So do we crave times of silence or not?

Friday, 29 August, 2014

While a lack of silence, or more to the point, incessant noise, can be harmful to our well being, it would seem our brains don’t exactly enjoy a state of complete silence either

As it turned out, even though all the sounds had short-term neurological effects, not one of them had a lasting impact. Yet to her great surprise, Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory, involving the senses. This was deeply puzzling: The total absence of input was having a more pronounced effect than any sort of input tested.

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The future lies in front of us doesn’t it, or is it actually behind us?

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

When we think of the future, many of us see it as being ahead, or in front, of us. When it comes to the past, what’s behind. But not everyone visualises the future or past in those ways, and the language we speak may play a part in our perceptions in this regard. Many Moroccan Arabic speakers for example think of the future as being behind them, and the past in front.

This test confirmed that, despite speaking of the future as being in front of them, the majority of Moroccan Arabic speakers think of it as being behind. Around 85 per cent of them located tomorrow’s object behind the person in the diagram, compared with just over 10 per cent of the Spanish speakers. De la Fuente’s group think the reason has to do with temporal focus. Their theory – “the temporal-focus hypothesis” – is that people and cultures who focus more on the past tend to locate it in front.

It’s an interesting way to look at how we move through time, as if we have our backs to the future, as we move forward, meaning the future is indeed behind us, and the past is before our eyes, hence in front of us, even if we are moving away from it.

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Dyslexia, a weakness or a strength? Apparently it depends…

Thursday, 28 August, 2014

Turning a weakness into a strength perhaps? Not too many people could see an advantage in being dyslexic, not when I was at school that’s for sure, but the learning difficulty can prove to be beneficial in some occupations:

The scientists with dyslexia – perhaps sensitive to the weeds among the flowers – were better at picking out the black holes from the noise, an advantage useful in their careers. Another study in our laboratory compared the abilities of college students with and without dyslexia for memorizing blurry-looking images resembling x-rays. Again, those with dyslexia showed an advantage, an advantage in that can be useful in science or medicine.

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The thing about depression is it may not always feel like depression

Thursday, 21 August, 2014

Depression can be an elusive, slippery, illness to contend with, given many sufferers don’t fully realise how afflicted they are, until they start being treated:

Until I started taking my antidepressants, though, I didn’t actually know that I was depressed. I thought the dark staticky corners were part of who I was. It was the same way I felt before I put on my first pair of glasses at age 14 and suddenly realized that trees weren’t green blobs but intricate filigrees of thousands of individual leaves; I hadn’t known, before, that I couldn’t see the leaves, because I didn’t realize that seeing leaves was a possibility at all. And it wasn’t until I started using tools to counterbalance my depression that I even realized there was depression there to need counterbalancing.

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Personality, sometimes it is stable, sometimes it is not…

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014

Key aspects of our personality, such as extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness, vary in stability as we go through life, rather than remaining constant, with the greatest fluctuations being experienced in youth, and then later life:

Stability of personality increases through youth, peaks in mid-life and then gradually reduces again into old age, presumably in response to the variations in social and biological pressures we experience at the different stages of life.

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Is there a scientific formula for finding satisfying work?

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014

Is finding the sort of work that is right for you a matter of applying a scientific formula? Whatever helps I say, but much of the science here seems more like common sense.

Given that perceptions of common sense vary considerably however, taking a structured approach might be a better option though.

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An interview with a con artist

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014

I imagine that a con artist with a conscience, maybe one who sees themselves as a Robin Hood of sorts, is better than one with no scruples at all. Maybe.

GM had agreed to do an in-person interview the next morning at a coffee shop of his choosing, one with “good escape routes and foot traffic, so I can disappear if I feel you are not being forthcoming.” He would approach me, he said, and he promised not to do anything slick. In his emails, he presented himself as principled – a Robin Hood-type who used cons to teach manners to the greedy.

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How is it that our typos can often evade us?

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

From time to time, while looking back on older posts here, I find myself cringing when I find a typo, be it a missed word, or a spelling mistake. And all the more so when the faux pas was made years ago…

I’m left wondering how such errors could have slipped by, given I write everything in a word processor that spell checks, and then copy and paste the article into a web browser that likewise spell checks, usually a day or so later. I’ve long figured that not looking at a piece of writing for a time makes typos easier to spot later on.

So much for that proof reading technique then. Well, not really. Part of the problem in error checking comes about, it seems, from a conflict with what our eyes see, compared to what we think we should see:

When we’re proof reading our own work, we know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.

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Politeness, a social virtue worth preserving

Monday, 18 August, 2014

It’s possible to be too polite sometimes, but I think a little more is better than not enough:

People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

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An expert expert will admit they are not wholly expert

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014

Ignore the doomsayers, but don’t listen to everything that experts say either, they may be just as… single minded as each other:

The problem with experts is that they think they know it all; ignore data that don’t fit their points of view; and extrapolate from the past on a linear basis. If some disruptive technology hasn’t come along in the past, the assumption is that it won’t happen in the future. What’s worse is that experts often try to block technologies that might up-end their roles. After all, if things change too fast, they will no longer be experts.

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