Positive emotions may reduce racist perception

As tempting as it can be to dismiss the fanciful sounding ideas of “the power of a positive attitude”, every now and then a scientific study will show that positive emotions reach into unexpected corners of our brains to tweak our thoughts and actions in small yet significant ways. As one example, simply being joyful or…

Awe and the Supernatural

Majestic mountains, vibrant vistas, stunning scenery – and, perhaps, the transformation of a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse – these are sights that can truly be awe-inspiring, generating those feelings of reverence and wonder. They make time seem to slow down. But do they also make it seem more likely that there must be…

Everyday sadism and squashing bugs revisited

The karmic retribution for my recent exploration of whether willingness to kill bugs reflects “everyday sadism” is, apparently, a near-midnight discovery of the largest cockroach i have ever seen, running laps around my living room ceiling, and quite willing to remind me that, oh yeah, cockroaches can fly. As I texted my sister (note to self:…

Rethinking anger on the road to peace

Cognitive reappraisal, a technique for reinterpreting negative emotions in a more balanced or detached way, may have come across as a weak link in the mental modification toolkit last week: it did not succeed in making people more compassionate, and in fact seemed to make it easier for people to push away any guilt about taking a more…

A poor excuse for removing a peer-reviewed publication

I became disenchanted with the idea of e-books when Amazon reached into scores of Kindles and removed copies of (of all possible books) 1984 and Animal Farm. The notion that a major company had the power to deny access to any content they deemed problematic simply presented too many visions of reactive, totalitarian control. I never considered that…

The Power of Propaganda, and Original Documents

I took students to the National Archives expecting to give them a sense of propaganda, on the British side, although they were free to explore any documents the Archives might store that they found relevant to our class. I didn’t realize that I would be getting a lesson myself on the trials of research in…

Believing in Santa may be good for kids

In many households across the country, Monday evening featured reindeer flying from the North Pole and landing on the rooftop, Santa sliding down the chimney with a bag of just what you’ve asked for as long as you’ve been nice not naughty. It’s probably the most elaborate lie any parent will concoct, with some parents…