Wednesday, June 11, 2014
By Roger Scruton JANUARY 25, 2012
Biology determines our behaviour more than it suits many to acknowledge. But people—and politics and morality—cannot be described just by neural impulses
Incognito by David Eagleman (Canongate, £20)
You and Me: the Neuroscience of Identity by Susan Greenfield (Notting Hill Editions, £10)
The answer given by evolutionary psychologists is that culture is an adaptation, which exists because it conferred a reproductive advantage on our hunter-gatherer ancestors. According to this view many of the diverse customs that the standard social science model attributes to nurture are local variations of attributes acquired 70 or more millennia ago, during the Pleistocene age, and now (like other evolutionary adaptations) “hard-wired in the brain.” But if this is so, cultural characteristics may not be as plastic as the social scientists suggest. There are features of the human condition, such as gender roles, that people have believed to be cultural and therefore changeable. But if culture is an aspect of nature, “cultural” does not mean “changeable.” Maybe these controversial features of human culture are part of the genetic endowment of human kind.
Monday, June 09, 2014
By John Coates, NY Times 6/7/14
SIX years after the financial meltdown there is once again talk about market bubbles. Are stocks succumbing to exuberance? Is real estate? We thought we had exorcised these demons. It is therefore with something close to despair that we ask: What is it about risk taking that so eludes our understanding, and our control?
Part of the problem is that we tend to view financial risk taking as a purely intellectual activity. But this view is incomplete. Risk is more than an intellectual puzzle — it is a profoundly physical experience, and it involves your body. Risk by its very nature threatens to hurt you, so when confronted by it your body and brain, under the influence of the stress response, unite as a single functioning unit. This occurs in athletes and soldiers, and it occurs as well in traders and people investing from home. The state of your body predicts your appetite for financial risk just as it predicts an athlete’s performance.
If we understand how a person’s body influences risk taking, we can learn how to better manage risk takers. We can also recognize that mistakes governments have made have contributed to excessive risk taking.
Tuesday, June 03, 2014
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When electrical pulses are applied to the ventral tegmental area of their brain, macaques presented with two images change their preference from one image to the other. The study by researchers Wim Vanduffel and John Arsenault (KU Leuven and Massachusetts General Hospital) is the first to confirm a causal link between activity in the ventral tegmental area and choice behaviour in primates.
Monday, June 02, 2014
By SANFORD E. DeVOEIN recent years we have seen plenty of studies of the impact of fast food on our bodies. But what about our psychological health?
It stands to reason that fast food would have an effect on our mental state. From its production to its consumption, fast food both embodies and symbolizes speed and instant gratification. Moreover, through extensive franchising and large advertising budgets, fast-food companies shape many of the cues in our everyday environment.
Sunday, June 01, 2014
Casa Amadeo on Prospect Avenue, a Latin record store on the National Register of Historic Places, is perhaps the only place in the city where one can worship at a shrine dedicated to the Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernández.
On a recent Saturday, Miguel Angel Amadeo told the tale of his shop’s beginnings in East Harlem, its move to the Bronx and Mr. Amadeo’s reign as owner, cultural arbiter and link to politicians, salsa legends and historians since 1969.