ReasonINC

Reason; as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct

Category: Psychology

Why funny people kill themselves

A very insightful article about humour and depression written in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide.

(http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/robin-williams-why-funny-people-kill-themselves/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=fanpage&utm_campaign=new+article&wa_ibsrc=fanpage)

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“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking

“A simple protagonist was a clear advantage, because it generated a firm connection between life-regulation and the profusion of mental images that the brain was forming about the world around it.” – Antonio Damasio from ‘Self Comes to Mind’

“It is all very well, such leaders being persons with a superior understanding of the necessities of life who have brought themselves under control so far as their own libidinal desires are concerned. However, there is a risk so far as they are concerned that, in order to retain their influence, they will yield to the mass more than the mass yields to them…” – Sigmund Freud from ‘The Future of an Illusion’

TEDtalk: James Flynn: Why our IQ levels are higher than our grandparents

“Think how different America would be if every American knew that this is the fifth time Western armies had gone to Afghanistan to put its house in order. And if they had some idea of exactly what had happened on those four previous occasions. And that is they had barely left and there wasn’t a trace in the sand”

James Flynn, in this resounding and brilliant TEDtalk, calmly and patiently makes a very clever point about exactly why IQ scores have been improving. He astutely cites our increasingly common ability to apply logic to abstraction; to deal sincerely in the hypothetical and casts this concept into a very impressive talk.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vpqilhW9uI)

“Is anything in man so deep-rooted and prevalent as the drive to see things as they are not?” – Clayton Atreus

“…like the noise you make to drown out an insupportable thought.” – Martin Amis from ‘Time’s Arrow’

Prisoner’s dilemma finally probed

Prisoner’s dilemma finally probed

Game theory has previously told us that, regrettably, the best strategy in the classic ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ problem is betrayal (‘prisoner’s dilemma’ offers two individuals the same choice: cooperate for an equal punishment, or betray. If you betray a cooperating partner, they are punished more severely and you less, but if you both betray you are both punished more harshly). Mathematically, then, our ‘selfish and aggressive instincts’ maximize our chances of survival or victory – unsurprising given the exquisite rigour of evolution in sorting variation for superiority.

For the dismayed rationalist wondering how humans can ever live sustainably and compassionately there is solace in the fact that our evolution moved into a crucial second phase where group selection ruled. Humans lived in packs, and the most successful packs dominated resources. This positively selected for packs that functioned well. Knowing this, it is easy to begin to dissect human behaviour all over again. We conform religiously to the accepted ‘truths’ of the group, to group ideals and values. We have amongst us a brotherhood; in certain circumstances we will transcend survival instincts or solipsistic practice to protect shared interests. Groups with these individuals were far superior to ones without. It is worth noting, of course, that we will, without hesitation, send a competitor group up the river (rival businesses or sports teams etc).

With this in mind, these surprising results from the University of Hamburg should be a little less surprising. Testing the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ concept on actual prisoners, they found that there was more cooperation than a purely mathematical strategy would dictate. Fifty six per cent of prisoners opted to cooperate, yielding an end result of 30% of total pairs cooperating.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268113001522#)

“‘Free will’ is what we call the complex process that happens when we decide” – Stephen Hawking

Weakness feeds weakness

(http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S37/28/70Q72/index.xml?section=topstories)

A collaborative Princeton research team of psychologists and neuroscientists have shown that physical exercise increases, so to speak, a brain’s resilience to anxiety. The team have shone light on the underlying substrates which, with the endorsement of further confirmatory research, naturally pave the way for the concept’s incorporation into the rapidly widening landscape of mental health treatments – widening in terms of pending possibility, even if still restrained by fledgling capability. Aside from those that have survived by chance, or arrived by mutation, all an organism’s traits must have endowed it with an advantage at some time in its history. As such, the study discusses the concept in evolutionary terms. Both ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ rely on physical proficiency. Physical proficiency, further still, is always relative to that reliably bigger fish. It follows, then, that less physically fit individuals would benefit, in survival terms, from an innate inclination to avoid having to impart either response.