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"Republican Brains" And "Liberal Genes" Can't Explain America's About-Face on Gay Marriage
How, our grandchildren will ask, did we come to marriage equality in the United States? And we'll answer, like Hemingway's Mike Campbell: "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly." We can grasp Gradually, the speed we Americans are taught to expect (a government of checks and balances and all that). Suddenly, though, is a bit of a shock to our sense of how the world works. That kind of change is a reminder that people aren't nearly as consistent and predictable as we'd like to think. This is a problem, not just for common-sense notions of what it means to be conservative or liberal, but for scientific attempts to explain politics in terms of personality, brain function or genetics. Such theories promote the notion that conservative or liberal approaches to life are derived from innate, unchanging traits. If they're correct, how is it that people can and do change their politics?
The politics-as-personality line is a useful corrective to the rationalist fiction that we consciously choose our political positions by evaluating evidence and reasoning from principles. The new theories grapple with the fact that political behavior isn't completely under conscious control—that it can emerge from aspects of the self of which we are completely unaware. For example, Jonathan Haidt's work on differences between liberal, conservative and libertarian orientation found that liberals have consistently different moral intuitions than do conservatives—liberals valuing fairness and reciprocity far more than conservatives, and conservatives conversely valuing purity and sanctity far more than liberals. Since Haidt argues, for good reason, that these intuitions are not subject to choice or control, he's arguing that people's politics stem at least in part from the way they are built.
You can read a lot of other versions of this claim in most newsfeeds nowadays. For example, this study found that people who with a stronger involuntary startle reflex were more likely to hold that the Bible is literally true and that the Pentagon budget should increase. On the other hand, people who startled less intensely were more likely to support abortion rights, openness to immigration and marriage equality for gay people.
And this paper reports a difference in the way liberals and conservatives respond to the sight of someone looking off to the side—liberals were more likely to follow the gaze, while conservatives were not nearly as influenced by it. And this one found that conservative positions, especially against immigration and outsider groups, correlated with a more fearful disposition. Then there's this paper, which found that liberals and conservatives, performing a task that involved risk, did not use the same brain regions to the same extent (conservatives had more activation in the amygdala, which is involved in circuits that get busy in response to threats and surprises, while liberals had more activity in the left insula, which is thought to be involved in self-monitoring). Journalists like me seem to love this stuff. The latter two studies, for example, were trumpeted by Chris Mooney here, where he wrote that they "go straight at the role of genes and the brain in shaping our views, and even our votes."
The scientists involved in these studies are usually more cautious, noting that they have found correlations, not a causal arrow. They aren't saying that having a robust startle reflex makes you conservative. But some are willing to argue that there's an important alignment between politics and one's fundamental personality. (If they aren't claiming that, after all, then all they're left with is a claim that conservatives and liberals are different, which is trivial.)
Which brings us back to marriage equality. If our political positions depend in some important way on the way we're wired, then what will explain major changes in our political positions? How can it explain an American public that, according to the polls, has gone in seven years from opposing same-sex marriage 70-30 to supporting it by 51-42?
Some political issues pose less of a problem for innate-nature theories because they can be spun in many ways. For example, you can call opposition to fracking "support for our way of life" (purity and sanctity) or "protecting the food chain we all depend upon" (fairness). But same-sex marriage is an emotional issue that touches on people's sense of their own identity—who we are as a nation—and on their definition of what is moral. If you are one of many people who has "evolved" like President Obama on this issue, then you definitely moved. You can't frame it so it looks like you were standing still. If politics is rooted in biology, how is that change possible?
A few weeks ago, at this event, I asked Haidt a version of that question. His answer basically predicted the Portman narrative of a few weeks later. What was causing a change of heart about the marriage issue, he said, was personal experience. With fewer gays hiding in the closet over the past few decades, more and more straight Americans came to see the issue in personal terms. Like Senator Rob Portman, whose mind was changed because his son is gay, people came to view the marriage issue not as an abstract question about society but as an problem facing their friend or classmate or work colleague or cousin or child.
In addition to the genuine personal contact made possible by the hard work of gay activists to make the community visible, there was also the pseudo-personal contact of pop culture: Gay people on TV, in movies, in books and magazines, being sympathetic.
I think Haidt is arguing that fellow-feeling was what changed the emotional calculus for conservatives—that once gay men and lesbians are seen as "people like us," marriage equality is no longer felt as a violation of purity and of authority. It ceases to be the admission of alien "Them" into a tradition that's sacred to "Us." Because gay people are part of "Us" too.
Well, maybe. This point of view certainly seems like it could account for gradual changes in social attitudes. You can imagining such change as a kind of positive feedback loop (more openness about gay life leading to more awareness that it's not alien and weird, leading to more acceptance, leading to more openness, and so on and up).
But there's still the mystery of sudden change, in the midst of which we sit, astonished. Republican senators are lining up to say they are for marriage equality. Rush Limbaugh calls it "inevitable." Something is happening now that is not the gradual shifting of reflexes or amygdala activation or gene expression. It doesn't feel like biology, with its slow and partial squishing and squashing toward change. This feels like a light being switched on (or, if you are on the other side, off). How do we explain that? The science of political behavior, so rich in theories about why people are left or right, needs to pay more attention to why people move left or right.
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Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.