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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.