August 6, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationHow to Identify a Narcissist
Researchers have discovered the quickest way to tell if someone is a narcissist: Simply ask them. A new study describes a single question that appears to be nearly as accurate at identifying narcissists than a commonly used narcissist diagnostic test 40 items long. And that single question is this: “To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist. (Note: The word ‘narcissist’ means egotistical, self-focused and vain.)” (Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times)

Our Surprisingly Strong Emotional Reactions to Fictional Stories
A recently published study finds people incorrectly believe they will have a stronger emotional reaction to stories that are based on fact, or ones that are set in the recent rather than the distant past. Based on this inaccurate belief, people “may choose to see a play about their home town, watch a basketball game live on television, or read a novel based on a true story, but miss out on seeing a more enjoyable play about a distant city, watching a more exciting game recorded earlier, or reading a more entertaining fictional novel,” write Jane Ebert of Brandeis University and Tom Meyvis of New York University. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Hero Brains
Marco Zanon and his colleagues scanned the brains of 43 young adults (30 women) while they took part in a virtual reality experience of a disaster. (Christian Jarrett, Brain Watch, Wired)

Benefits of Social Inequality
New research suggests that in the distant past, groups of hunter-gatherers may have recognized and accepted the benefits of living in hierarchical societies, even if they themselves weren’t counted among the well-off. This model could help explain why bands of humans moved from largely egalitarian groups to hierarchical cultures in which social inequality was rife. How such hierarchical structures gained ground and then proliferated is one of the big mysteries in social evolution. (Sid Perkins, Science)

The Latest on Homo Floresiensis
One article points out what are said to be flaws in the original research reports. The second one describes evidence suggesting the individual was born with Down syndrome. (John Noble Wilford, The New York Times)


August 5, 2014

www.clker.comMathematical Equation to Predict Happiness
The researchers were not surprised by how much rewards influenced happiness, but they were surprised by how much expectations could. The researchers say their findings do support the theory that if you have low expectations, you can never be disappointed, but they also found that the positive expectations you have for something—like going to your favorite restaurant with a friend—is a large part of what develops your happiness. (Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME)

The Brains of Students in the Sciences and Humanities
Scholars on both sides of the science-humanities divide have been known to feel that their counterparts just don’t think in the same way. But could it be that their brains are actually different? Yes, it could, say Japanese neuroscientists Hikaru Takeuchi and colleagues, who have just published a paper about “Brain structures in the sciences and humanities.” They report that there are significant group differences in brain structure between undergraduate students studying sciences vs. humanities subjects. (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

Japanese Stem Cell Researcher Commits Suicide
Though his research broke new frontiers in the 21st-century science of stem cells, the end of Yoshiki Sasai’s life resonated in Japanese tradition. From medieval times to the present day, public figures embroiled in scandal have sometimes chosen to take their own lives as a means of atonement. Sasai, deputy director of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, was found dead Tuesday after hanging himself, police said. RIKEN said Sasai left suicide notes, but their contents and the exact motive for his suicide weren’t immediately known. The scientist was co-author of two stem-cell papers in the journal Nature that were later retracted. (Jun Hongo, Japan Real Time, The Wall Street Journal)

BOOKS
Colliding Worlds

In Colliding Worlds, the historian and philosopher Arthur I. Miller argues that artists and scientists have always had the same mission: to “fathom the reality beyond appearances, the world invisible to our eyes.” And he argues that after drifting apart during the Enlightenment, the twin branches of understanding have been coming back together over the last century, a reunification that is accelerating in the digital age. (Jascha Hoffman, The New York Times)

VIDEO
How to Find an Exoplanet

While understanding the intricacies of searching for exoplanets is quite difficult, the core concepts are surprisingly simple. In the video, Minute Earth runs through the basics of some of the ways astronomers look for distant planets. (Colin Schultz, Smithsonian.com)


August 4, 2014

How Americans Implicitly Evaluate Race and ReligionHow Americans Implicitly Evaluate Race and Religion
In a large-scale study measuring implicit judgments, Americans—not surprisingly—showed a strong liking for their own racial group. But beyond that bias, their answers revealed a consistent set of racial rankings, with whites being most associated with positive thoughts, followed by Asians. Surprisingly, African-Americans did not end up at the bottom of the list. It appears that unfortunate place has now been reserved in our collective psyches for Hispanics. The research team, led by University of Virginia psychologist Jordan Axt, found similar hierarchies for religion (with Christianity receiving the most positive associations) and age (the same goes for children). (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

“Warm” Parents and “Callous-Unemotional” Children
When parents act warmly and responsively toward young children who exhibit antisocial behavior, the children begin acting more warmly too. That’s according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, in which researchers examined whether there are differences in response to parental harshness and warmth among 3-year-olds who exhibit “callously unemotional” behavior. (Avital Andrews, Pacific Standard)

Baboons Groom Their Superiors Early in the Day for Later Payoffs
Social relationships are important to the monkeys. But it seems they put more effort into certain relationships depending on the time of day: In the morning, lower-ranking baboons invest more energy in grooming animals who can make the rest of their day go smoothly. (Elizabeth Preston, Inkfish, Discover)

Q&A
Jonardon Ganeri

Gary Gutting: This is the ninth in a series of interviews about religion that I am conducting for The Stone. The interviewee for this installment is Jonardon Ganeri, currently a visiting professor of philosophy at New York University Abu Dhabi and the author of The Lost Age of Reason: Philosophy in Early Modern India 1450–1700. (The Stone, Opinionator, The New York Times)

BOOKS
The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities

Caleb Scharf: In our efforts to assess our significance, we face a conundrum: Some discoveries and theories suggest life could easily be ordinary and common, and others suggest the opposite. How do we begin to pull together our knowledge of the cosmos—from bacteria to the big bang—to explain whether or not we are special? And as we learn more about our place in the universe, what does it all imply for our efforts to find out if there are other living things out there? How do we take the next steps? (Scientific American)


August 1, 2014

2014 Microsoft CorporationPower Influences Our Perception of Time
Positions of authority give people a sense they are better able to control time than subordinates, even though both groups are equally at the mercy of the clock. (Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall Street Journal)

More on Money and Happiness
Here’s the problem, as psychologists Darwin Guevarra and Ryan Howell see it: In many studies, participants are asked to think about material items as purchases made “in order to have,” in contrast with experiences—purchases made “in order to do.” This, they say, neglects a category of goods: those made in order to have experiences, such as electronics, musical instruments, and sports and outdoors gear. Do such “experiential goods,” as Guevarra and Howell call them, leave our well-being unimproved, as is the case with most goods, or do they contribute positively to our happiness? In a series of experiments, Guevarra and Howell find that the latter is the case. (Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic)

Atheist TV Premieres
Tuesday night, at a party for the debut, David Silverman, president of American Atheists, described a channel that won’t be any of the sordid things that certain religious types might envision, but that will be a challenge to a lot of things those people hold dear. The channel, he said, will “provide a breadth of content, from science to politics to comedy, all centered around our common freedom from religion.” (Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times)

VIDEO
Charting Culture

A visual history of human culture built entirely from the birth and death places of notable people. The 5-minute animation provides a fresh view of the movements of humanity over the last 2,600 years. (Alison Abbott, Nature)

BOOKS
Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead

David Casarett is now an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In his new book, Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead, he explores the history, science, and moral hazards of reviving the recently dead. Casarett is enthusiastic about the emerging technologies that are allowing doctors to save patients who would have been a lost cause in the very recent past. But these technologies come at a cost, he writes. They may restore life, but whether it’s a life worth living is another matter. (Greg Miller, Wired)

EXCERPT
The Bigot: Why Prejudice Persists

Stephen Eric Bronner: Mitigating suffering is an imperative that exists within every religion: Jewish law condemns the torture of animals; the Buddha spoke of “selflessness”; Confucius saw himself as part of the human race; Hinduism lauds the journey of life; and Jesus identified with the “lowly and the insulted” in his Sermon on the Mount. What Norbert Elias once termed the “civilizing process” describes the development of compassion, empathy, and toleration not simply for those like us but for those who are different. All of this rubs the bigot against the grain. So far as he is concerned, modernity has brought him nothing but grief. (Salon)

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