Tania Lombrozo

As humans, we don't just belong to a community of bodies. To borrow a lovely phrase from developmental psychologist Katherine Nelson, we also belong to a "community of minds."

Debunked conspiracy theories have been making the rounds on social media lately, from the thoroughly unsupported claim that millions of people voted illegally in California to false assertions about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations.

When it comes to assessing the possible risks and benefits of science and technology, who is the relevant authority?

University scientists? Industry scientists? Religious organizations?

On Nov. 8, the World Meteorological Organization published a press release summarizing the findings from a report on global climate from 2011-2015.

In an influential book of ethics first published in 1981, the philosopher Peter Singer offers a striking image of moral progress over the course of human history: an expanding circle of moral concern, beginning with our own family or tribe, and expanding over time to include larger groups, nations, families of nations, all humans and perhaps even nonhuman animals.

Millions of Americans will cast a vote for the next president of the United States on Nov. 8 — Election Day — and for countless other offices and propositions.

In case you need the extra encouragement, here are three (more) reasons to vote, courtesy of the social sciences:

Halloween plays on our fears and our fantasies.

We craft haunted houses and scary decorations to evoke particular emotions. We choose our costumes to reflect something about the kinds of people we are or want to be — edgy, sexy, funny, clever. For children, Halloween is an experiment in delayed gratification and negotiation — which candies to eat now, which to trade, which to save. It's no surprise, then, that Halloween might reveal interesting features of human psychology.

But you might be surprised by just what we can learn.

With the presidential election days away — and media attention at full force — let's take a moment to consider some random facts that are not about the election:

1. Seahorses are nearly unique in the animal kingdom in that males carry the fertilized eggs after breeding and eventually "give birth." The number of offspring can reach thousands.

With the advent of Fall, my 2-year-old has been eager to comment on the fading light as we drive home on weeknights.

"It getting dark?" she asks.

And I answer: "Yes, the sun is going down." Only it isn't. Not really. The earth is rotating on its axis, our perch on its surface moving away from the sun.

Since 2011, the American Pediatric Association has advised parents of children under age 2 to avoid screen time for their infants, noting the accumulating evidence of potential risks and the lack of evidence for educational or developmental benefits.

This post was updated on Oct. 17.

The last of three debates between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will take place Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

The debates, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, have the stated mission of offering "the best possible information to viewers and listeners" in the lead-up to the general election.

New research suggests that even college students who overwhelmingly report that they accept interracial relationships show greater activity in the insula — a brain region associated with disgust — when presented with images of black-white interracial couples than when presented with images of same-race couples.

This election season, voters should be evaluating the presidential candidates' attitudes toward science.

ScienceDebate.org proposes a set of 20 science and science policy questions for all candidates, suggesting that "science impacts voters at least as much as the economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values candidates share on the campaign trail."

Consider two people: Amanda and Bethany. They both have too much to drink at a dinner party and they both drive home while under the influence of alcohol.

Amanda drives through an intersection just as a pedestrian darts across the street. She doesn't respond quickly enough and she hits the pedestrian, who dies shortly after. Bethany would have done exactly the same in Amanda's situation. But on Bethany's drive home, no pedestrians happen to be in her path.

Many parents who grew up playing outdoors with friends, walking alone to the park or to school, and enjoying other moments of independent play are now raising children in a world with very different norms.

In the United States today, leaving children unsupervised is grounds for moral outrage and can lead to criminal charges.

What's changed?

Last November, a provocative result made the rounds on social media and assorted blogs: A paper with data from over 1,000 participants across six countries reported that children from Christian and Muslim households behaved less altruistically than their peers from non-religious homes.

But a new analysis of the same data set calls this conclusion into question.

The election season is a time of abundance for those who love following politics — each datum, debate or debacle offers new fodder for discussion and commentary. But for those who aren't so keen on politics, a myopic focus on policy and polls can be tiresome.

What accounts for this variation across individuals, from the politically engrossed to the largely apathetic?

Democrat: "Those arguments by Republicans are preposterous!"

Republican: "Those arguments by Democrats are absurd!"

Sound familiar?

There are plenty of reasons why political disputes can be divisive, and a host of psychological mechanisms that contribute to a preference for one's own views.

According to neuroscientist and author Sam Harris, science can answer moral questions. According to philosopher Alex Rosenberg, science can answer "persistent philosophical questions," including the purpose of life and the meaning of human history.

Thomas Kuhn, the well-known physicist, philosopher and historian of science, was born 94 years ago today. He went on to become an important and broad-ranging thinker, and one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.

Every semester, college instructors face a choice: whether to restrict the use of laptops and other devices in their classrooms or to, instead, let students decide for themselves.

And for classrooms that do allow devices, students face an ongoing set of choices: to take notes electronically or by hand, to check the textbook or the text message, to check Instagram or Twitter.

Most of us love movies but won't have a say in which ones win an Oscar next year. Many of us have opinions about whether Britain should remain in the European Union but didn't get to vote in last week's historic referendum.

On June 20, 1840, Samuel Morse received a patent for an early version of the electric telegraph. His ideas for transmitting and recording signals helped revolutionize long-distance communication.

In a talk in Pittsburgh in 1997, the late evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould allegedly characterized humans as "the primates who tell stories." Psychologist Robyn Dawes went much further, suggesting humans are "the primates whose cognitive capacity shuts down in the absence of a story."

As a mother of young children, I've heard the following rosy message from more than one slightly more-seasoned mom: "Don't worry, it gets easier!"

It's a message of hope and encouragement, a recognition of how hard some aspects of early motherhood can be. But according to new research, it might also be wrong.

Why Do We Gossip?

May 23, 2016

By some estimates, around 60 percent of time spend in conversation with other people involves some form of gossip about social relationships or personal experiences.

We gossip about our friends, we gossip about our enemies, and we gossip about celebrities we've never before met — and likely never will. Why this fascination with gossip?

Consider the following recent headlines:

"Don't touch baby wild animals, no matter how cute they might be" (Alaska Dispatch News)

"Animals are smarter than humans give them credit for" (New York Magazine)

Last Thursday, for Cinco de Mayo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted an image of himself eating a taco bowl with the words: "Happy #CincoDeMayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!"

People were quick to point out some ways in which the tweet was not only inaccurate (taco bowls are available at the Trump Cafe, not the Trump Tower Grill), but also offensive.

My 5-year-old doesn't know much about astrophysics, but she'll cheerfully tell you that a shooting star is not a star, but a meteor — a bit of science trivia that she picked up from an album of children's songs about science by the band They Might be Giants.

Humor is a funny thing. We know it when we see it, but identifying why something is humorous is another thing entirely.

In fact, explaining why a joke is funny is a pretty reliable way to sap it of all humor.

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