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?by
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?by
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?by
During 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.by
Somehow this holiday season, amid the confusion of trying to explain to my kids that for some reason it’s okay to make up silly words to Away in a Manger but not to Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, I stumbled across a recent research paper by Michael Mutz, sociology professor at the University of Gottingen, Germany, published in the journal Applied Research Quality of Life. In the paper he asks whether life is better or worse during the holiday season and if there’s a holiday shift, why?
Here’s the gist: “The Christmas period is related to a decrease in life satisfaction and emotional well-being,” he writes.by
There are over 27 million registered usernames for the massive online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends. While online, the people behind these usernames pat other players on the back by sending “honor” and chastise other players by sending “reports”. What can we learn from millions of people who have chosen new names for themselves, acting socially or antisocially in an online world? According to a paper scheduled for publication in the February 2016 issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, lots.by
Studies have proven the power of intrinsic motivation: With it, kids are more likely to be creative, set goals, and much, much more. It makes sense that intrinsic motivation should also help children do better in the school subjects that interest them. If you like writing, you’ll be a better writer and if you like math, you’ll be better at math…right? This is part of the justification for programs that encourage kids to study the things they’re drawn to (and let me admit right now that I’m one of these parents — I want my 9- and 7-year-olds to explore their passions!).
We’re so certain that intrinsic motivation increases achievement that it almost seems like a waste of time to study it. But that’s what a team of researchers from Quebec did. Their study of 1,478 Canadian kids is now on early view at the journal Child Development.by
Imagine you have to split a plate of cookies. Does the person who baked the cookies get the most or do you split them evenly? Most very young children would split them evenly — that’s fair, right? But as kids get older, they start to take into account who did the work. MIT researchers working with the Tsimane’ People near San Borja, Bolivia wondered what makes kids switch from “egalitarian” to “merit-based” opinions of fairness. Is it something natural in growing older? Is it socialization? Or is it…something else?by
By now you know that as your brain ages, it looks more and more like Swiss cheese. Things you’d like to keep in slip out through the holes and it gets harder and harder to pack new things into your cheese-head. You know it. I know it. But is it really true?by
James Mourey, doctoral student in Psychology at the University of Michigan, decided to run experiments on guests at his mother’s holiday parties without her knowledge. First, at her Fourth of July party, he slipped a handful of plain white plates into the stack of patriotic ones. Then, at her Labor Day party, he inserted Halloween plates. Finally, Mourey positioned himself at the end of the buffet where he shook hands, gently stole the plates and weighed them on a sensitive scale hidden beneath the tablecloth. The guests were unaware they were lab rats. Mourey’s mom was unaware that her son had press-ganged her guests into participants in his science project. And Mourey showed that people who happened to pick plates that mismatched the event also took less food.
It was one in a series of experiments showing that a brain shocked from its easy complacency functions better than a brain kicking along on autopilot.by