There is a widespread public perception that dementia can lead to a loss of a sense of self, but this notion has not been rigorously investigated. One way to study this is to look at actual cases of brain degeneration, and see if the damage is linked to identity changes perceived by others. Do people with specific kinds of brain damage become no longer themselves?
Microfinance is a psychological enigma. It is not in anyone's economic best interest to lend money to strangers without getting anything in return. Without interest or guarantee, what is the motivation to take on such financial risk? It seems more akin to charity than to banking. Is it? The fact is that we don't know the neuropsychological underpinnings of such selfless lending.
I grew up with a habitual overclaimer. He wildly exaggerated his expertise, at times claiming knowledge of things he couldn't possibly know -- people, events, ideas that simply do not exist. We're all familiar with these people who feel the need to overestimate what they know about the world. What underlies such assertions of impossible knowledge?
In 2008, a massive earthquake shook the Chinese province of Sichuan. The immediate devastation was followed by a dramatic spike in the divorce rate, a phenomenon that captured international attention -- and sparked widespread speculation -- at the time. Did the deadly earthquake actually cause the jump in marital breakups?
It's estimated that poor children, by the time they hit kindergarten, have heard 30 million fewer words than their more fortunate classmates. The Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail initiative is just one of the national efforts to increase the quantity of language that underprivileged preschoolers are exposed to. But is quantity enough?
The successful psychopath remains something of a scientific enigma. This provisional evidence points to some tantalizing possibilities, but we still do not know for sure why one person with pronounced psychopathic traits ends up as a habitual and cold-blooded criminal while another ends up as the prototype for Agent 007.
A team of psychological scientists wondered if hunger might spill over into other behavioral domains, sometimes in irrational ways. Is it possible, that is, that hunger triggers an acquisitive mindset generally, one that piques our desire even for non-food? The scientists explored this provocative idea in several experiments.
What if Dr. Townes, instead of taking that timeout, had sent a text or played Angry Birds? Might we be in the dark about the laser? As research and Townes' example suggest, the unpredictable sparks of our own mental machinations should be something we don't want to miss any more than the majestic sight of a passing whale.
Scientists Nick Epley and Juliana Schroeder believe there is something about speech that conveys not just the content of a person's mind but the capacity for reasoning, thoughtfulness and intellect. If they are right, job seekers should appear more thoughtful and intelligent when given the opportunity to speak, rather than write, about themselves. That's what they set out to test.
The fact is that modesty, or even self-effacement, can be more effective than bragging in creating a good first impression. Most of us know this from being on the receiving end, yet we still err on the side of self-aggrandizement. But why do we get it wrong so much of the time? Here's where some new research may be illuminating.
Some philosophers have argued that the desire to act in a way that is consistent with one's values and sense of self is linked to well-being. But others have argued that learning to express thoughts and feelings that obscure one's true inner state is an important adaptation for successful living. A team of psychological scientists has been working to resolve this issue empirically.
Does self-discipline today really pay off later in life -- in jobs, paychecks, promotions and bonuses, professional prestige and wealth? Surprisingly, given the importance of employment to well-being and the global economy, the link between self-control and job success has not been thoroughly studied. Until now.