Study Shows Creativity and Madness are the Same Genetic Disease

Van.GoghFrom van Gogh to Robin Williams to Charlie Chaplin to Lord Byron and more, our intuition pairs creativity with madness. Science agrees. Studies show that people with a touch of schizophrenia are more likely to be creative and vice versa. We’ve even known that an area of the brain overactive in people with schizophrenia is also active during creative tasks. Now a study in Nature Neuroscience gives us a reason why: creativity and madness may share the same genetic underpinnings.

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Rewarding a Child’s Good Behavior Can Lead to… Bad Behavior

SharingAs every parent knows, positive reinforcement creates more of a good behavior. A dollar for cleaning your room, a milkshake for getting good grades, extra screen time for being nice to a sibling — these rewards are a way to shape how your kids act and even feel.

Unfortunately, a study in the journal Child Development also shows that our intuition about positive reinforcement can be exactly wrong. In this study, rewarding a child’s sharing resulted in the child choosing to share less.

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Insight Strikes! But Can You Trust It?

Image: Flickr/Jochen Spalding

Image: Flickr/Jochen Spalding

You’re standing in the shower when you suddenly remember who wrote that song you heard in the car last night. Or you’re lying there half asleep after hitting the snooze button and a perfect caption for last week’s New Yorker cartoon contest pops into your brain. Or you suddenly realize what’s in the picture that heads this article. This is insight. It’s sudden. It’s often unexpected. And it seems so certain.

However, in the wise words of Arthur Weasley, “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” In the case of insight, you can’t “see” the “brain” that produces it – it arrives from the depths of your subconscious, largely unbidden. Without really knowing where an insight solution comes from, can you trust it?

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How To Stop the Flow of Trickle-Down Unfairness

Image: Flickr/Found Animals Foundation

Image: Flickr/Found Animals Foundation

Once upon a time, my wife backed out of a parking space at a big box store…directly into the passenger-side door of a car behind her. She stepped out to fess up and apologize, and was met by a frothing tirade as the other driver demanded that she immediately pay $1,000 in cash for damages. Kristi cowered and cajoled and somehow managed to give her insurance information and drive home…at which point she nearly killed me for feeding the kids a frozen pizza that she was saving for later and for not making sure the kids got baths. All I saw was that my lovely wife had gone temporarily bat-guano crazy. But it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t hers either. We were the unwitting victims of trickle-down unfairness.

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What Kind of Person is Best Friends With a Narcissist?

Besties

A narcissist may be the only person who can tolerate a narcissist. Image: Flickr/Arol Lightfoot

Picture a narcissist. Who comes to mind? Is it your narcissistic boss, the mean girls from high school, the parent preening in yoga pants at drop-off, a political candidate, a frenemy on the outside of your circle, or one of your child’s classmates? When you get the image in mind, you can’t help but think, gosh, who would be friends with this person? That’s the question of a paper in the March issue of the journal Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin. Really, who is besties with a narcissist?

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Study Shows Surprising Skill That Underlies Math and Reading

BirdsDo you remember second grade reading groups? They had nifty names like redbirds, bluebirds, and goldfinches to keep us from discovering who was in a “high” group and who was in a “low” group. But it took about four seconds to realize that the redbirds in reading were the same kids as the redbirds in math, solving the easy mystery of the bird groups. And this points to a great, unfair truth in education: Smart kids tend to be smart across the board, whereas kids who struggle in reading tend to also struggle in math. Why is that? These skills seem so distinct! Is it general intelligence that boosts both? Study skills? Tiger parenting?

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Census Bureau Paper: Immigration Boosts Wages

Diversity

Image: flickr/Jon Rawlinson cc license

As we have all seen recently, immigration threatens the dark part of the human brain that evolved to protect our ancestors from other groups. Though we no longer beat our chests and use stone-tipped spears to threaten away strangers (or maybe we still do…), the conversation about immigration influences the psychological underpinnings of our culture, society and government. Do immigrants steal jobs? Does immigration clog businesses and schools? Does it dilute the United State’s intellectual advantage over the rest of the world?

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Persistence and Flexibility: A Dual Path to Creativity

Flickr/Gerwin Sturm cc license

Flickr/Gerwin Sturm cc license

My kids are the north and south poles of creative problem-solving: Kestrel, my 7-year-old, will squeeze a problem until she wrings blood from it; Leif, my 9-year-old, tends to apply ideas flexibly and when one doesn’t work, he will move on to the next. There are pitfalls to both approaches: Kestrel may fixate on beating a strategy into submission that turns out not to work, whereas Leif may move on too quickly from a strategy that would have worked with a minute’s more futzing. Which is best? When the going gets tough, should the tough get going or should the tough try something new? More broadly, when searching for creative solutions, should you open or close your mind?

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When is Stressful Competition Too Much for Kids?

Leif choosing to reach. Photo: Samantha Kosanovich

Leif choosing to reach. Photo: Samantha Kosanovich

This weekend my nine-year-old, Leif, competed in the Divisional round of the “bouldering” portion of the youth rock climbing championships in Ogden, Utah. These competitions put kids as young as 8 years old in high-stress situations that demand high performance. At this weekend’s competition, at least a third of youth competitors were crying as they exited the event through what my wife aptly named the “Tunnel of Tears” where parents met to console and clean up their young athletes. After a few years, some kids choose to never climb again. And into this mix, my wife and I willingly send our humble, kind, and easy-going 9-year-old son. What the hell are we thinking?

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Paper Details Gaps in Santa Workplace Safety

Stressed.SantaDuring the holiday season, we imagine the joy that Santa Claus will bring to our families. Some households suggest an attempt to step outside self-centered viewpoints to consider the holiday from a Santa-centric paradigm of enjoyment by offering a cup of brandy, cookies and milk, or even carrots for his reindeer. However, as a society we systematically fail to take into account issues of workplace safety that affect or have the potential to affect Santa Claus and his ungulate co-workers every Christmas Eve. A commentary by University of Alberta medical researcher Sebastian Straube, published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, hopes to shed light on these chronic and acute safety concerns while examining the research landscape of the field of Santa Safety Studies.

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