Do religious men watch more pornography?

And do they feel guilty about it?

A confessor wearing a face mask sits at the cathedral in Barcelona on May 18, 2020 amid a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

Photo by Lluis Gene / AFP via Getty Images
  • A new study at the University of Southern Alabama investigates the pornography viewing habits of religious, heterosexual men.
  • Those expressing high degrees of scrupulosity feel more guilt and shame when watching porn.
  • The researchers found no correlation with viewing frequency and religiosity, however.
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American education: It’s colleges, not college students, that are failing

Who is to blame for the U.S.'s dismal college graduation rate? "Radical" educator Dennis Littky has a hunch.

Percentage of college student dropouts by age at enrollment: 2-year and 4-year institutions

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • COVID-19 has magnified the challenges that underserved communities face with regard to higher education, such as widening social inequality and sky-high tuition.
  • At College Unbound, where I am president, we get to know students individually to understand what motivates them, so they can build a curriculum based on goals they want to achieve.
  • My teaching mantra: Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19. Everything is permitted during COVID-19.
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Parents’ brains sync up when caring for children together

New research suggests parenthood helps couples tune into each other's minds and emotional states.

  • Far from being a mental drain, parenthood seems to rewire gray matter for improved empathy and emotional regulation.
  • A recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that couples who co-parent together display similar brain activity, suggesting they become greatly attuned to each other.
  • These findings suggest time spent parenting together improves care, coordination, and empathy.
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    New study proves absence really does make the heart grow fonder

    This is one of countless studies that prove the positive impact of social connection and intimacy while highlighting the negative impact of isolation and separation.

    What happens in the human brain when we are reunited with the ones we love?

    Image by magic pictures on Shutterstock
    • New research, led by behavioral neuroscience assistant professor Zoe Donaldson explores what drives our mammalian instinct to create lasting bonds - and what exactly happens when we are apart from people we share those bonds with.
    • Studying prairie voles (who fall under the 3-5% of mammals who, along with humans, are monogamous), Donaldson and her team discovered a unique set of cluster cells that light up when reunited with a mate after a period of separation.
    • This study is just the tip of new developing research that could lead to groundbreaking new therapies for individuals who struggle with these types of connections, including people with autism, people who struggle with mood disorders, etc.
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    How to get better at empathy despite practicing social distancing

    Isolation and empathy are by no means mutually exclusive.

    Photo by Polina Zimmerman via Pexels
    Coronavirus
    • As we began prepping for isolation at home, there was a strange sense of disassociation, as if there was no need to think of or care for others and that it was everyone for themselves.
    • The pandemic, interestingly enough, put many of us in a situation of "forced empathy."
    • In reality, we are all "first responders" in the need for empathy, as countless anecdotes about inspiring acts of compassion during the pandemic attest.
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    Preparing your pet for the end of quarantine

    Someday, presumably, we'll go back to our lives. Our furry buddies will wonder where we went.

    Image source: Charles Diluvio/Unsplash
    Sex & Relationships
    • It's great we're getting to enjoy so much more time with our animals, but we may be setting them up for heartbreak.
    • Dogs and, yes, even cats may experience separation anxiety when we finally leave our homes at the end of lockdown.
    • Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has some suggestions for preparing our pets for that transition one day.

    The good thing about quarantine is that it forces us to spend more quality time with our loved ones. That includes our pets, who must be wondering why we never leave anymore. Still, all the extra contact, affection, and cuddling are probably making our pets happier than ever.

    One day, though, this will come to an end, and something resembling normal will reassert itself. Off we'll go back to our jobs, leaving our sweet companions to wonder where everyone went.

    Dog behavior specialist Janelle Metiva notes, "Most pets don't like sudden and abrupt changes. Instead, try starting now to get your pet ready and ease them back to your previously 'normal' routine more easily."

    Metiva works for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which has put together some advice on how to prepare our pets for the inevitable separation anxiety that will one day, someday, surely come. It's something to think about now, before our lockdowns end.

    We'll have to work out our own separation anxiety.

    What would this separation anxiety look like?

    Image source: BoulderPhoto/Shutterstock

    Telltale signs of separation anxiety might be:

    • Unwarranted barking, howling, or whining, particularly for longer than 30 seconds, when you leave
    • Scratching or chewing at entrances and exits, including doors and windows
    • Destructive behavior when the pet is left alone
    • Over-grooming or other self-harm or obsessive behaviors
    • A change in appetite.

    Advice for dog owners

    Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

    If only the average person were as nice as the average dog. Sigh. In any event, Metiva suggests a handful of things you can do top prepare your soft-hearted bud for your departure.

    • Create a safe, comfortable place where they can have peaceful, relaxing alone time. This could be a crate or a separate room. Just make sure it's in the quietest part of the house.
    • Provide them with enrichment that can be enjoyed independently, such as hidden treats in boxes, food puzzles, stuffed Kongs, etc.
    • Play soothing music such as reggae, smooth jazz, or classical, or turn on stations like the BBC or NPR while you're gone to keep them from being startled by outside noises. You can also try a white-noise machine.
    • Reward your dog for calm, independent behavior (especially if they're usually clingy). We tend to pay attention to dogs only when they're active or even misbehaving. They should be rewarded for being calm and chill.

    It's also a good idea to practice when you go out on an errand or for exercise. If:

    • your dog shows signs of panic, decrease the amount of time that you leave, even if for just a few seconds.
    • your dog barks or paws at the door when you leave, come back only when they're quiet.
    • your dog has trouble being alone for even brief periods of time, consult a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT) who may be able to help via a virtual consultation.

    Advice for cat owners

    Image source: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

    We wouldn't go so far as to say cats' typical seeming indifference is an act, quite, but it can be misleading — and it's exacerbated by their lack of facial expressions. They do care, and if they're often not obvious in their affection, it's no coincidence that they tend to somehow quietly always stay close by. We're not telling most cat owners something they don't already know here.

    As Best Friends' cat behavior specialist Samantha Bell puts it, "Despite stereotypes that say otherwise, many cats form very close bonds with their humans and can become quite stressed when apart." In general, she says, "Practicing confidence-building activities and having an enriching environment can help prevent this."

    Bell suggests trying the following to help your feline adjust to your absence:

    • Engage your cat with a wand toy, shown above, at least once a day. Allowing your cat the opportunity to hunt, catch and kill with an interactive toy will help build their confidence and strengthen their bond with you in the healthiest way possible.
    • Ensure that whatever adjustments you've made to their routine while you're home are sustainable when you go back to work. If you've started feeding your cats four times a day while you're home, start cutting it back to what is doable when you're not working from home.
    • If you're not already using them, introduce puzzle-feeders to your cat. Cats instinctively want to forage for their food and puzzle-feeders satisfy that instinct while providing fantastic enrichment during alone time.
    • Cats feed off from people's emotions. So, when it's time to go back to work, making a big, sad, dramatic scene as you leave is only going to make them feel more stressed. A happy, light tone, and a little treat as you leave will keep their spirits up.

    Addicted to love

    More time with our pets is for many of us a real gift, an opportunity to shower them with all the attention we don't normally have the time to bestow. We get as much out of it as they do. Love, however, also means caring about someone else's welfare. A little extra thought now can help ensure that this period of closeness leaves our animals happier even after we've gone back to our usual daily nonsense.

    Got 20 minutes? Be part of this coronavirus relationships study.

    How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect relationships? One study aims to find out. If you have 20 minutes, take the survey!

    Coronavirus
    • Psychology researchers are looking for people to participate in study about relationships during the coronavirus epidemic.
    • Anyone—regardless of sexual orientation or relationship commitment—can participate in the 20-minute survey here.
    • After the initial survey, there will be two 5-10 minutes follow-up assessments at 10-day intervals, and one final 10 to 15 minute assessment in six months time.
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