Psychology

When I was a kid, 'toxic' assets were not assets at all; they were called 'liabilities.'    That's why asset and liability columns exist on these things called 'spreadsheets.'   But I am neither a politician nor a banker so I have poor grasp of things I know nothing about.  Much like this Timothy Geithner guy.

But apparently toxic assets do exist because banks around the world are being dragged down by them.   Who would have thought that mortgage-backed securities based on a housing bubble fueled by people who couldn't afford their homes would ever be a problem?   Well, me, but I was told I hated poor people and minorities for daring to ask.

We've all heard it before.   Some of you may even have used it:   "I thought she was X" age.    Alcohol impairs judgment, it is said, or releases inhibitions, depending on whether you like the effects.

There may be nothing to that argument, according to a new study.   Consuming alcohol did not affect how men judged the age of women, which has important legal implications if alcohol is cited as a cause of impairing judgement in cases of unlawful sex with a minor, because  men always think women look older.

Religion and mental health seems to be a double-edged sword. Religion features in a lot of psychotic delusions, but there's also a lot of evidence linking religious belief to better mental health. There's some new research which suggests that part of the problem in teasing out the relationships is that it's not belief itself, but rather the type of god that you believe in, that matters.

The data came from a 2004 US survey on religion and health, which included measures of what people thought about god, and also a variety of health measures including some standard psychiatric scales.
If Mark Twain were alive today he might rephrase his frequently cited observation about everyone talking about the weather but not doing anything about it to say, "Everyone reads or watches weather forecasts, but many people don't understand them." 

He'd do that because new research indicates that only about half the population knows what a forecast means when it predicts a 20 percent chance of rain, according to researchers at the University of Washington. 
Scientists have long been interested in the interplay of emotions and identity, and some have recently focused on cultural identity. One's heritage would seem to be especially stable and impervious to change, simply because it's been passed down generation after generation and is deeply ingrained in the collective psyche.

But how deeply, exactly?
I was inadvertently exposed to the filth and depravity of VH1's "Rock of Love Bus," also known as STDs on Wheels, when I turned on my TV to watch the (relatively) innocent and science-fueled Big Bang Theory.

If you feel like dropping 150 IQ points, here's the clip in all its intellectual and classy glory. If you don't have any neurons to spare, here's a quote that sums up the few minutes' worth of the show I saw (and that's all I ever want to see), as Bret Michaels expresses his heartfelt emotions with lyricism inspired by the deep wells of pure love: "You are this rocking hot centerfold, ok?"
If words were people, then "eloquent," "love" and "symphony" would get dates most Friday nights but "vomit," "moist" and "puke" would stay home alone, wondering what went wrong. 

How are words pretty or ugly? That's the question Robert E. Wolverton Sr., a Mississippi State University classics professor, recently asked in a survey of some 75 students in his classes. The poll is part of the foreign language faculty member's "semi-frequent" examination of how students at the land-grant university view widely used terms. 

Of the 148 different "beautiful" words submitted by students this year are several listed multiple times: eloquent (six), love (four) and symphony (four). Beautiful, lavender and tranquility each received three mentions. 
A team of Oregon State University researchers say they have implemented a classroom-based intervention that reduces the amount of violent TV that children watch - by 18 percent among first- through fourth-grade children.  And that's good, they say, because youth violence is a big issue, though not so much as 30 years ago when everyone assumed we would be living out scenarios from either "The Warriors" or "Escape From New York" by now. 


Update: check out this YouTube video - about 2:55 in, the cute kid videos start.

Can you increase your willpower? Can high levels of willpower lead to greater success in life?

Columbia University psychologist Walter Mischel says yes. In the 1960s, Mischel used hundreds of 4-year-olds to answer these questions in what is now referred to as the marshmallow test.

The ability to wait for gratification is considered a personality trait important for success later in life, and may even be a component of emotional intelligence. Those without this personality trait need their gratification instantly and suffer from poor impulse control.

Spanking, flagellation and cockbinding; researchers at the University of Northern Illinois have been very naughty in their attempt to quantify physiological responses to sadomasochistic activities.

 In their Archives of Sexual Behavior publication, the stress hormone cortisol along with the dominance associated testosterone hormone was measured in 58 sadomasochistic practicing couples before and after kinky sex fun time. 

Their results, along with a review of S&M literature suggests couples that practice S&M experience reduced levels of stress and feel an increase in relationship closeness.