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Eugene Taylor to be given 2011 Abraham Maslow award

12/20/2010

Eugene Taylor, PhD, Historian and Philosopher of Psychology, Saybrook Faculty Member, and Director of the Concentration in Humanisic and Transpersonal Psychology, has been honored by the Society for Humanisic Psychology (Division 32) within the American Psychological Association with the Abraham Maslow Award for 2011, given to an individual for an outstanding and lasting contribution to the exploration of the farther reaches of the human spirit.  

Prof. Taylor will receive the award in August, at the 119th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC. His address to the Division will be on "Self-Knowledge as a Legitimate Method in Experimental Psychology."

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Are antidepressants accomplices to school shootings?

12/19/2010

Cho image 2 Do you know that the perpetrators of some of the most notorious school shootings in the world were on antidepressants?

No?  I din’t think so.  Most people don’t.  It doesn’t get talked about very often. 

But in fact Cho Seung Hui, the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia was on antidepressant medications. He killed thirty three people and wounded countless others, before taking his own life.

Eric Harris, one of the shooters at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado was on antidepressant medications at the time of his shooting rampage with fellow classmate, Dylan Klebold.

Matti Juhani Saari, the shooter of ten at a Finnish College in Europe was on antidepressant medications at the time of his shooting spree when he later took his own life.

Kip Kinkel, the fifteen year old shooter at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, had been on anti-depressants in the weeks before his shooting spree that killed and injured nearly two dozen people.

So, what is the connection between anti-depressants and shooting sprees? Could antidepressantmedications be “accomplices” in some of the worlds most senseless and horrifying school shoot sprees. What are the implications and what is being done?

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You are not your brain

12/17/2010

Brain_-_Lobes Where is your brain?

Well, of course it’s in your head.

Your mind is in the same place, right? Well, not so fast…

As a recent article in the New York Times asks, “Is it possible that, sometimes at least, some of the activity that enables us to be the thinking, knowing, agents that we are occurs outside the brain?”

The article isn’t claiming that your mind is a separate, immaterial, thing – but it does point out that according to the theory of “embodied cognition” or “the extended mind,” much of what makes up your mind actually happens outside your brain ... in your body.

If this is true then the mind, unlike the brain is really not all about neuroscience..neuroimages…and neurologists…after all.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why, despite the recent neurological advances, science still has great difficulty describing consciousness and cognition—some of the most vital activities in daily living.

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How insightful breakthroughs happen, and why

12/16/2010

Lightning_animation_-_NOAA Think back to the last brilliant moment you had.  You know the one:  first you were racking your brain trying to figure out a solution to a difficult problem, and the next moment it was like a bolt of lightning hit, and suddenly you were a genius. 

Problem solved.

These wonderful “Aha” moments often happen when we least expect it and when we need them the most.

Researchers Sascha Topolinski from the University of Würzburg, Germany, and Rolf Reber from the University of Bergen, Norway have proposed a new hypothesis that could explain the phenomenology of the ‘Aha’ moment.

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Is "pay for performance" innovative? Aristotle says no.

12/15/2010

Plato and Aristotle by Raphael The problem with being “innovative” is that somebody’s usually done it before. 

This winter the city of Quincy, Massachusetts, will be expanding a pilot program that introduces “pay for performance” to the companies it hires to plow city streets.  Instead of paying by the hours worked, the new approach pays them by the amount of snow they plow.  Seems simple, right?

It should be, but “pay for performance” initiatives tend to hit a political firestorm these days (which is why the way Quincy, Mass., plows snow is in the news at all). 

Attempts to re-imagine the way we compensate employees are almost automatically controversial:  large sections of the country think that “pay for performance” and “privatize” (another element of the Quincy plan) are ways to save money by squeezing workers and offering worse service … and they’re often right.  Indiana recently tried privatizing its Medicaid and welfare systems – and the results were so disastrous that even that state’s conservative Republican governor decided to go back to paying unionized government workers to handle caseloads. 

Privatization efforts in prisons have generally led to less safe prisons (for both inmates and employees) and so far the new emphasis on “pay for performance” for teachers … however boldly hyped … has been more likely to lead to scandals and fiasco than improved education. 

And yet … doesn’t it seem like the Quincy snow plowing plan is a good one?  How can you argue with it?

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The nicotine/depression connection

12/14/2010

No_smoking_symbol Have you heard friends or family members who smoke say they do it to calm their nerves or lift their mood when they are depressed? Or maybe you’ve even told yourself and others this is why you keep smoking.  It's generally understood:  smoking calms your nerves.

But a new research report found that this may exactly the wrong reason to keep smoking – the results show that when people quit smoking they were happier and less anxious. Even more interesting, when they resumed smoking, depression and anxiety set in even deeper than before. 

The research was published online November 24 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research sponsored by Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, Keck School of Medicine at USC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Social change, from the library to the jail

12/13/2010

Liu_Xiaobo_Photo_on_Grand_Hotel How does a society transform?

Liu Xiaobo had a few ideas.

For the second time in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, no one was there to receive the award.  The chair of winner Liu Xiaobo sat empty on Friday. Neither Liu nor his wife, Liu Xia, were allowed to travel to Norway to receive the honorary degree.

Liu Xiaobo is currently serving an eleven year jail sentence in a China for “subversion of state power.”

Who is Liu Xiaobo? What have his efforts shown us about what it takes for a society to change?

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Why the era of anti-depressants is ending

12/10/2010

800px-Prozac_pills The numbers are startling. More Americans than ever are receiving treatment for depression. The clincher? Psychotherapy is declining and the use of anti-depressant medications is increasing – steadily.

Consumers had better beware.

In 1998, 54% of patients being treated for depression received psychotherapy. Nine years later, in 2007, only 43% of people with depression received psychotherapy.

The problem? Anti-depressant medication alone is not effective at treating most depression in the long-term; and many medications have crippling side effects.

So why is an ineffective treatment more popular than ever?  Because anti-depressant medications are covered by most insurance carriers. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, maybe effective, but getting it paid for is like playing Russian roulette with your insurance carrier.

The result is that more money is being spent to put more people through a less effective treatment to an increasingly common problem.  In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, anti-depressants are the number one most commonly prescribed drugs by physicians in the United States. If only they did what they’re supposed to.

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The connection between hope and rehabilitation

12/09/2010

“Hope is important because it can make the present momentPrisoner behind bars less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Having hope can be the one thing that will help prevent a criminal from ending up back in prison.

It seems simple but it is an idea that has yet to catch on in the field of criminology. A research report published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, “Is Hope Related to Criminal Behaviour in Offenders?” looked at the relationship between an inmate’s level of hope and criminal behavior. They found that inmates who had higher levels of hope were less likely to reoffend.

This research shows that more can be done for former inmates in order to help them succeed.

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Kids in violent environments find a path to non-violence more often than we give them credit for

12/08/2010

Actors portraying killers When kids grow up in neighborhoods that terrify adults, they learn to survive fast. 

In one study, 76 percent of youth living in urban areas were exposed to some form of community violence including fighting, the use of weapons, and gun violence that led to murders. 

When violence is a moment-to-moment experience, when it always seems to be happening just around the corner, it’s easy to assume that the kids are part of it, that they’re stuck in it, and that only a few of them will ever escape it. 

It’s easy, but it’s wrong. 

A recent study shows us why. Teens growing up in these neighborhoods have developed their own way of coping to survive -- to survive not just to the end of the day but into a brilliant future.

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