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Younger people have 'high definition' memories It's not that younger people are able to remember more than older people. Their memories seem better because they are able to retrieve them in higher definition. So says a researcher, in a study that sheds light on how differences in the behavioral and neural activity of younger and older adults influence the different generations' ability to store and recall memories.
Do cultural differences determine outcome of our activities? A generally held assumption in various academic disciplines is that the way people perform various everyday activities – walking, swimming, carrying loads, etc. – is culturally determined. But, the question remains: do these cultural characteristics, when they affect various motor skills, also determine the results of people's efforts?
When Guilt Stops Gratitude Does guilt get in the way of gratitude? It does for me. After years living on my own out of town, I recently moved back home to live with my mom and stepdad to save up for a house. The trouble? Mom is always doing something nice for me, whether I ask for it or not. She throws my laundry in the wash while I’m at school and buys my favorite groceries. I appreciate everything she does for me, and I know I should feel grateful, but sometimes I feel guilty instead—resentful, even—for all her care. In some embarrassing way, the feeling that I will never be able to repay her prevents me from feeling and expressing my gratitude. When she cooks me a delicious dinner, I’m grateful for the act, but not the dishes she’s left me with. Or I’ll just feel plain guilty that she hits the kitchen on my behalf after she’s had a long day hard at work. Researchers have become increasingly interested in studying gratitude over the past decade, and the resounding message from their work is clear: Gratitude is good for our mental and physical health, and it may be an essential ingredient in happiness. But in practice, simply feeling or expressing gratitude can be a challenge. Sometimes other feelings—like the guilt and indebtedness I feel—get in the way. Moving back home has made me wonder: When people are good to us, why do we sometimes respond with guilt and resentment, not gratitude? And how can we overcome those negative feelings and just let ourselves be grateful? These questions have become especially relevant in today’s economy, when so many people like me in their 20s—and some older folks—are dependent on other people for help, whether it be financial or otherwise. Though research on gratitude is still relatively young, some researchers have started to address these questions, suggesting why gratitude can be so hard for some of us and what we can do to reach it more easily. Their work could help some of us actually feel closer to people who are kind to us, not just uneasily indebted to them. When “thank you” is hard One of these gratitude researchers is Phil Watkins, a professor at Eastern Washington University who has written about the differences between feelings of gratitude and indebtedness. Gratitude, according to Watkins, compels individuals to give back to their beneficiaries because they want to, whereas indebtedness implies a sort of obligation. “I think it’s pretty clear that it does happen—people do feel indebted and grateful at the same time,” he says, “but I’d propose if you feel too indebted, then it’s hard to feel grateful.” For some reason, I feel obligated to repay Mom, even though she hasn’t asked me to. Perhaps my failure to fulfill that imaginary obligation is what’s making me feel guilty. Giacomo Bono, a gratitude researcher and adjunct professor at California State University, Fullerton, speculates that guilt could coincide with or even obstruct gratitude in two situations. First, in a “survivor” situation where someone survives a tragedy that others do not, and second, in a situation where there’s inequity in a relationship over time—for example, in the case of a child and a parent. “I could see a case where a person—especially a young person—could have a benefactor or mentor who they’ve received so much help from, so much investment from, that they feel guilty and grateful,” he says, nailing my situation exactly. This can be true not only in parent-child relationships, but also in work settings where a budding professional relies on a superior, Bono says. In fact, he recalls a time when he was beginning his gratitude research and often had to call on his mentor—a pioneer in the field—for favors, including many letters of recommendation. This sort of guilt-versus-gratitude scenario could potentially arise in any relationship between two people who are unequal in some way, including a teacher-student relationship where a student requires extra time or patience from an instructor. Relationships aside, research suggests that gratitude may simply be harder for some than others, period. A 2009 study from George Mason and Hofstra universities found that men were less likely to feel and express gratitude than women, and that men were more likely to view a gift as a burden or obligation. Personality plays a role, too, but a person’s situation is also important to consider, says JoAnn Tsang, a researcher at Baylor University. For me, I think it’s pride and the lack of autonomy I feel that makes keeps me from feeling gratitude sans the negative feelings. I feel anxious and insecure knowing I couldn’t survive financially on my own right now without Mom’s help. “When you remain in the position of needing help from someone else, when you don’t feel like you could do something on your own, it can cause anxiety and a lack of self-esteem,” Bono speculates. “I could see that as an adult, too.” How to overcome all this To get past the negative feelings, and to better cultivate gratitude, researchers recommend recognizing the opportunities your benefactor has given you, and making the most of those opportunities. “Let them know that you’ve put their investment to use,” Bono says. “Be thankful to mentors who have given to you repeatedly because they believed in you.” Bono and others also note that you may never feel like you can pay back your debts, so you shouldn’t try; instead, you should give back through your successes. For him, the feeling that he “owed” his mentor started to lessen when he became successful and no longer had to ask for frequent favors. “I started to feel guilty at one point,” he says, “but that guilt subsided naturally when circumstances arose when I didn’t need him anymore.” Along those same lines, I feel less guilty when Mom makes me me dinner on a day when I’m particularly proud of a project at work. It is also easier for me to feel grateful after I receive a scholarship or award at school, because in some weird way, I feel like I’ve earned her kindness. For people who have struggled with guilt over a period of time, Tsang recommends thanking someone who has never been properly thanked, through a gesture like writing a letter. This can be especially useful for people who struggle to thank their benefactors face-to-face, as well as those who have fallen out of touch. I suppose I should spend less time worrying—and more time repaying Mom through recognition and my successes—while I’m still lucky enough to have her around to do nice things for me.
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Christian counsellors ban therapy aimed at 'converting' gay patients Association of Christian Counsellors bans trying to turn gay patients straight but disgraced therapist vows to fight rulingBritain's leading body for Christian therapists has instructed its members to stop trying to turn gay patients straight using so-called "conversion therapy".The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) said the practice should be stopped "in the interests of public safety", but the move has prompted a furious response from proponents of talking "cures" for homosexuality who have promised to fight for what they see as the right to therapy of anyone distressed by "unwanted same sex attraction".The controversial practice seeks to unearth childhood traumas, which are considered by conversion therapists to have caused homosexuality. Sexual abuse, bullying and having an overbearing mother or distant father are among the supposed triggers.Research by the US clinical psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder has shown such treatment routinely led to worsened mental health, self-harm, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts.The decision by the ACC to speak out against the practice follows similar statements in the last two years by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Department of Health.The ACC said the treatment, also called reparative therapy, "implies that sexuality can be 'repaired' and so introduces the idea of treatment or cure ... it suggests that a specific outcome is possible and appears to make an a priori assumption that it should happen".The statement makes it clear that the practice is incompatible with the Equality Act 2010 and it is not endorsed.However, one organisation preparing to resist the ruling is the Core Issues Trust, a Northern Irish group that campaigns for Christian therapists who attempt to "treat" homosexuality and whose 2012 adverts stating, "Not gay! Ex-gay, Post-gay and Proud. Get over it!" were prevented from appearing on London buses by Boris Johnson after the Guardian alerted the mayor.In an online statement rebuking the ACC's position, the Core Issues Trust said it was "a misapplication of Equalities Act 2010 [sic]", demanded the ACC "provide empirical evidence to support its misleading statement produced on the matter of counselling same-sex attracted persons" and urged the organisation to "avoid compromise of its members' right to teach and uphold orthodox Christian sexual ethics".Other therapists are also preparing to lobby against the ACC's new stance. Lesley Pilkington, who has been on the ACC register, became the first psychotherapist in history to be "struck off" after practising conversion therapy. In 2012, after her methods were exposed, the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) revoked her membership, finding her guilty of "professional malpractice", but she was able to join the ACC as counselling and psychotherapy remains unregulated by statute.In emails from Pilkington seen by the Guardian, the disgraced therapist said there was "a fight going on", adding, "I believe that if anyone is distressed by their unwanted same sex attraction they should have the right to help and therapy ... I will be releasing my own statement soon."The ACC justified its new stance – a change since their its last statement in 2012 – explaining "such models have the potential to create harm and therefore [we] view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling".It advised members not to "commence or continue" using such methods and to remove or modify any promotional material advertising such a service, adding: "In the interests of public safety, we have decided to make clear what is expected by those who choose to be part of ACC."The second reading of the counsellors and psychotherapists (regulation) bill, introduced by the Labour MP Geraint Davies in an attempt to combat conversion therapy and introduce statutory regulation, will be heard on 24 January. A conference for conversion therapists will take place in London on 16 January.Britain's most senior psychiatrist applauded the ACC's position. Professor Dinesh Bhugra, incoming President of the World Psychiatric Association, told the Guardian: "I welcome this major step forward. I very much hope any other organisations who have not already done so follows suit to save a lot of false hope and pain. Psychotherapists and counsellors should focus on supporting individuals to accept normal human variation."ChristianityReligionGay rightsPsychologySexualityEqualityMental healthHealthPatrick Strudwicktheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Children or no children: Similar life satisfaction for Americans Americans aged 34 to 46 with children at home rate their life satisfaction at higher levels than those without children at home, according to a report. However, the researchers say that factors such as higher educational attainment, higher income, better health and religiosity all enhance life satisfaction and that, once these are taken into account, parents and nonparents have similar levels of life satisfaction.
The True Value of Workplace Feedback Countless studies have documented the significant career benefits of collecting feedback about our business performance and behavior. So why do so many well-intentioned professionals fail to take full advantage of this potential competitive edge and why don't leaders give their employees access to candid insights about their strengths and weaknesses? read more
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Brief mental training sessions have long-lasting benefits for seniors' everyday function Older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental (cognitive) training showed improvements in reasoning ability and speed-of-processing when compared with untrained controls participants as long as 10 years after the intervention. These gains were even greater for those who got additional "booster" sessions over the next three years. Older adults who received brief cognitive training also reported that they had less difficulty in performing important everyday tasks.
Scientific study suggests an association between physical doping and brain doping Physical doping and brain doping apparently often go hand in hand. A new study has revealed that people who engage in physical doping often also take drugs for brain doping. The study was the first of its kind to survey simultaneously the two categories of doping and brain doping. 
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Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene – review Would you kill one man to save five? Such thought-provoking questions abound in this trip through the moral mazeYou are standing on a bridge over a railway track when you observe a runaway truck on course to kill five railway workers. Right next to you stands a large man. The only way to save the five men is to push your hapless neighbour off the footbridge and on to the track below. The man will die but his bulk will stop the truck. (You are too puny to stop it if you jump in front of it yourself.)Now a variation: a runaway truck is heading for the same five men, who will be killed if nothing is done. You can save them by operating a switch that will divert the truck to a sidetrack. However, on the sidetrack there is a single workman, who will be killed if you pull the switch.This grisly thought experiment is known as "the trolley problem" (in the US the runaway truck is called a trolley), and if you are like most of the world you'll decide that while it would be wrong to push the fat man off the footbridge, it would be acceptable to operate the switch, despite the fact that the number of lives lost and saved are identical.This fairly hoary ethical dilemma lies at the heart of Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene, director of the Moral Cognition lab at Harvard, and a leading light in the burgeoning field of moral psychology.The evidence collected by Greene and others suggests that we have strong disinclinations to perform certain acts (murdering the fat man), even though they serve the greater good, but not others (pulling the switch) that have the same outcome.What Greene and his team have added to this unnerving moral conundrum is the systematic use of multiple brain images that demonstrate that when people contemplate sacrificing the fat man there is increased activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with emotion, whereas consideration of operating the switch promotes increased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with reasoning. People with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, who lack normal emotions, were five times more likely to approve of pushing the fat man off the bridge.Greene began his career as a philosopher so is well placed to consider the question of ethics from a theoretical as well as an empirical perspective. There have been a number of books recently that consider the biological roots of moral sense (Paul Bloom's Just Babies is the most recent example). But while Greene's research suggests, in accordance with Bloom, that the rudiments of morality are indeed innate, it also demonstrates, through such experiments as the trolley problem, that our moral responses rest on a wobbly intuitive base – a gut feeling that may not produce the best general outcome.In a nutshell, his research reveals two basic settings in our brain which – using a camera as an analogy – he terms automatic and manual. (He acknowledges a debt here to Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, in my view an even more original book than either Bloom's or Greene's.) The automatic setting produces the instinctive or emotional response while the manual allows for consideration and reason.Greene uses a parable to illustrate what he calls "commonsense morality" – in his view "the central tragedy of modern life, the deeper tragedy behind the moral problems that divide us". The parable is of tribes with a common resource that can be depleted or sustained according to the rules that determine its usage and the degree of willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the collective good. It runs as a theme throughout the book to highlight the mounting global danger of humankind's apparently inbuilt parochialism.According to Greene, our moral brain is programmed to operate on an emotional basis to serve a select community or tribe (the physical proximity of the fat man and the relative distance of the solitary worker may explain our disinclination to sacrifice one and not the other). But what functions to promote harmony within a group becomes the source of antagonism when encountering other groups who give different moral weight to what determines the good.Evolution, Greene contends, has prepared us for moral behaviour within our own tribe (us) but not with other tribes (them), and this gives rise to the countless conflicts and atrocities that beset the world: racism, antisemitism, ethnic cleansing, holy wars, genocide and – less dramatically if no less deleterious to global harmony – sexism, ageism, homophobia, class war and the problems of multiculturalism.Greene's radical contention (pretty much a plea) is that the world will only be saved if we learn to transcend our intuitive responses in favour of what he wants to call "deep pragmatism", which is in fact a refined form of utilitarianism, the philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number. This is only achievable where reason trumps emotion. It is a bold idea but my gut feeling is that it is inoperable because it leaves unanswered the problem of who shall say what is the general "good".Science and naturePsychologyEthicsSalley Vickerstheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds