Do Harsh Environments Lead To Stern Gods?

harsh god

“Religions with ‘moralizing high gods’ – that is, powerful supernatural beings that oversee human events and take an active interest in how humans are behaving – are more likely to be found in cultures residing in ecologically harsh areas,” a new study has found.

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“The Realism Canard” And What Movies Do To Our Brains

brain on movies

“The realism canard” is what critic Isaac Butler calls the tendency to find fault with works of fiction, especially films, because events and conditions in them aren’t like real life. (For instance, in outer space, you can’t hear explosions.) Problem is, our brains are fooled by filmed images a lot more than we’d like to think.

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There Is No Foolproof Way To Detect A Lie

lie detector

“There are speech patterns and facial expressions said to be ‘cues,’ but these are often unreliable, and can be overcome, particularly when the liar in question doesn’t care if you believe her or not. (Wanting to be believed stresses us out, which can lead to giveaways like averted eye contact and stammering.)”

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Those Who Freak Out About Spoilers Are Clueless About The Art Of Criticism

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“The rise of spoiler-free criticism seems like a move away from criticism as art — and a move toward criticism as an arm of fandom marketing. It’s fine to not want spoilers in your criticism. But there is something distasteful about the assumption that providing spoilers is some sort of lapse in ethics or etiquette.”

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Why Humans Are Compelled To Tell Each Other Stories (It May Be Hard-Wired)

stories

“Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. … But why start telling stories in the first place? Their usefulness in understanding others is one reason, but another theory is that storytelling could be an evolutionary mechanism that helped keep our ancestors alive.”

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Recovered Memories, The Most Dangerous Idea In Mental Health

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“The belief that hidden memories can be ‘recovered’ in therapy should have been exorcised years ago, when a rash of false memories dominated the airwaves, tore families apart, and put people on the stand for crimes they didn’t commit. But the mental health establishment does not always learn from its mistakes – and families are still paying the price.”

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Another Way Of Thinking About Attention Deficit Disorder

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“From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.”

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Notes On The Exotic

Exotic

“Sometimes one can recapture that fleeting sensation with names – place-names. If I am hiking up a familiar path near my house in Turin and I think, ‘I am climbing a hill in Italy,’ there is a brief whiff of foreign glamour. And, when I arrived in Uzbekistan and was disappointed to find that city people took buses and trams as they do everywhere else, I could revive a touch of fantasy by silently repeating, ‘Streetcars in Samarkand’.”

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Letting Go Of The Foodie Life

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“If shopping and cooking really are the most consequential, most political acts in my life, perhaps what that means is that our sense of the political has shrunk too far—shrunk so much that it fits into our recycled-hemp shopping bags. If these tiny acts of consumer choice are the most meaningful actions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t thinking and acting on a sufficiently big scale.”

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The Strange History Of The Ouija Board

ouija

It started with a pair of spiritualists in post-Civil-War New York; became a ubiquitous family pastime that was considered good, clean fun (and great for a date); and had its reputation ruined by The Exorcist. (It also told its first manufacturers what it wanted to be called.) (includes podcast)

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Mindfulness, Shmindfulness – Zoning Out Is Good For You (Within Reason)

Mindfulness Shmindfulness

“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mindfulness is that you can train yourself to stay in this mindful state all of the time. … Even if you spent 20 years in a Tibetan monastery, you would not be able to stay in a mindful state. We are not, evolutionarily, designed to stay in this blissful, present-moment awareness state.”

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Positive Thinking Isn’t Always So Powerful – It Might Even Hold You Back

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“As a German citizen who came to the United States relatively late in life, I was initially struck by how much more positive thinking was valued in the United States than back in Europe.” Research psychologist Gabriele Oettingen had presumed this was a good thing – until she started doing some studies. It seems that some kinds of positive thinking are a lot less helpful than others.

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Paris Has Been A Capital Of The Arts For Centuries – And Now It Has To Change

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“France’s leadership is struggling to pay for the government it provides. While the capital remains a global magnet of culture, it increasingly risks becoming a playground for the world’s elite, detached from its midsize cities, villages and countryside, where rising hardships stoke resentments and widen the opening for far-right parties.”

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