Existential Roundup

Emoticon l - Existential Roundup

Welcome to the Existential Roundup, where we bring you links to some articles currently trending that may be of interest to those in the existential-humanistic psychology community.

This roundup starts with the wild wacky world of the brain. The Atlantic reports about a new study about how the brain views the process of music, specifically focusing on the neuroscience of jazz. What the researchers at Johns Hopkins have found is that jazz, with its emphasis on improvisation, activates the parts of the brain traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax—that the music communicates something to the listener.

And just in case you were wondering how you and “man best friend’s” brain were alike, new research in Current Biology shows that both humans and dogs have dedicated “voice” areas in their brains. Dog brains, according to this research, are also acutely sensitive to emotion—something that probably any dog owner will be able to tell you anecdotally.

While we all know that stress can damage the body, The Los Angeles Times reports about a new study that shows that stress can specifically attack the brain’s white matter. This white matter, once thought to be no more than just a glue-like substance, may actually play an important role in regulating the brain’s circuitry.

Add technology to the brain equation and we have a whole brave new world out there. AOL News reports that recent research shows that emoticons are actually changing the way our brains work. The article refers to the concept of “pareidolia,” the tendency to see faces in such inanimate objects as on the fronts of cars and in clouds. The study looked at how we have developed the capacity to see faces in meaningless combinations of punctuation or letters, even if that punctuation is turned sideways.

The latest hazard in the world of technology is something known as “Alert Fatigue.” Psych Central reports that many people have become such slaves to their technology and alert systems that not only is it interfering with their days but it is also interfering with their nights, leading to sleep disruptions. The New York Times has also recently reported that the best place for your smartphone at night is outside the bedroom, as smartphones have been shown to exacerbate sleep problems.

For some interesting reflections on the history of the concept of reflex, check out Eugene Raikhel’s article on Somatosphere.net. From Pavlov’s dog to addiction, this anthropological approach could have you salivating.

However, if that is the case, you might want to read about new research out of the University of Glasgow describing how humans only express four basic emotions on their faces, rather than six—fear and surprise are now combined as are anger and disgust. Happiness and sadness retain their status. Then look in the mirror and see which one you are wearing.

However, if it is shame you are feeling, perhaps you might want to read the report in the Pacific Standard posing the question about whether shame can predict if a released felon will commit another crime. The variables studied here were feelings of shame, guilt, and “externalization of blame.” The researchers found that guilt led to less recidivism, but shame was less clear-cut. Researchers found shame to be both a liability and a great strength.

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