There has been much debate over which generation, exactly, is the “Me” generation. Is it Millennials? Is it Baby Boomers? People have been taking selfies for pretty much as long as there have been cameras, after all. And painting them before that. There have always been and will always be narcissists, and, seemingly, we will always be horrified by their entitlement. But if there are generational differences in narcissism, a new study published in Psychological Science suggests that they might be attributable to the economy.
"It would scare me to death to have him work there."
Terry Monkaba is talking about her son Ben, and the prospect of him finding a job at a Las Vegas casino. Many parents might feel that way, but Monkaba’s anxiety goes deeper. That’s because Ben, 28, has Williams Syndrome.
Once called “cocktail personality syndrome,” Williams Syndrome—particularly as it affects children—has captivated science writers for the past decade. In 2008’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks describes visiting Berkshire Hills Music Academy, where he was immediately received by unusually friendly children. “They all seemed extraordinarily sociable and inquisitive,” he writes, “and though I had met none of these campers before, they instantly greeted me in the most friendly and familiar way—I could have been an old friend or an uncle, rather than a stranger.”
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]