World Notes

Neuroscience is starting to sound suspiciously like the 21st century's version of phrenology

06/17/2011

Phrenology1 You know a scientific field has turned into a scientific fad when it says it’s changed EVERYTHING. 

Real scientific breakthroughs of that scope don’t have to announce themselves.  Fake ones do, because evolutionary psychology never produced a lightbulb and “artificial intelligence” never built a car.  They certainly made advances, they contributed, but the wild claims that they would change everything about human society were the lonely mating call of scientists out on a limb.

If your ears are open, you can hear neurobiology making that same sound. 

In this month’s Atlantic, neuroscientist David Eagleman is crowing about the way his field is going to forever change the criminal justice system. Apparently it has proven … or is on the verge of proving … or probably will eventually prove … or could in theory at some point arguably argue … that there is no free will, only differences in biology. 

Eventually, at some point, probably, possibly, maybe … let’s hypothesize … this will have a huge impact on the way we assign blame in criminal cases.

The fact that it hasn’t done so yet is merely an accident of timing.  Science, Eagleman tells us, will come through:  We’ll get those flying cars eventually.  We always have. 

The trouble is that the case he builds is based on two premises – one of which is indisputably true, and one of which is horrifically wrong. 

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Taking collaboration to the fourth dimension

06/07/2011

We used to know what "collaboration" meant.  But in the 21st century we can collaborate "in person," or through chat, or video chat, or through email, or "waves," or 3D avatars in a virtual environment.

Are they all the same thing?  Or does the new technology for collaboration mean new kinds of collaboration? 

Organizational Systems PhD student Jan Spencer has looked at the issue, and has an answer.

Let us know what you think.  Has technology changed the way you work with others?  Is it for the better?

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A widening gender gap -- for therapists

05/24/2011

Is it too hard to find a male therapist? 

A recent article in the New York Times suggested that only one in five new Masters Degrees in therapy are awarded to men … and that this means patients who are seeking a male perspective, or are more comfortable confiding to a man, are out of luck. 

Says the times:

Some college psychology programs cannot even attract male applicants, much less students. And at many therapists’ conferences, attendees with salt-and-pepper beards wander the hallways as lonely as peaceniks at a gun fair.

The result, many therapists argue, is that the profession is at risk of losing its appeal for a large group of sufferers — most of them men — who would like to receive therapy but prefer to start with a male therapist.

Is this a real shift?  Or, more to the point, is it a real problem?

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Bread or church? Where does civilization come from?

05/24/2011

Greek_temple_ruins The story I got in high school is that agriculture was the magic potion that eventually turned “cave men” into “urban man.”  We got together and created a civilization because we wanted to eat. 

The needs of our new farms with their domesticated animals and seasonal crops kept pushing us to bigger and bigger feats of civilization:  the idea is that a culture evolves on its stomach.

But an article in National Geographic says maybe the high school text books got it wrong. It's not "food" - it's "spirituality."

The oldest human architectural structure ever discovered – over 11 thousand years old – turns out to be a temple -- and it turns out that our ancestors were building temples before they were making farms.  

At a time when human beings were living in nomadic tribes, they were also carving massive stone pillars to provide a better place to worship. 

Was it our sense of the sacred – and our need to relate to an awe-inspiring universe – that really inspired civilization?

According to National Geographic, many archeologists say the evidence suggests that’s the case.

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Grief doesn't just go away -- it's something you have to work through

05/16/2011

450px-Rome_WWStory_angel_in_grief We’re used to tragedy.  Car accidents, cancer diagnoses, unexplained deaths – they happen every day.  

But are we any good at grieving? 

In an article in Natural News, Dr. Larry Malerba explores the correlation between unresolved grief and chronic illnesses. Entitled, Could Grief Be Causing Your Chronic Illness, Dr. Malerba looks at grief from a psychophysiological perspective exploring the grieving process as a normative human experience that has ravaging maladaptive physical and psychological effects if cut short. While complex, the grieving process over a tragic event or death is found to be most successful with individuals who possess a strong degree of psychological maturity, solid support systems, a sense of spirituality, and congruent emotional and cultural perspectives toward the grieving process. Conversely, Dr. Malerba asserts than unfinished or unprocessed grief has ravaging effects—often leading to a variety of chronic physical illnesses; namely: depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, migraines—to name a few.

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Redesigning substance abuse treatment for the 21st century

05/13/2011

Methamphetamine_pills The face of substance abuse and addiction is rapidly changing.

“Legal highs” are becoming increasingly common, with the same dangerous side effects as illicit street drugs, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last year alone, the number of recognized legal psychoactive substances doubled in Europe. Powders, pills, salts-- you name it and they are being invented under the radar and sold, clandestinely, on the internet.

It’s the latest development in a perilous up hill battle for lawmakers, addiction specialists, and public health officials. With legal substances composed of chemical compounds similar to marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy, the same addictive battle rages for those that use.   The complexity of addiction recovery for mental health professionals who treat them, however, is more complex.

With the changes in addictive substances and overall substance abuse on the rise the field of addiction recovery must rise to the occasion to adapt and meet the needs of the community through effective measures … measures that will fail unless they are imbued with the values of humanistic psychology.

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An epidemic of elder abuse -- through prescription drugs

05/12/2011

The misuse of antipsychotic drugs on the elderly has been under scrutiny for some time now. Research reports, warnings by federal and state governments and physicians have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

According to recent research, millions of nursing home residents are being prescribed antipsychotic medications they don’t need – just to keep them docile.

Propublica, an independent nonprofit newsroom specializing investigative reporting for the public interest, published a blog May 10th, highlighting the troubles of nursing home care.

The New York Times also discussed a recent report issued by the Health and Human Services Department. The report reviewed the details from the largest medical care program for persons over 65 to determine just how many were receiving prescriptions for atypical antipsychotic drugs while they were living in nursing homes.  These are drugs that have not been approved for use on patients with dementia … and in fact the FDA specifically issued a warning in 2005 that they should not be used this way. 

A majority of nursing homes don’t appear to be listening. 

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Music is good for the soul -- and music therapy is good for the body

05/11/2011

686px-J_F_C_Hecker_1832_Tarantella_2 Music is good for the soul – maybe that’s why new research shows it can also be healing.

A study published in the journal Music and Medicine featured a successful project that used music therapy with palliative (or hospice) care. Sandi Curtis, professor at Concordia University Department of Creative Arts, pulled together professional musicians to work alongside music therapists to provide 101 terminally ill individuals ranging in age from 18-101 years old with single music therapy sessions that lasted between 15 to 60 minutes.

The goal of the intervention was to relieve the pain, encourage relaxation, increase quality of life and improve mood. The results were positive, so positive that a few of the families and participants requested music be played at the time that they died. Music soothed the soul during one of the most deeply soulful and spiritual points in life.

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Why other people know you better than you know yourself -- and how it can help

05/10/2011

607px-Sparkly_lip_gloss_in_mirror Others may know you better than you know yourself.

Researchers Simine Vazire and Erika Carlson explore this self-defining issue in an article published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science. (This study is actually a follow up to their 2010 study which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).

In their 2011 piece, Vazire and Carlson suggest others have a better picture of who we are than we do. Why? Apparently we have a blind spot that is a result of what they refer to as “motivated cognitive process” in other words at some level we are motivated to not see all that we are. Those motivations can be conscious or unconscious, seen or hidden.

They suggest that we have a better concept of who we are internally, meaning we can tell what’s going on inside whether anger, anxiety or optimism. On the other hand, others have a better view of the external picture of us. For example, a good friend may tell you that you give off a confident energy when you may not believe that you do. According to this research your friend is probably right. But they are probably not picking up on what is going on inside you – all of that anxiety behind the confidence. This doesn’t mean the confidence is not there. It means that both are present and part of your experience.

Vazire research shows that across the board, others are able to give accurate impressions of one another:  but here are exceptions.

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Are good communication skills the foundation of psychological success?

05/09/2011

Y_Spellings_and_Dr__Louis_Sullivan,_dean_of_the_Morehouse_School_of_Medicine,_talk_at_a_round_table_discussion_at_Morehouse_College_in_Atlanta,_Georgia In conversation, as in life, it turns out that the little things matter a lot.

How you talk can make or break you. In fact, there is an entire science devoted to improving face-to-face communication – and it suggests that flawed communication is a major source of relationship distress and demise.

In Is Your Communication Style Affecting Your Relationship for Better or for Worse?, Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter suggests that conversational styles and patterns in relationships are a major source of clandestine stress. Dr. Bourg Carter contends that many relationships and communications involve parties who are essentially speaking “a different language” depending on their level of directness, assertiveness, and compassion.

Dr. Bourg Carter is among many psychologists who suggest the importance of effective face-to-face communication for relationships and interpersonal fulfillment. It’s long been suggested that communication depends on the on “skill sets” or “talk habits” in one’s conversational repertoire.

In The Talk Book: The Intimate Science of Communicating in Close Relationships, author Dr. Gerald Goodman explores the skill sets needed for improved communication, transformed relationships, and fulfilled interpersonal relations. Dr. Goodman purports that changing six talking habits will transform all facets of your life.

Here’s some suggestions:  

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