Friday, May 19, 2017

Aphorisms, 6

  • You need to take a bull by the horns—as long as you’re a knowledgeable bull fighter
  • You're never too old to learn—that you’d be better off if you’d been learning all along
  • You can’t fix stupid in anyone but yourself
  • Straddling two boats definitely increases your risk of getting wet—unless the boats are in dry dock
  • Why is it that when a dog bites a person it’s not news, but when a person bites a dog, it is?
  • Old habits die hard
  • Once bitten, twice shy
  • Opportunity never knocks twice—typically others grasp the ones you missed or walk through the door that you ignored
  • Opposites attract
  • Out of sight, out of mind, but not necessarily out of danger

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Animals and Feelings

Dolphins have a paralimbic lobe that the human brain does not possess, an area associated with the capacity for elaborate social communication and emotions relating to maternal feelings and separation anxiety. Emotional responses become more limited in simpler animals. Most researchers, for example limit nonhuman mammalian emotions to anger, fear, loneliness, and joy. Among reptilian species, emotions seem limited to primitive fight-or flight reactions. According to the author of If Dogs Could Talk, many animals that humans eat on Memorial or Remembrance Day, Xmas, and other national holidays, are capable of feeling anger, sadness, depression, and affection. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Children and Beliefs

Children use storytelling to help them organize thoughts and feelings about the world. The most important stories are those that incorporate cultural and religious myths. By identifying with the characters in the stories, young children vicariously experience moral conflicts and solutions that will have great relevance later in life. Adult belief systems, especially those concerning religion and spirituality, contain significant remnants of the stories these adults heard and read while growing up. Extensive research by Altemeyer and Hunsberger showed that children who grow up in fundamentalist families tend to obey authorities and follow rules. However, they also tend to be self-righteous, prejudicial, and condemnatory toward people outside their group. They tend to develop an ‘us versus them’ mentality that many maintain throughout life. The studies also pointed out that fundamentalist congregations tend to experience a 50 percent dropout rate among members over time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Frontal Lobes and Feelings

Powerful feelings (that tend to be created in the frontal lobes) tend to suppress activity in those same frontal lobes, which contain executive functions such as planning, paying attention, making decisions, choosing, morality, creating one’s feelings, and so on. This reaction form allows more primitive fight-or flight reactions of the limbic system to dominate. On the other hand, acts of forgiveness stimulate frontal-lobe circuits that are associated with compassionate beliefs, which in turn reduce activity of amygdalae in the limbic system associated with anger and fear. Note: Humans are much more likely to mete out a harsh punishment when angry compared with actions taken when feelings of compassion or sadness predominate. Unfortunately, angry decision makers react instinctually and aggressively, with unrealistic optimism and overconfidence in the rightness of their own actions.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Emotions and Belief, 2

Powerful emotions create strong memories; and memories, when coupled with language, are the basis for forming conscious beliefs. This level of belief is what we often call ‘knowledge’, but if it doesn’t have an emotional appeal, the belief will not register deeply in a person’s mind. The hippocampus, often dubbed the brain’s search engine, utilizes emotions to help establish long-term memory. Very emotional events tend to be written into memory more strongly than nonemotional events. Memories are affected by stress. Studies at Yale concluded that the neuropeptides and neurotransmitters released during stress can alter the functioning of areas of the brain directly involved with memory formation and recall. This may interfere with the laying down of memory traces for incidents of childhood abuse, and may possibly lead to long-term distortions for the facts, or even amnesia.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Emotions and Belief

Some say, "If I didn't have to deal with emotions my life would be so much smoother." Perhaps but you would likely not have energy to accomplish much in life. Emotions function as energy sources. Without an energy source an analog or digital clock would not show the time. Turns out that emotions are also essential for making moral and ethical decisions. Emotions bind your perceptions to your conscious beliefs, making whatever you are thinking about seem more real at the time. In addition, strong emotions (particularly anger, fear, and passion) can radically alter your perceptions of reality. Many beliefs, including moral beliefs, can be easily altered by authoritarian and peer-group pressure. The two most significant factors in undermining individual morality are group conformity and the power of authority to override personal objections and doubts. Controversial psychology experiments in 1963 by Stanley Milgram imply that with increased intimacy, physical or verbal, people will treat each other with greater compassion and respect.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reductionist Thinking

Reductionist thinking is another of the six cognitive functions that are believed to work in conjunction with many other neural processes to create (among other things) a person’s belief systems. As compared with holistic thinking, reductionist thinking attempts to reduce the whole to its parts in an effort to make the world seem more comprehensible and manageable. The left hemisphere appears to carry out primarily reductionist thinking. But the beliefs they generate can give one only a partial view of reality. If taken to the extremes, you can become so absorbed in details that you forget about the larger world and fail to see the forest because of the trees. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, for example, reflect an overly reductionist brain. Lost in a labyrinth of details, and in order to control the resulting anxiety, patients resort to complex rituals designed to organize and control chaotic feelings and thoughts. They often develop rigid systems of beliefs, which essentially act as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being overwhelmed. The human brain is capable of both holistic and reductionist thinking but not at the same time.