something I can’t remember ever doing on the death of a celebrity, with the exception perhaps of Bea Arthur and Estelle [...]

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Bering in Mind

The neuropsychology of public speaking: tipsy, scared, and strangely aroused

The next time you snap the waistband on your panties or enjoy a Speedos moment at the beach, have a moment of silence for the man who made it all possible—Wallace Carothers. The famous DuPont chemist and inventor of nylon (among other ubiquitous synthetic materials) was a very practical person, so much so that he [...]

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Bering in Mind

Are there asexuals among us? On the possibility of a “fourth” sexual orientation

asexuals holding hands

Gay people are often asked by the curious: When did you first realize you were gay?” In my case, I remember undressing my Superman doll–and being terribly disappointed at the result–as well as being motivated to befriend the more attractive boys in third grade. But hormonally speaking, it wasn’t until I was about fourteen that [...]

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Brainwaves

Catching Ourselves in the Act of Thinking

rodin-thinker

From 1934 to 1970, Louie Mayer worked as a cook and housekeeper for writers Virginia and Leonard Woolf at their home in Rodmell, England. Her very first day on the job, she noticed something strange. As Louie worked in the kitchen, voices poured through the ceiling from the upstairs bathroom, where Virginia was soaking in [...]

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Brainwaves

No One Is Abandoning the DSM, but It Is Almost Time to Transform It

This month the American Psychiatric Association will publish the latest edition of its standard guidebook for clinicians, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5). In somewhat the same way that a field guide to birds helps people distinguish different species with illustrations and descriptions of physical features—a beak’s hooked tip, a blush [...]

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Brainwaves

Mrs. Dalloway in New York City: Documenting How People Talk to Themselves in Their Heads

On any given day, millions of conversations reverberate through New York City. Poke your head out a window overlooking a busy street and you will hear them: all those overlapping sentences, only half-intelligible, forming a dense acoustic mesh through which escapes an exclamation, a buoyant laugh, a child’s shrill cry now and then. Every spoken [...]

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Brainwaves

To Combat Alzheimer’s, Scientists Genetically Reprogram 1 Kind of Brain Cell into Another

We all lose brain cells as we get older. In people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, neurons shrivel and die at alarming rates—perhaps three to four times faster than usual in Alzheimer’s, for example. Currently, no known drugs reliably halt or reverse such staggering cell death in people, although some drugs [...]

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Brainwaves

Why We Need to Study the Brain’s Evolution in Order to Understand the Modern Mind

In the September 17th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Gottlieb analyzes Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature, a new book by David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Gottlieb’s article is more than just a book review—it’s also the latest in a long line of critiques of evolutionary [...]

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Brainwaves

The Neuroscience of 20-Somethings

In the opening scene of Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, the Horvaths tell their 24-year-old daughter Hannah that they will no longer support her—or, as her mother puts it: “No. More. Money.” A recent college graduate, Hannah has been living in Brooklyn, completing an unpaid internship and working on a series of personal essays. The [...]

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Brainwaves

Does Self-Awareness Require a Complex Brain?

The computer, smartphone or other electronic device on which you are reading this article has a rudimentary brain—kind of.* It has highly organized electrical circuits that store information and behave in specific, predictable ways, just like the interconnected cells in your brain. On the most fundamental level, electrical circuits and neurons are made of the [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: Meet the Glia

glia drawing

Previously, on Know Your Neurons: Chapter 1: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron Chapter 2: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons, or The Dendrology of the Neuron Forest Chapter 3: Know Your Neurons: Meet the Glia *By Daisy Yuhas Trillions of cells in your brain communicate with one another, respond to infections, guide [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons in the Brain’s Forest

illustrations-of-neurons

Previously, on Know Your Neurons: Chapter 1: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron Chapter 2: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons, or The Dendrology of the Neuron Forest Scientists have organized the cells that make up the nervous system into two broad groups: neurons, which are the primary signaling cells, and glia, which [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron

selection-of-neuron-types

Over the years, I have taught my copy of Microsoft Word a lot of neuroscience terminology: amygdala, corpus callosum, dendritic spines, voxel. But it always knew what neuron meant. I thought I did too. Neurons—the electrically excitable cells that make up the brain and nervous system—first fascinated me in high school. In college, like so [...]

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Culturing Science

Don’t Talk About Your New Year’s Resolutions

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As I read the funny pages this morning in the paper, I noticed a running joke: no one keeps their New Year’s resolutions. There are a million different personal and psychological reasons for this–but you can use SCIENCE to better understand why you fail, and how to get better at achieving your goals. The tip [...]

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Doing Good Science

You’re not rehabilitated if you keep deceiving.

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Regular readers will know that I view scientific misconduct as a serious harm to both the body of scientific knowledge and the scientific community involved in building that knowledge. I also hold out hope that at least some of the scientists who commit scientific misconduct can be rehabilitated (and I’ve noted that other members of [...]

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Doing Good Science

Some thoughts about human subjects research in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment.

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You can read the study itself here, plus a very comprehensive discussion of reactions to the study here. 1. If you intend to publish your research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, you are expected to have conducted that research with the appropriate ethical oversight. Indeed, the submission process usually involves explicitly affirming that you have [...]

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Doing Good Science

A suggestion for those arguing about the causal explanation for fewer women in science and engineering fields.

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People are complex, as are the social structures they build (including but not limited to educational institutions, workplaces, and professional communities). Accordingly, the appropriate causal stories to account for the behaviors and choices of humans, individually and collectively, are bound to be complex. It will hardly ever be the case that there is a single [...]

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Doing Good Science

The line between persuasion and manipulation.

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As this year’s ScienceOnline Together conference approaches, I’ve been thinking about the ethical dimensions of using empirical findings from psychological research to inform effective science communication (or really any communication). Melanie Tannenbaum will be co-facilitating a session about using such research findings to guide communication strategies, and this year’s session is nicely connected to a [...]

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Doing Good Science

CD review: Baba Brinkman, “The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised”

Baba Brinkman, "The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised"

Baba Brinkman “The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised” Lit Fuse Records, 2011 This is an album that is, in its way, one long argument (in 14 tracks) that the theory of evolution is a useful lens through which to make sense of our world and our lives. In making this argument, Brinkman also plays with [...]

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Doing Good Science

Intuitions, scientific methodology, and the challenge of not getting fooled.

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At Context and Variation, Kate Clancy has posted some advice for researchers in evolutionary psychology who want to build reliable knowledge about the phenomena they’re trying to study. This advice, of course, is prompted in part by methodology that is not so good for scientific knowledge-building. Kate writes: The biggest problem, to my mind, is [...]

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Doing Good Science

Wikipedia, the DSM, and Beavis.

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There are some nights that Wikipedia raises more questions for me than it answers. The other evening, reminiscing about some of the background noise of my life (viz. “Beavis and Butt-head”) when I was in graduate school, I happened to look up Cornholio. After I got over my amusement that its first six letters were [...]

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Doing Good Science

Book review: Coming of Age on Zoloft.

One of the interesting and inescapable features of our knowledge-building efforts is just how hard it can be to nail down objective facts. It is especially challenging to tell an objective story when the object of study is us. It’s true that we have privileged information of a particular sort (our own experience of what [...]

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Doing Good Science

Lads’ mags, sexism, and research in psychology: an interview with Dr. Peter Hegarty (part 2).

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In this post, I continue my interview with Dr. Peter Hegarty, a social psychologist at the University of Surrey and one of the authors of ” ‘Lights on at the end of the party’: Are lads’ mags mainstreaming dangerous sexism?”, which was published in The British Journal of Psychology in December. My detailed discussion of [...]

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Doing Good Science

Lads’ mags, sexism, and research in psychology: an interview with Dr. Peter Hegarty (part 1).

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Back in December, there was a study that appeared in The British Journal of Psychology that got a fair amount of buzz. The paper (Horvath, M.A.H., Hegarty, P., Tyler, S. & Mansfield, S., ” ‘Lights on at the end of the party’: Are lads’ mags mainstreaming dangerous sexism?” British Journal of Psychology. DOI:10.1111/j.2044-8295.2011.02086.x) looked the [...]

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Food Matters

Is your nose making you overeat?

Fruit flies overeat when they smell something tasty; what about you?

Some people are drawn to the thick smell of bacon, sizzling and crackling in the skillet on a Saturday morning.  For others, it’s the aroma of freshly baked cookies on a Friday night or the smell of McDonald’s fries creeping in through the car window.  At this time of year, I find the scent of [...]

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Guest Blog

Dangerous Optimism: Risk, Bias and Smoking

Trails of acrid grey mist hang in the air. I use the front of my shirt as an impromptu gas mask as I cough out my drink order to the bartender. Passing through one of these repulsive clouds is an irritating game of “try not to breathe.” The saturated air inside has made it almost [...]

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Guest Blog

A Word in Defense of the Witnesses—and the Word Is “Ambiguity”

You and I – and every single other decent person on the planet who has heard about the Penn State abuse allegations – are having the same revenge fantasy. Or, I don’t know, call it a Guardian Angel fantasy. We would have run into the shower and wrapped the kid in a towel; we would [...]

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Guest Blog

What makes us happy? Alexis de Tocqueville vs. Kanye West

I’m a big Kanye West fan. He is an immensely talented individual who has sold more albums and gathered more acclaim than most musicians have in several life times. His widespread artistic reverence is well deserved too; as a producer, lyricist, and performer he is one of the best. Yet, the most intriguing part of [...]

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Guest Blog

The Lesson of the Fear of Vaccines.

Time for Society to Say Enough is Enough.          The science community laments that people deny the evidence science produces. Usually this complaint is merely descriptive, intellectual frustration sometimes tinged with arrogance. Sometimes the criticism of denialism also offers solutions, which usually include education and communication to make the deniers stop denying, to make [...]

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Guest Blog

“Project Nim” Reveals a Scientific Scandal

The most important sign language study done with an ape was surely the first one back in the 1960s, with Washoe, for it established that chimpanzees can use American Sign Language (ASL). The most decisive such study, however, was probably the one a decade later, with Nim Chimsky because it put a halt to such [...]

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Guest Blog

The educational value of creative disobedience

  “The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers” –Jean Piaget   Looking back on my childhood, the times I remember most fondly were spent with my father, learning how to [...]

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Guest Blog

Cell Phones, Cancer and the Dangers of Risk Perception

May 31, 2011, was a bad day for a society already wary of all sorts of risks from modern technology, a day of celebration for those who champion more concern about those risks, and a day that teaches important lessons about the messy subjective guesswork that goes into trying to make intelligent choices about risk [...]

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Guest Blog

Looking for Empathy in a Conflict-Ridden World

I witnessed a breakup yesterday in the middle of MIT’s vast Infinite Corridor—a hallway known for its heavy traffic and long stretch of straightness. Finals are upon the undergraduates, so perhaps tensions were a bit high for the young, failing couple. Something, however, had clearly pushed the girl overboard. Her boyfriend had fallen dramatically to [...]

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Guest Blog

Animal emotion: When objectivity fails

Pig_gestation_crate

There seems to be an explosion of concern over animal welfare these days. With growing awareness to factory farming conditions, Americans are at last faced with the recent histories of their burgers, their nuggets, their pork chops. What we see makes us viscerally uncomfortable, and reasonably so. Those of us who are sympathetic to animal [...]

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Guest Blog

Too Hard for Science?: The sense of meaning in dreams

In dreams, could we discover where the mysterious feeling of revelation comes from? In "Too Hard for Science?" I interview scientists about ideas they would love to explore that they don’t think could be investigated. For instance, they might involve machines beyond the realm of possibility, such as particle accelerators as big as the sun, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

A Hubble Telescope for the Mind

These fluorescently labeled neurons in the mouse somatosensory cortex are those that project to other regions of the brain.

This blog is the second in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. All of our mental experience is born from the coordinated electrical activity [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Why We Wonder Why

Humans are curious creatures, and our curiosity drives a search for explanations. So while this search may fit squarely in the realm of science, it is hardly confined to the pursuits of scientists and intellectuals. Even preschoolers ask why, and indeed may do so to the exasperation of adults. Yet adults seek to understand things, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Coincidences Reflect a Rational Mind

Parked, orange moped and automobile

While we can all agree coincidences have fascinated scholars and lay people alike, what they mean divides us into one of two camps: skeptics or believers. A believer thinks that coincidences are evidence of mysterious, hidden and possible paranormal causes. A skeptic will put coincidences down to statistical quirks that are more common than we [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

The Warning Signs That Depression Is Affecting Your Relationship

Adapted from When Depression Hurts Your Relationship: How To Regain Intimacy and Reconnect with Your Partner When You’re Depressed. Copyright 2014 Shannon Kolakowski. If your relationship is struggling, depression may be the culprit. A resounding body of research has shown how closely depression is related to relationships in a cyclical fashion: depression affects the quality [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

How to Erase Bad Memories

Courtesy of R. Douglas Fields.

I’ll never forget it. They strapped electrodes to my wrist, cranked up a black dial on a frightening electronic device encrusted with switches and knobs, and shocked me repeatedly with jolts of electricity. No, this was not torture and the memory is not a traumatic one. I was inside the laboratory of Dr. Daniela Schiller, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

The Dark Side of Power Posing: Cape or Kryptonite?

In 1942, the mild mannered Clark Kent excused himself from his friend Lois Lane to take an important call. Clark slipped into a phone booth (remember those?), and moments later Superman emerged. Have you ever wished that you had ability to step into a phone booth or bathroom for a minute to shed your insecurities [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Should Habits or Goals Direct Your Life? It Depends

It happens to us all: you spend all day avoiding the cookie jar at work, but when you pass by it in the late afternoon, your hand reaches in and grabs a cookie. Before you know it, you’re wiping crumbs from your mouth. Or, on the way to the new job, you get distracted by [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

How I Recovered My Social Skills after Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can seriously impair the ability to relate to people, but with effort, a degree of normalcy can be attained. As someone who lives with schizophrenia, this is glaringly obvious to me. When you have schizophrenia, the overarching plot of the experience is the inability to tell whether the things you are thinking are actually [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Brain Stimulation Can Control Compliance with Social Norms

ruff2HR

Human beings are utterly dependent on a complex social structure for their survival.  Since all behavior is controlled by the brain, human beings may have evolved specialized neural circuits that are responsible for compliance with society’s rules.  A new study has identified such a region in the human brain, and researchers can increase or decrease [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Introducing: The New MIND Guest Blog!

By Ingrid Wickelgren For years, Scientific American has featured an extremely popular Guest Blog on this website. That space offers a unique venue for scientists and other outside contributors to share news, insights and commentary in their fields of expertise. It also provides an opportunity for knowledgeable people to air controversies and clear up confusions [...]

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The Moral Universe

Adding Complexity to Questions of Moral Motivation

Observations

Firstborn Girls Most Likely to Succeed

Hillary Clinton

Bossy, know-it-all older sisters everywhere now have something else to lord over their younger siblings: Researchers have found that firstborn girls are the most ambitious and successful children in their families. A slew of real life examples appear to back this up: Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg are all firstborns. Oldest children [...]

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Observations

The Continuing Mystery of the Moon Illusion [Video]

The harvest moon is almost upon us—specifically, September 19. It’s the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and it has deep significance in our cultural histories. Namely, it enabled our ancestral farmers to toil longer in the fields. (Today, electricity enables us to toil longer in the office—thanks, Tom Edison.) One enduring belief is [...]

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Observations

Lasker Awards to Honor Neuroscience, Hearing and Philanthropy Work

Image: Lasker Foundation

  Let the Nobel Prize watch begin. Two areas of major medical discovery and two leading public health philanthropists were announced this morning as the winners of the prestigious Lasker Awards. The awards, currently in their 68th year, are typically looked to as a precursor for the Nobel Prize and are informally dubbed the “American [...]

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Observations

Accurate Self-Beliefs Strengthen Relationships

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How well do we know ourselves? The intuition that you are your own best judge is strong, yet flawed. The prevailing wisdom in social psychology today is that we are incorrigible self-enhancers. We tend to think we are more attractive, intelligent and agreeable than we really are. Conversely, depressed people have been found to make [...]

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Observations

Pigeons, Like Humans, Can Behave Irrationally

Courtesy of Joseph Baranowski/dragontoller via flickr

Gambling may seem like a uniquely human activity. Twinkling slot machines and croupiers in starched white shirts may be about as far from the natural world as we can get. Yet one team of researchers, led by psychologist Thomas Zentall at the University of Kentucky, has taken a particular interest in how animals gamble. The [...]

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Observations

Telltale Language Reveals Who Is Keeping a Secret

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Sharing a secret can forge a relationship and solidify a bond with a friend. Keeping a secret, however, can eat away at our health and happiness.  As it turns out, hiding a painful truth also changes the way we communicate with others. By analyzing big data sets such as email logs and Twitter feeds, psychologists [...]

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Observations

Zero Evidence That LEGO Toys Harm Your Kids

Credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross

LEGO toys have never been so controversial, or angry for that matter, but that should not stop your kids from playing with them. There has been a lot of noise over a study, released June 4, that looked into the evolution of the facial expressions printed on LEGO minifigures—those one and half-inch toy figurines that [...]

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Observations

New Film Examines if Internet Addiction Led to a Baby’s Death by Neglect

In March 2010, police in South Korea arrested a husband and wife in a tragically ironic case that gained international notoriety—the couple let their three-month-old daughter, Sarang, starve to death in their apartment while they spent up to 12 hours a day nurturing a virtual daughter as part of 3-D fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing [...]

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Observations

Patients Reflect on Life with a Common Brain Malformation

MRI scan

At least 1 in 4000 infants is born without a corpus callosum. This powerful body of connective white matter serves as the primary bridge between the brain’s hemispheres, allowing us to rapidly integrate complex information. “It’s a hidden disability,” says University of California Institute of Technology psychologist Lynn Paul. Many born without this structure go [...]

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Observations

Can We Shrink Portions (and the Obesity Epidemic) with Psychology?

perception portion psychology full weight loss

SAN ANTONIO, Texas—Eating might seem, principally, like a simple, primal act. We get hungry; we eat; we’re full. But surprising new research suggests that our habits, previous experiences, and our desire to conform to social norms helps determine not only how much we eat, but also how full we feel later on. The findings were [...]

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The Primate Diaries

We Contain Multitudes: Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, and the Song of Empathy

"Speech" by Nathaniel Gold

In the struggle for existence how do we herald the better angels of our nature? Author’s Note: On Tuesday I will be traveling to Manchester, England for the International Conference for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine where I’ll be giving my talk entitled “A Historical Epistemology of Empathy from Darwin to De Waal.” [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Gospel of Wealth Fails the Inequity Test in Primates

"Andrew Carnegie" by Nathaniel Gold

Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at ScienceBlogs.com and was subsequently a finalist in the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize judged by Richard Dawkins. Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Joker’s Wild: On the Ecology of Gun Violence in America

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The United States is the deadliest wealthy country in the world. Can science help us explain, or even solve, our national crisis? His tortured and sadistic grin beamed like a full moon on that dark night. “Madness, as you know, is like gravity,” he cackled. “All it takes is a little push.” But once the [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Raising Darwin’s Consciousness: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy on the Evolutionary Lessons of Motherhood

"Sarah Blaffer Hrdy" by Nathaniel Gold

Click here for Part One: An Interview with Sarah Blaffer Hrdy on Mother Nature As I explored in my article, “Women and Children First”, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy has faced innumerable challenges in the course of her scientific career. However, part of what makes her work so innovative and exciting to read is how she’s used [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Raising Darwin’s Consciousness: An Interview with Sarah Blaffer Hrdy on Mother Nature

Hrdy Square

Click here for Part Two: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy on the Evolutionary Lessons of Motherhood In my cover article out this week in Times Higher Education I featured the life and work of famed primatologist and evolutionary theorist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. While she never intended to be a radical, she has nevertheless had a radical influence [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Women and Children First

Tantrum

For decades the science of child-rearing was guided by patriarchal ideas, but now the cradle rocks to an older rhythm. The infants had been arranged into neat rows, swaddled in aseptic white cloth the way precision instruments would be secured for shipping. Masked, hooded and gloved nurses cautiously moved down the aisle to record vital [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The WEIRD Evolution of Human Psychology

"Mental Health" by Nathaniel Gold

Does psychology’s over-reliance on American undergraduates distort our image of the human species? Imagine that you’re in a room with 100 psychopaths. The first thing you’ll probably want to do is leave that room. However, once you do, you discover a booth installed with one-way glass where you can watch what’s taking place without anyone [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Social Networks Matter: Friends Increase the Size of Your Brain

"The Social Network" by Nathaniel Gold

New research confirms that social complexity enriches cognitive growth. Could having more Facebook friends actually make you smarter? Let’s face it, as a species we’re obsessed with ourselves. The vast majority of us spend our days at work or school where a considerable amount of time is taken up not discussing the important issues of [...]

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The Primate Diaries

A Natural History of Vampires

Nosferatu Square

Medveđa, Serbia. Jan. 1732 — The Carpathian mountains loomed ominously to the east, as if nature herself was conspiring with evil. In the valley below a shadow had been draped over the corpses that now littered the quiet cemetery. Of the forty villagers exhumed that morning, a total of thirteen had been identified as vampires. [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Touching Death

Funeral Square

Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at The Prancing Papio. For more on this subject I recommend Brian Switek’s discussion at Wired Science and Ed Yong’s at Discover. I had always been afraid of my grandfather and now I was staring at his pale, lifeless hand inches from my face. But the very same arthritic [...]

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PsySociety

Psychology’s brilliant, beautiful, scientific messiness.

Book_Heart_by_antsandneedles

Today, sitting down to my Twitter feed, I saw a new link to Dr. Alex Berezow’s old piece on why psychology cannot call itself a science. The piece itself is over a year old, but seeing it linked again today brought up old, angry feelings that I never had the chance to publicly address when [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Acts of Kindness Explained [Video]

helping_Donald_Lee_Pardue

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the sixth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Teen Builds Gateway to the Brain for Girls

Girls run on a brain maze

The Synapse Project “encourages young women to enter the field of neuroscience through information and mentorship,” according to its website. This endeavor, an amalgam of outlets for kids, information for teens and career advice for young women, turns out to be the brainchild of … a child, one keenly interested in the brain. Sixteen-year-old Grace [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

A Surefire Way to Sharpen Your Focus

peaceful scene, village by the water

How many times have you arrived someplace but had no memory of the trip there? Have you ever been sitting in an auditorium daydreaming, not registering what the people on stage are saying or playing? We often spin through our days lost in mental time travel, thinking about something from the past, or future, leaving [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes: The Value of Creativity and Imagination [Excerpt]

Mastermind book jacket

By Maria Konnikova Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2013 by Maria Konnikova. “It is surprising that people do not believe that there is imagination in science,” Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman once [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

How Do You Spot a Genius?

Drawing of Bobby Fischer and chess board

The November/December Scientific American Mind, which debuted online today, examines the origins of genius, a concept that inspires both awe and confusion. Some equate genius with IQ or creativity; others see it as extraordinary accomplishment. As this issue reveals, genius seems to arise from a mosaic of forces that coalesce into a perfect storm of [...]

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Talking back

Why Language and Thought Resemble Russian Dolls

Michael Corballis is a professor emeritus at the University of Auckland, who has written extensively on the evolution of language and the origins of thought. In his 2011 book The Recursive Mind, he wrote about how the structure of human language allows for recursion—in which ideas are nested within each other: “He thinks that I [...]

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Talking back

A Blind Person Understands the Way a Sighted Friend “Sees” the World

Trendiness in the brain sciences often has an   obscure, esoteric quality that belies the prominence accorded neuro in both academia and popular culture. Toward the top of the list of arcana resides the ponderously titled “embodied cognition.” This is the idea that cognitive processes—thought, emotion—arise from our interactions with the physical world around us. [...]

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Talking back

Is Mindfulness Good for Everything? Maybe Not for Learning to Ride a Bike

Searching the keyword “mindfulness” on Google News turns up more than 9,000 results posted over the last few weeks. The vast majority of headlines arrive in your browser resonating with  hyperbolic overtones: “Pioneering Lee School uses mindfulness for pupils to beat stress and boost exams” “How to Manage Your 40,000 Thoughts A Day and Keep [...]

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Talking back

Suicide Used as Plot Device in Car Ad, Public Health Norms Be Damned

On May 3, the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report showing that suicide among middle-aged Americans has risen substantially. Perverse coincidence perhaps, but that document arrived about a week after Hyundai Europe pulled an ad that sparked sustained outrage because it shows a guy trying to commit suicide with fumes from his [...]

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Talking back

Crowd Psychology: What Comes After Boston for Mass Public Events?

Will the masses at NFL events do “the wave” only in the watchful sights of a police sharpshooter’s high-powered rifle? Is tailgating before the game all but nostalgic history? Will major marathons be relegated to a dull repetition of 105 or so loops around a stadium track? These are some of the questions that immediately [...]

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Talking back

Will “Call of Duty” Be Assigned for 10th Grade (Gaming) Homework?

Two prominent neuroscientists have published a commentary in the Feb. 28th Nature suggesting that video games might be crafted to improve brain function and enhance personal well-being. In “Games To Do You Good,” they cite prospects for bettering performance on behavioral measures ranging from visual perception to altruism. Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester [...]

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Talking back

Remember It Well: A New Type of On-Switch for Memory

Nicotine enhances the ability to focus and remember. The alkaloid acts in a similar manner to the brain’s own signaling molecule, acetylcholine. It interacts with eponymous receptors on the surface of nerve cells to regulate signaling in the brain. The role of the nicotinic-acetylcholine receptors throughout the central nervous system is so wide-ranging that new [...]

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Talking back

A Little Hard Science from the Big Easy: Temple Grandin’s Brain and Transgenic Sniffer Mice

A few random personal picks from the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in New Orleans, which ended Oct. 17: Inside Temple Grandin’s Head Oliver Sacks, HBO and others have chronicled the life of autistic savant Temple Grandin. The unique patterns of thought produced by Grandin’s brain enabled her to design now-ubiquitous methods to treat cattle [...]

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Talking back

When the Cuddle Hormone Is a Home Wrecker

First off, this study on a molecule tied to social interaction was conducted in animals. So I’m supposed to turn on the siren and the flashing red light here to let you know that the headline you just read might not apply in humans. Still, the animals in question,  prairie voles, are a special case, [...]

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Talking back

Best Evidence for Brain Training Falls Short

Market researcher SharpBrains has predicted that the brain fitness industry will range anywhere from $2 billion to $8 billion in revenues by 2015. That’s a wide swath, but the companies that sell brain-tuning software could conceivably hit at least the low end of their sales target by then. The question that persists is whether any [...]

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