November 27, 2012

Rethinking Stanley Milgram’s Research on Obedience and Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment
A new perspective—one that views human nature in a more nuanced light—is offered by psychologists Alex Haslam of the University of Queensland, Australia, and Stephen Reicher of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In an essay published in the open-access journal PLoS Biology, they argue that people will indeed comply with the questionable demands of authority figures—but only if they strongly identify with that person, and buy into the rightness of those beliefs. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

More on Creativity and Dishonesty
In a study conducted by a research team led by psychologist Melanie Beaussart of California State University, San Bernardino, people who behaved ethically also scored lower in creativity. What’s more, creativity scores were also poor among participants who considered themselves ethical—whether or not that perception fit with their actual behavior. “The implications of these and other related findings challenge the prevailing idea of creativity as a benevolent construct,” Beaussart and her colleagues write in the journal Thinking Skills and Creativity. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

When We Split From Chimpanzees
New estimates for when our lineage and chimps went their separate ways suggest that some of our established ideas are staggeringly wrong. If correct, they demand a rewrite of human prehistory, starting from the very beginning. (Catherine Brahic, New Scientist)

Biblical Literalists vs. Science
Nicholas Wade: The inevitable clash with science, particularly in the teaching of evolution, has continued to this day. Militant atheists like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins beat the believers about the head, accomplishing nothing; fundamentalist Christians naturally defend their religion and values to the hilt, whatever science may say. A scientific statesman, if there were such a person, would try to defuse the situation by professing respect for all religions and making a grand yet also trivial concession about the status of evolution. (The New York Times)

Strength of Religious Affiliation Among Americans
Evangelical Protestants have become more devoted to their religious beliefs over the last three decades, even as Catholics have become less attached to their faith, new research finds. The denominational differences come even as religious affiliations have decreased overall in America, with the number of people who claim no religious affiliation at all doubling from 7 percent in 1990 to 14 percent in 2000, said study researcher Philip Schwadel, a sociologist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Nevertheless, Schwadel said, these unaffiliated individuals seem to be dropping out of religious institutions that they were previously ambivalent about. (Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience)

Most and Least Emotional Countries
A new Gallup survey found that Singaporeans are the least likely in the world to report either positive or negative feelings on a daily basis, while emotions run highest among Filipinos. (LiveScience)

Life in Lake Vida
It is seven times as salty as the sea, pitch dark, and 13 degrees below freezing. Lake Vida in East Antarctica has been buried for 2,800 years under 20 metres of ice, but teems with life. The discovery of strange, abundant bacteria in a completely sealed, icebound lake strengthens the possibility that extraterrestrial life might exist on planets such as Mars and moons such as Jupiter’s Europa. (Andy Coghlan, New Scientist)

Could Super-Intelligent Technology Threaten Our Existence?
Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, said: “In the case of artificial intelligence, it seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology.” Price is planning to launch a research center next year looking into the danger, teaming up with Cambridge professor of cosmology and astrophysics Martin Rees and Jann Tallinn, one of the founders of Skype. (James Legge, The Independent)

My Beautiful Genome

Lone Frank is self-obsessed, in a generous way. She is on a mission to discover what makes an identity, a life trajectory, a career choice, a social animal. There is just one identity she can describe without fear of contradiction. The key is her genome. So think of her as a pioneer, on a journey deeper into the self, on behalf of all of us. (Tim Radford,

Category: Field Notes


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