Hard Work Or Hard Times?
A big part of parenting is teaching kids self-control. Yes, sugary snacks do taste good, but even so we shouldn’t eat them too often. Yes, we know that math homework may not always be fun, but it must come before TV. Yes, soccer practice may seem tedious, but it’s the road to excellence on the field and beyond. And so forth. No parent disputes this. It’s in the manual. Indeed, we’re all expected to take this life lesson on faith. Hard work and effort are virtues worth instilling, and worth having. But what do we mean by worth? Does self-discipline today really pay off later in life—in jobs, paychecks, promotions and bonuses, professional prestige and wealth?
The Discipline Gap: Race in the Classroom
I came of age in a Jersey shore community with high racial tension. A major road divided the town, and separated black homes from white homes. But we all met in the integrated schools, and that’s where I witnessed racial discrimination first-hand. I vividly remember this one incident from eighth grade. Word spread one morning through the corridors that there would be a fight in the boys’ lavatory in the afternoon, between a black boy and a white boy. This was not uncommon, and we all crowded around to witness the event, but in the end hardly a punch got thrown. Our eighth grade English teacher had gotten wind of the coming fight, and immediately broke it up.
The Psychology of the Shortlist
Imagine this scenario: A plum job has opened up, one that you really want and feel well qualified to hold. So you go through the rigorous process of applying. You line up references, write essays, and finally get an interview. The interview goes well and you’re feeling confident, and indeed you get a call saying you’ve been shortlisted for the job. Out of a pool of a hundred applicants, you are among just three who are highly and equally qualified. Would you come back in for another round of interviews? You can almost taste victory now. So you do the interviews, and again all seems to go very well. Then the job goes to someone else. How do you feel?
Is Obesity a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?
There are lots of people of normal, healthy weight who, when they look in the mirror, see a fat person. Many of them know that their perceptions are skewed, because trusted friends and family have testified that they are slender, yet they can’t deny what they see in their reflection and mind’s eye. Such distorted perception is especially common among teenagers, and it has been linked to poor self-esteem and eating disorders. Adolescents who see themselves as overweight are more likely to use diet pills, laxatives, vomiting and extreme dieting to lose their imagined weight.
Are There Natural Remedies For Cognitive Aging?
More than 30 countries now have a life expectancy of 80 or more, a dramatic increase over the last half century. This is good news, but it also brings challenges. The aging brain goes through predictable changes, and as a result, old age is usually accompanied by some cognitive decline, even dementia. Happily, some of the risk factors for mental aging are open to intervention. Diet, exercise and mental activity all play a role in healthy aging, but there are also natural pharmaceuticals that may be of use in staving off decline.
The Science of Interrogation: Rapport, Not Torture
Chris Matthews, who hosts the MSNBC news program Hardball, is convinced that torture works. In the last two days, in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee's damning report on CIA interrogation practices, he has allowed that so-called "enhanced interrogation" may be illegal and immoral, but he keeps reiterating versions of his belief that, for all that, it's effective in eliciting information from the enemy. That is, like it or not, it works. Except that it doesn't. Matthews is wrong about this. It's perhaps unfair to single Matthews out, since he is not alone in this unshakable belief that if you hurt somebody enough, they will tell you the truth.