December 22, 2010

How to Keep a Resolution
Most people, behavioral experts say, approach the process exactly wrong: They rely on willpower. Willpower springs from a part of the brain, in the prefrontal cortex, that is easily overloaded and exhausted. What works far better, researchers say, is training other parts of the brain responsible for linking positive emotions to new habits and conditioning yourself to new behaviors. (Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal)

The Emotions We Feel While Watching TV
According to a new study conducted by NBC Universal, made available exclusively to Fortune, the emotion most frequently elicited by today’s top shows is “judgment,” defined for the purposes of the study as “this show invites me to pass judgment on the actions of these characters.” (Daniel Roberts, Fortune)

We Pay Closer Attention to People We Find Attractive
“Attractive individuals are seen more accurately,” said psychologist Jeremy Biesanz, co-author of the study. People were better able to identify whether someone was conscientious, reliable, open, or anxious if they considered the person attractive. “Not only do we judge a book by its cover; we read the ones with beautiful covers much more closely,” he said. (Randy Shore, The Vancouver Sun)

What Will Jews Read on the Sabbath in the Digital Age?
Over the last century, rabbinic authorities have compared electricity use to various forms of work prohibited on the Sabbath by the Bible and post-biblical rabbinic literature, including lighting a fire and building. The difficulty of interpreting the Bible’s original intent and applying it to modern technology has rendered electricity use on the Sabbath one of the more contentious topics in Jewish law. (Uri Friedman, The Atlantic)

Bright Eyes
An experiment found that the eyes were the most important feature for determining life. Researchers said the results suggest that people scrutinize faces, particularly the eyes, for evidence of life. (Meredith Cohn, Picture of Health, The Baltimore Sun)

Secret Spirituality
Soul Secret, part of the 18-month-old website Patheos.com, tells readers: “Sometimes our deepest convictions don’t match what we have been taught to believe, and it’s not always easy to share them with others. Here is your opportunity: Say what you really believe, and do so anonymously.” (Michelle Healy, USA Today)

Is Ricky Gervais the (Funny) New Face of Atheism?
Mary Elizabeth Williams: If a guy can laugh at the absurdity of organized institutions, speak out against hypocrisy and intolerance, and still possess boundless compassion and the most wickedly infectious giggle on the planet, he may not win any converts, but he can surely open a few minds. (Salon)

Vatican Clarifies What the Pope Said About Condoms
Pope Benedict XVI’s recent comments about condoms do not mark a change in “Catholic moral teaching” or “pastoral practice” on AIDS prevention or contraception, the Vatican said. The statement by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the Catholic Church’s highest doctrinal body, represents a rare official clarification from a Vatican agency of a pope’s words. (Francis Rocca, Religion News Service)

Q&A
James Wolfensohn

James Wolfensohn led the World Bank from 1995 to 2005. While he was at the helm, he pushed the Washington-based institution to develop an unprecedented relationship with religious groups. (Kim Lawton, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly)

BOOK
God and Harry Potter at Yale

The Reverend Danielle Tumminio taught the controversial class on Harry Potter and religion at Yale University and has now written God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy in an Ivy League Classroom, a book about what the Ivy Leaguers learned in her class, and more. (Leanne Gendreau, NBC Connecticut)

Category: Field Notes

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