A new study from psychologists at the University of Chicago and Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona finds that people using a foreign language take a relatively utilitarian approach to moral dilemmas, making decisions based on assessments of what’s best for the common good. That pattern holds even when the utilitarian choice would produce an emotionally difficult outcome, such as sacrificing one life so others could live.
“This discovery has important consequences for our globalized world, as many individuals make moral judgments in both native and foreign languages,” says Boaz Keysar, Professor of Psychology at UChicago. “The real world implications could include an immigrant serving as a jury member in a trial, who may approach decision-making differently than a native-English speaker.” Leading author Albert Costa, UPF psychologist adds that “deliberations at places like the United Nations, the European Union, large international corporations or investment firms can be better explained or made more predictable by this discovery.”
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When I was a hormone-addled adolescent in the late 1960s and early ’70s, I would often look up at a poster of Sigmund Freud on my brother’s bedroom wall. The title on the portrait – something like ‘Freud: explorer of the unconscious and discoverer of the meaning of dreams’ – depicted a hero of intellectual freedom and creative thought. When you looked at it closely, the portrait seemed to writhe and come alive. In the drug-fueled style of those decades of ongoing sexual revolution, the artist had depicted the nose as an erect penis, the cheeks as a female behind, and the eyes as female breasts. One side of the face was a voluptuous female whose legs wrapped around the body of a muscular male on the other side of the face and, of course, both heads were thrown back in dramatized ecstasy. I recall some of my brother’s stoned friends gazing at the portrait with bewildered looks on their faces, apparently unsure if the writhing torsos they saw were really there or not.
Right from the start, I saw Freud as a kind of secular saint because he was willing to take an unbiased look at himself through the raw material of his dreams. If he found in those dreams a mass of broiling sexual impulses, so be it. Those impulses had to be accepted, understood and explained within a larger picture of the human mind.
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It’s a postcard-perfect day on Suomenlinna Island, in Helsinki’s South Harbor. Warm for the first week of June, day trippers mix with Russian, Dutch, and Chinese tourists sporting sun shades and carrying cones of pink ice cream.
“Is this the prison?” asks a 40-something American woman wearing cargo pants and a floral sleeveless blouse.
Linda, my guide and translator, pauses beside me between the posts of an open picket fence. After six years of teaching as a volunteer inside American prisons, I’ve come from the private college where I work to investigate the Scandinavian reputation for humane prisons. It’s the end of my twelfth prison tour, and I consider the semantics of the question: If you can’t tell whether you’re in a prison, can it be a prison? I’ve never considered this in so many words. Yet I find that I know the answer, having felt it inside a prison cell in Denmark: There is no punishment so effective as punishment that nowhere announces the intention to punish. Linda is an intern working on a degree in public policy. Young and thoroughly practical, she smiles and says to the tourists, “Yes, you are here.”
Text (Doran Larson) and Image via The Atlantic. Continue THERE
The idea of summoning the spirits took thrilling hold of the Victorian imagination – and has its adherents now. But the psychology behind spiritualism is more intriguing. As the evenings get darker and the first hint of winter hangs in the air, the western world enters the season of the dead. It begins with Halloween, continues with All Saints’ and All Souls’ days, runs through Bonfire Night – the evening where the English burn effigies of historical terrorists – and ends with Remembrance Day. And through it all, Britain’s mediums enjoy one of their busiest times of the year.
People who claim to contact the spirit world provoke extreme reactions. For some, mediums offer comfort and mystery in a dull world. For others they are fraudsters or unwitting fakes, exploiting the vulnerable and bereaved. But to a small group of psychologists, the rituals of the seance and the medium are opening up insights into the mind, shedding light on the power of suggestion and even questioning the nature of free will.
Humanity has been attempting to commune with the dead since ancient times. As far back as Leviticus, the Old Testament God actively forbade people to seek out mediums. Interest peaked in the 19th century, a time when religion and rationality were clashing like never before. In an era of unprecedented scientific discovery, some churchgoers began to seek evidence for their beliefs.
Excerpt from an article by David Derbyshire at The Guardian. Continue THERE
Two eyes, aligned horizontally, above a nose, above a mouth. These are the basic elements of a face, as your brain knows quite well. Within about 200 milliseconds of seeing a picture, the brain can decide whether it’s a face or some other object. It can detect subtle differences between faces, too — walking around at my family reunion, for example, many faces look similar, and yet I can easily distinguish Sue from Ann from Pam.
Our fascination with faces exists, to some extent, on the day we’re born. Studies of newborn babies have shown that they prefer to look at face-like pictures. A 1999 study showed, for example, that babies prefer a crude drawing of a lightbulb “head” with squares for its eyes and nose compared with the same drawing with the nose above the eyes. “I believe the youngest we tested was seven minutes old,” says Cathy Mondloch, professor of psychology at Brock University in Ontario, who worked on that study. “So it’s there right from the get-go.”
Excerpt from an article written by Virginia Hughes at NatGeo. Continue THERE
People who are able to speak two languages usually can do so seamlessly, a trait that likely develops a higher level of mental flexibility, researchers say.
“In the past, bilinguals were looked down upon,” says Judith F. Kroll, distinguished professor of psychology, linguistics and women’s studies at Penn State.
“Not only is bilingualism not bad for you, it may be really good. When you’re switching languages all the time it strengthens your mental muscle and your executive function becomes enhanced.”
Fluent bilinguals seem to have both languages active at all times, whether both languages are consciously being used or not—and both languages are active whether either was used only seconds or several days earlier.
Bilinguals rarely say a word in the unintended language, which suggests that they have the ability to control the parallel activity of both languages and ultimately select the intended language without needing to consciously think about it.
For a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers conducted two separate but related experiments. In the first, 27 Spanish-English bilinguals read 512 sentences, written in either Spanish or English—alternating language every two sentences.
Excerpt from an article by Victoria Indivero-Penn State at Futurity. Continue THERE
For half a century, one theory about the way we experience and express emotion has helped shape how we practice psychology, do police work, and even fight terrorism. But what if that theory is wrong?
Forty-six years ago a young San Francisco–based cowboy of a psychologist named Paul Ekman emerged from the jungle with proof of a powerful idea. During the previous couple of years, he had set out trying to prove a theory popularized in the 19th century by Charles Darwin: that people of all ages and races, from all over the world, manifest emotions the same way. Ekman had traveled the globe with photographs that showed faces experiencing six basic emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise. Everywhere he went, from Japan to Brazil to the remotest village of Papua New Guinea, he asked subjects to look at those faces and then to identify the emotions they saw on them. To do so, they had to pick from a set list of options presented to them by Ekman. The results were impressive. Everybody, it turned out, even preliterate Fore tribesmen in New Guinea who’d never seen a foreigner before in their lives, matched the same emotions to the same faces. Darwin, it seemed, had been right. Continue at BOSTON MAGAZINE