The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics

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“Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind.

In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance.

Liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful.

All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race.

These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases. Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.”

via The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics
pic: Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam

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“The Thing Inside Your Cells That Might Determine How Long You Live”

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“Under a microscope, it’s hard to miss. Take just about any cell, find the nucleus, then look inside it for a dark, little blob. That’s the nucleolus. If the cell were an eyeball, you’d be looking at its pupil.

You’ve got one in every nucleus of every cell in your body, too. All animals do. So do plants, and yeast — and anything with a cell with a nucleus. And they’ve become much more important in our understanding of how cells work. […]

You may have forgotten this from biology class, but the nucleolus is the cell’s ribosome factory. Ribosomes are like micro-machines that make proteins that cells then use for purposes like building walls, forming hairs, making memories, communicating and starting, stopping and slowing down reactions that help a cell stay functioning. It uses about 80 percent of a cell’s energy for this work. […]

If building a cell were like building a building, and the DNA contained the blueprint, the nucleolus would be the construction manager or engineer. “It knows the supply chain, coordinates all the jobs of building, does quality control checks and makes sure things continue to work well,” said Dr. Antebi. […]

Researchers have found that modest dietary restriction and exercise shrank nucleoli in muscle cells of some people over age 60. People with diseases like cancer or progeria, a kind of accelerated aging, tend have enlarged nucleoli.

You can see these kinds of effects in many different species. “It’s amazing — even if genetically identical, some live a short life and some live a long life,” said Dr. Antebi. […]

“We think that the smaller nucleoli may be a cellular hallmark of longevity” in certain cells under certain conditions, he added.”


see/read more: original article
image from the original article: Jose Calvo/Science Source

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‘Algorithmic death spiral’ – The failing mental health of our machines


“Under most normal conditions, the driverless car will recognise a stop sign for what it is. But not all conditions are normal. Some recent demonstrations have shown that a few black stickers on a stop sign can fool the algorithm into thinking that the stop sign is a 60 mph sign. Subjected to something frighteningly similar to the high-contrast shade of a tree, the algorithm hallucinates.
But in practice, algorithms are often proprietary black boxes whose updating is commercially protected. Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction (2016) describes a veritable freakshow of commercial algorithms whose insidious pathologies play out collectively to ruin peoples’ lives. The algorithmic faultline that separates the wealthy from the poor is particularly compelling. Poorer people are more likely to have bad credit, to live in high-crime areas, and to be surrounded by other poor people with similar problems. Because of this, algorithms target these individuals for misleading ads that prey on their desperation, offer them subprime loans, and send more police to their neighbourhoods, increasing the likelihood that they will be stopped by police for crimes committed at similar rates in wealthier neighbourhoods. Algorithms used by the judicial system give these individuals longer prison sentences, reduce their chances for parole, block them from jobs, increase their mortgage rates, demand higher premiums for insurance, and so on.

This algorithmic death spiral is hidden in nesting dolls of black boxes: black-box algorithms that hide their processing in high-dimensional thoughts that we can’t access are further hidden in black boxes of proprietary ownership. This has prompted some places, such as New York City, to propose laws enforcing the monitoring of fairness in algorithms used by municipal services. But if we can’t detect bias in ourselves, why would we expect to detect it in our algorithms?

By training algorithms on human data, they learn our biases. One recent study led by Aylin Caliskan at Princeton University found that algorithms trained on the news learned racial and gender biases essentially overnight. As Caliskan noted: ‘Many people think machines are not biased. But machines are trained on human data. And humans are biased.’ […]

The problem is not visible in our hardware. It’s in our software. The many ways our minds go wrong make each mental-health problem unique unto itself. We sort them into broad categories such as schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome, but most are spectrum disorders that cover symptoms we all share to different degrees. In 2006, the psychologists Matthew Keller and Geoffrey Miller argued that this is an inevitable property of the way that brains are built.

There is a lot that can go wrong in minds such as ours. Carl Jung once suggested that in every sane man hides a lunatic. As our algorithms become more like ourselves, it is getting easier to hide.”


read more here: original article
picture source: unknown to me

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Mind Control * Barbara Ehrenreich’s radical critique of wellness and self-improvement

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“Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance.
“I may not be able to do much about grievous injustice in the world, at least not by myself or in very short order, but I can decide to increase the weight on the leg press machine by twenty pounds and achieve that within a few weeks,” she writes. “The gym, which once looked so alien and forbidding to me, became one of the few sites where I could reliably exert control.” What was a consolation, however, quickly evolved into a prize. Working out became a status symbol, a form of conspicuous consumption for a professional middle class bereft of purpose; and it became a disciplinary device, part of a culture that inflicts “steep penalties for being overweight.
Once associated with play, exercise is now closer to a form of labor: measured, timed, and financially incentivized by employers and insurers. Like any kind of alienated labor, it assumes and intensifies the division between mind and body—indeed, it involves a kind of violence by the mind against the body.
Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy.
The body, […], only gives the appearance of unity: It’s made of a “collection of tiny selves.” And for that matter, there’s not really a king to impose order.
Macrophages—immune cells that destroy pathogens—also abet the spread of cancer and instigate potentially catastrophic inflammatory diseases. They may even, Ehrenreich suggests, be responsible for aging itself. They seem to decide to do this, as it were, on their own. The “immune self,” a shadow entity that lives within the human body, sometimes cooperates and sometimes pursues its own agenda.
“The process of thinking involves conflict and alliances between different patterns of neuronal activity. Some patterns synchronize with and reinforce each other. Others tend to cancel each other, and not all of them contribute to our survival.”

see the original article here
Illustration by Siobhan Gallagher

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Loneliness in older adults is associated with diminished cortisol output

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“• Loneliness in older adults is associated with increased mortality and morbidity. One of the possible mechanisms is dysregulation of HPA-axis.

• In a group of 426 older adults, loneliness was associated with lower cortisol output after awakening and diminished dexamethasone suppression.

• There were no significant interaction terms for loneliness and depression diagnosis for the association with the cortisol measures.

• Whether loneliness in older adults leads to health problems via diminished cortisol output is an interesting subject for further study.”


see the original study
picture: Donald Teel (at pexels)

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Sex hormone levels alter heart disease risk in older women

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“In an analysis of data collected from more than 2,800 women after menopause, Johns Hopkins researchers report new evidence that a higher proportion of male to female sex hormones was associated with a significant increased relative cardiovascular disease risk. […]

“Because an imbalance in the proportion of testosterone (the main male sex hormone) to estrogen (the main female sex hormone) may affect   risk, physicians may want to think about adding hormone tests to the toolbox of screenable risk factors, like blood pressure or cholesterol, to identify women who may be at higher risk of heart or vascular disease. But this needs further study.””

–> see the original article (medicalexpress) here

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The Science of Mind & Reality – Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer


see also a corresponding article here: Matthieu Ricard and Wolf Singer

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What’s Going on With Men? The Mother Wound as the Missing Link in Understanding Misogyny

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“Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples. Since it is a system that denies men full access to their freedom of will, it is difficult for any man of any class to rebel against patriarchy, to be disloyal to the patriarchal parent, be that parent female or male.” ~ bell hooks

As a boy grows today in the modern world, he becomes socialized by his father, by other men, and by society about what it means to be a man. The patriarchal culture of media, education and religion also perform that function. Unfortunately, it’s well-documented that this socialization of the boy involves to some degree learning to dominate others, to shut down his emotions and to devalue women. (See resources below.) This constitutes both a personal and collective trauma.
This leaves white men with a triple wound; an injury to their ability to process their emotions, a blindness about their privilege and a lack of empathy for those they harm. This triple wound in white men has remained relatively unconscious and has caused unspeakable suffering in the world.
The anger belongs with the patriarchal father (personal and/or collective), the “severer of the bond,” who betrayed the boy, who socialized him to give up a vital part of himself to be accepted in this world as a man. The anger also belongs with the mother who was unable to protect him from this patriarchal wound or who may have inflicted it herself.
To do this deep inner work, it’s crucial that men get support from other men who have already done a significant amount of work on this journey themselves, including professional support from male therapists skilled in this area.”
Bethany Webster’s article
Art work by George Blaha.

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Everyday Misunderstandings: Postponing a Meeting


“When asked to move next Wednesday’s meeting two days forward, English speakers tend to disagree on whether it will move to Friday or Monday depending on their use of ego-moving or time-moving representations of time.
Most participants answered Monday but there was no group consensus, confirming the ambiguity of the question.
Associations between time representations and time orientations were not statistically significant, but the findings suggest time-moving and ego-moving representations to be more associated with future and present orientations, respectively.”
Abstract of the original study – see here (June 2018, Journal of Research in Personality)
Image: rawpixel at pixabay

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Hungry for Love: The Influence of Self-Regulation on Infidelity


“The current research examines the effect of self-regulation on the likelihood of committing infidelity.

Thirty-two college students in exclusive romantic relationships interacted through a private chat room with an opposite-sex confederate. Prior to this interaction, a food-restriction task depleted half the participants of self-control.

As predicted, depleted levels of self-regulation increased the likelihood of infidelity.

Specifically, depleted participants were more likely to both accept a coffee date from and supply a personal telephone number to the confederate than non-depleted participants.

Weakened self-control may be one potential cause for the levels of infidelity occurring in romantic partnerships today.”

This is the abstract of the original study here (2009)

Image via: @gakugakugakugakugaku1


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Media usage diminishes memory for experiences


“…participants engage in an experience while using media to record or share their experiences with others, or not engaging with media. […]

Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media.

There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.”
(outtake from the abstract of the original study here)
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

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Is belief superiority justified by superior knowledge?


“• People expressing belief superiority claim enhanced knowledge on that topic. […]

• Despite perceiving themselves as more knowledgeable, knowledge assessments revealed that the belief superior exhibited the greatest gaps between their perceived and actual knowledge. […]

• Specifically, when belief superiority is lowered, people attend to information they may have previously regarded as inferior.

• Implications of unjustified belief superiority and biased information pursuit for political discourse are discussed.”
(this is an outtake of the abstract of the original study here)
illustration/photo by illustrade from pixabay

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Higher educated people have negative attitudes towards the less educated


“In contrast with popular views of the higher educated as tolerant and morally enlightened, we find that higher educated participants show education-based intergroup bias: They hold more negative attitudes towards less educated people than towards highly educated people. […]

Less educated people are seen as more responsible and blameworthy for their situation, as compared to poor people or working class people. This shows that the psychological consequences of social inequality are worse when they are framed in terms of education rather than income or occupation.

Finally, meritocracy beliefs are related to higher ratings of responsibility and blameworthiness, indicating that the processes we study are related to ideological beliefs. The findings are discussed in light of the role that education plays in the legitimization of social inequality.”
this is the abstract of the original study here (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2018)
Image: mohamed_hassan at Pixabay

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Our brains rapidly and automatically process opinions we agree with as if they are facts

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“Now a team led by Michael Gilead at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev report in Social Psychological and Personality Science that they have found evidence of rapid and involuntarily mental processes that kick-in whenever we encounter opinions we agree with, […]”

“The key finding was that participants were quicker to identify statements as grammatically correct when they agreed with the opinion expressed in the statement, compared with when they disagreed (there was no difference for time taken to identify ungrammatical statements as ungrammatical). This was the case even though their agreement with the opinion expressed in the statements was irrelevant to the grammatical task at hand. “The results demonstrate that agreement with a stated opinion can have a rapid and involuntary effect on its cognitive processing,” the researchers said, which is similar to the epistemic Stroop Effect observed for facts.”

thanks Christian J. — (picture: from the original article)

see/read more here

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Too many men

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“In China and India, men outnumber women by 70 million. Both nations are belatedly trying to come to grips with the policies that created this male-heavy generation”

“Demographic changes are slow, in human terms, and this off-kilter M:F ratio will shape gender roles and economic opportunities for decades to come.

It’s also a beautiful piece of web production, one of the better uses of the medium I’ve seen.” (“all and well said” – thanks Jamais C. for this very short and concise summary!)
See/Read the original article in The Washington Post (April 2018)
Image: see original article.




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10 Amazing Things You Can Learn From Your Poop


“We now have more information than ever before about what your microbiome is doing, and it’s going to help you and the rest of the world do a whole lot better. The new insights emerging from microbiome research are changing our perception of what keeps us healthy and what makes us sick. This new understanding of the microbiome activities may put an end to conflicting food advice and make fad diets a thing of the past.

What are these new insights showing us? The information is nothing short of mind-blowing. The value of your poop just got an upgrade.”
–> see the 10 Amazing Things here (SingularityHub, April 2018)
Image: see original article.


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Old people can produce as many new brain cells as teenagers

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“Old age may have its downsides, but losing the ability to grow new brain cells isn’t one: healthy people in their seventies seem to produce just as many new neurons as teenagers.

The discovery overturns a decades-old theory about how our brains age and could provide clues as to how we can keep our minds sharper for longer.”

see/read original article here (The Independent, April 2018)

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“Did Drinking Give Me Breast Cancer?”

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“The research linking alcohol to breast cancer is deadly solid. There’s no controversy here. Alcohol, regardless of whether it’s in Everclear or a vintage Bordeaux, is carcinogenic. More than 100 studies over several decades have reaffirmed the link with consistent results. The National Cancer Institute says alcohol raises breast cancer risk even at low levels.
Researchers estimate that alcohol accounts for 15 percent of US breast cancer cases and deaths—about 35,000 and 6,600 a year, respectively. That’s about three times more than the number of breast cancer cases caused by a mutation of the BRCA genes, which prompted Angelina Jolie, who carries one of the abnormal genes, to have both her healthy breasts removed in 2013. The breast cancer risk from alcohol isn’t nearly as high as the lung cancer risk from smoking. But alcohol-related breast cancer kills more than twice as many American women as drunk drivers do. And alcohol is one of the few breast cancer risk factors women can control. Others, like starting menstrual periods before the age of 12 and entering menopause after 55, are baked in.
Scientists have long known that heavy drinking causes high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks. That’s why early studies investigating drinking and heart disease started with the logical supposition that people who abstain from alcohol should have low rates of heart disease compared with moderate or heavy drinkers. As it turned out, they didn’t. When plotted on a curve, drinkers fell into a J-shaped pattern: Abstainers in the studies had rates of cardiovascular disease similar to those of heavy drinkers.

But this J-curve is deceptive. Not all the nondrinkers in these studies were teetotalers like the ones I grew up with in Utah. The British epidemiologist A. Gerald Shaper began a wide-ranging men’s heart health study in the late 1970s, and when he examined the data, he found that 71 percent of nondrinkers in the study were actually former drinkers who had quit. Some of these ex-drinking men were as likely to smoke as heavy drinkers. They had the highest rate of heart disease of any group and elevated rates of high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, diabetes, gallbladder disease, and even bronchitis. Shaper concluded that ex-drinkers were often sicker than heavy drinkers who hadn’t quit, making them a poor control group.

Yet for decades, researchers continued to include them and consequently found an implausible number of health benefits to moderate drinking, including lower rates of deafness and liver cirrhosis. The industry has helped promote these studies to doctors.

That’s one reason why, until recently, alcohol’s heart health benefits have been treated as incontrovertible science. But in the mid-2000s, Kaye Middleton Fillmore, a researcher at the University of California-San Francisco, decided to study Shaper’s ex-drinkers. When no one in the United States would fund her work, she persuaded Tim Stockwell, then the director of Australia’s National Drug Research Institute, to help her secure Australian government funding.

Stockwell and Fillmore analyzed decades’ worth of studies on alcohol and heart disease. Once they excluded studies with ex-drinkers—which was most of them—the heart benefits of alcohol largely disappeared. Since then, a host of other studies have found that drinking does not provide any heart benefits. (Some studies have found that drinking small amounts of alcohol—sometimes less than one drink per day—can be beneficial for certain people at risk of heart disease.) Robert Brewer, who runs an alcohol program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, “Studies do not support that there are benefits of moderate drinking.” The Agriculture Department removed language suggesting that alcohol may lower the risk of heart disease in the most recent US Dietary Guidelines.”

original article

Image: Edmon De Haro

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Study Finds Night Owls Are More At Risk Of Early Death: Other Problems Linked To Evening Persons

Link article Tech Times

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New Study: Your Face Tells If You Own A Fleet Of Luxurious Cars

“When researchers asked subjects to determine the socio-economic class of people their faces, subjects were correct 68 percent of times. This figure is considerably higher than predictions made randomly.”
“Though subjects were not aware of how they were determining it correctly, researchers wanted to know. So, they zoomed in to the images to extract facial features. They discovered that subjects were able to guess correctly by noticing eyes and mouth. Mouth gave a clue in better way than others. However, the isolated parts did not guide them to arrive at the decision. Researchers found that this effect could take place due to emotion patterns getting etched into faces over time. The chronic contraction of few muscles could lead to changes in facial structure. These changes can be picked up by others.”
“Rule told the University of Toronto, “Over time, your face comes to permanently reflect and reveal your experiences. Even when we think we’re not expressing something, relics of those emotions are still there.””

read original article 


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