During the past few days, I've received a number of emails about an essay by Live Science writer Yasemin Saplakoglu called " Cats are too socially inept to be loyal ." For headline readers who don't go on to read much more—and sadly there are far too many for whatever reasons—one could easily draw the conclusion that cats are socially inept and disloyal and that research has actually shown this to be true. This would be a huge mistake and here's why, as Ms. Saplakoglu notes in her piece about a research paper published in Animal Behavior and Cognition titled " Cats ( Felis catus ) Show no Avoidance of People who Behave Negatively to their Owner ." In this study, 36 domestic cats (18 females and 18 males, 13 of whom were house cats and 23 who lived around five cat cafés) and their humans were studied. The clever experimental setup (Figure 1) involved creating a situation in which the cats watched their human try to open a container and remove an object. The humans … [Read more...] about Are Cats More Socially Inept Than Dogs?
What can you say about a movie where they kill Gwyneth Paltrow in the first few minutes? That’s Contagion , the 2010 movie from Steven Soderbergh that shows, among other things, that we knew exactly how a pandemic would unfold 10 years before the real thing hit. Sadly, it seems some of our leaders skipped the screening. But for the rest of us, that scary movie may have toughened us for the real deal. Can frights really make you more resistant to a pandemic? The screams A new study shows that gorehounds may be better prepared for nasty things like the coronavirus pandemic. Like many of the COVID-19 studies today, this one has yet to be peer-reviewed. (In this juiced-up environment, science writers like me are forced to stick a wet finger in the wind to judge the veracity of unreviewed research. It’s a poor indicator; caveat emptor.) The study looked at 310 people and found that those who were fans of horror, apocalyptic, zombie, or alien-invasion films showed greater … [Read more...] about Screams and Giggles to Beat the Pandemic
Is A.I. the future of mental health treatment? Source: H Heyerlein at Unsplash, Creative Commons Scientists have developed AI systems for mental health applications, such as AI Chatbots that teach users therapeutic skills that would normally be taught by a therapist. AI Chatbots offer some advantages over in-person therapy : They are more easily accessible and are associated with less stigma. Experts have raised concerns related to the safety of users in distress, privacy, the risk of psychological transference , and the long-term effects of interacting with AI. What if you could interact with a therapist, learn new skills to improve your well-being and gain access to information that would normally be learned in therapy for a fraction of the cost, or for free, without leaving your home? The prospect is certainly alluring, and with Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, there is reason to take this prospect seriously. AI technology for mental health … [Read more...] about Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of Mental Health?
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted/Creative Commons Source: Creative Commons, Used with Permission Happy Women's History Month. History has a history of only containing versions favorable of those in power when such histories were recorded. Even today, public school students’ textbooks present different versions of history based on the political party that dominates the states in which they live ( Goldstein, 2020 ). The contributions and perspectives of historically marginalized groups are omitted, and it takes a concerted movement to ensure time is spent learning about and from subjugated groups. To momentarily single out a group for consideration should not be mistaken as some sort of insult to other groups; it simply means that the histories of some groups, including members that affiliate with them, have been disproportionately ignored. For example, Black Lives Matter (BLM) would not have gained momentum as a mantra and movement if society, its systems, and its … [Read more...] about Resources for History Months
A common error people make when thinking about genetics is that DNA is deterministic in a robotic way. But how could it be when people often experience doubt, ambivalence, and conflict about what to do? Surely, if genes determined behaviour the way digital codes determine the actions of machines like spot-welders on car production lines, this could not be so. On the contrary, we would always act automatically and immediately—or just not act at all. Never would we be found to dither, hesitate, or agonize about what to do. Source: James Knight/Trickhouse Press In previous posts, I have pointed out that, if we are indeed biological machines, or even robots, we are self-determining ones , and that free will is a reality bequeathed to us by the DNA which built our brains to make difficult decisions for which natural selection could not legislate in advance. To this extent, DNA determines choice and imposes free will upon us. Those who make the right decisions will … [Read more...] about The Meme Machine’s DNA Spells Free Expression