Archives For: July 2009

Facebook Diplomacy means harder work - fewer wars

07/28/2009

Recently Robert Faris, research director at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, made a distressing prediction to the National Endowment for Democracy:  international diplomacy is going to get harder than it used to be.

The reason?  Not terrorism (though sure) or fighting over increasingly scarce resources (though yet):  but rather, social media like Facebook.

As more people in different countries get on social media, Faris said, more people in different countries talk directly to each other, and this virtual citizen diplomacy makes it very difficult for diplomats to control the conversation.

"The role of diplomacy given social media is going to be more complicated than it used to be," Faris said.

Nor are diplomats the only ones trying to figure the implications of the new technology out.  Gail Ervin, a Saybrook PhD student in Human Science who works as an environmental mediator, says that “at this point, most mediators are just learning the basics of social media, and we are far from experiencing the promise of it regarding reducing conflicts.”

“I think we are at the dawn of a grand global experiment regarding these questions,” Ervin added, “and there are only inquiries at this point, no answers.”

However, according to Joel Federman, who directs Saybrook’s concentration in Social Transformation, there is reason for optimism.  More people talking to each other directly means more people reacting to actual human beings, instead of crude stereotypes and propaganda.  Diplomacy might get harder, but more human relationships across borders means it might get better.

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That sudden, awful, impulse you just had might mean something after all

07/28/2009

Let’s admit it: we’ve all had some really bad impulses. 

Shouting at a lecturer, running in traffic, stealing an inadvisable kiss … who hasn’t had a sudden, mad, urge to do the unthinkable? 

It’s a basic fact of human life, and once again evolutionary psychology is claiming to have explained it.  Turns out, it’s a survival mechanism.  Who would have guessed?

In a recent paper published in Science, Harvard researches say these urges are “ironic processes of control” that help us tame our anti-social impulses. 

“These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations,” the authors write.

In a post on the New York Times’ “Mind” blog, author Benedict Carey expanded on the idea that these self-destructive impulses evolved as a way of helping us manage our anti-social tendencies.

Perverse impulses seem to arise when people focus intensely on avoiding specific errors or taboos. The theory is straightforward: to avoid blurting out that a colleague is a raging hypocrite, the brain must first imagine just that; the very presence of that catastrophic insult, in turn, increases the odds that the brain will spit it out.

“We know that what’s accessible in our minds can exert an influence on judgment and behavior simply because it’s there, it’s floating on the surface of consciousness,” said Jamie Arndt, a psychologist at the University of Missouri.

So there you go, question answered, problem solved, right? 

Maybe – unless you actually want to actually understand what’s going on in your mind, with your thoughts, and your impulses.  Then this theory has absolutely nothing to tell you.

In fact, says Saybrook faculty member Kirk Schneider, it’s a classic example of what Rollo May, in his book Psychology and the Human Dilemma, called "turning mountains into mole hills."

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Don Moss new President-Elect for the APA's Society on Hypnosis

07/28/2009

Don Moss, Saybrook’s Mind-Body Medicine program director, has been elected President of Division 30 of the American Psychological Association for the term of 2010 – 2011. 

Division 30 is the Society of Psychological Hypnosis.

The election is one more example of Saybrook’s long leadership in the American Psychological Association’s divisions as well as in the field of mind-body medicine and  hypnosis. 

The current President of Division 30 is Saybrook faculty member Eric Willmarth, whose term expires in 2010.  Willmarth also received the American Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis’ Presidential Recognition Award this year. 

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From spiritual questions to daunting medical challenges: alumni scholarship support student research

07/28/2009

Saybrook PhD student Erica Hamilton wants to create a multi-dimensional model for addressing a painful women’s medical condition.  PhD student Les Ernst wants to interview spiritual directors across the U.S. to study how they teach people to discern an authentic spiritual experience.

Both of them will be able to complete these ambitious dissertations, thanks to support from the Saybrook Alumni Association.

This month the Alumni Association named Ernst and Hamilton its 2009 scholarship winners.

The $8,000 scholarships, begun last year, are awarded annually to two PhD students, in any Saybrook program, who have completed their coursework and are looking for funding to help complete their dissertation. 

Saybrook Alumni Director George Aiken says there were nearly 20 essay and candidacy level doctoral students who applied, and that all of them were highly qualified.

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