Murder in a Locked Room:

In a paradox worthy of Greek tragedy, the fortified cockpit door to Germanwings Flight 9525 invited the mass murder it was meant to prevent. Can we make sense of a co-pilot’s rampage?

When Love Kills

In 1850s Rome, cloistered nuns got entangled in fraud, murder, sexual hijinks, and what the investigators “false holiness.” The Inquisition kept the scandal buried until 1998. Now the story’s out and it has much to tell us about love, hero-worship, crime, and neoteny.

Deadly Rescue

The “American Sniper” phenomenon is breaking box office records. It's not just a war movie. The publicity machine is cranking, but something doesn’t feel right. What does it mean to “snipe” anyway? And why should a sniper-hero fascinate us? And for that matter, why do we have so much trouble thinking about it?

Killing the Cartoon

It’s useful to see terrorists not as freaks but as emergency versions of everybody’s effort to substantiate an identity and get real. The terrorists in Paris shared many characteristics of rampage killers in the US, but they also have much to tell us about the self under stress, including our own.

Killing Me Softly:

The turmoil over killing innocents isn’t just about cops and race. Have you noticed that the structure of power in America is changing and it's affecting you? From work to entertainment, stress is rising. You can't change what you don't see.

Guilty Games

Guilt is painful. It attacks your self-esteem and trust in the world. Even police, enforcers of the law, behave like children when found guilty. They feel sorry for themselves and blame the victim. Protests against police killing are necessary but may harden police denial. It takes a tragic sense of the limited, conflicted creatures we are to come to terms with guilt

The Child and the Monster

Under stress, with no time for reasoning, police trust to "instinct" and "training" that may be deceptive or even disastrous. To understand police killings, we need a psychology of abandon.

The Placebo Diet

The paleo diet holds that our bodies are out of sync with modern food, with overweight and many degenerative diseases as a consequence. Though it's scientifically dubious, some say the paleo diet really works. How can that be?

Ebola and the Vaccine Effect

Encountering threats, we’re often vaccinating ourselves. Bad news spurs us to imagine how we could avoid such a fate. Consciously or not, we’re testing the threat, discounting it, taking it apart, desensitizing ourselves. In the process, we’re building up defenses against it as antibodies do. In the wisdom of slang, we’re building up our “resistance.”

Who Can You Trust?

What should we make of a poll showing that trust among Americans is declining? It's a deceptive conflict, yet it involves every aspect of our lives.

Soft Porn in Makeup

The best-seller soft porn novel Fifty Shades of Grey disguises all sorts of conflicts that haunt us from childhood to five minutes ago

The Romance Plot

Romance is a shelf of stories. To make sense of the new ones you need to dust off the old ones and see what they were actually saying.

Average Terror

In hero-worship we attribute wishful powers to a leader or a lover in hopes that they can protect us. When heroes abuse you and hero-worship starts turning into self-hatred, it's time for a fresh look at the flip side: the terror of the average life.

If Words Were Money

An important new study sheds light on what's in your wallet. Yet the words we use to think about financial behavior are so tame you might miss the implications.

Your Cheatin' Heart

Research shows that cheaters in experiments unexpectedly feel not guilty, but "the cheater's high." Cheating is a lot more familiar than the experiments suggest. It can be more innocent and more tragic than you think.

The Scapegoat Cure

Everybody loves to scold bullies. But in picking on scapegoats, bullies are also being bullied by tyrannical self-esteem, even as they boast about their total freedom. It's hilarious—when it doesn't leave bloodstains.

Beastly Love

Nature films can make you feel lost in the cosmic wilderness. Or you can step into the footsteps—or hoofsteps—of other creatures and feel affection that's hard to put into words: sharing the strangeness of being alive.

The Parasites and the Doctors

We love animals, but we also see them as slaves, meat, and money. In the news a scofflaw rancher is threatening a shootout with the Feds to "save his herd." Meanwhile a low budget TV show about rural veterinarians, "The Amazing Dr Pol," reminds you that animals are mysteriously personal and not everything is fake.

The Threat Workout

It's the age of electronic communication. The air is swarming with opinion. If you listen closely to the everyday chatter, you hear people trying to compete with advertising and other violent hype. It's a breathless workout, trying to keep you pumped up. Are you up for it?

Straight Talk about Cannibals

We start out feeding on mother's milk, and we go through life consuming each other's energy and qualities. The behavior is all around us, usually mutual, and as a rule we know when to stop. But not always. When appetites run amok, it scares us—and it should.

If Seasons Could Talk: Scrooge, Sex, and Selfies

Thinking in terms of seasonal moods such as "winter blues" can reveal unexpected themes and relationships in you and the world around you.

If Tattoos Could Talk

There's more to a tattoo than meets the eye, especially when young people in mainstream America choose to display a ferocious beast..

"You Should Die"

Ambivalence is built into you, me, and American culture. Attempts to escape from it may create bullies and headline deaths.

Banishing Childhood Nightmares

Nightmares seem alien and uncontrollable. One way to cope with nightmare panic is to help the child take charge of her waking self again, focusing first on basic creaturely motives such as her individual propensity to fight or flight.

Little Red Riding Hound

Reports show that in the course of criminal investigations, police kill hundreds of dogs every year, some of them pets. Here's one of those trivial factoids that open up profound questions. What are these targeted mutts telling us about us? (The dog in the photo is only play-acting.)

Moral Aggression and Abandon

Moral aggression and abandon are cultural fantasies so familiar they often go unnoticed, but they can create a mentality that kills, as in the hair-trigger encounter of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

Nostalgia and the Ability to Mourn

More than a bitter-sweet evocation of the past, nostalgia can be an expression of the ability to cope with death and loss, yours and mine included. It's not just something that happens to you: It's a creative act.

The Paranoia Diet

We often agonize over which healthy foods to take in on the flimsiest information, yet we're taking in all sorts of information at every moment without always considering whether it's good for us.

Let Us Prey

Recent surveys show that many employers use tricks and coercion to cheat low-wage workers. As it happens, labor's share of profits is the lowest it's been since the 1960s, with most wages stagnant for several decades. It's an economic and moral problem, but it's also a reflection of the deep conflicts in how we're built.

You Deserve a Rap(e) Today:

Terrorism and rampage killing participate in the hidden logic of advertising, politics, preaching, and more.