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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.

“It gets people killed”: Osip Mandelstam and the perils of writing poetry under Stalin

Nadezhda Mandelstam – the poet’s wife and invaluable support throughout his, and their, many years of persecution and exile – wrote in her powerful memoir of both the poet and the era, Hope Against Hope, about the many instances when, confronted with the desperation of their situation, they had asked each other if this was the moment when they, too, could no longer bear to go forward. The final occasion was to be the last night they spent in their Moscow apartment before being banished, without means of providing for themselves, to a succession of rural towns situated beyond a hundred-kilometre perimeter of all major cities. She awoke to find Mandelstam standing at the open window. “Isn’t it time?” he said. “Let’s do it while we’re still together.” “Not yet,” she replied. Mandelstam didn’t argue but she later reflected, “If we had been able to foresee all the alternatives, we would not have missed that last chance of a ‘normal’ death offered by the open window of our apartment in Furmanov Street.” Opting, in that moment, for a little more life changed nothing and Mandelstam soon found himself being moved inexorably towards Stalin’s endgame in the camps.

Conspiracy Theorists May Really Just Be Lonely - Scientific American

In one experiment, people wrote about a recent unpleasant interaction with friends, then rated their feelings of exclusion, their search for purpose in life, their belief in two conspiracies (that the government uses subliminal messages and that drug companies withhold cures), and their faith in paranormal activity in the Bermuda Triangle. The more excluded people felt, the greater their desire for meaning and the more likely they were to harbor suspicions.

The narrative drive = human instinct

If a person goes from being a political martyr to a mental patient in just a few days—the sign of a successful hospital stay, by most standards—her life may begin to feel banal and useless. Insight is correlated with fewer hospital readmissions, better performance at work, and more social contacts, but it is also linked with lower self-esteem and depression. People recovering from psychotic episodes rarely receive extensive talk therapy, because insurance companies place strict limits on the number of sessions allowed and because for years psychiatrists have assumed that psychotic patients are unable to reflect meaningfully on their lives. (Eugen Bleuler, the psychiatrist who coined the term “schizophrenia,” said that after years of talking to his patients he found them stranger than the birds in his garden.)

How the brain maintains useful memories -- ScienceDaily

there are specific groups of neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of a rat's brain -- the region most associated with long-term memory. These neurons develop codes to help store relevant, general information from multiple experiences while, over time, losing the more irrelevant, minor details unique to each experience. The findings provide new insight into how the brain collects and stores useful knowledge about the world that can be adapted and applied to new experiences. "Memories of recent experiences are rich in incidental detail but, with time, the brain is thought to extract important information that is common across various past experiences," says Kaori Takehara-Nishiuchi, senior author and Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. "We predicted that groups of neurons in the mPFC build representations of this information over the period when long-term memory consolidation is known to take place, and that this information has a larger representation in the brain than the smaller details."

To please your friends, tell them what they already know -- ScienceDaily

What makes stories about familiar experiences more enjoyable than either speakers or listeners expect? Is it that speakers are better at telling familiar stories, or is it that listeners' personal experience allows them to understand familiar stories more easily? In their third and fourth studies, the researchers found that the second explanation appears to be the right one. When listeners had already seen the video that the speaker was describing, they were able to "fill in the gaps" in the speaker's story, which made the story more enjoyable to hear. "People are fairly awful storytellers who leave out a lot of important information," says Gilbert. "Our friends probably would enjoy hearing us tell them about a painting they've never seen or a book they've never read if we could describe those things well. But most of us can't. As a result, our friends are actually a whole lot happier when we tell them what they already know because at least they understand what we're talking about. We worry too much about thrilling our listeners and not enough about confusing them."

How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym – Personal Growth – Medium

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who went from not exercising at all to even a modest program (just two to three gym visits per week) reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, an increase in healthy eating and maintenance of household chores, and better spending and study habits. In addition to these real-life improvements, after two months of regular exercise, the students also performed better on laboratory tests of self-control. This led the researchers to speculate that exercise had a powerful impact on the students’ “capacity for self-regulation.” In laypeople’s terms, pushing through the discomfort associated with exercise — saying “yes” when their bodies and minds were telling them to say “no” — taught the students to stay cool, calm, and collected in the face of difficulty, whether that meant better managing stress, drinking less, or studying more.

38,000-year-old carving includes enigmatic “punctuation” pattern | Ars Technica

There are punctuations, which form a clear pattern behind and beneath the animal. There are also "short, parallel marks" in front of the aurochs' chest. And there is a deep line that cuts straight through the center of the stone and the aurochs' body, as well as a "tunnel-like depression" right in the abdomen. Indeed this line was cut so deeply that the researchers believe it eventually caused the slab to split in two. Interestingly, analysis revealed that this deep cut was carved first, then the punctuations, followed by the aurochs. So the animal's body was drawn on top of these abstract dots and lines, and some of the dots were even joined to create the aurochs' legs, hindquarters, and abdomen. "The animal figure, executed after the creation of the deep depression, was constructed so as to integrate this feature, which seems to have an important role in the overall graphic construct," the research team wrote. Further Reading First discovery of 50,000-year-old human settlements in Australian interior Early archaeologists believed these punctuations, which are found throughout the region, were a way of tracking phases of the moon.

Whatever you think, you don’t necessarily know your own mind

Carruthers makes a powerful case for an interpretive view of self-knowledge, set out in his book The Opacity of Mind (2011). The case starts with the claim that humans (and other primates) have a dedicated mental subsystem for understanding other people’s minds, which swiftly and unconsciously generates beliefs about what others think and feel, based on observations of their behaviour. (Evidence for such a ‘mindreading’ system comes from a variety of sources, including the rapidity with which infants develop an understanding of people around them.) Carruthers argues that this same system is responsible for our knowledge of our own minds. Humans did not develop a second, inward-looking mindreading system (an inner sense); rather, they gained self-knowledge by directing the outward-looking system upon themselves. And because the system is outward-looking, it has access only to sensory inputs and must draw its conclusions from them alone. (Since it has direct access to sensory states, our knowledge of what we are experiencing is not interpretative.)

Why the lights don't dim when we blink: Blinking prompts eye muscles to keep our vision in line -- ScienceDaily

"Our eye muscles are quite sluggish and imprecise, so the brain needs to constantly adapt its motor signals to make sure our eyes are pointing where they're supposed to," Maus said. "Our findings suggest that the brain gauges the difference in what we see before and after a blink, and commands the eye muscles to make the needed corrections." From a big-picture perspective, if we didn't possess this powerful oculomotor mechanism, particularly when blinking, our surroundings would appear shadowy, erratic and jittery, researchers said. "We perceive coherence and not transient blindness because the brain connects the dots for us," said study co-author David Whitney, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley. "Our brains do a lot of prediction to compensate for how we move around in the world," said co-author Patrick Cavanagh, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College. "It's like a steadicam of the mind." A dozen healthy young adults participated in what Maus jokingly called "the most boring experiment ever." Study participants sat in a dark room for long periods staring at a dot on a screen while infrared cameras tracked their eye movements and eye blinks in real time. Every time they blinked, the dot was moved one centimeter to the right. While participants failed to notice the subtle shift, the brain's oculomotor system registered the movement and learned to reposition the line of vision squarely on the dot. After 30 or so blink-synchronized dot movements, participants' eyes adjusted during each blink and shifted automatically to the spot where they predicted the dot to be. "Even though participants did not consciously register that the dot had moved, their brains did, and adjusted with the corrective eye movement," Maus said. "These findings add to our understanding of how the brain constantly adapts to changes, commanding our muscles to correct for errors in our bodies' own hardware."

Want to ace an exam? Tell a friend what you learned (and memories are a LOT bigger than we think)

"With a cue, suddenly, a lot of those details will come back," Sekeres said. "We don't permanently forget them, which would indicate lack of storage -- we just can't immediately access them. And that's good. That means our memories aren't as bad as we think." Much research on memory examines how brain damage or aging affects recall, but "we wanted to look at the normal course of forgetting in healthy brains -- and if anyone should have a good memory, it's healthy young adults," Sekeres said. "While the strategy of re-telling information -- known as 'the testing effect' -- has been shown to be a really effective study technique time and again, this study is novel in looking at how our memories change over time for a specialized group."

Whether our speech is fast or slow, we say about the same -- ScienceDaily

"It seems the constraints on how much information per second we should transmit are fairly strict, or stricter than we thought they were," Cohen Priva said. In information theory, rarer word choices convey greater "lexical information," while more complicated syntax, such as the passive voice, conveys greater "structural information." To stay within the channel, those who talk quickly speak with more common words and simpler syntax, while those with a slower pace tend to use rarer, more unexpected words and more complicated wordings, Cohen Priva found. The study provides only hints about why a constrained information rate might govern conversation, Cohen Priva said. It could derive from either a speaker's difficulty in formulating and uttering too much information too quickly or from a listener's difficulty in processing and comprehending speech delivered at too fast a pace.

Half of people believe fake facts, 'remember' events that never happened -- ScienceDaily

Over 400 participants in 'memory implantation' studies had fictitious autobiographical events suggested to them -- and it was found that around 50% of the participants believed, to some degree, that they had experienced those events. Participants in these studies came to remember a range of false events, such as taking a childhood hot air balloon ride, playing a prank on a teacher, or creating havoc at a family wedding. 30% of participants appeared to 'remember' the event -- they accepted the suggested event, elaborated on how the event occurred, and even described images of what the event was like. Another 23% showed signs that they accepted the suggested event to some degree and believed it really happened.