That level of caution may sound absurd today, but a new study shows trips to outer space can still mess with astronauts on a physiological level.
New research from Johns Hopkins finds that long-term deep space missions can alter brain proteins and cause cognitive deficits like lapses in attention and slower reaction times. Researchers came to this conclusion by exposing rats to high-energy particles that simulate the conditions that astronauts would experience in deep space, then running them through a series of test that mimic the fitness assessments that astronauts, pilots, and soldiers are required to take.
But the strange thing scientists found is that deep-space conditions don’t affect everyone the same way.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Can a person be bright? Cold? Soft? Sweet? When the psychologists Solomon Asch and Harriet Nerlove posed these questions to a group of 3- and 4-year-olds in 1960, the response, on the whole, was skeptical. “Poor people are cold because they have no clothes,” one child said. By second or third grade, though, children could understand the psychological meanings of these so-called double-function terms and how they relate to the physical world.
Read more. [Image: Rami Niemi]
How psychology, gender roles, and design explain the distinctive way we behave in the world’s stalls.
Among the world’s many politicians to be regularly called a narcissist, Vladimir Putin may be given the label the most, and with the most serious intent, especially since the Sochi Olympics and the Russian invasion of Crimea. During a recent segment on the PBC NewsHour, for example, New York Times columnist David Brooks stated that U.S. attitudes toward Putin have “hardened to an amazing degree” and the current administration now views him as a “narcissistic autocrat.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, has accused Putin of “narcissistic megalomania.” The Financial Times referred to the Sochi Olympics as “Putin’s narcissistic self-tribute.”
Photos of the Russian president scuba-diving, piloting a plane, behind the wheel of a race car, demonstrating his skill in martial arts, and baring his chest on horseback only contribute to this view and evoke the predictably derisive response: Putin is a narcissist.
But is it accurate to describe Putin as a narcissist in the clinical sense of the word? Can an understanding of the psychological roots of narcissism help us to gain deeper insight into the man and how we should respond to his aggression, rather than using the label to deride him?
Read more. [Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]
When human space travel made its transition from pipe dream to reality, one of the unknowns humans contended with concerned not just the physics of space, but the psychology of it. How would the human mind react to the final frontier? Would microgravity, combined with the isolation of a spaceship, cause a kind of claustrophobia? Would propulsion outside of Earth’s bounds, in the end, cause astronauts to experience a psychic break? Was there such thing, as science fiction writers had long feared, as “space madness”?
Space, fortunately, does not drive us crazy. But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped caring about the effects its new environments will have on our psychology. The new version of the old “space madness” question is how time away from our home planet will affect us—in the long term. What could life on Mars do to that that other cosmic mystery: the human emotional state?
NASA is hoping to find out. This week, in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the agency launched the latest version of its Mars simulation experiment, the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission. On Hawaii’s Big Island, 8,200 feet above sea level, conditions are as Martian as they can be on Earth: Mauna Loa’s volcanic soil is quite similar to the volcanic regolith that can be found on Mars. HI-SEAS in general aims to replicate, as closely as is possible on Earth, what life would be like on Mars—and its latest iteration will put human emotions to the test.
Read more. [Image: NASA/HI-SEAS]
Among the things to hate about Barbie is that she’s styled such that no woman could ever have her proportions and remain bipedal. Many say she’s too thin, too made-up, and too passive-looking to be a role model for the modern girl. (Barbie’s response, of course, is #unapologetic.)
There’s already evidence that Barbie affects girls’ body image. But through her many iterations, Barbie has now been a paleontologist, a pilot, and a Marine. With options like those, surely she doesn’t cause any lasting damage to girls’ career aspirations? … Right? Right?
A duo of researchers at Oregon State University hypothesized that playing with sexualized dolls not only hurts self-esteem, it influences the way young girls think about their adult lives.
Past research in the U.K. has shown that nearly a third of female teenagers want to be models, while only 4 percent wanted to be engineers. Adolescent girls, it seems, are drawn to careers based on appearance, not knowledge.
Is Barbie the one steering young girls away from the Python code and toward the catwalk?
Read more. [Image: mjtmail (tiggy)/plounsbury/Flickr]
Over the last decade, Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert has become a prominent voice in the public sphere. His 2006 book Stumbling on Happiness, translated in over 30 languages, became an international bestseller, triggering a slew of invitations—to give a TED Talk, host the PBS series This Emotional Life, and write for The New York Times and other publications. Gilbert spoke with me about his untraditional path to psychology, how psychology affects (and is affected by) other academic fields, and why the study of happiness is critical for public policy.
Read more. [Image: Mike Gabelmann/Flickr]
Fully inhabiting the mind, mannerisms, and reality of a fictional character can be as alienating as it is rewarding.
Read more. [Image: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]
In the Stanford marshmallow experiment, arguably the most famous study ever conducted on the concept of delayed gratification, children were offered a choice between receiving one small treat (like a marshmallow) immediately or receiving two treats later (like, 15 minutes later). In the years since, the ability to choose deferred rewards over smaller immediate rewards has been associated with numerous positives such as enhanced self-esteem, academic excellence, and physical fitness.
Marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson speculates that this trait may also have something to do with being better at environmental stewardship.
Johnson thinks a lot about how humans interact with ocean resources (like fish), and what drives us to exploit or conserve these resources. One question she returns to, over and over, is: How can we enable people to take a long-term view when it comes to the wealth of the oceans—”to save some for later, to use the ocean without using it up?”
The answer to that question has more to do with people and the psychology of human decision-making than it does with fish and ecology. So, while doing field work in Curacao and Bonaire for her marine biology Ph.D., Johnson ended up designing a behavioral economics study.
Read more. [Image: Ayana Johnson]
It was a good old-fashioned Olympic scandal in Sochi, when South Korean figure skater Kim Yuna, known as “the Queen,” lost to a less experienced Russian. The judgment spurred millions of angry Tweets, and a Change.org petition protesting the result was the fastest growing one on site record—reportedly more than 1.2 million signatures in about 12 hours.
Skating officials and fans around the world have questioned the decision, but critics remain focused on the South Korean outrage, largely since their sports fanaticism has made headlines before. Diehard citizens of countries like South Korea may seem odd to some; a post on Yahoo had the misguided headline: “Deal with it, South Korea.” But this line of thinking fails to understand the nature of nationalism, an ideology strongly associated with war and extremism that is in fact a common psychological phenomenon seen in everyday life—including sports.
Read more. [Image: Vhadim Ghirda/AP Photo]