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Psychology

The psychology of Greta Thunberg’s climate activism

Scott Koenig writes: In September 2019, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist, excoriated world leaders for their ongoing failure to address the climate crisis. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said at one point during her speech at the United Nations. Thunberg has been galvanizing public support for climate action since rising to prominence with her school strike about a year ago, and

We learn more by trusting than by not trusting

By Hugo Mercier We all know people who have suffered by trusting too much: scammed customers, jilted lovers, shunned friends. Indeed, most of us have been burned by misplaced trust. These personal and vicarious experiences lead us to believe that people are too trusting, often verging on gullibility. In fact, we don’t trust enough. Take data about trust in the United States (the same would be true in most wealthy

I think, therefore I make mistakes and change my mind

Daniel Ward writes: Suppose that error could be abolished. What would someone who never makes a mistake be like? There are two very different responses to this question. One is to think of a superhuman, god-like being. The poet Alexander Pope’s line – ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine’ – is based on that thought. God might pardon but He cannot Himself make mistakes. Infallibility would seem to go

Demagogues thrive by whipping up our fury. Here’s how to thwart them

George Monbiot writes: In every age there have been political hucksters using aggression, lies and outrage to drown out reasoned argument. But not since the 1930s have so many succeeded. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Scott Morrison, Rodrigo Duterte, Nicolás Maduro, Viktor Orbán and many others have discovered that the digital age offers rich pickings. The anger and misunderstanding that social media generates, exacerbated by troll factories,

Why the Republican Party debased itself through servile loyalty to Donald Trump

Peter Wehner writes: As a conservative-leaning clinical psychologist I know explained to me, when new experiences don’t fit into an existing schema — Mr. Trump becoming the leader of the party that insisted on the necessity of good character in the Oval Office when Bill Clinton was president, for example — cognitive accommodation occurs. When the accommodation involves compromising one’s sense of integrity, the tensions are reduced when others join

Meditation and yoga practice linked to reduced volume in brain region tied to negative emotions

PsyPost reports: Meditation and yoga practice is associated with smaller right amygdala volume, a brain region involved in emotional processing, according to research published in Brain Imaging and Behavior. For their study, the researchers analyzed data that had been collected during the Rotterdam Study, an ongoing population-based study that has been conducted in The Netherlands since 1990. The study has recruited more than 15,000 subjects aged 45 years or over.

Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world

Robert A. Burton writes: We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree. At the level of the study of purely physical phenomena, science is the only reliable method for establishing the facts of the world. But when we use

A common trait among mass killers: Hatred of women

The New York Times reports: A professed hatred of women is frequent among suspects in the long history of mass shootings in America. There was the massacre in 1991, when a man walked into Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Tex., and fatally shot 22 people in what at the time was the worst mass shooting in modern United States history. The gunman had recently written a letter to his neighbors calling

Some men avoid ‘green’ behavior because they don’t want to be perceived as gay

Tom Jacobs writes: There are many reasons people fail to act in environmentally friendly ways. Inertia, for some. Fatalism, for others. Then there’s the difficulty of fully grasping the long-term consequences of our actions. New research points to another, more surprising disincentive for going green: the fear that others might question our sexual orientation. As a 2016 study confirmed, environmentalism is widely perceived as feminine behavior. Even today, caring and

Gregory Bateson changed the way we think about changing ourselves

Tim Parks writes: [F]or Bateson the only worthy object of study appeared to be human behaviour, the kind of complex circumstances – the war, British academia, his family background – that had created the drama he was living through. What he would eventually do was to use the tools of observation and analysis that his father taught him, the zoologist’s attention to patterning and morphology, to bring a fresh approach

What does anthropology say about the emotional lives of others?

Andrew Beatty writes: In his classic thought experiment set out in ‘What Is An Emotion?’ (1884), William James, pioneer psychologist and brother of the novelist Henry, tried to imagine what would be left of emotion if you subtracted the bodily symptoms. What, for example, would grief be ‘without its tears, its suffocation of the heart, its pang in the breastbone? A feelingless cognition that certain circumstances are deplorable, and nothing

Life’s a blur — but we don’t see it that way

By Tim Vernimmen The image above, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” was painted in 1884 by French artist Georges Seurat. The black lines crisscrossing it are not the work of a toddler wreaking havoc with a permanent marker, but that of neuroscientist Robert Wurtz of the National Eye Institute in the US. Ten years ago, he asked a colleague to look at the painting while

We are more rational than we are told

Steven Poole writes: Humanity’s achievements and its self-perception are today at curious odds. We can put autonomous robots on Mars and genetically engineer malarial mosquitoes to be sterile, yet the news from popular psychology, neuroscience, economics and other fields is that we are not as rational as we like to assume. We are prey to a dismaying variety of hard-wired errors. We prefer winning to being right. At best, so

Yes, determinists, there is such a thing as free will

In an interview with Nautilus, Christian List says: I think the mistake in the standard arguments against free will lies in a failure to distinguish between different levels of description. If we are searching for free will at the fundamental physical level, we are simply searching in the wrong place. Let’s go through these arguments one by one. What do you say to those who consider the idea that humans

Social rejection doesn’t only hurt — it kills

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska writes: The psychologist Naomi Eisenberger describes herself as a mutt of a scientist. Never quite fitting the mould of the fields she studied – psychobiology, health psychology, neuroscience – she took an unusual early interest in what you might call the emotional life of the brain. As a doctoral student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Eisenberger found it curious that we often describe being rejected

Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they’re talking about, study suggests

Christopher Ingraham writes: Researchers embarked on a novel study intent on measuring what a Princeton philosophy professor contends is one of the most salient features of our culture — the ability to play the expert without being one. Or, as the social scientists put it, to BS. Research by John Jerram and Nikki Shure of the University College of London, and Phil Parker of Australian Catholic University attempted to measure