Why Gun Control Is So Contentious in the U.S

"There are people who want to own guns for recreational or self-defense purposes, and on the other side, I don’t think anyone wants to see someone walk into a crowded movie theater and kill people," said Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas. The goal is obvious: protect the former while minimizing the chance of the latter.

But history seems to have brought us to a point where the two considerations cannot be reconciled. Here’s how it happened.

via Why Gun Control Is So Contentious in the U.S.: Scientific American.

The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

Explanations of psychological phenomena seem to generate more public interest when they contain neuroscientific information. Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation. We tested this hypothesis by giving naïve adults, students in a neuroscience course, and neuroscience experts brief descriptions of psychological phenomena followed by one of four types of explanation, according to a 2 (good explanation vs. bad explanation) × 2 (without neuroscience vs. with neuroscience) design. Crucially, the neuroscience information was irrelevant to the logic of the explanation, as confirmed by the expert subjects. Subjects in all three groups judged good explanations as more satisfying than bad ones. But subjects in the two nonexpert groups additionally judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without. The neuroscience information had a particularly striking effect on nonexperts’ judgments of bad explanations, masking otherwise salient problems in these explanations.

via The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations.

STATS: Neuroscience or neurobabble?

With the news media telling us that neuroscience – and brain scans – can explain everything from a global pandemic of Justin Bieber fever to whether you are likely to stay with your spouse, we investigate what neuroscience can and can’t tell us about who we are and why we do the things we do. In the first part of an ongoing series, we look at functional magnetic resonance imaging, and whether it’s really the window on the mind that some in the media – and science – would have us believe.

via STATS: Neuroscience or neurobabble?.

Is the Internet Making Us Crazy? What the New Research Says – Newsweek and The Daily Beast

Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?

Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.

via Is the Internet Making Us Crazy? What the New Research Says – Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

An obituary worth reading

I enjoyed one good life. Traveled to every place on earth that I ever wanted to go. Had every job that I wanted to have. Learned all that I wanted to learn. Fixed everything I wanted to fix. Eaten everything I wanted to eat. My life motto was: “Anything for a Laugh”. Other mottos were “If you can break it, I can fix it”, “Don’t apply for a job, create one”.

via Val Patterson Obituary: View Val Patterson’s Obituary by Salt Lake Tribune.

Rise of the machines

One of the founding engineers of Skype and Kazaa is in Australia to sound a warning to the human race: fasten your seatbelts, as machines are becoming so intelligent that they could pose an existential threat.Jaan Tallinn argues human-driven technological progress has largely replaced evolution as the dominant force shaping our future. Machines are becoming smarter than we are, but Tallinn warns that if we are not careful this could lead to a “sudden global ecological catastrophe”.

via Rise of the machines.

Psychoneuro-immunology and the power of placebo

For many centuries, physicians have been aware of the critical connection between what a patient believes, and the outcomes of an illness. Medical literature is full of stories of miraculous remissions from fatal diseases that seem to result from individuals’ unshakeable confidence in their treatment, or that they will simply get well. It’s often referred to as the power of positive thought. But this emotional state has also been associated with the placebo effect, which plays an important part in much recovery. This is where patients believe that they are getting a powerful drug treatment, or even surgery, and make the anticipated improvement, even when they have received no treatment at all.

The process of course, works both ways. A wide range of studies has shown that people who are depressed or stressed are both more prone to illness, and will decline more rapidly if they have a chronic condition.

It’s pretty obvious that our emotions or states of mind affect our immune system for better or worse. The problem’s been that until fairly recently, there’s been little clinical understanding of just how this occurred. Now what was once the realm of medical anecdote has developed into an important new field of medical research and potential treatment.

It’s called psychoneuroimmunology, and one of the leading researchers in the field in this country is Professor Alan Husband, who heads the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Sydney.

via .

US science official says more extreme events convincing many Americans climate change is real – The Washington Post

CANBERRA, Australia — Increasingly common experiences with extreme climate-related events such as the Colorado wildfires, a record warm spring and preseason hurricanes have convinced many Americans climate change is a reality, the head of a U.S. scientific agency said Friday. Many Americans had previously seen climate change as a “nebulous concept” removed from them in time and geography, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco.

via US science official says more extreme events convincing many Americans climate change is real – The Washington Post.

Childhood adversity increases risk for depression and chronic inflammation

Previous studies have linked depression and inflammation, particularly in individuals who have experienced early childhood adversity, but overall, findings have been inconsistent. Researchers Gregory Miller and Steve Cole designed a longitudinal study in an effort to resolve these discrepancies, and their findings are now published in a study in Biological Psychiatry.

They recruited a large group of female adolescents who were healthy, but at high risk for experiencing depression. The volunteers were then followed for 2 ½ years, undergoing interviews and giving blood samples to measure their levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, two types of inflammatory markers. Their exposure to childhood adversity was also assessed.

The researchers found that when individuals who suffered from early childhood adversity became depressed, their depression was accompanied by an inflammatory response. In addition, among subjects with previous adversity, high levels of interleukin-6 forecasted risk of depression six months later. In subjects without childhood adversity, there was no such coupling of depression and inflammation.

Dr. Miller commented on their findings: “What’s important about this study is that it identifies a group of people who are prone to have depression and inflammation at the same time. That group of people experienced major stress in childhood, often related to poverty, having

via Childhood adversity increases risk for depression and chronic inflammation.