Weekly Choice: on Capitalism, Pheromones and simple Bess

NEW addition: Question of the Week!

Dear S. I. Cohen,

Recently I had a discussion with my friend about capitalism, where one of his arguments against it was that capitalism is toxic environment for job creations. And he passionately claimed how capitalism makes rich people richer, and those who are born without wealth and opportunities enjoyed by the rich people, will stay poor. Also, that capitalism is out of control and is leading to the destruction of the environment.Do you think it´s true and if it is what can we do about to stop it?

Best wishes,

– Jeff

As you noticed, there are many people that use the word Capitalist, Capitalism and its variations to describe the worse kind of human conduct, malevolence and hustle. Many think of Capitalism and create their own so called “facts” about how that system degraded what could have been a better society.

Well, one could actually ask the person if he or she actually knows what Capitalism really is (from an economical perspective). Followed by a short silence (of an unexpected turn in the conversation for a broken consensus), the answer is usually a hesitated ‘yes’. One would continue and ask about how, when and where did it begin, for what purpose, what was the economical system before, was it better…? Needless to say that the more you’d ask, the greater the confusion and discrepancy will be.

Capitalism_by_GraffitiWatcher

The first thing to regard is how little people actually know about what just a minute ago they were so convinced.

Moreover, there is quite a lot of double standard (myself included), in that the persons in question were holding an Iphone or a Tablet or their car keys in their hands while beheading the same capitalist that created that for them.

One can ask that person if she exchanged her technological wonder with a neighbor (that constructed the device) for some food or something of her creation. I sincerely doubt it. Today, you can find many places that began a local currency or an exchange based economy (Greece, Island, south of Spain with the PUMA, Comunes and Mercado Trueque and even the idea behind Bit coin).

The fact rests the same: no market, no matter how free or on the contrary, how regulated, is immune to self-interests and the greed of people.

The thing is that so far I truly believe that no one thought of a better system. The problem is with the people using the system. As many things in life, capitalism is a technique, an economic technique, with no emotions or preferences, the user, on the other hand, is the one that can easily manipulate it for his benefit. Thus, as said before by many.

In no other system a poor person can become rich if he knows how to work it for his benefit and that is something very noble. On the other hand, because of its power, you can imagine many will take advantage of it, stripping themselves from any valor or moral behavior.

Certainly, I´ll be the last to come to the rescue of any system, whether economical, political or social… their all have some positive and many negative. Yet, when it comes to blind and confused criticism, I do find more harmful than contributive for the better of our society. So, if I was you, I´ll do some reading and next time you face this friend ask him what does he think about global warming (right before he gets into his 4X4).

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How Attention Works: The Brain’s Anti-Distraction System Discovered

Attention is only partly about what we focus on, but also about what we manage to ignore.

“Neuroscientists have pinpointed the neural activity involved in avoiding distraction, a new study reports. This is the first study showing that our brains rely on an active suppression system to help us focus on the task at hand (Gaspar & McDonald, 2014).

brain

The study’s lead author, John Gaspar, explained the traditional view of attentional control:

“This is an important discovery for neuroscientists and psychologists because most contemporary ideas of attention highlight brain processes that are involved in picking out relevant objects from the visual field.” While this process is important, it doesn’t tell the whole story of how attention works.

Gaspar continued: “Our results show clearly that this is only one part of the equation and that active suppression of the irrelevant objects is another important part.”

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 47 students carrying out a visual search task while their brain signals were monitored. The finding may have important implications for psychological disorders which involve problems with attention.

The study’s senior author, John McDonald, said:

“…disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones.”

http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/05/how-attention-works-brains-anti-distraction-system-discovered.php

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TED’s Best Of Week!

Tristram Wyatt: The smelly mystery of the human pheromone

“Do humans have pheromones? Tristram Wyatt is on the case. A researcher at Oxford, Wyatt is interested in the evolution of pheromones throughout the animal kingdom.

Do our smells make us sexy? Popular science suggests yes — pheromones send chemical signals about sex and attraction from our armpits to potential mates. But, despite what you might have heard, there is no conclusive research confirming that humans have these smells molecules. In this eye-opening talk, zoologist Tristram Wyatt explains the fundamental flaws in current pheromone research, and shares his hope for a future that unlocks the fascinating, potentially life-saving knowledge tied up in our scent.”

“Don’t wash I’m coming home!”

http://www.ted.com/talks/tristram_wyatt_the_smelly_mystery_of_the_human_pheromone#t-6509

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Movie Of The Week! Breaking The Waves!

breaking-the-waves-9“Breaking the Waves” is emotionally and spiritually challenging movie directed by Lars von Trier and starring Emily Watson.  It is the first film in Trier’s ‘Golden Heart Trilogy’ which also includes The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).  It tells the story of Bess, a simple young woman of childlike naive, who sacrifices herself to sexual brutality to save the life of the man she loves. Jan, paralyzed from an industrial accident profoundly depressed, asks Bess to have sex with other men and tell him about it, thinking this will allow her to return to a normal life, and she, on the other hand, sees it as an expression of her devotion to Jan. What in the world motivates Jan to demand such repugnant actions from the wife he adores? Bess, with her fierce faith, believes that somehow her sacrifice can redeem her husband and even cure him. As his condition grows worse, her behavior gets more desperate; she went to a big ship where even the port prostitutes refuse to go, because of the way they have been treated there. The epilogue of Breaking the Waves is impossible to describe—it must literally be seen to be believed—but it grows organically and coherently from everything that’s come before it, bringing the film to a bold and brilliant conclusion. In Breaking the Waves, von Trier makes the case that as long as a “truly revolutionary alteration to the social conditions” is still in the future, women will continue to pay with their lives for the sins of the fathers. Whether Bess is a victim of patriarchy or whether she is heroic in her choice to live and die on her own terms is a question that viewers will invariably need to answer for themselves.

Watch the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR_mMxHJ0t4

Weekly choice: on memory, bank accounts, space kids and a Klimtkiss

A Better Way to Cope With Persistent Bad Memories

New technique holds promise for those experiencing disturbing emotional flashbacks

“A better way to deal with recurring negative memories is to focus on the context and not the emotion, according to a new study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Denkova et al., 2014). For example, if you were thinking about a funeral you attended, you might focus on what you were wearing or who was there, instead of how you were feeling at the time.

Dolcos explained:

keys“Sometimes we dwell on how sad, embarrassed, or hurt we felt during an event, and that makes us feel worse and worse. This is what happens in clinical depression — ruminating on the negative aspects of a memory. But we found that instead of thinking about your emotions during a negative memory, looking away from the worst emotions and thinking about the context, like a friend who was there, what the weather was like, or anything else non-emotional that was part of the memory, will rather effortlessly take your mind away from the unwanted emotions associated with that memory. Once you immerse yourself in other details, your mind will wander to something else entirely, and you won’t be focused on the negative emotions as much.”

We don’t yet know if this strategy will work in the long-term, which is very important for those suffering from depression, but it’s easy to do and unlikely to cause any harm.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/04/a-better-way-to-cope-with-persistent-bad-memories.php

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Inspirational video of the week!

Can you see the beauty around you?

In the increasingly popular video that has started to spread social networks, BuzzFeed has asked a group of blind men and women to describe how they perceive beauty.

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Ask Ariely!

Dear Dan,

I recently got married, and my wife and I have been debating the topic of bank accounts. She’d like to combine them, because she wants to know how much is coming in and going out. I think separate accounts would be simpler for taxes, personal spending and budgeting. What’s your take?

-J.

The fact that you’re wondering whether to follow your preferences or your wife’s tells me that you are either a slow learner or very recently married (sorry, my Jewish heritage would not let me pass up that opportunity). But to the point: I think you should have a joint account.

First, there’s no question that in reality your accounts are joint in the sense that anything one of you does has an effect on your mutual financial future. For example, if one of you starts buying expensive cars from your individual account, there’s going to be less money for both of you to spend later on vacations, medical bills and so on.

More important, by getting married you have created a social contract of the form: “I will take care of you, and you will take care of me.” Adding a layer of financial negotiations to this intricate relationship can easily backfire. Think about what would happen if there was “my money” and “your money”? Would you start splitting the bill in restaurants? What if one of you has an extra glass of wine? And what if your wife ran out of “her money”? Would you tell her that if she does the dishes and takes the garbage out for a week, you would give her some of “your money”?

The problem is that once money becomes intertwined with deep relationships, they can start looking a bit more like prostitution than like love, romance and long-term caring. Separate bank accounts do have some advantages, but having them could put unnecessary stress on your relationship—and your relationship is much more important than managing your money efficiently.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203846804578103194032776674

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Ted’s Best Of The Week! Will our kids be a different species, by  Juan Enríquez

robot_evolutionThroughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? At TEDxSummit, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment — and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.

“I think we’re going to move from a Homo sapiens into a Homo evolutis: a hominid that takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of his species, her species and other species.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_will_our_kids_be_a_different_species

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Artist Of The Week, Gustav Klimt!

gustav-klimt-photoGustav Klimt was born on 14 July 1862. He was the second of seven children of a lower-middle-class family, living in the Viennese suburb of Baumgarten.  He began developing his talent as an artist at the age of fourteen, after he entered the University of Plastic Arts in Vienna (graduating at the age of twenty).

Gustav Klimt was always reluctant to talk about himself, referring questioners to his works instead. From his paintings, the viewer “should seek to recognize what I am and what I want.” he said repeatedly. Despite his success he remained unsure of himself in social settings. He habitually wore a blue painter’s smock, his hair was tousled, and he spoke the dialect of his humble origins.

Gustav Klimt’s style is highly ornamental. The Art Nouveau movement favored organic lines and contours. Klimt used a lot of gold and silver colors in his art work – certainly an heritage from his father’s profession as a gold and silver engraver.

He creates various pieces, which include:Danae, and The Kiss, which are extremely erotic and exotic in nature. They depict the differences in sexuality between men and women, and the pieces he creates during this time, although symbolic, are very literal in many of the figures, and depiction of the human form. Up until about 1914, many of the pieces that he created, took on this sexual under pining, and were not widely accepted, in part due to their graphic nature, and in part because of the time period that he lived in and worked in.

The Kiss, 1907-1908
The Kiss, 1907-1908

His works of art were a scandal at his time because of the display of nudity and the subtle sexuality and eroticism. His best known painting The Kiss, was first exhibited in 1908. As everything coming out of Klimt’s hands, it was highly controversial and admired at the same time.

After three decades of intensive work, numerous triumphs, and fierce hostility from his critics, Gustav Klimt died on 6 February 1918 after suffering a stroke, being fifty-five years old. He is buried in Vienna’s Hietzing Cemetery.

The Tree of Life, 1909
The Tree of Life, 1909

Click here for a documentary on his life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaGH-BczrVA

Weekly choice: on Doubts, Neurons, Space and…To-do Lists (?)

 

How Atheism, Skepticism, and Humanism Changed My Life – and how it can Change Yours

skeptic“I was once taught to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I was once taught to believe that God is the one true god. I was once taught to believe that all things are possible only through him. I was once taught that non-Christians weren’t good people. I was once taught that only Christianity could answer the questions that I had. I once believed in aliens, ghosts, and cryptids without hesitation. I once believed I was better than others. At one time I believed these things to be true. But eventually, I woke up. It wasn’t until I was much older I began questioning my beliefs and understanding the world much better, in ways that were much more fascinating than anything suggested to me from the pulpit, television, or literature. The beauty of living organisms, the complexity of our universe, and the incredible abilities of the human brain; all of which often taken credit for by those who believe they’ve been given a religious mandate to do so. Soon, it became incredibly hard for me to rely on faith.

If we want to live a knowledgeable and clear life, we must humble ourselves in way that may not sound easy now. I’ve done so by applying these simple principles:

  • I cannot be afraid to doubt unsubstantiated claims.
  • I cannot be afraid to ask questions about everything.
  • I need to be apprehensive before believing what other people say to be fact-based.
  • I need to treat others kindly in a respectable and adult way.
  • I need to live our lives day by day as if it is our last, because it’s highly probable this is the only life I get.
  • I need to recognize when I’ve been wrong and make an honest effort to correct those mistakes.

I ask you to do the same.

http://www.richarddawkins.net/foundation_articles/2014/3/18/how-atheism-skepticism-and-humanism-changed-my-life-and-how-it-can-change-yours

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The World Concert Hall: Listen To The Best Live Classical Music Concerts for Free

“Just over a century after the first radio performance of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Il Pagliacci,” and Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” were broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910, the World Concert Hall has made it its mission to bring free live classical concerts to the world. The website contains a collection of links to free radio performances each week, allowing listeners to tune into live concerts performed across the globe. You can browse performances according to the site’s schedule, or choose from a selection of classical radio stations in a large number of countries. As you might expect, the U.S has the largest selection by far, with 80 stations. But for more curious music lovers, World Concert Hall also offers a taste of what other fans are listening to in other countries, like China, Japan, and Israel.”

http://www.openculture.com/2014/03/the-world-concert-hall-listen-to-the-best-live-classical-music-concerts-for-free.html

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TED’s Best Of The Week! The neuroscience of restorative justice!

Daniel Reisel searches for the psychological and physical roots of human morality. Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury… could we help the brain re-grow morality?

words-amygdala-small

“How can we apply this knowledge? I’d like to leave you with three lessons that I learned. The first thing that I learned was that we need to change our mindset. Since Wormwood Scrubs was built 130 years ago, society has advanced in virtually every aspect, in the way we run our schools, our hospitals. Yet the moment we speak about prisons, it’s as though we’re back in Dickensian times, if not medieval times. For too long, I believe, we’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded of the false notion that human nature cannot change, and as a society, it’s costing us dearly. We know that the brain is capable of extraordinary change, and the best way to achieve that, even in adults, is to change and modulate our environment.

The second thing I have learned is that we need to create an alliance of people who believe that science is integral to bringing about social change. It’s easy enough for a neuroscientist to place a high-security inmate in an MRI scanner. Well actually, that turns out not to be so easy, but ultimately what we want to show is whether we’re able to reduce the reoffending rates. In order to answer complex questions like that, we need people of different backgrounds — lab-based scientists and clinicians, social workers and policy makers, philanthropists and human rights activists — to work together.

Finally, I believe we need to change our own amygdalae, because this issue goes to the heart not just of who Joe is, but who we are. We need to change our view of Joe as someone wholly irredeemable, because if we see Joe as wholly irredeemable, how is he going to see himself as any different? In another decade, Joe will be released from Wormwood Scrubs. Will he be among the 70 percent of inmates who end up reoffending and returning to the prison system? Wouldn’t it be better if, while serving his sentence, Joe was able to train his amygdala, which would stimulate the growth of new brain cells and connections, so that he will be able to face the world once he gets released? Surely, that would be in the interest of all of us.”

http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_reisel_the_neuroscience_of_restorative_justice

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Ask Ariely!

Dear Dan,

Why do people love to write to-do lists?

—Joe

ArleyI suspect there are rational and irrational reasons for the very large amount of list-making activity we see around us. On the rational side, lists help us with faulty memory and allow us to share tasks with other people simply and efficiently. On the irrational side, making lists and checking items off these lists give us the false sense that we are actually making progress. The term for this by the way is “structured procrastination.” It’s an attempt to capture the momentary feeling that we are progressing—whereas in fact when we look back at the end of the day on what we achieved, we realize that we did not get much done. I also suspect that all the apps that help us make lists and then make it fun for us to check things off are reducing our collective productivity, by replacing real work and focus with structured productivity.

http://danariely.com/page/3/

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Series of the week! Looking for Answers in the Stars: Cosmos & Wonders Of The Solar System!

cosmos-wideFrom all the series that began recently on the small screen, I have to admit that the most interesting one is by far Cosmos. Here’s what Jeffrey Marlow has to say about it: “After 34 years, Cosmos is back. The wildly successful space-themed documentary series was written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter; many credit the show as the most influential science TV program ever. So when reports of a reboot emerged a few years ago, the Twitterverse and blogosphere pored over every detail. There was the fact that it would air in prime time on a major network. There was Sagan’s legacy to contend with. And there was the new host – leading science evangelist and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who embodies the expansive wonder and hidden intricacies of space like no one else.”

Watch full episodes of Cosmos:

http://www.cosmosontv.com/

As for Wonders of the Solar System, professor Brian Cox visits the most extreme locations on Earth to explain how the laws of physics carved natural wonders across the solar system.

Learn more about the Wonders of The Solar System:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/wonders-of-the-solar-system/



Mind the God

Lately, it seems that there is an increasing scientific curiosity about the mind and the reasons for the way we behave, think, act and perceive the world we live in. One of the latest themes where we can witness a rise in public attention and social conversation is the scientific reason for religion. While up until 40 years ago, no one could even imagine there will ever be such liberty and openness to actually research this part of our life, today both religious and non religious are cooperating to get some answers (I have to admit though, that by saying cooperating I mean most of the investigators are non-religious and the test subjects are religious).

                                                                              religion9

The results are by far fascinating. We can learn so much about ourselves as the social animal, about history, anthropology, sociology and many more sciences combined. A recent study shows that religious faiths activates a network of nerves that coordinate the social communication, feelings, imagination and memory (not for all aspects). It shows that in the human brain God is perceived as another human being with thoughts, intentions and of course, feelings. The neuroscientist Alumit Ishai, professor of cognitive neuroscience in Zurich University, investigates this subject. A few years ago she studied, with the help of a MRI, what is happening in the mind of Carmelita’s nuns when they perceive a union with their God. The results were that the mystical experience caused an augmented activity in the visual cortex, the Insular cortex and the Orbitofrontal which shows us that it is not any different from another substantial excitement as emotional experience.

F1.medium

It is known today that gods and similar ideas were with Homo sapiens for the past 70,000 years and more. This is when they started to create variety of worship rituals, beliefs in different gods and general awe towards the unknown and unfamiliar (which of course was practically everything). This need for gods is a common interest for social psychologist, evolutionist, anthropologists and other investigators from different fields (up to philologists at times). The question is what caused that need to believe and if it had an effect on civilization, meaning, whether or not the belief helped civilization coagulate, as with skills as survival and procreation.

The more common and logical of the explanations today is based on the cognitive model of believe as a product of human mind. That, of course, explains why there is an obvious personification to any god that was ever worshiped. Religious people have the tendency to relate to the god they perceive many of the natural characterization they feel. That is to say, that other than thoughts, intentions and feelings that are common to all, each believer sees her god according to what she feels. A person who is very sensitive will normally see God as a very caring and sensitive being; another person with a temper, will perceive God as a fearful being, one that punishes and condemn etc.

This conclusion is also supported by the fact that human being tends to relate any incidence they experience to a personified existence and not to the nature of things. One example is when someone wakes up at night because of a loud noise, the first instinct it to shout “who’s there” and not “what is going on there”.

The theory of the mind is fascinating and surely one post will not be enough. Thus, in the next few weeks I will upload some more interesting studies related to this great enigma, the mind. If you are interested, you are more than welcome to propose links, ideas and even guest blogging.

S. I. Cohen

Weekly choice, by peers

10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercise feel better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes.

brain

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

http://xposethereal.com/science/10-simple-things-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier-backed-by-science.html

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 TED’s Best of The Week:

Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue

domesticviolence1Domestic violence and sexual abuse are often called “women’s issues.” But in this bold, blunt talk, Jackson Katz points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues — and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. A clarion call for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

Jackson Katz asks a very important question that gets at the root of why sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse remain a problem: What’s going on with men?

http://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue.html?-

“We need more men with guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them.”

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Fearful ‘Memories’ Passed Between Generations Through Genetic Code

“A frankly mind-blowing new study suggests traumatic events that happen to a parent could be passed down through their genes onto their children. The research, published in Nature Neuroscience, was carried out on mice, which were conditioned to become afraid of a particular smell: in fact a smell not unlike cherry blossom (Dias & Ressler, 2013). Even the grandchildren showed the fearful response. So the fearful response towards this smell was passed down two generations. The mechanism for the transmission of this response across generations appears to be through the mice’s sperm.

The reason this study is so potentially exciting is that evolution is thought to occur mostly through random genetic mutations across many generations.”

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/12/fearful-memories-passed-between-generations-through-genetic-code.php

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Top 10 Reasons why Diversity is Good for the Boardroom

  1. It reflects the real world – something every company should be sensitive to.

  2. Healthy debate can lead to better decisions.

  3. Divergent backgrounds mean tackling the same idea in differing ways.

  4. Great ideas come from disruption of the status quo.

  5. Your clients and customers are diverse.

Read the rest at:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2013/11/18/top-10-reasons-diversity-is-good-for-the-boardroom/

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Person of the week! Alfred Hitchcock, Master Of Suspense

alfred_hitchcock_master_of_suspense_two_headedHitchcock’s strength and reputation as a filmmaker was that he was able to visualize his subconscious fears and desires and turn them into waking nightmares on the silver screen. Many viewers share those feelings and emotions, which is why he will remain in the public consciousness for many years to come.

Hitchcock (1899–1980) was nominated for six Oscars throughout his career, receiving best director mentions for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945) Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960). Over three decades after his death, at the age of 81, Psycho, adapted for the big screen from a novel based on the life of American serial killer Ed Gein, remains Hitchcock’s greatest-ever film. Psycho is regarded as the world’s first ‘slasher’ movie, terrifying and shocking the public when it opened in 1960. It contained unprecedented levels of violence and sexuality, and its infamous ‘shower scene’ was later named the ‘Best Death’ in modern cinematography.

But Alfred Hitchcock, in a newly-unearthed interview, says he was ‘horrified’ when spectators took his subversive classic Psycho seriously.

Watch the 1964 sit-down uncovered found in the BBC archives, where the master of suspense says he intended the film to be a dark comedy made ‘rather tongue-in-cheek’.

“I never carry more than I can afford to lose” (Psycho)