In a world filled with tough news, we’ve come to expect our weather updates to include a bit of comic relief. But is it time for them to sober up? Today we’re challenging our expectations with the case against kooky weather-reporters. And, amid calls to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, we’ll hear a challenge to the notion that health-care professionals can weed out America’s killers. Plus, we take a look at the funniest and most culturally resonant examples of product placement from the last ten years.
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We wash. We sanitize. We might wash again, just to make sure. But in the end, we will probably allow ourselves to believe that it (whatever it is – a hand, a dish, a children’s toy that the dog confused for its own) is clean enough. We carry on.
At least, some of us do.
This is the time that all the germaphobes out there reading this raise their sanitized hands and say “Me! Me! That toy is not clean. For the love of Clorox – it is not clean!” Was this your reaction? You may be suffering from mysophobia, the fancy term for “fear of germs.”
Three weeks into the New Year, sticking to that resolution to exercise more or stop eating sugar or drink less may feel a little extreme. So, what do you do? Shrug your shoulders and reach for another cupcake? Log onto veganlife.com? Head for the bookstore to find somebody, anybody, who can guide us to be fitter, happier, radiant human beings? From the meditations of Marcus Aurelius to Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” people have been reaching for advice on how to be more fully actualized since long before being self-actualized was a term. The writer Jessica Lamb-Shapiro set out to explore the 11-billion dollar industry of self-improvement books, seminars, and coaching to figure out why people follow them so devoutly--if they work--and what happens when they don’t. She’s written a memoir called, Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture.
Scarcity is a kind of great equalizer. Whether it be less sleep, security, time, food, money or whatever a person needs, scarcity hijacks the mind, diminishes intelligence, and lowers resistance to temptation. Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton set out to find evidence for what happens to our minds when we have too little – and how scarcity shapes our choices and behaviors. He's coauthor of the new book is Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.
Enthusiasm for the fictional British detective is hardly new. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in an 1893 issue of Strand magazine, 20,000 readers canceled their subscriptions. Doyle succumbed and revived the character in dozens more stories before his own death in 1930. While the appeal of Sherlock Holmes coincided with the rise of popular science in the late Victorian era, today’s Sherlock-mania may be connected to a more 21st century concept: mindfulness.
This photo was used to illustrate Schuster's story with the following caption: Photographs from Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts, Infant Chimpanzee and Human Child. Originally published in 1935, the book offers a comparative study of the behavior of a human child (Ladygina-Kohts’s own son Roody) and an infant chimpanzee named Joni. The bottom two images in this plate show Joni reacting to being tickled.
The sensation of tickling has baffled great thinkers since the days of Aristotle, who used human ticklishness to distinguish people from animals. Later, Freud puzzled over the strange mix of pleasure and pain caused by tickling.
Indeed, we tickle kids or siblings, sometimes affectionately, sometimes edging towards cruelty. Still unknown is why people laugh when tickled, and why you can’t tickle yourself? Why do some people enjoy tickling and others not? And what is tickling, after all? Contemporary philosopher Aaron Schuster picks up those questions. He’s on the faculty at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and wrote “A Philosophy of Tickling” for Cabinet Magazine.
Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Prince of Darkness…whatever he's called, some seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil. That’s according to a 2007 Gallup Poll, and that number has increased steadily since 1990, when only fifty-five percent believed in evil personified in the form of Satan.
Now, researchers are looking at the implications of belief in “pure evil” on psychological and social behaviors. Piercarlo Valdesolo is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Claremont Mckenna College and contributor to Scientific American’s “Mind Matters” blog, where we found his article, “The Psychological Power of Satan.”
The number of shocking events over the past year is overwhelming … the Newtown school massacre; the Boston Marathon bombings; devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Although the specifics of each catastrophe varies, media coverage adheres to a similar script involving communal resilience, collective support, and predictions of post-traumatic stress among victims and witnesses – even those thousands of miles away. In recent years, a small branch of positive psychology has been exploring the possibility that adversity can be a source of strength and wisdom. Mark Obbie recently wrote about post-traumatic growth for Pacific Standard magazine.
Humans are vastly more social than most other mammals. Neuroscientists point to the development of our social brain as key to the survival of our species; early humans survived by cooperating with each other in the rearing of children, by hunting in bands, by organizing night watches. A battery of research reveals that people still need people.
Science is supposed to be objective, value neutral, a noble pursuit of truth – whatever that may turn out to be. In recent years though, some science skeptics have sought to associate objectivity with amorality - and meanwhile, a few well-publicized academic frauds and political battles over funding have revealed that researchers are just as capable at deception as anyone else. Despite these setbacks, research at the University of California Santa Barbara reveals that people do indeed carry deep and positive associations with the scientific method. Piercarlo Valdesolo wrote about the experiments for Scientific American.
One in thirteen people on earth use Facebook. It’s a staggering number, and evidence of the human desire to connect with others through social media. Research at the Human-Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon and other places have found that passively following the lives of others on Facebook can have the opposite effects, triggering feelings of depression, envy, and isolation. Jessica Winter is senior editor at Slate, and argues that the hipster-centric photo-filtering social network Instagram, is even worse.
What makes you happier? This simple question lies at the heart of a new app called “Happier” – a social media community and iPhone app which collects and shares the little actions, moments and gesture that brighten their day. The app was developed with the idea that the key to happiness is focusing on the positive and plenty of people have joined so far. We wanted to know – are they any better off? Nataly Kogan is co-founder of the Boston-based Happier Inc. and she spoke with us about the app.