Little Pigeon-Boxes

It seems to be a universal characteristic of humans that we like to label each other, often in simplistic binary fashion.  Friend or foe, left-wing or right-wing, smart or dumb, sane or psycho, we never seem to run out of pigeonholes into which we can stuff people like socks in a drawer.

Like socks in a drawer?  What is the connection between socks in a drawer and pigeon-holes?
On Miracles

On Miracles

Jun 02 2009 | 10 comment(s)

As I’ve often mentioned in this blog, philosopher David Hume famously said that “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish,” setting the bar for believing in miracles properly high.
When Things Smell A Funny Color

I have often heard people in Britain say in jest something like:

"I don't like that, it smells a funny color."

From time to time our senses play tricks with our brains, and we 'hear' or 'smell' colors. 
Such switching of sensory modalities and perception is called synaesthesia.

Synaesthesia is a neurological condition that often involves a ‘blending of the senses’. It is thought to affect less than 1% of the population, and people experience it in a variety of ways.
The terms 'athlete' and 'jock' are sometimes used interchangeably - especially be people who dislike athletes.   And it's usually negative.   Due to that, only 18 percent of students in a recent study strongly identified with the identity of "jock," while 55 percent strongly identified with the identity of "athlete."   Students were twice as likely to reject the jock label.
The Buzzword Blog #4 : Irrational

What does 'irrational' mean?

The term 'irrational' is too often just another  buzzword.  It is used very loosely, even by scientists, to imply that somebody has formed an opinion without thinking about it 'properly'.
Recent research says that talking on a cell phone poses a dangerous distraction for drivers and others whose attention should be focused elsewhere and now a new study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology finds that just the ring of a cell phone may be equally distracting, especially when it comes in a classroom setting or includes a familiar song as a ringtone.

Students exposed to a briefly ringing cell phone scored 25 percent worse on a test of material presented before the distraction.
Liberals and conservatives don’t just think differently, they also feel differently. This may even be a result, in part, of divergent neural responses.

I don't know much about the science behind this, but the NY Time's Nicholas Kristof points readers to an online survey set up by some psychologists to study morals and political beliefs:
Two things men believe; first, women like them more when they are taken and second, a woman's relationship status influences her interest in the opposite sex. 

At least that second part appears to be true.   

In a new study, women both with and without sexual partners showed little difference in their subjective ratings of photos of men when considering such measures as masculinity and attractiveness.   However, the women who did not have sexual partners spent more time evaluating photos of men, demonstrating a greater interest in the photos. No such difference was found between men who had sexual partners and those who did not.
Employees who have some influence at work perform better service but praise and encouragement from managers has no particular significance in terms of loyalty toward the employer.

Social recognition, recognition as an individual whose expertise and input are appreciated, is crucial for how well employees in service companies perform their job assignments. Tómas Bjarnason, a doctoral student in sociology from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, studied over 900 employees in service organizations for his thesis.   He states that social recognition contributes to increased self respect, which means that employees make a greater effort to act in the company’s best interests. 
Money does not buy happiness, it is said, and apparently it does not factor much into optimism either.   20 percent of humanity hoards 83 percent of the world's wealth but the vast majority of people, including the 60 percent of the world possessing just 6 percent of world wealth, think the next 5 years will be better for them.

Yes, despite an economic recession, famine, thousands of years without a single day bereft of war somewhere in the world and media reports about a flu epidemic afflicting the Earth, a new study from the University of Kansas and Gallup indicates that humans are optimistic.  Apparently it is just our nature.