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Archive for the ‘Behavior’ Category

 

Way Too Fascinating

“What all this suggests is that the amygdalae, which are normally thought of as the brain’s “fear” centers, also actually *inhibit* panic attacks.”

“Researchers scare ‘fearless’ patients. Weird science for today. People with amygdala lesions don’t experience fear — they walk in the middle of the street because they are not afraid of getting hit by cars. But if you make them breathe air with extra carbon dioxide, which in normal people just causes them to try to breathe harder, in people with amygdala lesions causes panic attacks.”

via Researchers scare ‘fearless’ patients : Nature News & Comment.

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Social exclusion is linked to the pain regulation center of our brain.

In this study, students who received stimulation to the portion of the prefrontal cortex responsible for pain regulation didn’t seem bothered when they were deliberately excluded in a ball tossing game.

via Feelings Of Social Pain Eased By Brain Stimulation.

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Being Cruel: It’s Not Blind Obedience; There is Enthusiasm in the Act

We’ve relied on the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) and the Stanford Prison Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment) for explaining how and why ordinary people, like ourselves, can commit acts of extreme cruelty and harm. While they tell part of the story, it seems we may have overlooked other important pieces of human motivation inherent to committing cruel acts. 

A new study argues that “…tyranny does not result from blind conformity to rules and roles. Rather, it is a creative act of followership, resulting from identifying with authorities who represent vicious acts as virtuous. “Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe—typically under the influence of those in authority—that what they are doing is right,” Professor Haslam explained.”

via Human obedience: The myth of blind conformity.

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Conclusions

What can we do to encourage people to help more?

  1. Present them with a single, identifiable victim who they can help: people are more motivated to help if they can feel a personal connection with the victim.

  2. Appeal to their emotions: heightened emotional responses encourage altruistic behaviour.

  3. Instill a sense of responsibility to help, and an understanding that doing so is not futile.

via Blog: Why don’t people help others more? – part 1 | 80,000 Hours.

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P
eople aren’t really stupid.

These people are not stupid. These people were well educated and intellectually groomed. Stupid isn’t the right word for these people.

These people were susceptible. Their individual and collective egos were reaching up towards an ideal which held them as superior beings.

I proffer that this type of egoic reaction is somewhat involuntary. Many are able to resist the enticement of superiority, or worship, of self-aggrandizement, but eventually all but the rarest of creatures gives way and wallows within the hope of it.

I think it is a security vulnerability in the software of the human brain. Just as we rush to prepare patches to shore up the vulnerabilities on our technological counterparts, so, too, could we rush to prepare a patch for this paradigm shifting vulnerability which has been repeatedly exploited throughout history by those who have a clear understanding of how it works.

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As leaders ascend to more powerful positions in their groups, they face ever-increasing demands. This has given rise to the common perception that leaders have higher stress levels than non-leaders. But if leaders also experience a heightened sense of control—a psychological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects—leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels. Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials, we found that, compared to non-leaders, leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower reports of anxiety (Study 1). In a second study, leaders holding more powerful positions exhibited lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than leaders holding less powerful positions, a relationship explained significantly by their greater sense of control. Altogether, these findings reveal a clear relationship between leadership and stress, with leadership level being inversely related to stress.

via Leadership Is Associated with Lower Levels of Stress – Article – Harvard Business School.

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“The beginning of a beautiful friendship? In some interspecies relationships, ants “tend” to a single caterpillar, preventing it from being attacked by predators. In return for such protection services, they are rewarded with the larva’s sugary secretions. New research has now shown that the rate of evolution in a mutualistic relationship does not depend only on the type of interactions, but also on the number of individuals involved.

The relationship between species determines how rapidly they evolve. Parasites and their hosts coevolve more rapidly, and partners in a mutualistic relationship can evolve more slowly. But this view is obviously too simplistic. The rate of evolution in a mutualistic relationship does not depend only on the type of interactions, but also on the number of individuals involved, according to a model developed by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany. Therefore, while partners can benefit from slow evolution if only two individuals interact, a higher rate of evolution may be favoured if several individuals are involved.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-relationships-based-mutuality-individuals-involved.html#jCp

via In relationships based on mutuality, number of individuals involved can determine rate at which species evolve.

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Changing/Choosing the Type of Ant Is Easy
(by manipulating simple chemicals during egg growth)

A facebook page entitled simply “Evolution” explains it thus: 
Is the reality of Captain America still far off? Putting it simply, yes. However, manipulating genes can unleash the ‘Super Soldier’ inside Ants

.

Ants are famous for their teamwork, living in vast colonies in nests of fantastic sizes, with one colony in Australia even measuring 100km wide. The level of cooperation and organisation within colonies is incredibly complex with it often being likened to human organisation and as such is often studied as a base model to increase efficiency of human systems. 

This organisation relies on a number of key types or “castes” of ant as they are often called. Workers and soldiers continuously work to protect and feed their Queen, but some species also rely on a caste of ant known as ‘supersoldiers’. These ants protect the Queen by blocking the entrance to the colonies nest with their abnormally large heads.

Usually the caste of an ant is decided by the environment the egg grows in. Tiny changes to factors, such as temperature and nutrition, affect the individuals purpose within the colony. Dr. Abouheif and his team, from McGill University in Montreal, have discovered that the caste of an ant can be changed by altering the concentration of juvenile hormone in the egg.

This was tested in a number of species and even found that many species that didn’t naturally have the ‘supersoldier’ caste could produce this type of ant with the right amount of juvenile hormone added to an egg, at the right stage of development. The fact that species without the caste can naturally have it induced in them shows that organisms with common ancestors can be commonly affected to produce evolutionary significant changes, all through the interplay of relatively simple chemicals. 

This could mean that if similar relationships are found within other organisms, we could easily manipulate them to produce fantastic benefits for human kind such as fast growing and breeding crops in harsh conditions, which would help to end world hunger or if we could learn to reverse these relationships we may be able to reverse the rapid growth of cancerous cells potentially, curing one of the most deadly diseases known to man. JB

Abouheif, E. et al., 2012. Ancestral Developmental Potential Facilitates Parallel Evolution in Ants. Science, 335 (6064) pp. 79-82.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3561352.stm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/16424096

via BBC Nature – Ants turned into ‘supersoldiers’.

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“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems—from God to atoms to evolution—they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

“When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”

via People merge supernatural and scientific beliefs when reasoning with the unknown, study shows.

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Ideally, your immune system should operate like an enlightened action hero, meting out inflammation precisely, accurately and with deadly force when necessary, but then quickly returning to a Zen-like calm. Doing so requires an optimal balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory muscle.

In autistic individuals, the immune system fails at this balancing act. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate. A state of chronic activation prevails. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

 

via Immune Disorders and Autism.

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Mice, constantly stressed by changing their cage composition during adolescence, exhibit anxiety and poor social interactions throughout adulthood. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

This stress was especially prominent in fema

le mice who were stressed in this way. The experiment then proceeded using only the stressed male mice.

And then, along comes this oddity:

The male mouse, when mated with a non-stressed female mouse, passes on the excessive anxiety to *only* his female offspring. Not only that, but his (non-stressed) sons pass it on again, in their own female offspring.

It seems there is a little understood biochemical change in the male’s sperm taking place.

via Male mice exposed to chronic social stress have anxious female offspring.

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“To extract this information, the researchers rely on what’s known as the P300 response — a very specific brainwave pattern (pictured right) that occurs when you recognize something that is meaningful (a person’s face), or when you recognize something that fits your current task (a hammer in the shed). The researchers basically designed a program that flashes up pictures of maps, banks, and card PINs, and makes a note every time your brain experiences a P300. Afterwards, it’s easy to pore through the data and work out — with fairly good accuracy — where a person banks, where they live, and so on.

In a real-world scenario, the researchers foresee a game that is specially tailored by hackers to extract sensitive information from your brain — or perhaps an attack vector that also uses social engineering to lull you into a false sense of security.”

via Hackers backdoor the human brain, successfully extract sensitive data.

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This looks about as awesome as it gets. This free course begins in January 2013. I’ve signed up and cannot wait!

via Neuroethics | Coursera.

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My summary:

Decisions made in private tend toward the selfish, while decisions made under the eyes of the group tend to be more beneficial for all. An interesting note is that the larger the group, the more likely the decision would be beneficent.

I have to wonder about this, and other studies supporting the same outcomes, with regards to the virtual community, or group, we have created via our social networking sites and groups. Although it is a recent phenomena, the use of software for data collection, mining and statistical analysis shouldn’t require much time.

Abstract

Are selfish impulses less likely to be pursued when decisions are publicly observable? Is the presence of peers a potential solution to social dilemmas? In this paper we report data on the self-control decisions of children aged 6 to 11 who participated in games that require one to resist a selfish impulse for several minutes in order to benefit others. In Public Condition children make decisions in public view of the group of other participants, while in Private Condition they have the possibility to decide privately. We find that children aged 9 and higher are better able to resist selfish impulses in public environments. Younger children, however, display no such effect. Further, we find self-control substantially impacted by group size. When decisions are public, self-control is better in larger groups, while in private condition the opposite holds.

via PLoS ONE: Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from Children’s Behavior.

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Get ready. Here comes authentic, and somewhat simple, mind control. Really.

For the first time, scientists have been able to affect the behavior of a primate using optogenetics—a technique by which genetically modified neurons are made to fire with light.

via Scientists Control Monkeys’ Brains with Light – Technology Review.

via Scientists Control Monkeys’ Brains with Light – Technology Review.

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