Last Week’s Links

When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity

You’ve certainly seen the ads for genetic tests that will help you discover more leaves for your family tree. While many people are happy to discover far-flung relatives they never knew about, others are distraught to learn that their parents or grandparents aren’t who they thought they were.

This article from The Atlantic discusses a Facebook group founded by a woman whose DNA test delivered disturbing results. “The DNA test didn’t erase her happy childhood memories, but it recast her entire life up to now.”

How We Create Personal Myths (and Why They Matter)

In graduate school I took a course called something like Identity and Personal Mythology, which centered on the fact that we all create a personal mythology, or life story, to make sense of our experiences and to create our sense of self, our sense of identity. There’s a whole subgenre of psychology examining this field, which is known as narrative identity theory.

In this article self-described data nerd Angela Chen describes how, despite her preference for data over narrative, she came to realize that she, too, has a personal mythology that has shaped her life.

To resist narrative is to resist the brain itself. Sometimes we must do so, to avoid the clean, satisfying story that may be too simple. But I was wrong to think I could escape defining the narrative in my own life. We are always creating and searching for meaning, whether we recognize it or not.

Caves all the way down

Do psychedelics give access to a universal, mystical experience of reality, or is that just a culture-bound illusion?

Philosopher Jules Evans article begins with this assertion:

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a psychedelic renaissance. Research into the healing potential of psychedelics has re-started at prestigious universities such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and Imperial College London, and is making rock stars out of the scientists carrying it out. Their findings are being reported with joy and exultation by mainstream media – on CNN, the BBC, even the Daily Mail. Respectable publishers such as Penguin are behind psychedelics bestsellers such as Michael Pollan’s book How To Change Your Mind (2018), which was reviewed enthusiastically across the political spectrum.

Evans is an academic, policy director at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London. Here he explores, with an academic’s vigor and rigor, the history of the nature of psychedelic mystical experience, begun by Aldous Huxley’s 1954 book The Doors of Perception. He uses his own psychedelic experiences to examine the differences between science and theology to conclude:

To use the language of secular psychology, psychedelics seem to reliably take people briefly beyond their customary ego and to allow the contents of their subconscious to emerge. Even if you’re not mystically inclined, that process can still be very healing.

How the West became a self-obsessed culture

It’s common to hear Eastern and Western cultures contrasted in a way that goes something like this: Eastern cultures focus more on society collectively, while Western culture emphasizes the individual.

In this article Sean Illing interviews Will Storr, a British writer and author of the recent book _ Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us_. As Illing explains, Storr’s book is about a phenomenon psychologists call “collective narcissism”:

An individual narcissist is someone with a deep need for validation, someone who thinks they’re great and resents anyone who doesn’t recognize their greatness. Collective narcissists … are “a group of people who desperately need their group to be admired and validated by others.”

Collective narcissism is a fashionable idea these days in psychology, and it’s linked to psychologists’ larger concern about a “narcissism epidemic” — more and more individuals with an inflated sense of self.

Storr has some ideas about how a culture emphasizing self-esteem has gotten us into the self-absorbed position we’re in today. Read his advice on how to find happiness and fulfillment despite the way our culture has made us think about ourselves.

Down with the larks: on the virtues of sleeping like a sloth

A Gallup poll in 2013 found that Americans sleep, on average, 6.8 hours a night, with 40 per cent getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, teenagers get a little more than seven hours of sleep a night, while actually needing at least nine. Yet society continues to function … if only like a frail, untuned clock.

Joel Frohlich reports on the health drawbacks of chronic sleep deprivation.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

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

Falling for sleep

Sleep has been transformed from a deeply personal experience to a physiological process; from the mythical to the medical; and from the romantic to the marketable. Our misconstrued sense of sleep and consequent obsession with managing it are the most critical overlooked factors in the contemporary epidemic of sleep loss.

A look at the results of chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune illnesses, and depression.

sleeping baby

Rubin Naiman argues that wakism, our devotion to what we experience while awake, prevents us from appreciating the positive aspects of sleep.

A BETTER KIND OF HAPPINESS

Here’s a fascinating article on the concept of eudaemonic happiness, defined by Aristitle about 2,500 years ago:

In his Nicomachean Ethics, he described the idea of eudaemonic happiness, which said, essentially, that happiness was not merely a feeling, or a golden promise, but a practice. “It’s living in a way that fulfills our purpose,” Helen Morales, a classicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told me. “It’s flourishing. Aristotle was saying, ‘Stop hoping for happiness tomorrow. Happiness is being engaged in the process.’ ” Now, thousands of years later, evidence that Aristotle may have been onto something has been detected in the most surprising of places: the human genome.

Psychologists continue to look for explanations and examples of this higher-order form of happiness, which differs from (but does not preclude) sensual pleasures such as a good pizza or a glass of good wine.

Study uncovers how exposure to social news videos affects behavior

Research into how internet-based delivery of social news produced some perhaps not surprising results:

in the positive social news condition, kindness and providing help are the most salient contents–these prime conventional norms mean more altruistic behaviors as well as a greater tolerance for opponents defecting during the prisoner’s dilemma game. In the negative social news condition, harm towards innocent people and unethical behavior are signs of rule violations and lower moral levels. This leads to a greater propensity to break the rules and cheat.

The 9 Biggest Myths About Creativity You Should Never Believe

Some of the most common adages are not true at all. Here are nine aspects of traditional knowledge about creativity that are wrong, at least in the business setting:

  1. Innovation = creativity
  2. Innovation = entrepreneurship and startups
  3. You were either born creative or not
  4. There is nothing you can do to increase innovation organically in your company
  5. You need to drive innovation
  6. You need to build an innovation space and allocate time for creativity
  7. Financial incentives increase creativity
  8. Innovation requires significant resources and funding
  9. Innovation initiatives need to be implemented throughout the entire organization

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Sleep, Memory, Learning, Brain Function, and Mind Wandering

Examining Sleep’s Roles in Memory and Learning

Go ahead and take that nap. New research suggests that sleep can improve both memory and creativity.

Getting smarter

Brain-training games won’t boost your IQ, but a host of strategies can improve your cognitive abilities one piece at a time

brain02Psychologist Jeffrey M. Zacks of Washington University in St. Louis looks at various popular methods advertised to improve cognitive functioning, including brain-training games, drugs, subliminal training programs, electrical stimulation

His conclusion: “Sadly, most of the rapid cognitive enhancers currently being peddled are not very effective.” However, he adds, there are a few approaches that can make us better at performing specific functions, such as remembering people’s names: “we can all think better in specific domains if we engage in focused practice, and be smarter, happier and healthier if we take care of ourselves.”

Jerome S. Bruner, Who Shaped Understanding of the Young Mind, Dies at 100

Jerome S. Bruner, whose theories about perception, child development and learning informed education policy for generations and helped launch the modern study of creative problem solving, known as the cognitive revolution, died on Sunday [June 5, 2016] at his home in Manhattan. He was 100.

In his later work, Bruner applied ideas about thinking, culture, and storytelling to understanding legal and cultural issues.

Why Do Our Minds Wander?

sometimes, even without going to sleep, we turn away from the world. We turn inward. We are contemplative or detached. We decouple ourselves from the environment and we are set free, as it were, to let our minds play themselves.

Philosopher Alva Noë of the University of California, Berkeley, discusses the problems of studying when, why, and how our minds sometimes wander.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Recent Articles on Psychology

10 Telling Signs You’re an Emotionally Intelligent Person

Emotionally intelligent people are the advice-givers among their group of friends. Do you have a friend who seems to know what you’re feeling before you’ve verbalized it? This friend is emotionally intelligent. There are many of those people in the world. They are the healers, the untrained therapists among friends.

Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills

A recent update to federal education law requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance… . But the race to test for so-called social-emotional skills has raised alarms even among the biggest proponents of teaching them, who warn that the definitions are unclear and the tests faulty.

Should schools be testing students for social-emotional skills such as grit and resilience? The approach has both proponents and critics.

13 Sleep Lessons From A Landmark British Sleep Report

If you’re like most people, these findings probably won’t surprise you:

A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. And now, a British report finds that no one is faring any better across the Atlantic.

According to the Royal Society for Public Health — one of the world’s oldest health education organizations — Britons may be missing out on as much as a full night of sleep each week, on average.

Seeing the Light: Emotional Intelligence

We know emotional intelligence is critical to personal and professional development, but how do we define this amorphous concept? A widely accepted definition: Emotional intelligence is the regulation of our own emotions and the ability to recognize, understand, and influence others’ emotions.

Emotional intelligence is both an innate and a learned skill. This article contains some advice for improving it.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown