April 11, 2012

How Long Do You Think You’ll Live?
People who feel they’ll live long lives are likely to make different life decisions, such as investing more in education and marrying later, than those who expect shorter stints on Earth, a new study suggests. This phenomenon can happen at a subconscious level, so you may not even be aware that you’re tying life expectancy with life decisions, the researchers said. (Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience)

What a Relief
Are there really Whew! moments and Finally! moments—very different circumstances that generate the same basic emotion? Kate Sweeny and Kathleen Vohs decided to explore this possibility in a couple experiments. They wanted to see if, on closer examination, the two kinds of relief might differ significantly in nature and consequences. (Wray Herbert, The Huffington Post)

Cooperation and the Evolution of More Complex Brains
The average adult human’s brain weighs about 1.3 kilograms, has 100 billion or so neurons, and sucks up 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe. It’s much bigger than an animal our size needs. According to a new computer model, the brains of humans and related primates are so large because we evolved to be social creatures. If we didn’t play well with others, our brains would be puny. (Helen Fields, ScienceNOW)

The Social Networks
From animal bonding to global electronic communications, Robin Dunbar leads us through the networks of our lives in this latest expert guide. (New Scientist)

Defending Superstition
Matthew Hutson: The good news is that superstitious thought, or “magical thinking,” even as it misrepresents reality, has its advantages. It offers psychological benefits that logic and science can’t always provide: namely, a sense of control and a sense of meaning. (The New York Times)

Tennessee “Strengths and Weaknesses” Bill Is Now Law
The governor of Tennessee has allowed the passage of the “monkey bill,” giving public-school teachers license to teach alternatives to those mainstream scientific theories often attacked by religious and political conservatives. (Helen Thompson, Nature)

BOOKS
Games Primates Play

A psychiatrist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, Dario Maestripieri argues that human behavior, like our anatomy, can be explained by looking at our biology. Natural selection strongly shaped our social behavior, and the same pressures faced by our ancestors would also have influenced our closest living relatives—other primates. So to understand how and why we behave the way we do today, he suggests we turn to those primates. (Sanjida O’Connell, CultureLab, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes

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