Why a Dog Means So Much (for Mel)

The close relationship between humans and dogs is something of an evolutionary mystery. Is the dog a slave, or a parasite? Have we adapted them to our purposes, or have they exploited us for free food and shelter? Either way, we are so close it can hurt.

A Society Without Marriage?

The Mosuo people of south west China do not marry and fathers do not live with, or support, children. Do the Mosuo anticipate a global future where no one marries?

Why Is Mississippi More Religious Than New Hampshire?

New Hampshire is the least religious state in the union and Mississippi is the most religious according to Gallup data. A minority of New Hampshire residents see religion as being important in their daily lives (46 percent) in contrast to a large majority of Mississippians (85 percent). How can such huge differences be explained?

Is Religion Any Use?

Rival religions expend a great deal of effort in magnifying minor differences between them. Yet, the major world religions fulfill similar functions and endorse analogous codes of conduct. They may also provide similar emotional and practical advantages.

Who Deserves Our Respect?

Most of us sometimes feel under appreciated by colleagues, friends and family members Yet, it is by no means clear who deserves respect, or why. A lot of respect is badly misplaced in powerful people, in the rich, and even in talented people.

Secrets of Marriage That Lasts

In earlier generations, most people married and they remained married to the same person for life. Yet, that kind of marital stability may be artificial. We are moving towards a future of increasingly fragile marriages. So what does it take for a marriage that goes the distance?

Should We Care If Marriage Disappears?

Marriage is on the way out in Europe but is slightly more resilient in this country—at least for the middle class. What would it mean for our society if couples stopped marrying?

Accounting for Sick Religions

I mostly emphasize the potential for positive effects of religion on the individual. After all, if religion made life more difficult, why would it crop up in virtually every society? Yet, religious people often shoot themselves in the foot with their choice of damaging practices.

The Female Breadwinner: What It Means

A recent Pew Research Center study found that 40 percent of breadwinners in homes with at least one child are women. This is a disparate group consisting of single mothers and married women who earn more than their husbands. What does this say about American families today? What does it suggest about families of the future?

Why Some People Are Drug Addicts

We know that addicts lose control over their lives and that they would as soon give up breathing as stop using their preferred substance/s. Yet, the critical question of why one member of an adolescent peer group becomes an addict and the others do not remains open.

Reasons for the Surge in Births to Single Women

Throughout Europe, births to single mothers more than doubled between 1990 and 2010 (from 17.4 to 38.3 percent). Imagine if it were to increase at the same rate for the next two decades! Such rapid changes are very unusual historically. They cry out for explanation from social scientists.

Atheism to Replace Religion by 2041: The Facts

This story was recently taken up by the Guardian Express and International Business Times who responded to a prediction from my book Why Atheism will Replace Religion. Unfortunately these writers made mistakes. I want to correct some of those errors and clarify the actual claim about whether religion will disappear.

Can One Tell the Difference Between Religion and a Con Game?

The human propensity to believe the improbable keeps church doors open. It is also the reason that confidence tricksters live well. Perhaps prophets are merely con men who specialize in the spiritual. There are two ways to test out this idea. First, are mainstream religions founded by con men? Second, if one were to set up a fake religion, would it get exposed?

Success Means Never Having to Say You Are Sorry

The psychology of successful people recently took a hit from researchers. From drivers of sports cars who break the lights to wealthy business people pigging out on the company dime, successful selfishness has an ugly face.

Work Habits Versus Creative Flow

Most of us are creatures of strong habits. They fill our day with customary activities and familiar faces. Habits help us to survive and thrive by reducing risks. The problem is that they might choke off spontaneity, or “flow.”

Can Creativity Be Boosted?

Most highly creative people are not crazy and they solve the practical problems of life much better than people who are mentally ill can. Yet, there is an overlap in sensibility between what English poet Alexander Pope called “great wits” and madness.

The Costs of Sexiness

The news that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy got a lot of attention. Both beauty and cancer are produced by sex hormones. Perhaps there is a biological tradeoff between exceptional beauty and health.

Do Americans Eat More Than Hunter Gatherers?

In an era of super-size meals, and high-calorie foods, it might seem obvious that overweight Americans eat far more than scrawny hunter gatherers. The truth is surprising. Americans eat far less per pound body weight. Obesity may have little to do with diet.

Don't Blame the Weather for Your Moods

Short winter days depress some individuals and bad weather gives most of us cabin fever. Yet, the weather has little to do with happiness overall. The well-known pattern of summertime riots may have little to do with heat-related irritability. Like everyone else, rioters just like to be outdoors on fine days.

Can Young People Afford to Marry?

One of the main reasons for staying single may be that young adults cannot afford marriage.

Women Flock to Pornography

Survey data indicates that 30 percent of Internet pornography users are women. This is a problem for evolutionary psychologists who claim that women choose relationship-based romance literature over visual erotica.

Weight Loss: How to Turn Pain Into Pleasure

The epidemic of obesity and related diseases is caused by a sedentary lifestyle rather than over eating, as argued in my previous post. A healthy dose of physical activity is the cure. The problem is that activity has an undeserved reputation for causing pain.

Can Atheism Really Replace Religion?

My blogs on this topic generated millions of hits and plenty of skepticism. Resistance to overwhelming scientific evidence for the decline in religion is nothing new. Objections come from religious people and some atheists who argue there will always be weak people, unlike them, who need religion. Does either camp have a point?

Is Privacy Making a Comeback?

Large numbers of Millennials embrace social media and electronic devices exposing them to risks not faced by earlier generations. After decades of unwarranted suspicion of electronic technologies, researchers are detecting problems than include feeling over-exposed, overwhelmed, and poorly focused. Productivity and creativity likely suffer.

Religion and Happiness: Further Thoughts

In an earlier post, I challenged the generalization that religious people are happier. That claim is often made but the evidence is very mixed. Researchers find that religious rituals are calming. Yet, religious intensity is greatest in miserable places and unhappy situations.

Do Singles Have a Better Quality of Life Than Marrieds?

In children’s stories, princes and princesses had to get married to live happily ever after. Psychologists still debate whether marriage boosts happiness. Economists also wonder whether married people enjoy a better standard of living.

Marriage Obsession Gets Recharged

A century ago most women wanted to marry because they lacked career opportunities. Yet, women who are established in high-paying jobs, or careers sometimes give them up and go back to being homemakers. It happened in the 1950s and the marriage imperative may be getting a boost from new legislation in Germany.

Sexual Wiring of Women's Breasts

If men have sex on the brain, they are not alone. Recent research found that women’s sensory cortex has three distinct areas corresponding to stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, and cervix (1). To their surprise, researchers found that self stimulation of the nipples lights up the same areas. This sheds further light on the sexual importance of breasts.

Why Women Feel Bad About Their Appearance

Women underestimate their attractiveness whereas men are overly complacent about theirs. Why the difference? It is tempting to imagine that this is simply a reflection of continuing power imbalances favoring men. Yet, there is a simpler explanation. Women care more about their appearance because looks are more consequential for them.

Being Nice Doesn't Always Work Out

In an earlier post, I argued that nature is not really red in tooth and claw. Most animals spend far more time cooperating than they do tearing each other apart. Yet, there are settings in which being nice can be a losing proposition. A gangster who cares about other people’s feelings might as well shoot himself – before someone else does.

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