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Can Reflecting On Death Make You More Altruistic?
When presented with our own mortality, we become more giving, and happier as a result.
Death comes for us all in time, and that notion is quite terrifying. One group of researchers recently found that when people approach certain birthday milestones, there tends to be a spike in life-altering decisions from running a marathon to having an affair. But there's another way to feel good and stave off those feelings of death: through giving.
Charles Dickens' Scrooge is the poster child for this effect. In realizing his own life would come to an end some day, he changed his ways and became more giving (and happier because of it). Tom Jacobs from Pacific Standard writes on a recent study that revisits the Scrooge phenomena and explains how awareness of our finite time on this Earth can prompt altruistic behavior in us all.
Researchers out of Poland write in their study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology:
"Acting pro-socially in the face of mortality thoughts effectively soothes death anxiety, and in turn produces psychological satisfaction.”
The scientific term for this behavior is “terror management theory,” and it's defined as how “people deal with the potential for anxiety that results from the knowledge of the inevitability of death by holding on to sources of value that exist within their cultural worldview.” In short, people will attempt to transcend death by creating something that will live on after they've died by contributing to a cause and doing good works or believing in an afterlife.
So, what about us average Joes? The researchers tested this theory on a group of students, asking one group of participants to fill out a "fear of death" questionnaire, while another group filled out a questionnaire about dental-pain anxiety.
After completing their questionnaires, the participants spent some time distracting themselves with a short crossword puzzle. The students were then presented with two envelopes labeled “Me” and “Player Two.” They were told to divide 30 Polish zlotys (about $8) between the envelopes. To raise the stakes, participants were also told that one-third of participants would "receive real payoffs after the study."
Not only did people who were prompted with thoughts of death put more into the “Player Two” envelope, but also researchers write that they "derived higher joy from giving more."
The researchers concluded in their paper “that acting pro-socially in the face of mortality thoughts effectively soothes death anxiety and in turn produces psychological satisfaction.”
Read more at Pacific Standard.
Photo Credit: Matthias Ripp / Flickr
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.