Can VR help us understand layers of oppression?

Researchers are using technology to make visual the complex concepts of racism, as well as its political and social consequences.

  • Often thought of first as gaming tech, virtual reality has been increasingly used in research as a tool for mimicking real-life scenarios and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America's political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to "walk a mile" in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
  • Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these "interwoven oppressions" continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. "I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness," she says. "And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you...it's not so much about the interpersonal 'Do I feel bad, do I like you?'—it's more 'Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'"
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The psychology of narcissism explained

According to a licensed clinical psychologist, we need to change the way we define narcissism in order to recognize it more clearly for what it really is.

  • Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. It is characterized as a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of self.
  • According to the most recent data, narcissistic personality disorder isn't as common as we think, impacting an estimated 1 percent of our population. The confusion lies in how we define the disorder compared to other narcissistic personality traits.
  • Dr. Ramani Durvasula explains that we need a clearer definition of what this disorder is in order to recognize it in our society.
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The psychology of psychopathy: An inside look at the psychopathic brain

A 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison study was the first of it's kind to show structural differences in the psychopathic brain.

Credit: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory / Big Think
  • According to a 2017 study led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, psychopaths have reduced connections in the areas of the brain that control fear, anxiety, empathy and sentimentality.
  • Psychopathy is typically diagnosed using a 20-item checklist called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
  • Psychopathic tendencies could be considered "warning signs" of psychopathy, but it's important to note that not everyone who shows psychopathic tendencies becomes a psychopath.
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Inside the brains of psychopaths

Three scientists examine three dimensions of psychopathy: neurological, social, and criminal.

  • How are the brains of psychopaths wired differently? In this video, psychologist Kevin Dutton, neuroscientist (and psychopath himself) James Fallon, and professor of psychiatry Michael Stone take the wiring apart.
  • In neurotypical people, the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex inhibit one another to allow for reasonable, moral decision-making. Psychopaths don't have that mechanism.
  • Up to 80% of who a psychopath will turn out to be is down to environment. Intelligence, natural aggressiveness, and your family and friends determine whether a psychopath will grow up to make a killing or just "make a killing in the market," as a famous headline once said.
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The benefits of a good apology and how to make one

A good apology can do great things. A bad one can cause trouble. Know the difference.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
  • No one likes to admit they were wrong, but we still have social norms that suggest we all do it from time to time.
  • A well done apology can show respect, build trust, save relationships, and maintain your self-esteem.
  • Saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" does not count.
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