VR experiments manipulate how people feel about coffee

A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.

Credit: Escobar / Petit / Velasco, Frontiers in Psychology
  • Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
  • In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
  • The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.
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Is empathy always good?

Research has shown how important empathy is to relationships, but there are limits to its power.

  • Empathy is a useful tool that allows humans (and other species) to connect and form mutually beneficial bonds, but knowing how and when to be empathic is just as important as having empathy.
  • Filmmaker Danfung Dennis, Bill Nye, and actor Alan Alda discuss the science of empathy and the ways that the ability can be cultivated and practiced to affect meaningful change, both on a personal and community level.
  • But empathy is not a cure all. Paul Bloom explains the psychological differences between empathy and compassion, and how the former can "get in the way" of some of life's crucial relationships.
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The great free will debate

Philosophers, theoretical physicists, psychologists, and others consider what or who is really in control.

  • What does it mean to have—or not have—free will? Were the actions of mass murderers pre-determined billions of years ago? Do brain processes trump personal responsibility? Can experiments prove that free will is an illusion?
  • Bill Nye, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Michio Kaku, Robert Sapolsky, and others approach the topic from their unique fields and illustrate how complex and layered the free will debate is.
  • From Newtonian determinism, to brain chemistry, to a Dennett thought experiment, explore the arguments that make up the free will landscape.

Are geniuses real? The neuroscience and myths of visionaries

Labeling thinkers like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs as "other" may be stifling humanity's creative potential.

  • Revolutionary ideas and culture-shifting inventions are often credited to specific individuals, but how often do these "geniuses" actually operate in creative silos?
  • Tim Sanders, former chief strategy officer at Yahoo, argues that there are three myths getting in the way of innovative ideas and productive collaborations: the myths of the expert, the eureka moment, and the "lone inventor."
  • More than an innate quality reserved for an elite group, neuroscientist Heather Berlin and neurobiologist Joy Hirsch explain how creativity looks in the brain, and how given opportunity, resources, and attitude, we can all be like Bach, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs.

Mindfulness may cause the human brain to transcend racial biases

The present-moment awareness that stems from mindfulness practices may be the cost-effective tool that our society needs.

Credit: David Ryder/Getty Images
  • Mindfulness practices may lead to the human brain's transcendence of previously established associations that lead to racial biases.
  • A mindfulness-based program, which has a myriad of benefits, may be more effective than a specific racial bias training program and may benefit BIPOC youth and police officers alike.
  • Professionally known as Director X, Julien Christian Lutz of the Toronto-based mindfulness organization Operation Prefrontal Cortex believes that many young people that identify as BIPOC lash out violently due to past traumas, the hopelessness that they experience in the face of systemic racism, and other stressors that mindfulness can alleviate.
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