February 26, 2013

Cognitive Reflection and Supernatural Beliefs
Matthew Hutson: Psychologists who study the origins of religion say belief in God relies on several intuitions, including a teleological bias (the assumption that certain objects or events were designed intentionally) and Cartesian dualism (the belief that mind can exist independently of the body). So to become an atheist, one must second-guess these automatic ways of thinking. And recently, a number of studies have supported the idea that belief in God is influenced by cognitive style—how much of a second-guesser you are. (The Huffington Post)

The Great Illusion of the Self
Under scrutiny, many common-sense beliefs about selfhood begin to unravel. Some thinkers even go as far as claiming that there is no such thing as the self. In these articles, discover why “you” aren’t the person you thought you were. (New Scientist)

Twitter Popularity
The keys to success, C.J. Hutto (@cjhutto on Twitter) and colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta found, were to tweet positive messages, write clearly, and retweet interesting tidbits of news. People who tweeted mostly about themselves didn’t fare so well. (Paul Marks, New Scientist)

Art Appreciation in Infants
In a set of experiments, the eyes of both babies and adults were drawn to images featuring greater contrast and complexity. To the researchers, this suggests that while some aesthetic preferences are shaped by cultural forces, others are established very early in life, and most likely “reflect biological, evolutionary-based dispositions.” (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Could Mars Be Habitable Today?
While Mars was likely a more hospitable place in its wetter, warmer past, the Red Planet may still be capable of supporting microbial life today, some scientists say. Ongoing research in Mars-like places such as Antarctica and Chile’s Atacama Desert shows that microbes can eke out a living in extremely cold and dry environments, several researchers stressed at “The Present-Day Habitability of Mars” conference held at the University of California, Los Angeles this month. (Rod Pyle, Space.com)

Elderly Abandoned During Hindu Festival in India
People come to Allahabad to wash away their sins in the sacred River Ganges. For many, it’s the realization of their life’s goal, and they emerge feeling joyful and rejuvenated. But there is also a darker side to the world’s largest religious gathering, as some take advantage of the swirling crowds to abandon elderly relatives. (Laura Spinney, National Geographic)

Category: Field Notes

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