Recent quotes:

What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick? - The New York Times

The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes. He elaborated on this idea in a comparative study of conventional medicine, acupuncture and Navajo “chantway rituals,” in which healers lead storytelling ceremonies for the sick. He argued that all three approaches unfold in a space set aside for the purpose and proceed as if according to a script, with prescribed roles for every participant. Each modality, in other words, is its own kind of ritual, and Kaptchuk suggested that the ritual itself is part of what makes the procedure effective, as if the combined experiences of the healer and the patient, reinforced by the special-but-familiar surroundings, evoke a healing response that operates independently of the treatment’s specifics. “Rituals trigger specific neurobiological pathways that specifically modulate bodily sensations, symptoms and emotions,” he wrote. “It seems that if the mind can be persuaded, the body can sometimes act accordingly.”

Time-traveling illusion tricks the brain: How the brain retroactively makes sense of rapid auditory and visual sensory stimulation -- ScienceDaily

The first illusion is called the Illusory Rabbit. To produce the illusion, first a short beep and a quick flash are played nearly simultaneously on a computer, with the flash appearing at the left side of the screen. Next, 58 milliseconds after the first beep, a lone beep is played. Finally, 58 milliseconds after the second beep, a second nearly simultaneous beep-flash pair occurs, but with the flash appearing on the right side of the screen. The beep location is always central and does not move. Though only two flashes are played, most people viewing the illusion perceive three flashes, with an illusory flash coinciding with the second beep and appearing to be located in the center of the screen. The fact that the illusory flash is perceived in between the left and right flashes is the key evidence that the brain is using postdictive processing. "When the final beep-flash pair is later presented, the brain assumes that it must have missed the flash associated with the unpaired beep and quite literally makes up the fact that there must have been a second flash that it missed," explains Stiles. "This already implies a postdictive mechanism at work. But even more importantly, the only way that you could perceive the shifted illusory flash would be if the information that comes later in time -- the final beep-flash combination -- is being used to reconstruct the most likely location of the illusory flash as well."

Mental imagery manages pain independent of opioid system: Study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs -- ScienceDaily

Mentally reframing pain as a pleasant experience is an effective regulation strategy that acts independently of the opioid system, finds new human research published in JNeurosci. The study supports clinical use of mental imagery techniques, such as imagining a new context or consequence of a painful event, in conjunction with pain-relieving drugs. Chantal Berna, Siri Leknes and colleagues tested two approaches toward modulating pain perception. For a mental imagery task, healthy men and women were instructed to imagine individually calibrated heat pain applied to their forearm as a pleasant experience, for example by thinking about warming up by a fire after coming in from the cold. A relative relief task used visual cues to manipulate participants' expectations about the forthcoming heat pain. Although both tasks made the pain experience more pleasant, only the effects of the relative relief task were blocked by naloxone -- the life-saving drug used to treat opioid overdose. Mental imagery was unaffected by naloxone, indicating that this approach works through opioid-independent mechanisms.

Hot streak: Finding patterns in creative career breakthroughs: International research team discovers career hot streaks occur in science, art and film -- ScienceDaily

"Our findings provide a different point of view regarding individual careers," said Liu. "We found a period when an individual performs better than his normal career, and that the timing of a hot streak is random." She added, "Different from the perception [in innovation literature] that peak performance occurs in an individual's 30s or 40s, Our results suggest that individuals have equal chance to perform better even in their late careers." The researchers also wanted to learn if individuals were more productive during their hot streak periods, which last an average of four to five years. Unexpectedly, they were not. "Individuals show no detectable change in productivity during hot streaks, despite the fact that their outputs in this period are significantly better than the median, suggesting that there is an endogenous shift in individual creativity when the hot streak occurs," wrote the team in their paper.

Model can more naturally detect depression in conversations: Neural network learns speech patterns that predict depression in clinical interviews -- ScienceDaily

One key insight from the research, Alhanai notes, is that, during experiments, the model needed much more data to predict depression from audio than text. With text, the model can accurately detect depression using an average of seven question-answer sequences. With audio, the model needed around 30 sequences. "That implies that the patterns in words people use that are predictive of depression happen in shorter time span in text than in audio," Alhanai says. Such insights could help the MIT researchers, and others, further refine their models.

The god of small things -- ScienceDaily

Dr Ramsay said the results show that all people, but especially religious people, regularly assign significance to unremarkable events -- such as discussing hobbies with a work colleague, receiving a small but unexpected gift, or spending time with a family member. "We found the more people gave meaning, purpose, and significance to such events the more they experienced positive emotions such as gratitude and contentment," he said.

The importance of process knowledge (narratives?)

The process knowledge can also be referred to as technical and industrial expertise, which includes knowledge of how to store wafers, how to enter a clean room, how much electric current should be used at different stages of the fab process, and countless other things. This is the kind of knowledge that’s won by experience. Anyone with detailed instructions but no experience actually making chips is likely to make a mess.

Why people talk with journalists

Lately I’ve been reflecting on how it’s a curious privilege being a journalist: part-investigator, part father-confessor, part channel to the wider world, never more than in a conflict or war zone, where everything is accelerated, more vivid, the colors painted bright by danger. Most people would not talk to a  random stranger asking all sorts of questions, sometimes quite personal, even intimate. Yet they talked to me because they wanted their stories to be told. And that is one of the oldest human instincts, something deep and primeval: that the world must know what is happening to us.

Unless We Spot Changes, Most Life Experiences are Fabricated From Memories - Neuroscience News

HomeFeatured Unless We Spot Changes, Most Life Experiences are Fabricated From Memories Neuroscience NewsJuly 25, 2018 FeaturedNeurosciencePsychology8 min read Summary: A new psychological model suggests change detection plays a key role in how we construct reality. Source: WUSTL. We may not be able to change recent events in our lives, but how well we remember them plays a key role in how our brains model what’s happening in the present and predict what is likely to occur in the future, finds new research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. “Memory isn’t for trying to remember,” said Jeff Zacks, professor of psychology and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and an author of the study. “It’s for doing better the next time.” The study, co-authored with Chris Wahlheim of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), brings together several emerging theories of brain function to suggest that the ability to detect changes plays a critical role in how we experience and learn from the world around us. Known as “Event Memory Retrieval and Comparison Theory” or EMRC, the model builds on previous research by Zacks and colleagues that suggests the brain continually compares sensory input from ongoing experiences against working models of similar past events that it builds from related memories. When real life does not match the “event model,” prediction errors spike and change detection sets off a cascade of cognitive processing that rewires the brain to strengthen memories for both the older model events and the new experience, the theory contends. “We provide evidence for a theoretical mechanism that explains how people update their memory representations to facilitate their processing of changes in everyday actions of others,” Wahlheim said. “These findings may eventually illuminate how the processing of everyday changes influences how people guide their own actions.” In their current study, Zacks and Wahlheim tested the change detection model with experiments that take advantage of the well-documented fact that older adults often have increased difficulty in recalling details of recent events. Groups of healthy older and younger adults were shown video clips of a woman acting out a series of routine, everyday activities, such as doing dishes or preparing to exercise. One week later, they were shown similar videos in which some event details had been changed. “When viewers tracked the changes in these variation-on-a-theme videos, they had excellent memory for what happened on each day, but when they failed to notice a change, memory was horrible,” Zacks said. “These effects may account for some of the problems older adults experience with memory — in these experiments, older adults were less able to track the changes, and this accounted for some of their lower memory performance.”

Ken Layne of Desert Oracle Podcast on The Desert, Living Legends, and Dressing Up As A Park Ranger

It was such a part of being out on the desert in the 1990’s, in particular, because often that was the only thing you could get on the radio. Long before MP3 players, iPhones, or satellite radios. Your options were cassettes or CDs on the seat next to you, and you reached for them in the dark hoping it’s the right one. And then there was what was on the radio, and what was on FM was few and far between in the desert. So you had to do AM, and on AM you had country stations, ideally like a truck driver’s country station with Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline. Or you had Art Bell, who was blasting out of Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Albuquerque. These things would kind of bounce off the atmosphere at night and the range would be extended terrifically. So it was very much a part of the atmosphere of exploring the desert. Whatever you were doing—driving to a national park, camping—you’d have this voice describing all this weird stuff while you’re out on a two lane looking out at the skies… And the show was live. And occasionally, like during the Phoenix Lights, that was all live on Art Bell. That whole event. Because he was on the air, up in Pahrump, Nevada, and calls started coming in from Henderson, Nevada. Just south of Las Vegas. Calls from all these people seeing these monstrous things in the sky over the highways. And then slowly, over the course of several hours, the sightings spread from southern Nevada to the Grand Canyon region. Then he started getting a ton of reports from Prescott and Glendale and Phoenix. The Phoenix Lights covered way more than Phoenix—the last sightings were in the far south of Sonora, Mexico. So this whole thing is playing out while people are out on the road, scanning the skies.

How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People

When the banker at City National asked to see the UBS statements, he received a list of figures from a man named Peter W. Hennecke. “Please use these for your projections for now,” Hennecke wrote in an email. “I’ll send the physical statements on Monday.” “Question: Are you from UBS?” the banker replied, puzzled by Hennecke’s AOL address. No, Anna explained. “Peter is head of my family office.”

What people think they're doing and what they're doing are very different

They found that: Smartphone usage is repetitive and consistent for each person Future phone checking frequency can be predicted with very little data A standard survey was unable to predict these behaviours For example, the researchers found that if you check your phone 80 times today, you are likely to repeat this behaviour every day. Dr Tom Wilcockson from Lancaster University said: "Multiple checks could indicate an absent minded use of mobile phones, which is habitual and unconscious"

You have to tell them the joke is funny, or important

“If you don’t care, or if you don’t seem like you care, why should they care?” You know, you’re the one with the microphone for some reason, and they’re sitting there in chairs listening to you for some reason, so you better act like you care about this. I started to pick things that I had more strong takes on, as stupid or random as they may be.

The Power of Listening in Helping People Change

Another benefit of high-quality listening is that it helps speakers see both sides of an argument (what we called “attitude complexity”). In another paper we found that speakers who conversed with a good listener reported attitudes that were more complex and less extreme — in other words, not one-sided. In another lab experiment we instructed 114 undergraduates at a business school to talk for 12 minutes about their fitness to become a manager in the future. We randomly assigned these speakers to one of three listening groups (good, moderate, and poor). Speakers in the good listening condition talked to a trained listener, who was either a certified management coach or a trained social-work student. We asked these trained listeners to use all their listening skills, such as asking questions and reflecting. Speakers in the moderate listening condition talked to another undergraduate at the business school who was instructed to listen as he or she usually does. Speakers in the poor listening condition talked with a student from the theatre department who was instructed to act distracted (e.g., by looking aside and playing with their smartphones). After the conversation, we asked the speakers to indicate separately the extent to which they thought they were suitable for becoming managers. Based on these answers, we calculated their attitude complexity (whether they saw both strengths and weaknesses that would affect their ability to be a manager) and extremity (whether they saw only one side). We found that speakers who talked to a good listener saw both strengths and weaknesses more than those in the other conditions. Speakers who talked to a distracted listener mostly described their strengths and barely acknowledged their weaknesses. Interestingly, the speakers in the poor listening condition were those that, on average, reported feeling the most suitable for becoming a manager.

Why It Matters How You Think About Pain | Outside Online

But the most interesting data deals with the difference between “adaptive” and “maladaptive” pain coping strategies. Adaptive strategies are things like ignoring pain, deciding that you won’t let it bother you, or overriding it with the urge to keep going. Maladaptive strategies are things like catastrophizing (“I’m going to have to drop out!”), fear (“It’s going to keep getting worse!”), and despondence (“This is awful!”). Each athlete was assigned daily composite scores of zero to six for adaptive and maladaptive coping, with zero corresponding to “never” and six corresponding to “always,” Alschuler says, reflecting “the extent to which the person is having thoughts that exemplify being willing to coexist with their pain versus the extent to which they are viewing their pain as a barrier that is difficult to overcome.” Overall, the ultrarunners were remarkably good at relying on adaptive coping (3.04 out of six, on average) rather than maladaptive coping (1.31 out of six). If that wasn’t the case, they probably would never have made it to one of these grueling races. Still, there were some interesting findings. For example, when runners used more than their usual level of maladaptive coping, they reported a greater perception that pain was interfering with their performance—even when the actual level of reported pain was held constant. They also spent more time thinking about their pain, which should be a reminder that sometimes it’s best not to dwell on it. The other interesting finding was a link between the use the maladaptive coping and the probability that a runner would finish the race. For every one-point increase in the maladaptive score, a runner’s likelihood of finishing the race dropped by a factor of three.

How Watching ‘Caddyshack’ Helps Me Stave Off Depression

To escape the world into a Caddyshack screening while I’m depressed means suspending time and entering another world. In this world, body and mind, self and soul, coexist side-by-side, not naturally, but as conjoined twins. In this world, I need beginnings, middles, and endings. Inside this world, I need Kenny Loggins overtures, bromances, cliffhangers, sight-gags, dumb homunculi and military-grade explosions. In this world I need Caddyshack.

A Slightly Embarrassing Love for Jack Kerouac | The New Yorker

The book was (supposedly) written on one continuous, hundred-and-twenty-foot scroll of typing paper—a savage and unmediated burst. In 1959, Kerouac told the talk-show host Steve Allen that it took him three weeks, although this, too, was later revealed to be an ingenious bit of self-mythologizing. (It turns out nothing shatters the glamour of genius more quickly than admitting that you spend hours every day moving commas around, or swapping out adverbs for different adverbs.) “Kerouac cultivated this myth that he was this spontaneous prose man, and that everything that he ever put down was never changed, and that’s not true,” the Kerouac scholar Paul Marion told NPR, in 2007. “He was really a supreme craftsman, and devoted to writing and the writing process.” The book went through several drafts between 1951 and 1957, when Viking Press finally published it.

Life turns on small moments

She was in her office at the University of Chicago when four seminary students paid her a visit. They were researching death and dying: they wanted to know how to best serve congregants who had ill loved ones or were ill themselves. They asked if she’d be willing to serve as a liaison between the seminary and the hospital, to coordinate interviews with terminally ill patients. They’d heard that she’d written a paper on the psychology of dying. She hadn’t, but she took their mistake as a sign.

Death's Best Friend | by Jessica Weisberg | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

And so begins Kübler-Ross’s journey, one of a restless, curious woman seeking truth despite the well-meaning men who stand in her way. At six, a teacher asked her to write an essay about what she intended to be when she grew up. When she told her parents about the assignment at dinner that night, her father, a middle manager at an office-supply company, told her that she should plan for a career as his secretary. “No, thank you!” young Elisabeth snapped. That night, she wrote in her journal that she planned to become a physician and an adventurer. “I want to find out the purpose of life.”

People with depression have stronger emotional responses to negative memories: A study investigates the brain mechanisms underlying autobiographical memory disturbance in depression -- ScienceDaily

"This study provides new insights into the changes in brain function that are present in major depression. It shows differences in how memory systems are engaged during emotion processing in depression and how people with the disorder must regulate these systems in order to manage their emotions," said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The personal memories used to evoke emotion in the study help tap into complex emotional situations that people with MDD experience in their daily lives. The 29 men and women with MDD included in the study reported higher levels of negative emotions when bringing negative memories to mind than 23 healthy comparison people. Using brain imaging, senior author Kevin Ochsner, PhD, of Columbia University and colleagues traced the elevated emotional responses to increased activity in an emotional hub of the brain, called the amygdala, and to interactions between the amygdala and the hippocampus -- a brain region important for memory.

Stanford researcher: Hallucinatory 'voices' shaped by local culture

The striking difference was that while many of the African and Indian subjects registered predominantly positive experiences with their voices, not one American did. Rather, the U.S. subjects were more likely to report experiences as violent and hateful – and evidence of a sick condition. The Americans experienced voices as bombardment and as symptoms of a brain disease caused by genes or trauma. One participant described the voices as “like torturing people, to take their eye out with a fork, or cut someone’s head and drink their blood, really nasty stuff.” Other Americans (five of them) even spoke of their voices as a call to battle or war – “‘the warfare of everyone just yelling.'” Moreover, the Americans mostly did not report that they knew who spoke to them and they seemed to have 
less personal relationships with their voices, according to Luhrmann. Among the Indians in Chennai, more than half (11) heard voices of kin or family members commanding them to do tasks. “They talk as if elder people advising younger people,” one subject said. That contrasts to the Americans, only two of whom heard family members. Also, the Indians heard fewer threatening voices than the Americans – several heard the voices as playful, as manifesting spirits or magic, and even as entertaining. Finally, not as many of them described the voices in terms of a medical or psychiatric problem, as all of the Americans did.

5 Hours of Glenn Gould Outtakes. Why? Listen and Find Out. - The New York Times

In a 1966 article, “The Prospects of Recording,” he fantasized about a future when listeners would be granted tape-edit options and could patch together their preferred versions of, say, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, from recordings by different conductors.

5 Hours of Glenn Gould Outtakes. Why? Listen and Find Out. - The New York Times

The master pianist Artur Schnabel, for one, initially resisted entreaties to make records. The nature of a performance, he wrote in a memoir, “is to happen but once, to be absolutely ephemeral and unrepeatable.”

Notes to our future selves

In other words, the true purpose of note-taking is transporting states of mind (not just information) through time. This is why pictures, sketches, and diagrams often work better than text. We don’t usually think of them as notes, but songs, smells, and tastes work even better. As HBR puts it: “A visual model becomes one of the most effective tools for minimizing alignment-attrition; a visualization formalizes an emergent idea and solidifies it at a moment in time.” Or as Craig Mod more eloquently says, “To return to a book is to return not just to the text but also to a past self. We are embedded in our libraries. To reread is to remember who we once were, which can be equal parts scary and intoxicating.”

Humans rely more on 'inferred' visual objects than 'real' ones -- ScienceDaily

To make sense of the world, humans and animals need to combine information from multiple sources. This is usually done according to how reliable each piece of information is. For example, to know when to cross the street, we usually rely more on what we see than what we hear -- but this can change on a foggy day. "In such situations with the blind spot, the brain 'fills in' the missing information from its surroundings, resulting in no apparent difference in what we see," says senior author Professor Peter König, from the University of Osnabrück's Institute of Cognitive Science. "While this fill-in is normally accurate enough, it is mostly unreliable because no actual information from the real world ever reaches the brain. We wanted to find out if we typically handle this filled-in information differently to real, direct sensory information, or whether we treat it as equal." To do this, König and his team asked study participants to choose between two striped visual images, both of which were displayed to them using shutter glasses. Each image was displayed either partially inside or completely outside the visual blind spot. Both were perceived as identical and 'continuous' due to the filling-in effect, and participants were asked to select the image they thought represented the real, continuous stimulus. "We thought people would either make their choice without preference, or with a preference towards the real stimulus, but exactly the opposite happened -- there was in fact a strong bias towards the filled-in stimulus inside the blind spot," says first author Benedikt Ehinger, researcher at the University of Osnabrück. "Additionally, in an explorative analysis of how long the participants took to make their choice, we saw that they were slightly quicker to choose this stimulus than the one outside the blind spot." So, why are subjects so keen on the blind-spot information when it is essentially the least reliable? The team's interpretation is that subjects compare the internal representation (or 'template') of a continuous stimulus against the incoming sensory input, resulting in an error signal which represents the mismatch. In the absence of real information, no deviation and therefore no error or a smaller signal occurs, ultimately leading to a higher credibility at the decision-making stage. This indicates that perceptual decision-making can rely more on inferred rather than real information, even when there is some knowledge about the reduced reliability of the inferred image available in the brain. "In other words, the implicit knowledge that a filled-in stimulus is less reliable than an external one does not seem to be taken into account for perceptual decision-making," Ehinger explains.

Any story a plot

As the mantra of the secret police – “Give us a man and we’ll make a case” – was well known, normal communication between people ceased to be possible. No one knew to whom they spoke or what construction would be placed upon even the most innocuous conversation. Any form of social interaction as previously understood was now impossible.