Sunday, November 25, 2007
If you're a Dalit or a woman and want to liberate yourself from social constraints, learning English would be a giant first step
Friday, November 23, 2007
It's not surprising that animals far less complex than we are would display a trait that's as generous of spirit as empathy, particularly if you decide there's no spirit involved in it at all. Behaviorists often reduce what we call empathy to a mercantile business known as reciprocal altruism. A favor done today—food offered, shelter given—brings a return favor tomorrow. If a colony of animals practices that give-and-take well, the group thrives.
But even in animals, there's something richer going on. One of the first and most poignant observations of empathy in nonhumans was made by Russian primatologist Nadia Kohts, who studied nonhuman cognition in the first half of the 20th century and raised a young chimpanzee in her home. When the chimp would make his way to the roof of the house, ordinary strategies for bringing him down—calling, scolding, offers of food—would rarely work. But if Kohts sat down and pretended to cry, the chimp would go to her immediately. "He runs around me as if looking for the offender," she wrote. "He tenderly takes my chin in his palm ... as if trying to understand what is happening."
You hardly have to go back to the early part of the past century to find such accounts. Even cynics went soft at the story of Binta Jua, the gorilla who in 1996 rescued a 3-year-old boy who had tumbled into her zoo enclosure, rocking him gently in her arms and carrying him to a door where trainers could enter and collect him. "The capacity of empathy is multilayered," says primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University, author of Our Inner Ape. "We share a core with lots of animals."
While it's impossible to directly measure empathy in animals, in humans it's another matter. Hauser cites a study in which spouses or unmarried couples underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they were subjected to mild pain. They were warned before each time the painful stimulus was administered, and their brains lit up in a characteristic way signaling mild dread. They were then told that they were not going to feel the discomfort but that their partner was. Even when they couldn't see their partner, the brains of the subjects lit up precisely as if they were about to experience the pain themselves. "This is very much an 'I feel your pain' experience," says Hauser.
The brain works harder when the threat gets more complicated. A favorite scenario that morality researchers study is the trolley dilemma. You're standing near a track as an out-of-control train hurtles toward five unsuspecting people. There's a switch nearby that would let you divert the train onto a siding. Would you do it? Of course. You save five lives at no cost. Suppose a single unsuspecting man was on the siding? Now the mortality score is 5 to 1. Could you kill him to save the others? What if the innocent man was on a bridge over the trolley and you had to push him onto the track to stop the train?
Pose these dilemmas to people while they're in an fMRI, and the brain scans get messy. Using a switch to divert the train toward one person instead of five increases activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—the place where cool, utilitarian choices are made. Complicate things with the idea of pushing the innocent victim, and the medial frontal cortex—an area associated with emotion—lights up. As these two regions do battle, we may make irrational decisions.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
These basic human needs which include honor, idealism, curiosity and acceptance can explain why certain people are attracted to religion, why God images express psychologically opposite qualities, and the relationship between personality and religious experiences.
Previous psychologists tried to explain religion in terms of just one or two overarching psychological needs. The most common reason they cite is that people embrace religion because of a fear of death, as expressed in the saying ‘there are no atheists in foxholes,” Reiss said.
”But religion is multi-faceted it can’t be reduced to just one or two desires.” Reiss described his new theory which he said may be the most comprehensive psychological theory of religion since Freud’s work more than a century ago — in the June issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to issues of science and religion.” I don’t think there has been a comprehensive theory of religion that was scientifically testable,” he said.
The theory is based on his overall theory of human motivation, which he calls sensitivity theory. Sensitivity theory is explained in his 2000 book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher Putnam).
Reiss said that each of the 16 basic desires outlined in the book influence the psychological appeal of religious behavior. The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility... Home Blog Contact Us
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Most people don’t bother to make a pension plan.The child will take care of the parent because they are one and the same
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
- -You are not responsible for what happened to you
- -You are always morally right
- -You are not accountable to anyone for anything
- -You are forever entitled to sympathy
- -You are always justified in feeling moral indignation for being wronged
- -You never have to be responsible again for anything
As you can see, these are some heavy-duty privileges; and they are not given to just anyone. This list is not exclusive...
Most people confuse "self-esteem" with what I will refer to as a "sense of self". It is the latter--not the former, that is so often screwed up in the angry, violent, grandiose, and generally narcissistic people in the world. If you have a healthy "Self", you are likely to have a healthy self-esteem--which is not the same at all as a high self-esteem.
A healthy self-esteem is one that can handle a realistic appraisal of one's own particular capabilities. The psychological defect that leads to so many problems in today's world is not a lack of self-esteem, but a defective or distorted sense of one's SELF. The excessive self-esteem you see in a bully comes from a distortion of reality that person has with regard to their self. It was once widely believed that low self-esteem was a cause of violence--and you see that idea reflected today in the platitudes and rationalizations of terrorism-- but in reality violent individuals, groups and nations think very well of themselves.
Do you really suppose that people like Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Bin Laden or Kim suffer from poor self-esteem? On the contrary. Exaggerated self-esteem; a belief that one is far more capable, intelligent or gifted than reality would indicate, is one of the hallmarks of a pathological narcissist or psychopath.
The cultural focus on enhancing a child's "self-esteem", instead of helping that child to appreciate his or her own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations (i.e. at the expense of reality) , has resulted in the near-worship of emotions and feelings at the expense of reason and thought; on emphasizing "root causes" and victimhood, instead of demanding that behavior be civilized and that individuals exert self-discipline and self-control--no matter what they are "feeling".
But the real victims of all this hype are our children, because these foolish notions, without a scintilla of scientific evidence and only becaue it makes some people feel good about themselves, have become the pop psychology dogma of public policy in education.
The psychological nonsense promulgated by the well-meaning and destructive self-esteem gurus only serves to reinforce the inappropriate grandiosity of young children; even as the "we are the world" antiwar, anti-capitalist, environmental doomsayers reinforce their malignant and self-serving idealism. (Both are discussed here)
Between the two influences unleashed on the vulnerable minds of our children, is it any surprise that by the time they get to college, kids are either dysfunctional self-absorbed narcissists, naively malignant do-gooders, or completely and irrevocably cynical about the pervasive indoctrination and anti-intellectualism they have been subjected to in their educational careers? As a writer in the LA Times said a while back somewhat understatedly, "Gen Y's ego trip is likely to take a nasty turn". Yes, it is --along with the society they will inherit.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
"Violence is not primordial, and civilization does not tame it; the opposite is much nearer the truth."Similarly, most political violence does not follow from centuries-old grudge matches, but rather from recently fabricated, dynamically dangerous social ritual interactions. Violence can appear on the scene rapidly but it can vanish as well, so there is hope for Iraq. In reality most violent encounters end almost immediately, contrary to TV and the movies. Someone runs away or a single punch ends the struggle. The actual gunfight at O.K. Corral took less than thirty seconds, whereas the famous movie scene extends for ten minutes. In combat it is just as dangerous to be a medic as a soldier, but medics experience far less combat fatigue. Collins argues this is because killing is in so many ways contrary to human nature...