Be mindful, forgive a political opponent

As a cognitive psychologist, I am naturally drawn to the potential beneficial impacts of mindfulness on the mind and brain: The possibility of fostering better attention, of improving children’s self-regulation, of wiring the brain in more sensible ways than the barrage of Internet and smartphone chatter will. But in the political mayhem of election season,…

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:…

Not quite ready to call squishing bugs “sadism”

I admit, I have sometimes wondered what leads people into the career euphemistically we might euphemistically call “pest control” or more realistically declare “extermination”. I have been greatly relieved that people have chosen such career paths and are so available to handle wasp nests in my attic, and unable to fathom why anyone would opt to spend…

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 downside to the “love drug”

If you’ve heard of the hormone oxytocin, you’ve probably heard it called the “love drug”, due to its known role in human bonding and empathy.  One of the many potential uses put forward for such a miracle molecule is a treatment for autism, which is characterized by difficulty in social interactions and empathizing…but some argue…

Why moms cry at the movies

My sister recently presented me with a little puzzle to solve: before having her son, she doesn’t think she would have teared up at the ending of Toy Story 3 or the opening of Up; now, despite the repeated viewings my nephew has insisted on, they are guaranteed to wash out her eyes. A few months…

The Meditator Offers Her Seat

Sometimes contemplative science seems to reach toward lofty goals with high-tech methods as it seeks to understand how meditation can impact attention, depression, and even gene activity. Other times, it drills down to everyday human experiences, as simple as deciding whether to offer a seat to someone on crutches. The American cultural norms around offering…