What Percentage of Your Brain do You Use?

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The Key to Self-Esteem? Accomplishment

For decades now it has been the custom for educators to make kids feel good about themselves for no particular reason. This practice, which is not backed by any evidence, is based on the premise that high self-esteem leads to high achievement. Accordingly participants in spelling bees and sporting events all come away with trophies so that no one feels bad about not measuring up.  read more …

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10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

PT POstAfter leading IBM for six decades Thomas Watson Jr. was asked what lessons he had learned from making bad decisions. “Good judgment,” he said, “comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.”

His adage illustrates that error is a powerful teacher. The human brain learns best by monitoring its mistakes and trying not to repeat them. But what if one never learned certain lessons to begin with? Read more at The Fallible Mind

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Why Millennials Can’t Anticipate

Helicopter parents prevent children from coping with setbacks and disappointment.  People in their 20s do not consider themselves adults.

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Deterrence: Bad Feelings Motivate Us More Than Pleasant Ones

For a long time we’ve known that we’re far more sensitive to negative feelings than to pleasant ones. In gambling language the rule of deterrence might be stated as, “The fear of losing outweighs the pleasure of gains.” The pain of loss is quantitatively about double the pleasure we experience from reward. The psychological name for this deterrence is “loss aversion.” Loss aversion is not a flaw. Extensive research shows it to result from the very way our brain is structured. Once the evolving brain hit upon a really useful program it burned it down to the level of our DNA. Fear of loss is highly instructive, and error a powerful teacher, and so we learn not to court its pain.

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Shielding Kids from Hard Truths Hurts Rther than Helps

Well-meaning parents try to shield their kids from unpleasant facts, assuming that tough details of reality will upset their children and inflict harm. But evidence to the contrary shows how mistaken they are.

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Sleep: The Clean-Up Crew of a Dirty Mind

sleep_MRI ActiveWhen you throw a party, you don’t clean up until everyone’s gone home. Sleep is a VERY active state, not passive at all.The brain parties every moment you are awake. While it’s being lively it makes a mess, like partiers everywhere. A good night’s sleep literally clears your head. All living cells metabolize energy. As they burn fuel they leave behind residue and toxic wastes—the equivalent of empty glasses, smelly ashtrays, and dirty dishes that a host must face when the action is over and things have died down …


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What color is Tuesday? Exploring synesthesia

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Making a TED-Ed lesson: Synesthesia and Playing Cards

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Death: Lessons for Patient and Physicain in the Art of Dying and the End of Life

Death is a topic avoided by both patient and physician. “We did everything we could” has typically come to mean that we’ve done more than we should.

Here is a feature essay in The Washingtonian Magazine about  how I teach student doctors Lessons in the Art of Death and Dying at George Washington University Medical School.

Death, Dying, Compassion, end of life

In my dad’s day, doctors knew how to comfort the sick. I had to feel my way through his teachings.

In the 1950s I went with my father on house calls. Nearly every home seemed to have a sick room, and an invalid in need of comfort. In the 1970s no one taught me how to handle fraught, terrifying situations at the end of life. Today, a majority of Americans die alone in hospitals and nursing homes, out of view. The blessing of a peaceful death is something too few people experience. The best way to die is in the room of your choice, surrounded by people of your choice, holding the hand of your choice.

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The Next America

The Next America“Generations are more different from each other now than at any time in living memory. The multigenerational household now sees boomers and boomerangers living under the same roof as they once did in the 1940s and 1950s.” Read Review

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Touched by The Moon

People sleep fitfully during the full moon. Other things happen, too.  Folklore claims that the full moon affects people, yet a lunar influence on human affairs has never been shown—until now. Sleep and subjective well-being do respond to lunar cycles, and there appears to be a second, monthly, clock in the brain besides the familiar circadian one.


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Does Fish Oil Help the Brain?

From “The Fallible Mind” @ Psychology Today.

Fish beats fowl if you want to feed your brain cells.

Fish beats fowl if you want to feed your brain cells

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Transformed_Transformed_MindwiseFrom The New York Journal of Books. Even though Americans’ desire to read minds vies with that for time travel, Nicholas Epley’s Mindwise is not a book about telepathy, ESP, or psychic reading. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion actually asked citizens what superpowers they’d like to have. Even so, Mindwise will not disappoint.

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Anything That Moves

Transformed_Anything that Moves. . . that works out to a hell of a lot of insect parts we are already eating without knowing it.”

Eighty percent of the world eats bugs. Four–fifths of the animal species on earth is insects, but insects one might eat that are highly nutritious are nearly impossible to find.

Your reaction to this factoid is either “yuck!” or “That’s interesting.” If the latter, then Dana Goodyear’s book is for you.

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The Last Time I Died

My review in The New York Journal of Books.  Some books tell us more about the publishing industry than they do about the book in question. Joe Nelms’ debut novel appears to illustrates this trend in which publishers plow their resources into making a book a hit.

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The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew

My review in The New York Journal of Books“We are not observers on the outside looking in. We are on the inside too.”

Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman—who also in this book shows himself to be a gifted essayist—has written not so much about cosmology as his title might imply but about our direct, subjective experience with it. We and the universe are engaged in a grand dance.

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