A mindful perspective on old age stereotypes?

Our youth-obsessed cultureĀ has certain beliefs about the old: grumpy old men, crazy old cat ladies, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”, and a general belief that being old means you are rapidly deteriorating in every way. This “ageism” is so strong that it can have some surprisingly powerful unconscious effects. From the lab…

Mindfully balancing work and life

The buzzword of modern America seems to be “work-life balance”. While some have stepped forward to say that we’re thinking about the relationship between work and life all wrong, they are still a minority whose voices are drowned out by the thunderous advice from the news media, therapists, and even some employers about how we…

Mind on the Brain

It is the time of the semester when thoughts turn to the brain, because many psychology texts (rightly!) make the brain the focus of either the second or third chapter. In preparation for these discussions, I try to anticipate what myths my students believe that I might need to debunk. The brain does not exist…

No Such Thing as a “Bad” Mood

Here’s a puzzle for you: why do we get into bad moods? I don’t mean “why” in the immediate sense, as in the frustrating service call I made to my internet provider or the insensitive comment your significant other just made. I mean “why” in the big picture sense, as in “if we have such…

A thin slice of time, a hefty conclusion

At one of my brown belt tests for karate, the master (a 5th-degree black belt) made sure we all knew that he might only be standing by each student for a few seconds during any given drill or activity, but that would be more than enough time for him to gauge our martial arts skills.…

Contemplating Causes of the Common Cold

The common cold. Rhinovirus. Call it what you will, it’s not pleasant to have. But here’s the difference between a scientist and just about everyone else: Instead of just sitting on my sofa surrounded by the corpses of dozens of tissues sacrificed in the battle against rhinovirus and moaning “why me”, I pulled up my…

The Ethics of Obedience

There are few studies in psychology as infamous as Milgram’s study of obedience to authority, which, simply put, found that ordinary people were surprisingly willing to administer larger and larger shocks to a fellow volunteer who incorrectly answered memory questions, just because a man in a white lab coat insisted that they continue. It’s worth…

Laugh, and the world laughs with you?

A few months ago, at my first introduction to performance art, I experienced about a half-hour of nearly-uncontrollable, entirely inappropriate laughter, featuring desperate attempts to chew through my lip or hold my breath to stem the tide, fake coughs in an attempt to disguise any escaping chortles, and just enough presence of mind for the…