Saturday, May 10, 2008

Meditation and the Rainbow Body

Two dharma quotes from Snow Lion Publications that touch on the Rainbow Body of tantric Buddhism.
Observing the Mind Itself

The primary meditative technique of great perfection is remaining in the state of pure awareness. This is accomplished by calming the mind and then abiding in comprehension of its basic clear light nature. The meditative practice involves being cognizant of the arising and passing away of feelings, emotions, sensations, etc., but understanding them within the context of pure awareness. The more one does this, the more one realizes that all phenomena arise from mind and remerge into it. They are of the nature of pure awareness and are a projection of luminosity and emptiness. Through cultivating this understanding, mental phenomena of their own accord begin to subside, allowing the clear light nature of mind to become manifest. They appear as reflections on the surface of a mirror and are perceived as illusory, ephemeral, and nonsubstantial.

Those who succeed in this practice attain a state of radical freedom: there are no boundaries, no presuppositions, and no habits on which to rely. One perceives things as they are in their naked reality. Ordinary beings view phenomena through a lens clouded by concepts and preconceptions, and most of the world is overlooked or ignored. The mind of the great perfection adept, however, is unbounded, and everything is possible. For many beginners, this prospect is profoundly disquieting, because since beginningless time we have been constricted by rules, laws, assumptions, and previous actions. One who is awakened, however, transcends all such limitations; there is no ground on which to stand, no limits, nothing that must be done, and no prohibitions. This awareness is bottomless, unfathomable, immeasurable, permeated by joy, unboundedness, and exhilaration. One is utterly free, and one's state of mind is as expansive as space. Those who attain this level of awareness also transcend physicality and manifest the "rainbow body" ('ja lus), a form comprising pure light that cannot decay, which has no physical aspects, and which is coterminous with the nature of mind.
~ From A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers, published by Snow Lion Publications
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

A tantric yogi who has gained control of the subtle energies of the body and the subtle levels of consciousness will have control over the inner and outer elements and consequently can transform his or her ordinary samsaric form into a joyous rainbow body. But until we can do this, we have to accept the fact that our physical basis is a magnet attracting every kind of discomfort and pain.

...This samsaric body keeps us running all of our lives. We have to run to fulfill its endless needs, to keep it away from things that may harm it, and to protect it from anything unpleasant. We have to give it pleasure and comfort. We become ordained, and at first this is very satisfactory; but soon our body makes it so difficult for us that we think our practice would be less disturbed if we were to live as a layperson. So we give up and return to ordinary life; but then we end up with a family to support, leaving us with no time or energy for meditation. We have the pressing tasks of feeding, clothing, and sheltering our children, and of arranging their education and so forth. Our lives are spent alternating between work and worry, with occasional short periods of pleasure, and then we have to die; but even this we cannot do in peace, for, when we lie down to die, our last thoughts are worried ones concerning the family we are leaving behind. Such is the nature of worldly existence.

...To care for our old people--these ones who have given us our body, our life, and our culture--is a sacred duty of humanity. But most humans act more like animals than people, and often we see old people who have been abandoned by their families. Family units were very strong in Tibet, and old people were usually cared for directly by relatives. The national care for the old that we see in the West is something very good, a healthy sign, although perhaps here the spiritual and psychological basis is somewhat lacking.

The suffering of old age is something we all must face, unless we die prematurely. There is nothing we can do about it. Gone will be that false sense of personal ability and strength that made us so proud when we were young. Instead, helpers or friends will bathe us, dress us, spoonfeed us, and have to take us to the toilet. Rather than live under the delusion of permanence, we should engage in spiritual training so that we can enter old age at least with the grace of wisdom.

...So we can see that this body indeed causes us much grief in this life and, sadly, in their quest to satisfy its many needs, most people just collect an endless stream of negative karmic instincts that will lead them to lower rebirths in the future. These are the sufferings of the human world.

...The important point here is to become aware of the third type of suffering, the subtle suffering that pervades all imperfect existence, the all-pervading misery concomitant with having a perishable, samsaric base.... [All are] enmeshed in suffering because the nature of their body and mind is bound with compulsive cyclic processes. Until we develop the wisdom that is able to free the mind from these compelling forces, there is no doubt that we shall experience suffering throughout our lives, and that we shall continue to wander endlessly in the wheel of birth, life, death, and rebirth where the presence of misery can always be felt.

~ From The Path to Enlightenment by H.H. the Dalai Lama, edited and translated by Glenn H. Mullin, published by Snow Lion Publications

Daily Dharma: Opening from Heart

This was Thursday's Daily Dharma from Tricycle.

Opening From Heart

Right now, and in every now-moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something--more money, security, affection--or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting. If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important moment of your life. No future time is better than now to let down your guard and love. Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds. Opening from heart to all, you live as a gift to all. In every moment, you are either opening or closing. Right now, you are choosing to open and give fully or you are waiting. How does your choice feel?

~ David Deida, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran

Mr. Huggins & Snugglypoo

[click image to enlarge]

I'm meaning to mention this newish blog for a while, but kept forgetting. Mr. Huggins & Snugglypoo is created by David Hutchison and Aaron Crowe.

If you decide to check out this beautifully illustrated and conceptualized strip, start at the beginning to get the story arc. I recently went back and read the strip from the beginning (first one above) and enjoyed the narrative a lot. You will too.

In the bulletin section, they mention they are working on a new story arc -- should be good.

Here are the first five episodes:
  1. The Bear Drops
  2. History of the G'ooniverse
  3. Cheaper Beans
  4. Alienation
  5. I Miss G'oo

Leo Kottke - "Jack Fig"



Imagining the Unimaginable: Jorie Graham in Conversation

A nice interview with Jorie Graham on her new book, Sea Change, from the good folks at The Academy of American Poetry.
Jorie Graham is the author of eleven collections of poetry and she currently holds a position as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. In 1996, her book Dream Of The Unified Field won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and she has received numerous honors throughout her career including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

In her newest collection of poetry, Sea Change, Graham's writing is immeasurably engrossing and increasingly timely. With a touch of softness and a deep sense of urgency, her work acts as an alarming harbinger of what our fragile planet may face in the not-so-distant future—irreversible global destruction and the profound loss it will cause for humanity as a whole.

Deidre Wengen: Your collection seems incredibly relevant to the environmental problems that we are facing today—problems that we finally seem to be coming to terms with. It almost feels prophetic.

Jorie Graham: Well, that comment makes me feel very grateful to have been able to write this book, as far as the art is concerned, as well as filled with the renewed sadness that occasions its having to be written with its particular "climate change" background. As for the sensation of "bringing news"—although I am not bringing any news that isn't already everywhere to be had on the climate peril front—it is still one of the aspects of the poetry which most alarms people. And although these poems engage many other aspects of human life—abiding love—of a person (some of my very first love poems!), of the world (what I think of as a love poem or a hymn to water)—and much attempt to describe the daily astonishments of being human at all—there is still the aspect of it which does "carry hard news" if you will, and, as we know, no one is friendly to the messengers in this life.....So I do not expect its reception to be easy. How could it be. We have come to expect most of our poets to be entertaining, distracting, or, when really gifted, we have expected of them primarily the attentive scrutiny of the intimate, lyric life. And of course I admire much of that poetry—Carl Phillips is perhaps one of the most gifted poets writing today, for example. I wouldn't want him to turn away from the intimate for a minute, as he finds the whole universe in the tiniest moment of the private life. Although, in all fairness, there is intimacy in this book! I even bake a loaf of bread in one of these poems—not something I've done before, and I pick flowers for bouquets, and spy on birds in their nests.....And I do love my loved ones fiercely in it.

Wengen: Do you have a personal goal of increasing awareness and educating the public about environmental concerns?

Graham: As this is tricky, I just want to add that in spite of the subject matter much of this book speaks from, and to, I need to make sure we both recall—as that subject matter is a profoundly disturbing source—that this book is an act of imagination and a piece driven by music. By that I mean that it serves the art first and foremost. One makes art from what one's imagination senses is the most deeply affecting aspect of one's human "predicament." In some cases it could be lost love, or the nature of being. In my case, at present—after having written a book which tried to deal with war as I encountered it by coming to live in a house right near Omaha Beach—the sensation of "climate change"—both experienced (as in watching the bees vanish, or the blossoming trees lose their natural cycle, or the birds species disappear) and researched (I have studied the subject at some length)—has become the overwhelming question. The overwhelming sensation that rises before me each day. Sometimes I feel I am living an extended farewell, where my eventual disappearance, my mortal nature, normally a deep human concern, has been washed away by my fear for the deeper mortality—the extinction-of other species, and of the natural world itself. I cannot look at the world hard enough. My love for it has never been so directed. I can take nothing for granted. Creation astonishes me where it used to "just" delight me. In many ways this book is an attempt to describe to a future people what is was like to have water, to have seasons, to know what blossoming was and a daybreak where one did not fear the sun, or a heavy wind where one did not fear its' going "too far," beyond normal. What is normal, I have kept wondering. Where is the tipping point? Where does the positive feedback loop set in? Where is the point of no return? How are we going to be as people then. What is an ethical compass for when scarcity sets in? How does one retain one's humanity under those circumstances or does one become inevitably barbaric in the defense of one's tribe? Where does one draw the line—what is a line under those circumstances—and which side of the line will one be on?

And what is art for then? What is dreaming for? What is the imagination supposed to do with its capacity to "imagine" the end? Is the imagination of the unimaginable possible, and, perhaps, as I have come to believe, might it be one of the most central roles the human gift of imagination is being called upon to enact? Perhaps if we use it to summon the imagination of where we are headed—what that will feel like—what it will feel like to look back at this juncture—maybe we will wake up in time? I have written it in order to make myself not only understand-we all seem to "understand"-but to actually "feel" (and thus physically believe) what we have and what we are losing-and furthermore what devastatingly much more of creation we are going to be losing.

Wengen: Do you think that art, specifically poetry, can raise the global consciousness of these problems?

Graham: Well, this is mixed. I am committed to making poems. And I am overwhelmingly concerned with, and attentive to, the issues that surround man made climate change, and man made forcing of otherwise natural climate change. But to pick up a point from your first question, I am not sure, unfortunately, that I see us "coming to terms" with these problems, most especially in the U.S . This is a deeply sad fact. Especially as much of the rest of the planet looks to the U.S. for leadership and what it gets is head-in-the-sand governmental action, and a level of denial in much of the country at large, thus far, which truly scares the world.

Read the rest.

Here is an example of her award-winning poetry:

by Jorie Graham

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water's downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change--
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

From Never by Jorie Graham, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 2002 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

Daily Om: Remembering To Pause

This was Friday's Daily Om. This is a good reminder that our first response in a given situation might be a conditioned reflex that runs counter to our sense of who we are. If we can take a moment to consider our response, we are more likely to act from a place of compassion and integrity.
Remembering To Pause
Beyond Reacting

We have all had the experience of reacting in a way that was less than ideal upon hearing bad news, or being unfairly criticized, or being told something we did not want to hear. This makes sense because when our emotions are triggered, they tend to take center stage, inhibiting our ability to pause before we speak. We may feel compelled to release the tension by expressing ourselves in some way, whether it’s yelling back at the person yelling at us, or rushing to deliver words of comfort to a friend in trouble. However, there is much to be said for teaching ourselves to remember to pause and take a deep breath before we respond to the shocks and insults that can come our way in life.

For one thing, our initial response is not always what’s best for us, or for the other people involved. Reacting to childish rage with childish rage will only escalate the negativity in a situation, further ensnaring us in an undesirable dynamic. Similarly, when we react defensively, or simply thoughtlessly, we often end up feeling regret over our words or actions. In the end, we save ourselves a lot of pain when we take a deep breath and really tune in to ourselves, and the other person, before we respond. This doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t say anything, although in some cases, that may be the best option.

Some situations require a fairly immediate response, but even just a moment of grounding ourselves before we do so can help enormously. The next time you find yourself wanting to react, try to pause, and in that pause, take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, and listen for a response to arise within you, rather than just going with the first thing that pops into your head. You may find that in that moment, there is the potential to move beyond reaction and into the more subtle and creative realm of response, where something new can happen.

Daily Om: Coming Full Circle

This was Thursday's Daily Om. Good advice.
A New Level Of Mastery
Coming Full Circle

Life is a circular journey through our issues and processes, and this is why things that are technically new often seem very familiar. It is also why, whenever we work to release a habit, change a pattern, or overcome a fear, we often encounter that issue one last time, even after we thought we had conquered it. Often, when this happens, we feel defeated or frustrated that after all our hard work we are still dealing with the same problem. However, the reappearance of a pattern, habit, or fear, is often a sign that we have come full circle, and that if we can maintain our resolve through one last test, we will achieve a new level of mastery in our lives.

When we come full circle, there is often the feeling that we have arrived in a familiar place, but that we ourselves are somehow different. We know that we can handle challenges that seemed insurmountable when we began our journey, and there is the feeling that we might be ready to take on a new problem, or some new aspect of the old problem. We feel empowered and courageous to have taken on the challenge of stopping a pattern, releasing a habit, or overcoming a fear, and to have succeeded. At times like these, we deserve a moment of rest and self-congratulation before we move on to the next challenge.

Coming full circle is like stepping into a clearing where, for a moment, we can see where we came from and where we are standing at the same time. Remembering that we will be tested again is important, but it’s also important to pause and take a look at the ground we’ve covered, honoring our courage, our persistence, and our achievement. Then we can begin the next leg of our circular journey with a fuller understanding of where we are coming from.

Friday, May 09, 2008

How Did We Get to the Point Where Scientific Authority Is So Easily Challenged?

A very good and interesting article from Scientific American Mind. This is a crucial issue in that fewer than 35% of Americans believe in evolution, and even fewer have any idea how most of the machines they use every day operate. Science has been all but replaced by superstitious belief, which is partly what Dawkins and Harris (and the rest) are fighting against.

In a world where the advances of science account for nearly ALL of our conveniences, it baffles me that so few people know even the slightest bit about science, and worse, distrust anything coming from the mouth of a scientist.
Scientists Know Better Than You--Even When They're Wrong
Why fallible expertise trumps armchair science—a Q&A with sociologist of science Harry Collins
By JR Minkel

If you take scientists at their word, human-induced climate change is well underway, evolution accounts for the diversity of life on Earth and vaccines do not cause autism. But the collective expertise of thousands of researchers barely registers with global warming skeptics, creationist movie producers and distrustful parents. Why is scientific authority under fire from so many corners? Sociologist Harry Collins thinks part of the answer lies in a misunderstanding of expertise itself. Like Jane Goodall living among the chimps, Collins, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, has spent 30 years observing physicists who study gravitational wave detection—the search for faint ripples in the fabric of spacetime. He's learned the hard way about the work that goes into acquiring specialized scientific knowledge. In a recent book, Rethinking Expertise, he says that what bridges the gap—and what keeps science working—is something called "interactional expertise". Collins spoke recently with about his view of expertise; what follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

How did we get to the point where scientific authority is so easily challenged?
The high point of the authority of science was perhaps the 1950s. In those days one would see on the popular television programs a scientist wearing a white coat with license to speak authoritatively on almost any subject to do with science—and sometimes on subjects outside of science. But things go wrong in the progress of science and technology. If you see the space shuttle crashing, you can see that these guys in the white coats don't always get it right.

When you discover the jagged edges of science, you start to think, wait a minute—maybe scientists' views aren't quite as immaculate as we thought they were. Maybe ordinary people's views can weigh a little more. And I think there's some truth to this, but not as much as some of my colleagues think. Having studied esoteric sciences from the outside, I know that ordinary people have no chance of grasping the details of them.

What's wrong with ordinary people weighing in on scientific subjects?
It is easy to imagine all sorts of horror stories if we abandon the idea that there are some people who know what they are talking about and some who don't. Most scientific disputes that concern the public are at the cutting edge—the place where things are not completely certain. Examples are the safety of vaccines, the true importance of global warming, the effects of farming genetically modified food crops, and so forth.

Even now, in the U.K., the relatively dangerous disease of measles is becoming endemic as a result of a widespread consumer revolt against the MMR vaccine about 10 years ago. Parents believe that even though doctors assure them that vaccines are safe, those doctors may be wrong. Therefore, the parents think they are entitled to throw their own judgment into the mix. Quite a few social scientists are pushing this trend hard.

Why should the average person acknowledge that scientists might know better than they do?
It is possible to make an argument from the common sense idea that scientists know what they're talking about because they've spent much more time looking at the areas of the natural sciences that we're interested in. Normally, if somebody's spent a lot of time in an area, you'd tend to take their opinion as more valuable.

We believe that you can work out whether someone has the right scientific expertise and experience to make some sensible contribution to scientific debates. It doesn't mean they're right. What you have to do is not sort out the people who are right and wrong; what you have to sort is the people who can make sensible contributions from those who can't. Because once you stop doing that, things go horribly wrong.

That seems like it cuts both ways. Are evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins fanning the flames in the way that they engage creationists?
Once scientists move outside their scientific experience, they become like a layperson. I'm not a religious person, but if I want to talk religion with someone, it won't be a scientist; it will be with someone who understands theology (who might be either an atheist or a believer). I believe people like Dawkins give atheism a bad name because their arguments are so crude and unsubtle. They step outside their narrow competences when they produce these arguments.

In our book we too criticize creationism's pretensions to be a science, but we don't treat it as a trivial problem. Our critiques of creationism are: (a) that it stops scientific progress in its tracks by answering questions in a way that closes off further research; and (b) that there is no real attempt to meld the approach with the existing methods of science. We know that the creationists say this is not true, but their hypotheses relate to books of obscure origin or to faith rather than to observation.

Read the rest of this interview.

Authors@Google: Daniel Goleman - Social Intelligence

Daniel Goleman did a Google Talk a while back, speaking on his recent book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. I found this book a week or two ago in a used bookstore and I'm looking forward to reading it.
From Scientific American

We all recognize a special capacity that humans have—some more so than others—to connect with others in a deep and direct way. We see this quality expressed by a performer revving a crowd, a doctor healing a patient or a mother putting a child to sleep. To orchestrate these tasks, a person must sense and stimulate the reactions and mood of another. In 1995 Daniel Goleman, a Harvard University–trained psychologist and writer for the New York Times, published Emotional Intelligence, in which he discussed the human ability "to manage our own emotions and inner potential for positive relationships." Now he goes a step further. In Social Intelligence, he enlarges his scope to encompass our human abilities to connect with one another. "We are wired to connect," Goleman says. "Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us affect the brain—and so the body—of everyone we interact with, just as they do us." Each encounter between people primes the emotions. This neurological pas de deux stimulates our nervous systems, affecting hormones, heart rate, circulation, breathing and the immune system. Goleman peppers his discourse with anecdotes to illustrate the power of social intelligence. From the countertop of Rosie Garcia, a multitasking baker in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, to the tantrum-tainted class of a Texas teacher, he shows how social sensitivity and wisdom can profoundly reshape conflicts. In one encounter in Iraq, a quick-witted U.S. commander turned a Muslim mob’s threats into laughter when he ordered his soldiers to kneel, lower rifl es and smile—averting a potentially fatal clash. Goleman deftly discusses relevant neural pathways, including the thalamus and amygdala, which together regulate sensory and arousal stimuli. He speaks of spindle cells, which rapidly process social decisions; of mirror neurons, which sense another’s movements; of dopamine neurons, which react to pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters that flow freely while two lovers gaze. The author’s introductory tour through this emerging research landscape helps readers grasp core concepts of social neuroscience, illustrating abstractions with poignant anecdotes, without excessive jargon. Goleman also explains how such research may influence our lives. Given our socially reactive brains, we must "be wise," he says, and be aware of the ways that our moods influence the biology of each life we touch. ~Rick Lipkin

Psychology in the News - Emerging Self, The Brain, Justice in the Brain, Mirror Neurons, and More

Lots of cool psychology articles from the last couple of days. I'll try to be little more brief in quoting from these articles.

* * * * *

From PsyBlog, When the Self Emerges: Is That Me in the Mirror?
Top 10 child psychology study: Most people look out for number one, themselves, which makes it strange to think that there was ever a time when we had no concept of 'me'. A simple study dating from the early 70s suggests that before the age of around two years old we can't recognise ourselves in the mirror. Because of this study, and the many variations that have followed, some claim that it isn't until our second birthday that our self-concept emerges.
In fact, Douglas Hofstadter argues that there is no real self before age three. But it seems from this study that age two is more realistic.
After testing 88 infants Amsterdam could only obtain reliable data on 16 of them - infants will be infants and many didn't want to play. From these 16 infants Amsterdam found three categories of response:
  1. 6-12 months: it's another baby! The child behaves as though the infant in the mirror is someone else - someone they'd like to be friendly with. They display approach behaviours such as smiling and making noises.
  2. 13-24 months: withdrawal. The infants no longer seem particularly happy at catching their own image in the mirror. Some look a little wary while others will smile occasionally and make some noises. One interpretation of this behaviour is that the infants are acting self-consciously here (perhaps demonstrating self-concept), but it could also be a reaction to another child.
  3. 20-24 months onwards: it's me! From around this age infants start to clearly recognise themselves by pointing to the spot of rouge on their own noses. This strongly suggest they have realised the image is themselves and the spot of rouge is on their own nose.
Although Amsterdam's results were from a small sample size, they have subsequently been repeated with many more participants.
* * * * *

From Deric Bownd's Mindblog, Our brains can choose our actions 10 sec before awareness.
Here is an elegant update from Soon et al. of the continuing story that started with Libet's original observation that supplementary motor area (SMA) becomes active before our subjective sense of consciously willing an action. This work ignited a a long controversy as to whether subjectively 'free' decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. These new results go substantially further than those of previous studies by showing that the earliest predictive information is encoded in specific regions of frontopolar and parietal cortex, up to 10 seconds before it enters awareness (and not in SMA), presumably reflecting the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision. This preparatory time period in high-level control regions is considerably longer than that reported previously for motor-related brain regions.
Hmmm . . . are we more "automated" than we might want to believe?

* * * * *

From PhysOrg, Scientists find connection between mental fitness and multi-lingualism:
Children who speak a second or third language may have an unexpected advantage later in life, a new Tel Aviv University study has found. Knowing and speaking many languages may protect the brain against the effects of aging.

Dr. Gitit Kavé, a clinical neuro-psychologist from the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University, together with her colleagues Nitza Eyal, Aviva Shorek, and Jiska Cohen-Manfield, discovered recently that senior citizens who speak more languages test for better cognitive functioning. The results of her study were published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

However, Kavé says that one should approach these findings with caution. “There is no sure-fire recipe for avoiding the pitfalls of mental aging. But using a second or third language may help prolong the good years,” she advises.
* * * * *

From EurekAlert,
Justice in the brain: Equity and efficiency are encoded differently:

Which is better, giving more food to a few hungry people or letting some food go to waste so that everyone gets a share" A study appearing this week in Science finds that most people choose the latter, and that the brain responds in unique ways to inefficiency and inequity.

The study, by researchers at the University of Illinois and the California Institute of Technology, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of people making a series of tough decisions about how to allocate donations to children in a Ugandan orphanage.

The researchers hoped to shed light on the neurological underpinnings of moral decision-making, said co-principal investigator Ming Hsu, a fellow at the U. of I.’s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

“Morality is a question of broad interest,” Hsu said. “What makes us moral, and how do we make tradeoffs in difficult situations"”

An interest in such issues kept the study subjects in the scanner, despite the pain of grappling with difficult choices, Hsu said. “Quite a few came out saying: ‘This is the worst experiment I’ve ever been in. I never want to do anything like this again!’ ”

The subjects were told that each child would start out with a monetary equivalent of 24 meals, an actual gift from the research team to the orphanage. An undetermined number of meals would have to be cut from some children’s allotments, however. The number of meals cut and the individual children who would be affected depended on how the subjects selected from options the researchers presented.

Every decision pitted efficiency (the total number of meals given) against equity (how much the burden of lost meals was shared among the children).

One could choose to take 15 meals from a single child, for example, or 13 meals from one child and five from another. In the first option the total number of meals lost would be lower. Efficiency would be preserved, but one child would bear the brunt of all the cuts. In the second option more children would share the burden of lost meals but more meals would be lost. The equity was better – but at a cost to efficiency.

“This dilemma illustrates the core issues of distributive justice, which involves tradeoffs between considerations that are at once compelling but which cannot be simultaneously satisfied,” the authors wrote.

The study was designed to address the psychological and neurological dimensions of two longstanding debates about distributive justice. First, is equity or efficiency more critical to our sense of justice" And second, are such questions solved by reason alone, or does emotion also play a role"

This study has been getting a lot of press. This is from Medical News Today:
Three regions of the brain, the insula, putamen and caudate, were involved in different ways, at different points in the decision process.

The insula was active when equity changes were being considered, while the putamen was active when efficiency changes were being considered. And the caudate appeared to integrate equity and efficiency when the decision was taken.

Hsu said that the involvement of the insula suggests that emotion is involved when a person is thinking about inequity.

Studies have shown that the insula, which is involved in awareness of bodily states and emotions, becomes active when people feel hungry, crave drugs, or have intense feelings like anger, fear, disgust and happiness. Other studies have also suggested it mediates fairness.

The authors said the putamen and the caudate regions of the brain become activate during reward-related learning.

Hsu described what they saw. At first "you're seeing the signal in the insula and the putamen," he said, but "when they hit the lever you see the insula activation. And when the ball gets to the end you see (activation of) the caudate," he added.

Hsu explained that:

"The putamen is responding only to the chosen efficiency, which is how many meals get taken away from the kids or how many meals they end up with."

"The insula, however, responded to how equitably the burden of lost meals was distributed," said Hsu.

The authors wrote that the results showed how the brain "encodes two considerations central to the distributive justice calculus and shed light on the cognitivist/sentimentalist debate regarding the psychological underpinnings of distributive justice".

They suggested the findings support the notion that "a sense of fairness is fundamental to distributive justice, but, as suggested by moral sentimentalists, is rooted in emotional processing".

On a more general level they suggested that:

"Emotional responses related to norm violations may underlie individual differences in equity considerations and adherence to ethical rules."
* * * * *

From BBC's In Our Time, THE BRAIN: A HISTORY. [This is an audio file.]

In the 5th century BC the Greek physician Hippocrates confidently asserted:

“Men ought to know that from the brain and from the brain only arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, grieves and tears.”

This might suggest that people have never doubted the importance of the brain, but for Aristotle the heart was the ruler of the body and the seat of the soul.

Despite dissections of brains both human and animal throughout the following centuries, in 1669 the Danish anatomist, Nicolaus Steno, still lamented that, “the brain, the masterpiece of creation, is almost unknown to us.”

Why was the brain seen as a mystery for so long and how have our perceptions of how it works and what it symbolises changed over the centuries?


Vivian Nutton, Professor of the History of Medicine at University College London

Jonathan Sawday, Professor of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde

Marina Wallace, Professor at the University of the Arts, London, Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design
* * * * *

This is a very cool and informative video.
Mirror neurons fire in the brain both for doing and observing the same action being done by another person. Researchers such as VS Ramachandran suggest that these neurons may be responsible for aiding us in imitation and language acquisition.

* * * * *

This is a little less academic, but still a nice post from Gaiam Life, Avoid the Traps of Unconscious Loving:

Are you creating misunderstanding, hurt and conflict in your most cherished relationships — without even knowing it? Build yourself some detours around the most common “unconscious loving” pitfalls.

Often we’re not aware of the destruction our words and actions may cause — we just go along, doing and saying the only things we know how to do and say. These tips, exercises and insights from Conscious Loving by renowned relationship expert Gay Hendricks can help you and your partner overcome relationship troubles or just strengthen your bond with your partner so you can avoid falling into these traps.

* * * * *

Finally, a good article from the Research Digest Blog from the British Psychological Society, Are people with borderline personality really more empathic?
People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) are emotionally fragile, impulsive, suffer from low mood, have intense unstable personal relationships and - according to a handful of studies - they also have enhanced empathy.

But new research by Judith Flury and colleagues shows the idea that BPD patients have enhanced empathy is a spurious finding reflecting the methodological design of prior studies combined with the fact BPD patients are particularly difficult to read.

The 76 lowest and highest scorers on the Borderline Syndrome Index were selected from among 789 students. These 76 were then arranged into pairs of low and high borderline participants. The members of each pair were videoed chatting to each other for ten minutes, after which each person completed a personality questionnaire about themselves, and about how they thought their partner saw themselves. This latter part of the design mirrors the methodology of earlier studies that seemed to show BPD is associated with enhanced empathy.

As in the earlier studies, it turned out that the high borderline students were better than the low borderline students at predicting how their partners scored their own personalities - a sign of empathy, you'd think. But further analysis showed that this finding was caused by the fact that all the students tended to score their partners' personalities in a fairly stereotypical way. This tactic worked if a participant's partner was low borderline (with a less unusual personality profile), but not if they were high borderline with an unusual personality profile - hence the apparent finding that high borderline scorers are more empathic.
Anyone who has grown up with a borderline parent, or dated a borderline partner, knows that empathy is not one of their skills, so this is good research in dispelling that myth.

On the Real Monsters in Children's Lives (Attachment Theory and Mindfulness)

The Last Psychiatrist posted this yesterday, and I thought it needed to be shared with as many people as possible, especially parents. I have some lengthy comments below.

Cookie Monster Becomes Aware

cookie monster.jpg

An article from McSweeney's (I know, I know) called, Cookie Monster Searches Deep Within Himself, And Asks: Is Me Really Monster?

While humorous though predictable, I did catch a reply on Metafilter which, in my opinion, borders on genius:

They are all monsters, that's the point. The show is for children, don't forget. They are monsters the kids don't have to fear. The show's message for kids was "We know you're sometimes afraid of monsters, but not all monsters are bad."

Sometimes monsters can be cute and cuddly and quirky and funny. Elmo's a monster and he has such a cute giggle!. These are the good monsters.

Not like the monster sitting next to you on the sofa, watching the TV. Not like the monster WHO TOLD YOU FOR THE LAST TIME TO STOP CRYING.

Not like the monsters who kick your toys and curse under their breath. Not like the monsters who say you stole their youth and take pills because YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY. Not like the monsters who meet strange men at the door and leave you home alone. Not like the monsters who hit with their hands, or their words. Not like the monsters who come into your room at night stinking of whiskey and sweat, with madness in their eyes and a belt in their hands.

On Sesame Street, the monsters have not HAD ENOUGH, and they aren't doing it FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.

Your monsters are not brought to you by the number 4 or the letter M. Your monsters don't want you to come and play, they want you to LEAVE THEM ALONE.

Cookie monster is safe, and so are Elmo and the Count. Even Oscar and Bert are your friends even if they are bit grouchy or fussy. Your monsters think our monsters are harmless.

To them.

Your monsters bought you a Tickle-Me Elmo doll, didn't they? They bought it to JUST SHUT YOU UP ALREADY. So they let you play with Elmo and make him laugh and giggle. But Elmo doesn't just laugh and giggle. Elmo loves you, and he listens.

And he records.

And soon, Elmo is going to tell you exactly what to do.

That last little part is a bit freaky, but the rest is spot on correct.

I've been reading a lot about trauma in children, attachment theory, and other "fun" stuff. Many of us grew up with parents who unknowingly wounded us in ways that impact our lives and our relationships in powerful ways.

Children need consistency, especially before the age of six. They don't understand why mother is nice and loving one minute but harsh and angry the next. They don't understand that dad just had a bad day at work, maybe got yelled at by the boss, and doesn't want to hold his daughter when she wants to be held.

Many of these little empathic failures are unavoidable -- no parent is perfect. But when they rise to the level presented above on a regular basis -- and in this hectic world we have created, it's happening more and more -- then the child ends up wounded in ways that impact trust, intimacy, and self-esteem. The hardest part for the child-mind is that it can't see the parents -- who it depends on for love, nurturing, and survival -- as the monsters they sometimes are.

This is especially a big issue in infancy, when attachment is occurring. Here is a brief look at the different styles of attachment:
Characteristics of Secure Attachment
  • Securely attached children exhibit minimal distress when separated from caregivers. Remember, these children feel secure and able to depend on their adult caregivers. When the adult leaves, the child feels assured that the parent or caregiver will return.
  • When frightened, securely attached children will seek comfort from caregivers. These children know their parent or caregiver will provide comfort and reassurance, so they are comfortable seeking them out in times of need.

Characteristics of Ambivalent Attachment
  • Ambivalently attached children usually become very distressed when a parent leaves. This attachment style is considered relatively uncommon, affecting an estimated 7-15% of U.S. children. Research suggests that ambivalent attachment is a result of poor maternal availability. These children cannot depend on their mother (or caregiver) to be there when the child is in need.

Characteristics of Avoidant Attachment
  • Children with an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents or caregivers. When offered a choice, these children will show no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. Research has suggested that this attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers. Children who are punished for relying on a caregiver will learn to avoid seeking help in the future.

Problems with Attachment

What happens to children who do not form secure attachments? Research suggests that failure to form secure attachments early in life can have a negative impact on behavior in later childhood and throughout the life. Children diagnosed with oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently display attachment problems, possibly due to early abuse, neglect, or trauma. Clinicians suggest that children adopted after the age of six months have a higher risk of problems with attachment.

While attachment styles displayed in adulthood aren’t necessarily the same as those seen in infancy, research suggests that early attachments can have a serious impact on later relationships. For example, those who are securely attached in childhood tend to have good self-esteem, strong romantic relationships, and the ability to self-disclose to others. For more information, see this articles on attachment styles.
Later studies revealed a fourth type of attachment (disorganized) that results from having an inconsistent parenting style (or from having actual borderline parents), and often produces a borderline child. Some psychologists think that this style of attachment results from parents who are both loving and fearsome to their children, resulting in children who have very erratic attachment.
Children with a disorganized-insecure attachment style show a lack of clear attachment behavior. Their actions and responses to caregivers are often a mix of behaviors, including avoidance or resistance. These children are described as displaying dazed behavior, sometimes seeming either confused or apprehensive in the presence of a caregiver.

Main and Solomon (1986) proposed that inconsistent behavior on the part of parents might be a contributing factor in this style of attachment. In later research, Main and Hesse (1990) argued that parents who act as figures of both fear and reassurance to a child contribute to a disorganized attachment style. Because the child feels both comforted and frightened by the parent, confusion results.
When parents are sometimes monsters (as in the comment above) and sometimes loving and affectionate, the child becomes very split in its understanding (all of which is pre-conscious) of how to relate to the parents. This creates anxiety and stress hormones, both of which can impact the developing brain and -- of course -- the developing sense of self.

Obviously, we want our children to exhibit a secure attachment style so that they are free to explore their world, feel safe with us when they are afraid, and know that we are always there for them when needed. These children grow up to be secure, open, loving adults who are capable of having healthy intimate relationships.
Parents of securely attached children tend to play more with their children. Additionally, these parents react more quickly to their children's needs and are generally more responsive to their children than the parents of insecurely attached children. Studies have shown that securely attached children are more empathetic during later stages of childhood.
It doesn't take much to be a "good enough" parent. One good tool that would no doubt help many parents is a little mindfulness practice. Taking a moment to be mindful of we are acting toward our children -- these sponges who soak up everything we give them, both good and bad -- can go a long way toward increasing the odds of raising healthy, happy children.

You can learn more about mindfulness as a meditation practice here.

Jack Kornfield talks about mindfulness:
Mindfulness is attention. It is a non-judging, receptive awareness, a respectful awareness. Unfortunately, much of the time we don’t attend in this way. Instead, we react, judging whether we like, dislike, or can ignore what is happening. Or we measure our experience against our expectation. We evaluate ourselves and others with a stream of commentary and criticism.
It's not a huge commitment of time, and we don't even need to engage in formal meditation practice -- we simply need to expand our awareness and become more awake to how we relate to the people in our lives, especially our children.

This article presents it as well as any:
Mindfulness meditation is somewhat different. There is no particular focus. It is a process of paying attention to your ongoing experience, whatever it may be at the moment. If you have a pain in your knee and that happens to be prominent in your awareness right now, you pay attention to that — not trying to concentrate, but simply noticing it and letting it be there. You don't try to make it different. You don't try to hold onto it. You just notice it as fully as you can, including what is going through your mind about it.

Paying attention to your experience is not difficult, but the mind has a strong tendency to wander off. That's why it takes practice. It is a skill.

But it isn't necessary to practice zazen sitting in a lotus position. You can use everyday opportunities to practice. When you feel like flinching while talking with someone, that is an excellent time to practice because it will help you deal with the situation. Observe your experience — the person you're talking to, your surroundings, your bodily sensations, the thoughts arising in your mind. Just pay attention without withdrawing or flinching. It is very calming.

Isn't it worth the effort? If we can be tuned in to our frustrations, and how we are feeling, we are less likely to allow those feelings to impact how we relate to our children. It's essentially about becoming responsible for our responses so that we don't act out unconsciously.

After all, these are our children's lives we are talking about.

Arianna Huffington on The Colbert Report

Funny. Huffington sounds a little nuts.

Not Black and White

on race, genes, and intelligence. Seems that didn't turn out so well. Now he has another article and a different perspective, even though he still respects the research he cited the first time around.

Not Black and White
Rethinking race and genes
By William Saletan

Five months ago, I wrote a series on race, genes, and intelligence. Everything about it hurt: the research, the writing, the reactions, the regrets. Not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about it. I've been struggling to reconcile two feelings that won't go away: that what I wrote was socially harmful and that I can't honestly renounce the evidence I presented. That evidence, which involved the proposed role of heredity in trait differences by race, is by no means complete or conclusive. But it's not dismissible, either. My colleague Stephen Metcalf summarized the debate better than I did: "It's a conflict between science and science."

When you find yourself in a dilemma this difficult, sometimes the best thing to do is let it sit in your head until you find a way to make sense of it within your value system. I think I'm beginning to find the answer that works for me: I was asking the wrong question.

In last fall's series, I asked myself why I was writing about such an ugly topic. "Because the truth isn't as bad as our ignorant, half-formed fears and suspicions about it," I concluded. "And because you can't solve a problem till you understand it." I wrote my commitment on a piece of paper and leaned it against my computer monitor: The truth doesn't care what you want.

Sometimes, with time and perspective, it's the small, overlooked things that turn out to be big. In retrospect, I was consumed by the wrong word. The flaw in my approach wasn't truth. It was the. Even if hereditary inequality among racial averages is a truth, it's less true, more unjust, and more pernicious than framing the same difference in nonracial terms. "The truth," as I accepted and framed it, was itself half-formed. It was, in that sense, a half-truth. And it flunked the practical test I had assigned it: To the extent that a social problem is genetic, you can't ultimately solve it by understanding it in racial terms.

Read the rest.

Dolphin Parenting

A cool video from National Geographic on dolphin parenting. I think this is for kids, but I'm still a big kid, so it's cool.

Amazing Fiddle Player

Not sure this is really fiddle playing, but this guy is good. And this is a cool take on "Owner of a Broken Heart."

Amazing Fiddle Player - Free videos are just a click away

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hunter S. Thompson on The End of America (2002)

Damn I miss his voice in the American dialogue. The interview is audio only, but it's great. It's in four parts, all of which are embedded in this video, and covers the period right after 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq, which he predicted. I love the term, "flag suckers."


New Books - Consciousness, Analytic Philosophy, Emotions, and More

Lots of interesting new books to talk about today -- several have been added to my Amazon Wish List. I'm only quoting brief sections of the reviews, so follow the links in my introductions (or the embedded Amazon links) to read more.

First up today, the difficulties in talking about consciousness, even when is supposed to be an expert.
Review - Consciousness, Self-Consciousness, and the Science of Being Human
by Simeon Locke
Praeger, 2007
Review by Brian J. McVeigh
May 6th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 19)

In English "consciousness" has several very different meanings: (1) the neuro-physiological state of not sleeping; (2) the neuro-physiological state of not being in a coma; (3) cognition; and (4) more specific definitions of (4), such as perception, what one's inner self introspects upon, self-awareness, etc. (to be thorough, one more definition might be mentioned: the mutual self-awareness of a collectivity, e.g., national consciousness, class consciousness). The problem with the word "consciousness," then, is just not its ambiguity, but rather its promiscuousness: it is pressed into service to describe neurological processes and subjective experiences that are strikingly disparate. Any work with "consciousness" in the title requires judicious attention to its usage.

Simeon Locke, a neurologist, tackles consciousness by dividing the book under review into 17 chapters, many of which consist of only several pages (the book itself, including the index, is 156 pages long). The very first sentence of this book notes that in any discussion of consciousness, we are confronted with three problems: (1) how to define it; (2) how to measure it; and (3) how to explain it. As for the first issue, Locke postulates "three levels of definition" that are "reflective of three states of consciousness." The first level is one of potential, ability, and readiness. This is intransitive consciousness, since it requires no object and can be measured physiologically and electrographically. The second level concerns registration of input and is transitive (i.e., conscious of something). Locke describes the final level in various ways: consciousness of consciousness, self-consciousness, conscious-awareness, and awareness of awareness.

Using these three levels, the author conflates and thereby confuses many different processes and phenomena. He seems to view consciousness as meaning wakefulness, perception, conception, and the subjective sense of self-reflexivity and self-existence. That is quite a conceptual burden for only one word to bear. The result? The book is peppered through and through with phrases such as "awareness without awareness"; "consciousness without awareness"; "awareness of which the organism is unaware" (called "fore-consciousness"; p. 7); "awareness can be conscious or can be unconscious" (p. 67); "unconscious awareness" (p. 88); "cortical consciousness" (p. 115); "unawareness of unawareness" (p. 89); "awareness without awareness of awareness—or consciousness of without consciousness of consciousness of" (sic; p. 122). We also learn that we can be consciousness but not aware, and a "denial of absent conscious awareness becomes an agnosia for an agnosia, or an absent awareness of an absent awareness—in other words, absent self-consciousness" (p. 106).

Clearly, the reviewer did not like some elements of this book a whole lot. Still, he seems to recommend it (sort of) at the end -- with the caveat that we need to really think hard about how we use the terms in this discussion.

* * * * *

Net up, a look at the mind/body issue in psychology -- a much needed critique of cognitive-based psychologies.
Review - The Mind, the Body and the World
Psychology After Cognitivism?
by Brendan Wallace
Imprint Academic, 2007
Review by Richard G T Gipps, Ph.D.
Apr 29th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 18)

This collection of essays has been put together with the aim of considering cognitivism (p. 1): 'what it is (was?), how it originated, and whether or not it is now desirable to look for ways to go beyond it'. The authors are philosophers, cognitive scientists, and psychologists and they write within these genres. Their contributions are divided into three sections on theory, language, and practice respectively, sections framed by an introduction and conclusion from the editors.

The result is something of a curate's egg. Whilst some authors write with style, address well-defined issues, introduce their technical vocabulary with clear definitions, and remain pertinent to the critical investigation of cognitivism, others do not. Different meanings of key terms, and radically different valuations of key concepts - 'representation', 'information processing', 'cognition', 'cognitivism' – are presented throughout the desultory text. The editors miss the opportunity to hold the authors to common standards or meaning, to request that they address one another's work, or to map out the upshot of their diverse contributions in the conclusion (which instead simply recapitulates the preface). Further, some of the contributors also made frequent use of irritating rhetorical devices akin to what a friend of mine called Hume's 'tis obvious' indicator: using a phrase like ''tis obvious' or 'of course' or 'as X noted' when 'tis obvious that what is really wanted is not an observation but an argument for something that is, well, not at all obvious.

A few of these chapters will now be considered in a little more detail, and the core concerns will be noted and numbered. Brendan Wallace's introduction traces a historical narrative of the antecedents of cognitivism, moving forward from Plato to Descartes to Shannon, Turing and Chomsky. The principle metaphysical confusion unearthed by Wallace is (1) the belief that the normativity of everyday judgment (for example my holding, correctly or incorrectly, that John's behavior is pious) is a function of my knowledge (perhaps tacit) of rules or principles of a sort which could be appealed to in a justification of the judgment. This is traced to Plato (reporting Socrates), as is (2) the metaphysical propensity to treat non-material phenomena (numbers, mentality) as if they enjoy the categorical character of entities – thereby creating either dualistic ontologies of the human being as made up not only of material, but also of mental, stuff, or materialist ontologies in which it is assumed that putative 'mind stuff' is after all 'identical' with the physical stuff of the brain.

Wallace goes on to note the significance of two ideas he traces to Descartes: (3) the idea of mind as an inner domain sharply distinguished from a world which is 'external' to it, and (4) the idea that the mind or brain relates to this 'external' world by representing it. As with his discussion of Plato, the principle problems with Wallace's argument are: his lack of textual evidence for his readings, his (these days all-too-prevalent) use of terms like 'Cartesian' in a catch-all and historically un-nuanced manner, and most importantly, his apparent view that historical precedent in philosophical matters can without further textual and historical evidence be considered evidence of intellectual influence.
Whether the reviewer likes this book or not (he thinks the book is uneven), it's a needed addition to the dialogue. Research continues to show how much our consciousness is embedded (bodily-based) and not merely rational -- therapies need to reflect that reality.

* * * * *

The next book is probably only of interest to psychologists, as it deals with emotion regulation, a topic not common in consumer psychology books.
Review - Emotion Regulation
Conceptual and Clinical Issues
by Ad Vingerhoets, Ivan Nyklíček and Johan Denollet (Editors)
Springer, 2008
Review by Marion Ledwig, Ph.D.
Apr 29th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 18)

>The editors of this state of the art volume on emotion regulation with its fifteen excellent chapters are Associate Professor Ad Vingerhoets, Professor Johan Denollet, and Assistant Professor Ivan Nyklíček. All three of them work in the Department of Medical Psychology at Tilburg University. This book represents the key contributions of a conference on emotions, emotion regulation and health research held at Tilburg University in 2003. It is divided into two parts -- part I dealing with conceptual and neurobiological issues comprising chapters one to seven and part II covering clinical perspectives and interventions in chapters eight to fifteen. The book itself is not aimed at students or at newcomers to the field, but it is mainly directed at researchers, clinicians, and graduate students coming from such diverse fields as psychiatry, psychosomatics, behavioral medicine, health psychology, clinical psychology, and medical psychology, who have already considerable insight into the subject matter. Yet, it is written in such a way that it is understandable by everyone.

The book covers such diverse areas as coping, crying, emotional intelligence, depression, anxiety disorders, trauma-related affect dysregulation, the connection between emotions and eating disorders, emotional competence and health in children, the connection between expressive writing and emotional health, and alexithymia. Alexithymia can be characterized by a "reduced ability to differentiate between emotional feelings", a "reduced ability to fantasize", a "reduced ability to verbalize emotional experiences", "a reduced ability to experience emotional feelings", and "a reduced tendency to reflect upon emotions", this volume p. 27). Although so many different areas are covered, the contributions to this volume go considerably into depth and detail, so that one gains considerable knowledge and is not left with the feeling that one hasn't got a thorough overview with regard to these cutting edge research topics.
Too bad this one costs arm, a leg, and possibly a kidney. It looks like a great book that would be useful for any therapist.

* * * * *

Briefly noted:
Predictably Irrational -- "But Ariely's point goes far beyond our irrationality -- it is the predictability of our processing flaws that interests him. It isn't that we sometimes make the wrong decision, but that we make it repeatedly, and in the same way, as a response to certain conditions and mental processes. Early on in the book, Ariely tells us about Gregg Rapp, a restaurant consultant who helps establishments figure out their menu pricing. "One thing Rapp has learned," writes Ariely, "is that high-priced entrees on the menu boost revenues for the restaurant -- even if no one buys them. Why? Because even though people generally won't buy the most expensive dish on the menu, they will order the second most expensive dish. Thus, by creating an expensive dish, a restaurateur can lure customers into ordering the second most expensive dish (which can be cleverly engineered to deliver a high profit margin)."

The implication here is that our irrationality is not only predictable, it's actually being predicted. Restaurants know that we anchor our frugality by deciding the priciest item on the menu is too expensive. Electronic stores know that we're likely to go for the marked-down television whose price places it in the middle of the pack. Magazines know we'll go for whichever subscription rate looks like the best deal as compared to the other subscription rates on the page. The problem, then, is not our predictable irrationality, but the world's asymmetric rationality. They know how we're going to screw up, and how to take advantage of it. The only defense is being similarly aware of our flaws and failings, and trying to take into account not only how they affect our judgment, but how they're being used against us. Ariely's book is an excellent place to start."

* * *

This is a bit from the first chapter of this book.
What is Analytic Philosophy? -- "Analytic philosophy is roughly 100 years old, and it is now the dominant force within Western philosophy (Searle 1996: 1–2). It has prevailed for several decades in the English-speaking world; it is in the ascendancy in Germanophone countries; and it has made significant inroads even in places once regarded as hostile, such as France. At the same time there are continuous rumours about the ‘demise’ of analytic philosophy, about it being ‘defunct’ or at least in ‘crisis’, and complaints about its ‘widely perceived ills’ (Leiter 2004a: 1, 12; Biletzki and Matar 1998: xi; Preston 2004: 445–7, 463–4). A sense of crisis is palpable not just among commentators but also among some leading protagonists. Von Wright noted that in the course of graduating from a revolutionary movement into the philosophical establishment, analytic philosophy has also become so diverse as to lose its distinctive profile (1993: 25). This view is echoed by countless observers who believe that the customary distinction between analytic and continental philosophy has become obsolete (e.g. Glendinning 2002; May 2002; Bieri 2005).

Loss of identity is one general worry, loss of vigour another. Putnam has repeatedly called for ‘a revitalization, a renewal’ of analytic philosophy (e.g. 1992: ix). And Hintikka has maintained that ‘the survival of analytic philosophy’ depends on a fresh start based on exploiting the constructive possibilities in Wittgenstein’s later work (1998). Searle is one of analytic philosophy’s most stalwart and uncompromising advocates. Yet even he concedes that in changing from ‘a revolutionary minority point of view’ into ‘the conventional, establishment point of view’ analytic philosophy ‘has lost some of its vitality’ (1996: 23). Small wonder that those more sceptical about analytic philosophy have for some time now been anticipating its replacement by a ‘post-analytic philosophy’ (Rajchman and West 1985; Baggini and Stangroom 2002: 6; Mulhall 2002).

* * *

Children and the Dark Side of Human Experience: Confronting Global Realities and Rethinking Child Development -- "The haunting images of children huddled in refugee camps and exposed to violence in war zones appear on millions of television screens and in newspapers everyday worldwide. Children continue to be burdened by the emotional and physical scars of violent homes and communities. In his new book, Children and the Dark Side of Human Experience: Confronting Global Realities and Rethinking Child Development, author James Garbarino, PhD, blends insights from the fields of psychology and philosophy with his own wide-ranging, first-hand experiences around the world, taking readers on a personalized journey into the dark side of human experience as it is lived by children.

Throughout the book, Dr. Garbarino intertwines a discussion of children's material and spiritual needs with an examination of the clinical knowledge and experiential wisdom required to understand and meet these complex developmental needs. Using anecdotal observations, empirical evidence, and an ecological perspective, he reveals a path to ensuring the fundamental human rights of all children: the right to safety, equality, economic parity, and a meaningful life.

"If we are to succeed in making a lasting, positive change in the lives of children, we must be willing to rethink the concepts of development, trauma, and resilience," says Dr. Garbarino. "My book brings to light the struggle that many of our children face, and can be an important tool for mental health professionals, educators, researchers, social workers, child advocates, and policymakers. Really, anyone who takes an interest in the well-being and future of the world's children can benefit from this book."