November 21, 2012

Guilty Pleasure
When succumbing to temptation, “people who are primed with guilt subsequently experience greater pleasure than people who are not,” reports a research team led by Kelly Goldsmith of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “People lack awareness of this automatic process.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Firing Up the Mind
It’s well-known that fire enabled the survival of early humans by providing warmth as well as a means to cook food and forge better weapons. Yet research into cognitive evolution—a field of study that brings together psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, and genetics—suggests that fire’s most lasting impact was how our responses to it altered our brains, helping endow us with capabilities such as long-term memory and problem-solving. (Thomas Wynn, Smithsonian)

Teens Who Participate in After-School Arts Activities Are More Likely to Feel Depressed
The research builds on studies that show a link between creativity and symptoms of mental illness, which the team speculates could arise from certain cognitive traits shared by people who are drawn to the arts. For example, this group might absorb an excessive amount of stimuli from their environment, which could lead to general distress and depression, but also greater creativity and artistic expression, the researchers said. “Further research can address the question of whether potential psychological vulnerabilities can be transformed into strengths through the practice of the arts,” study researcher Laura Young added. (LiveScience)

What Should Teachers Say to Religious Students Who Doubt Evolution?
John Horgan: I’m teaching Darwin again this semester, in two separate courses, and I’m confronted with a familiar dilemma: How should I respond to students who reject evolutionary theory on religious grounds? (Cross-Check, Scientific American)

More on the End of the Mayan Calendar
While most media have painted Mayan apocalypse believers as misguided doomsday prophets, the reality is not quite so simple. In fact, the cult of Maya enthusiasts is much more varied—and much more adaptable—than the media have given them credit for. While it’s true that some fear the end of the world, many others look forward to December 21 as a day of transformation and spiritual awakening. Predictions are as numerous as believers, and have even seeped back into modern Maya culture. (Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience)

Category: Field Notes

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