September 2, 2014

money and happiness_Economist
More on Money and Happiness
Gallup asked respondents around the world to imagine a “satisfaction ladder” in which the top step represents a respondent’s best possible life. Those being polled are then asked where on the ladder they stand (from zero to a maximum of 10), and how much they earn. Though some countries seem happier than others, people everywhere report more satisfaction as they grow richer. Even more striking, the relationship between income and happiness hardly changes as incomes rise. Moving from rich to richer seems to raise happiness just as much as moving from poor to less poor. One never really grows tired of earning more. (

Believing in Evil
Overall, people who strongly believe in an irreducible force called evil tend to believe a lot more in the use of violence to resolve conflicts (you can’t bargain with evil, after all) and less in the idea of tolerance between different groups of people. And belief in evil isn’t, as one might think, a straightforward offshoot of religious or political beliefs. Both papers found belief in evil to be a stable trait that, while correlated with conservatism and (to a lesser extent) religiosity, couldn’t be fully explained by a person’s beliefs about God or government. (Jesse Singal, Science of Us, New York Magazine)

Snap Judging Whether a Face Is Trustworthy
NYU researchers knew from previous studies that people are fairly similar when it comes to how they judge a face’s trustworthiness. They wanted to find out whether that would hold true if people only saw a face for a quick moment—an amount of time so short, in fact, that it would prevent making a conscious assessment. They found that the “human amygdala is automatically responsive to a face’s trustworthiness in the absence of perceptual awareness.” In short, we don’t have to think logically about whether we should trust someone—our brains know the instant we encounter them. (Avital Andrews, Pacific Standard)

Identifying How You Feel by How and What You Type
By measuring the way someone is typing—the speed, rhythm, and how often they use backspace—and then combining that information with an emotional analysis of the typed text, a computer program has been able to predict how they are feeling with 80 percent accuracy. (Hal Hodson, New Scientist)

Turning Mice’s Fearful Memories Into Pleasant Ones
The new experiment worked because the scientists tackled the contextual and emotional aspects of the memory separately. When the researchers activated the neurons in the hippocampus, it evoked the contextual part of the memory, while new events the mouse was experiencing rewrote the emotional part of the memory. This led to a new memory of the same place but with a different emotional association, the researchers said. (Bahar Gholipour, Live Science)

Movies and Empathy
Movies, Talma Hendler says, are a useful way to study how emotions fluctuate in real time—and what’s going on in the brain as that happens. Recently, her team has been investigating networks in the brain that appear to have a role in empathy. She’s found evidence for two types of empathy, each tied to a different network of brain regions. (Greg Miller, Wired)

Neanderthal Gorham’s Cave “Art”
The pattern was deeply incised using some sort of stone tool and was found under archaeological layers dating back at least 39,000 years—but containing stone tools that only Neanderthals made. The image is somewhat reminiscent of a 75,000-year-old geometric pattern found at Blombos Cave in Africa, and indeed the Gorham’s team argues that it is proof positive that Neanderthals were just as capable of abstract thought as modern humans. The claim is likely to attract some skepticism, however, from archaeologists who have argued that such simple patterns are poor evidence for complex symbolic expression. (Michael Balter, ScienceShot, Science)

The Human Evolution Issue
Awash in fresh insights, scientists have had to revise virtually every chapter of the human story. (Scientific American)

Abraham’s Dice Conference

Abraham’s Dice is a collaborative effort among leading scholars from around the world to explore the interplay of chance and providence in the monotheistic religious traditions. Karl Giberson and 17 contributors, who remain on the forefront of science and religion, aim to examine the significance of randomness and its intersection—or lack thereof—with divine action.

Category: Field Notes


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