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Researchers point to digital gains in human recognition Human beings are highly efficient at recognizing familiar faces, even from very poor quality images.
Concussion history associated with risk of alzheimer's disease A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer's-associated plaques in the brain.
Too Much Crystallized Thinking Lowers Fluid Intelligence In a digital age"”that puts a premium on facts, figures, and data"”crystallized intelligence has become disproportionately valued over fluid intelligence. A wide range of new studies are finding that motor skills, hand-eye coordination, aerobic conditioning, and daily physicality are important for maintaining working memory and fluid intelligence.read more
Surprising causes of winter depression Lack of sunlight isn't the only reason that people feel down during the winter months.
E.R. costs for mentally ill soar, and hospitals seek a better way An experiment in Raleigh is helping mentally ill patients without admitting them to emergency rooms.
What does compassion sound like? "Good to see you. I'm sorry. It sounds like you've had a tough, tough, week." Spoken by a doctor to a cancer patient, that statement is an example of compassionate behavior observed by a research team in a new study published.
5 Mind Tricks to Help Keep Your Resolutions Many of us think about what we want to accomplish at the beginning of a New Year. At the same time, we also know that most New Year resolutions don't stick. What are some effective ways to succeed? Below are five fun and easy tips to help keep your New Year's resolutions...read more
Therapy used to treat vets with PTSD helps teen rape victims Study shows "exposure" therapy that helps combat veterans also works for traumatized sexually abused teens with similar symptoms.
Can you be too happy? | Philippa Perry Jane Austen understood that the search for meaning in one's life may be more satisfying than the pursuit of happinessIs it possible to be too happy? When faced with such an existential question I usually go to my favourite psychologist, Jane Austen. "'Tis too much ... by far too much ... Oh! Why is not everybody as happy?" says Jane Bennett on first seeing her sister after Mr Bingley had proposed in Pride and Prejudice. Jane is a caring person, very mindful of others' feelings and at this moment she is very happy indeed. But Jane is aware that others around her may not be as happy and that it may be possible that she is too happy for them.We may sometimes make a brave show of pretending not to care what others think, but who would not, like Jane, be mindful if their mood was substantially different, was too happy, for others in their group? The things that make us happiest are our social relationships – happiness is a good friend. And the more empathetic we are to others the better friendships we are likely to have. This means we need to be able to relate to others' states of being when they are less than happy and if we are unable or unwilling to do this then that is what I would call being too happy.Jane, of course, has nothing really to worry about. She may have feared being too happy, but others are so happy for her that her happiness is neither too much for them nor is it for us.We might also be so happy that we are not worrying enough about everyday concerns. When Jane's father, Mr Bennett, makes a joke about the personalities of Jane and Bingley he could be hinting at the disadvantages of too much happiness brought about by being so easy-going. "You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income."Psychologists from the University of Virginia in 2007 seem to be of the same mind as Mr Bennett. Their paper suggests that, although happiness generally leads to success, higher levels of happiness do not lead to more success, at least not in a material sense. They found that people with the highest level of happiness are the most successful in terms of close relationships, but those with slightly lower levels of happiness are the most successful in terms of income, education and political participation. This suggests that in order to strive we need to feel a lack of some kind.Emily Esfahani Smith used the phrase: "There's more to life than being happy."She was examining research carried out at Stanford University in the US looking at the differences between leading a happy life and a meaningful one.Of course, there are many overlaps, but there are also distinct differences between the two groups. People who emphasised having a happy life more than a meaningful one tended on the whole to be takers who lived mainly in the present, whereas those who valued meaning over happiness tended to be givers who also thought about the past and the future as well.Jane Austen again: this is Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion, thinking about her sisters-in-law, the Musgrove sisters: "Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but ... she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments."Yes, Austen definitely understood that there is more to life than being happy.Health & wellbeingPhilosophyJane AustenPsychologyPhilippa Perrytheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Big Data – More Headache Than Elixir Photo Credit: Flickr In the past two years, I have ended the year writing about different charities. In 2011, I wrote about charity: water, and in 2012, I talked about Room to Read. This year, I want to do something different. I’m going to share a few brief observations I’ve made about one topic that […]
10 Sources of Low Self-Esteem If you grew up hearing that whatever you did wasn't good enough, how are you supposed to grow into an adult with a positive self-image?read more
Criticising popular things: why is it so popular? | Dean Burnett Dean Burnett: If something becomes popular, it'll invariably have people saying how it's awful. But what prompts this sort of response?Dean Burnett
Making sad sense of child abuse About 3.5 million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States every year. Now a study has found that when parents are physically abusive, children tend to accommodate it -- but when the abuse is sexual, they tend to fight or flee it unless it is severe. The findings help explain children's behavior in response to abuse and could aid in intervention and treatment.
Gene that influences the ability to remember faces identified New findings suggest the oxytocin receptor, a gene known to influence mother-infant bonding and pair bonding in monogamous species, also plays a special role in the ability to remember faces. This research has important implications for disorders in which social information processing is disrupted, including autism spectrum disorder. In addition, the finding may lead to new strategies for improving social cognition in several psychiatric disorders.
Impulsive personality linked to food addiction People with an impulsive personality may be more likely to have a food addiction.
Why families fight during the holidays Why the same minor jabs and annoying tics are harmless coming from friends, but prompt epic screaming matches when uttered by relatives.
Study focuses on habits of sedentary older women Sitting may have become the new smoking in terms of bad health habits for elderly women.
10 Most Popular Psychology Articles from 2013 To all PsyBlog readers: A very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!→ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Motor excitability predicts working memory Humans with a high motor excitability have a better working memory than humans with a low excitability. By measuring the motor excitability, conclusions can be drawn as to the general cortical excitability – as well as to cognitive performance. Working memory allows the temporary storage of information such as memorizing a phone number for a short period of time. Studies in animals have shown that working memory processes among others depend on the excitability of neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
Ghost stories: why the Victorians were so spookily good at them Christmas Eve was traditionally the time to tell scary stories round the hearth. And 19th-century writers were fearsomely adept at exploiting a world of creaking floorboards, creepy servants ... and gas lamps that caused hallucinationsCurl up by the fire and I'll tell you a ghost story. Don't be alarmed by the creak of the floorboards, the murmurs in the basement, the shrill ululations of a distant dog. Try not to be perturbed by the flickering candle, the fleeting shadows, the horned, hairy hand that appears at your elbow. Something moved? There's a face in the brickwork? A murderer, long ago, was buried in the cellar? Stay calm. Breathe deeply. The ghosts of Christmases past are gathering.It was the Victorian era, of course, when ghosts proliferated most obviously in fiction – as well as on stage, in photographs and in drawing room seances. Before the start of Victoria's reign in 1837, the health of the genre was thought to be failing. But by 1887, when Mary Louise Molesworth wrote The Story of the Rippling Train, her character Mrs Snowdon was bemoaning ghosts' prevalence. "One hears nothing else nowadays," she said, and in the pages that followed, she would hear yet another, about the phantom of a beautiful woman who had appeared after being terribly burnt in a fire.What had raised all these apparitions from the dead? The most straightforward explanation is the rise of the periodical press, says Ruth Robbins, professor of English literature at Leeds Metropolitan University. Ghost stories had traditionally been an oral form, but publishers suddenly needed a mass of content, and ghost stories fitted the bill – short, cheap, generic, repetitive, able to be cut quite easily to length.Reading on mobile? Watch Ruth Robbins discussing Victorian ghost storiesEver one to spot a commercial opportunity, she says, Charles Dickens produced his own highly successful ghost story, A Christmas Carol, in serial form just before Christmas 1843. This was the same year the first commercially produced Christmas card was sent, and Dickens's story both reflected and influenced a growing trend for marking Christmas with secular celebrations. Dr Andrew Smith, author of The Ghost Story 1840-1920, says: "People like Dickens wanted to revive some notion of community invested within that idea of Christmas. What's interesting about his version of Christmas is that it's not particularly Christian. It's about the family, helping the poor, a moment where you might pause and reflect on your life." It's about Ebenezer Scrooge realising, through the counsel of ghosts, that he must embrace his family, look after his good-natured clerk, and become the embodiment of generosity.Christmas has long been associated with ghosts, says Roger Clarke, author of A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof. Just before Christmas 1642, for instance, shepherds were said to have seen ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies. This connection continued in the Victorian era through Dickens's story, and through the ghost stories he later published at Christmas in his periodical All the Year Round, with contributors including Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell. It would also continue in the tradition started by MR James, the provost of King's College, Cambridge, who would invite a select few students and friends to his rooms each year on Christmas Eve, where he'd read one of the ghost stories he had written, which are still popular today. They include Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book (1895), in which an ancient holy book brings forth a demonic presence, first announced by a hand covered in "coarse black hairs, longer than ever grew on a human hand; nails rising from the ends of the fingers and curving sharply down and forward, grey, horny and wrinkled".The popularity of ghost stories was strongly related to economic changes. The industrial revolution had led people to migrate from rural villages into towns and cities, and created a new middle class. They moved into houses that often had servants, says Clarke, many taken on around October or November, when the nights were drawing in early – and new staff found themselves "in a completely foreign house, seeing things everywhere, jumping at every creak". Robbins says servants were "expected to be seen and not heard – actually, probably not even seen, to be honest. If you go to a stately home like Harewood House, you see the concealed doorways and servant's corridors. You would actually have people popping in and out without you really knowing they were there, which could be quite a freaky experience. You've got these ghostly figures who actually inhabit the house."Lighting was often provided by gas lamps, which have also been implicated in the rise of the ghost story; the carbon monoxide they emitted could provoke hallucinations. And there was a preponderance of people encountering ghosts in their daily life come the middle of the century. In 1848, the young Fox sisters of New York heard a series of tappings, a spirit apparently communicating with them through code, and their story spread quickly. The vogue for spiritualism was under way. Spiritualists believed spirits residing in the afterlife were potentially able to commune with the living, and they set up seances to enable this.Peter Lamont, author of Extraordinary Beliefs, says these gatherings started off quite simply, "and the phenomenon gets more and more impressive. There are floating tables, floating musical instruments, and at some point you get full-form materialisation of ghosts, dressed in white. Occasionally, the [apparition] would get grabbed at a seance and it was discovered that it was actually the medium."This interest in the supernatural might seem at odds with the growing body of scientific and technological knowledge, but many argue they were intimately connected. In the 19th century, people were increasingly able to communicate at a distance, in disembodied fashion. The telegraph allowed messages to be tapped out in code over long distances – not so unlike the Fox sisters' purported ghost – and the ability to communicate first with other cities, then countries, eventually to transmit messages across the Atlantic, was brilliant and alarming. "If you can have people communicating from 3,000 miles away," says Robbins, "words coming across the ocean, tapped out in Morse code, it may actually be quite a small leap of the imagination to say, 'There's a dead person who I used to know quite well who is talking to me through Morse code.'"The growth of photography brought the advent of spirit photography – there were people who charged enormous fees, and used various tricks, to picture sitters with ghostly images of dead loved ones. William Mumler, for instance, who created a famous image of Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghostly hands of her dead husband, Abraham Lincoln, resting on her shoulders. Then came film and radio. Ghostly disembodied voices and images poured out of the screen and over the airwaves.There were ghosts in the ether, under the bed, and more and more, in people's heads. "Throughout the 19th century," says Smith, "there is a progressive internalisation of horror, the idea that the monsters are not out there, but to be found within. That obviously culminates with Freud. With the ghost story there's a sense that instead of being able to lock yourself away in your home, to leave the monster outside, the monster lives with you, and has a kind of intimacy."Merry Christmas – and sleep soundly.What's your favourite ghost story? Let us know belowClassicsFantasyHorrorFictionFairytalesCharles DickensPhotographyPsychologyTelecomsKira Cochranetheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds