Last Week’s Links

Health Insurers Are Vacuuming Up Details About You — And It Could Raise Your Rates

With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story.

The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. They’re collecting what you post on social media, whether you’re behind on your bills, what you order online. Then they feed this information into complicated computer algorithms that spit out predictions about how much your health care could cost them.

How concerned about this should we all be?

Patient advocates warn that using unverified, error-prone “lifestyle” data to make medical assumptions could lead insurers to improperly price plans — for instance, raising rates based on false information — or discriminate against anyone tagged as high cost. And, they say, the use of the data raises thorny questions that should be debated publicly, such as: Should a person’s rates be raised because algorithms say they are more likely to run up medical bills? Such questions would be moot in Europe, where a strict law took effect in May that bans trading in personal data.

Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now

If you’re concerned about all your personal data that’s being collected, here’s some advice on how to minimize exposure on Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple.

Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated

How severe does dehydration have to be to affect us?

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Moreover:

As we age, we’re not as good at recognizing thirst. And there’s evidence that older adults are prone to the same dips in mental sharpness as anyone else when mildly dehydrated.

So how much water do we need every day?

A panel of scholars convened several years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that women should consume, on average, about 91 ounces of total water per day. For men, the suggested level is even higher (125 ounces).

The phrase total water means that water from all sources counts: fruits, vegetables soup, smoothies, and, yes, even your morning cups of coffee or tea.

And remember that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already beyond the point of mild dehydration. According to the article, an hour of hiking in the heat or a 30-minute run might be enough to cause mild dehydration.

Ask yourself these questions before saying “yes” or “no” to anything

Although this article is aimed at people in business, it can also prove useful for others.

most of us are completely unaware of why we are saying “yes” or “no.” For those who suffer from the disease to please, saying “yes” often comes from the fear of being disliked and the guilt for putting your own agenda ahead of someone else’s desire for your time and attention. Those who may be considered “no” people often say no out of fear of failure. What if I don’t like it? What if I’m not good at it? Others say “no” simply because they have set boundaries and haven’t left any room in their lives for spontaneity and unexpected growth.

The article offers advice for how to decide whether to say “yes” or “no.” Also included are links to several related articles.

The theory of mind myth

Theory of mind is the psychological term for our belief that other people have emotions, beliefs, intentions, logic, and knowledge that may differ from our own.

That we have a folk psychology theory of other minds isn’t surprising. By nature, we are character analysts, behavioural policemen, admirers and haters. We embrace like minds, and go to war against contrarians. Mind-reading is our social glue, guiding virtually all of our daily interpersonal interactions. When trying to decide whether or not a potential gun owner is prone to violence, a mental patient is suicidal, or a presidential candidate is truthful, we are at the mercy of our thoughts about others.

But, argues neurologist Robert Burton, former associate director of the department of neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center at Mount Zion, “Even experts can’t predict violence or suicide. Surely we’re kidding ourselves that we can see inside the minds of others.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’ve come across lots of interesting stuff lately.

When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

I’m including this article on all my blogs this week because it’s important that everyone with any online presence, no matter how small, read it.

50 MUST-READ CONTEMPORARY ESSAY COLLECTIONS

From Book Riot’s Liberty Hardy:

To prove that there are a zillion amazing essay collections out there, I compiled 50 great contemporary essay collections, just from the last 18 months alone. Ranging in topics from food, nature, politics, sex, celebrity, and more, there is something here for everyone!

How to Get Your Intuition Back (When It’s Hijacked by Life)

I have written before about how I learned to trust my intuition, so this article naturally drew my attention. Judi Ketteler writes:

Suddenly at midlife, the gut instinct I had long relied on to make important life decisions left me. Here’s how I learned to get it back.

Through a combination of research and personal experience, she concludes that intuition depends on context, and she needs to let it catch up with her changed circumstances as she enters a new phase of her life. I find this an encouraging conclusion.

The Bugs in Our Mindware

Because I love baseball, I was drawn to this article that uses the metaphor of three umpires to explain that “Many obstacles lie on the path to rational thought”:

Three baseball umpires are talking about how they play the game. The first says, “I call ’em as they are.” The second, “I call ’em as I see ’em.” And the third says, “They ain’t nothin’ till I call ’em.”

The first “umpire is what philosophers and social psychologists call a ‘naive realist,’” who “believes that the senses provide us with a direct, unmediated understanding of the world.”

But, like the second umpire, “We tend to think, ‘I’m seeing the world as it is, and your different view is due to poor eyesight, muddled thinking, or self-interested motives!’”

Or, like the third umpire, some think “All ‘reality’ is merely an arbitrary construal of the world.”

According to Richard E. Nisbett, author of the article (which is an excerpt from his book MINDWARE: Tools for Smart Thinking), “Among the three umpires, the second is closest to the truth.”

Read Nisbett’s analysis to discover the “unconscious processes [that] allow us to correctly interpret the physical world,” especially how stereotypes can lead us to draw false conclusions about particular people. He also includes suggestions for making fewer errors in judgment.

How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity

Hannah Upp disappears for weeks at a time, forgetting her sense of self. Can she still be found?

A frightening yet fascinating story about a young woman who has periodically experienced what scientists call a dissociative fugue state, a condition about which little is known.

“It’s terrifying to think that we are all vulnerable to a lapse in selfhood.”

This Is Your Brain On Music

An interview with Dr. Assal Habibi, a research scientist at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute, who studies how studying music affects brain development.

The idea behind the study was to see whether systematic music training has a measurable impact on the brains of children and the subsequent development of their cognitive skills and social skills.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The mind-bendy weirdness of the number zero, explained

Why zero is not at all a simple concept.

The computer you’re reading this article on right now runs on a binary — strings of zeros and ones. Without zero, modern electronics wouldn’t exist. Without zero, there’s no calculus, which means no modern engineering or automation. Without zero, much of our modern world literally falls apart.

Humanity’s discovery of zero was “a total game changer … equivalent to us learning language,” says Andreas Nieder, a cognitive scientist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

How to Ask Great Questions

Much of an executive’s workday is spent asking others for information—requesting status updates from a team leader, for example, or questioning a counterpart in a tense negotiation. Yet unlike professionals such as litigators, journalists, and doctors, who are taught how to ask questions as an essential part of their training, few executives think of questioning as a skill that can be honed—or consider how their own answers to questions could make conversations more productive.

The fallacy of obviousness

A new interpretation of a classic psychology experiment will change your view of perception, judgment – even human nature

The deep roots of writing

Was writing invented for accounting and administration or did it evolve from religious movements, sorcery and dreams?

IS YOUR KID ‘GIFTED’? IT MIGHT DEPEND ON THEIR RACE

when it comes to a teacher’s referral of a student to educational programs, it’s not just learning abilities that play a role in the decision process. Recent research has found that

RACE CAN AFFECT WHO IS REFERRED TO GIFTED PROGRAMS — AND TO SPECIAL EDUCATION.

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

These days, writer’s block is often blamed on depression. Sometimes procrastination and perfectionism are considered the culprits. Whatever the cause, writer’s block has been around for a long time. Samuel Coleridge suffered from it, as did Joseph Conrad, Gustave Flaubert, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, and Virginia Woolf. The big question is, regardless of where it came from, what can a writer do about it when it strikes?

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

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Last Week’s Links

Lots of good internet stuff last week.

“Find your passion” is bad advice, say Yale and Stanford psychologists

Instead of looking for a magic bullet, that one thing you must be meant to do even though you don’t know what it is yet, it can be more productive to perceive interests flexibly, as potentially endless. A growth mindset, rather than a fixed sense that there’s one interest you should pursue single-mindedly, improves the chances of finding your passion—and having the will to master it.

I Found My Birth Mother. It Didn’t Rock My Life — And That’s OK

NPR’s Ashley Westerman was born in the Philippines but raised by white Americans in rural Kentucky, with no one around who looked like her. This year, she tracked down the woman who gave her up for adoption three decades ago and writes about the hopes, trepidation and even disappointment of the journey and eventual meeting.

When It’s Good to Be Antisocial

Sociality is no pinnacle of evolution. It’s just another result of the process. Reclusive bees and other species are doing just fine—and sometimes, even better. Clearly social behavior has advantages, seeding the survival of species and communities. But being a good neighbor is not the only benefit to the hive. Sometimes everybody wins when you go it alone.

mHealth Brain Games Help Post-ICU Patients Recover Cognitive Skills

Vanderbilt University researchers said computer cognitive rehabilitation training using the BrainHQ online and mobile program helped patients discharged from an ICU improve cognitive function at home. The study, published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, involved 33 older patients who had been discharged from an ICU with post-intensive care syndrome.

Study: Sitting linked to increased death risk from 14 diseases

If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early jumps 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, an American Cancer Society study suggests.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Women Who Write: Michelle Dean’s Sharp

A review of Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (Grove Atlantic).

This critical history is a rogues’ gallery of literary femaleness – even though most of the women in it rightly bristled at being defined as “woman writers.” Dean’s exemplars are, in chapter if not birth order, Dorothy Parker; Rebecca West; Hannah Arendt; Mary McCarthy; Susan Sontag; Pauline Kael; Joan Didion; Nora Ephron; Renata Adler; and Janet Malcolm. Most have at least a few things in common. While some doubled as novelists, all are distinguished for their non-fiction, with fully half reaching eminence via The New Yorker.

The Civility Debate Has Reached Peak Stupidity

The depth to which the level of political and social discourse has sunk in the U.S. has prompted both sides to call for a return to civility. Here’s one writer’s opinion on the topic.

Five Features of Better Arguments

Here are some suggestions on how to deal with the problem of civility in public discourse.

A former Clinton administration official studied how to facilitate more constructive arguments among Americans. These are his conclusions.

The Neuroscience of Pain

For scientists, pain has long presented an intractable problem: it is a physiological process, just like breathing or digestion, and yet it is inherently, stubbornly subjective—only you feel your pain. It is also a notoriously hard experience to convey accurately to others.

A report on scientists’ efforts to find “ways to capture the experience [of pain] in quantifiable, objective data.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are the articles from around the internet that piqued my interest last week.

The Lifespan of a Lie

Some new information and new interpretations of one of psychology’s most infamous studies, the 1971 Stanford prison experiment.

When the self slips

A look at the frightening disorder “depersonalisation disorder (DPD) – a condition that typically manifests as a profound and distressing feeling of estrangement from one’s own self and body, including one’s experiences, memories and thoughts.”

CHILDREN WHO KILL: THE MOST UNSETTLING STORY OF ALL

There’s something wrong, on a visceral level, about the very idea of children murderers. It flips all the tropes and common beliefs about the world on their heads. Children are supposed to be innocent and pure, even though everyone who remembers their childhood and teenage years knows they can be anything but.

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales and accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Innovative narrative game Dialogue: A Writer’s Story out now

Studio co-founder and designer of Dialogue, Dustin Connor, added: “Conversation can be different depending on the context and participants, and we wanted to craft different visuals and mechanics for different conversations to reflect that. Some are timed and ‘in the moment’, while others are exploratory. Our game is a starting point – we want to see other developers experiment with their own conversation mechanics, and we want to lend our experience as consultants to make that process easier.”

‘The Death of Expertise’ Explores How Ignorance Became a Virtue

The inimitable Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times reviews Tom Nichols’s book on a “wave of anti-rationalism that has been accelerating for years — manifested in the growing ascendance of emotion over reason in public debates, the blurring of lines among fact and opinion and lies, and denialism in the face of scientific findings about climate change and vaccination.”

Mental-health therapists see uptick in patients struggling with post-election anxiety

From The Seattle Times:

With the constant bombardment of information coming out of the Trump administration, local mental-health experts say a hefty number of their existing clients — and as many as 80 percent of potential new clients — are seeking help for postelection distress.

And this has been an equal-opportunity occurrence: “anxiety has been on the rise among people of all political leanings, therapists say.”

The Brief, Confusing History of Foam Packaging

I did not know that everything we think is Styrofoam actually isn’t:

We know that polystyrene is bad for the environment, that it’s frequently mistaken for Styrofoam, and that it’s kind of a crappy way of shipping food to people.

UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it

University of Washington professor Kate Starbird works in the field of crisis informatics. After the Boston Marathon bombing she began looking at social media postings to see how those media might be used for the public good in crises. Unexpectedly, she found clusters of fringe conspiracy theories, what she calls “real tinfoil-hat stuff.”

Read about her findings in an article that seems especially pertinent in light of the current political current in the U.S.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

What I’ve Been Reading

What Makes a Person: The Seven Layers of Identity in Literature and Life
A New View of the Self: The Psychology of Connection
How authentic are photographic memories?
Do Our Memories Make Us Who We Are? One Artist’s Memory Loss Suggests Maybe Not
4 Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Life’s Story
How to survive gaslighting: when manipulation erases your reality

My Recent Browsing History

The Stories We Tell Ourselves
5 Lessons to Be Learned While Writing a Memoir
Are girls really better at reading than boys or are the tests painting a false picture?
Why each side of the partisan divide thinks the other is living in an alternate reality
Nobody is normal
Sleep deprivation handicaps the brain’s ability to form new memories, study in mice shows
Why Empathy Is Your Most Important Skill (and How to Practice It)

Last Week’s Links

Writing Your Way to Happiness

Here’s a summary of scientific research suggesting that “the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”

Special Report: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? The Magic of Narrative Medicine in the ED

The special report discusses how the use of storytelling in medicine, known as narrative medicine, helps physicians better serve patients.

The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking

Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain… . constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health.

This article offers not only scientific research to back up its premise but practical steps you can take to deal effectively with your own negative thoughts.

3 Reasons You Don’t Need Experience to Write a Damn Good Story

The most common advice aspiring writers hear is “write what you know.” I’ve always been suspicious of this admonition, since I believe in the power of research. Here thriller writer Brad Taylor explains how to use research to write convincingly about topics you have no personal experience with.

Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built

This article reports on recently published research into how the human brain develops, It’s a long but fascinating read.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown