An angry voter is an ignorant voter
Imagine this scenario: You lost your job at the lumber yard early in 2009. Nobody is building new homes these days, and this slowdown has trickled down to suppliers all over the country. What’s worse, you’re dipping into savings just to make your own mortgage payments—on a house that has lost a big chunk of its value. In short, your American dream is in shambles. It’s a dreary but all too familiar scenario. Now imagine further how you feel about this. Is worry your primary emotion? Are you anxious about your wife’s health, and the possibility of an expensive hospitalization? Are you fearful about depleting your kids’ college funds? Where will you all live if you lose the house?
The Mind of a Misanthrope
I become misanthropic every February. I avoid social gatherings, and really just want to hole up at home. I always assumed it was the dark evenings and slippery sidewalks and general misery of venturing outside. But truth be told, I don’t want guests visiting me either. Not until the crocuses come through. Or not until cold and flu season is over, more accurately. New research suggests that my anti-social ways may have little to do with friendliness or lack of it. Indeed, my attitudes and actions may be self-protective, part of an ancient, hard-wired psychological immune system, shaped over eons to help humans steer clear of germs. Think of it from an evolutionary point of view.
Focusing on the Cinematic Mind
Our household is a rolling Alfred Hitchcock festival. We almost always have at least one of the celebrated director’s films on DVD, and over the years we have watched most of our favorites—Suspicion, North by Northwest, The 39 Steps—time and time again. It’s a tribute to the master’s skills and sensibility that his films have such enduring appeal, because many films from the same time period have a distinctly “old” feel to them. It’s not just the primitive cameras and films. There is something about the rhythm and texture of early cinema that has a very different “feel” than modern films. But it’s hard to put one’s finger on just what that something is.
A Salvo in the Calorie War
The calorie war is heating up. It’s actually been simmering for some time, sparked by an alarming obesity rate among young Americans and related spikes in diabetes and other health problems. Nobody really disputes this sorry trend anymore, but there is a lot of disagreement over what to do about it. Public health advocates are clamoring for everything from warning labels on junk food to aggressive television marketing campaigns, even for outright prohibitions. Just last week, the Obama administration entered the fray, calling for a total ban on candy and soda in the nation’s schools. Some see the past tobacco war as the proper model for this public health campaign.
The Science of Recovery
Over the past few years, I have written many short essays on new findings in psychological science. Most have these have appeared in this blog, "We're Only Human," but many others have been published in Newsweek.com and, more recently, in the "Full Frontal Psychology" blog at True/Slant. At this point, I have written enough that I am beginning to identify clusters of essays all focusing on a particular topic, and I thought it might be useful to organize these topical essays in a way that's more useful to readers. One such topic is the science of recovery.
The “Super Uncles” of Samoa
Male homosexuality doesn’t make complete sense from an evolutionary point of view. It appears that the trait is heritable, but since homosexual men are much less likely to produce offspring than heterosexual men, shouldn’t the genes for this trait have been extinguished long ago? What value could this sexual orientation have, that it has persisted for eons even without any discernible reproductive advantage? One possible explanation is what evolutionary psychologists call the “kin selection hypothesis.” What that means is that homosexuality may convey an indirect benefit by enhancing the survival prospects of close relatives.