Archive for March, 2012

Everybody Take Ten, And I’ll Be Back Soon

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Dear Readers,

Thank you all for supporting Real World Research. Writing it has been fun and educational, but after more than a year at it, I’m finding its demands—in terms of the amount of research it requires and my own writer’s OCD (revise, revise, revise, revise, and then revise one more time, or maybe two)–has made it too difficult to maintain.

And so, dear readers, I am shutting down the Real World Research lab.

I’ll be taking a little time off from Psych Central while I finish my book, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, which will be released later this year by Perigee Books.

But I will be back here in May with a whole new blog. I hope you’ll come back ‘cause I’m gonna miss you all.

Thanks for reading Real World Research and hasta luego,

Sophia Dembling

 


Brush Up On Your People Skills, Read a Novel

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

“I never read fiction,” is a point of pride for many people, along the lines of “I never watch TV.”

The implication is that nonfiction is a higher calling, that fiction is a frivolous pastime while nonfiction is a serious education. This has been a push-pull throughout the history of the novel, especially since early novels tended towards salacious or scandalous, more Danielle Steel than Ian McEwan.

Poet Samuel Coleridge, (1712 to 1835) stated his case thus:

I will run the risk of asserting that where the reading of novels prevails as a habit, it occasions in time the entire destruction of the powers of the mind: it is such an utter loss to the reader, that it is not so much to be called pass-time as kill-time. It…provokes no improvement of the intellect, but fills the mind with a mawkish and morbid sensibility, which is directly hostile to the cultivation, invigoration, and enlargement of the nobler powers of the understanding.

My brain must be a mawkish mess  because I love a good novel (currently reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, thumbs  up). I love nonfiction too, but the escape and emotional charge novels provide have always been preferable to me (unless we’re talking narrative nonfiction, like Erik Larson’s engaging histories or a book I recently read in practically one gulp, The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home).

So I was gratified to read this New York Times story about the neuroscience of reading fiction.


Looking at the Negative (Spaces) In Our World

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Elisha Goldstein’s book, The Now Effect, has sent my brain spinning in yet another direction.

The anecdote:

A professor stood before a philosophy class holding an empty jar. As the students took their seats, she began filling the jar with golf balls. When they reached the top, she asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then took a bag of pebbles and poured them into the jar, and they made their way between the spaces of the golf balls. Again she asked the students if the jar was full, and they agreed that it was.

But the professor had another trick up her sleeve. She brought out a bag of sand and proceeded to pour the grains into the jar, filling up more of the remaining space. Again the question came: “It’s full now, correct?” The answer was a resounding “Yes.”

The professor then took a sip of her coffee and dumped the rest into the jar, filling up spaces that no one thought was there.

The thought: how does our brain process negative space?


How Words and Images Are Holding Women Back

Monday, March 5th, 2012

If you’ve been reading Real World Research for a while, you may remember the “fat old bitch” incident. (If not, read about it here, and here.)

The current fracas over Rush Limbaugh’s unbelievably inappropriate sexist rant against Sandra Fluke brings this back to my mind

I’m going to use this opportunity to recommend a new documentary I’ve seen twice now and could easily sit through again. It’s called Miss Representation, and it’s all about how the media’s representation of women shapes our attitudes and contributes to women’s lack of power in this country.

Lack of power? The “feminazis”? Don’t be silly. We’re modern, liberated, in-charge women.

I wish.

Consider this: Women are 51 percent of the population but only 17 percent of Congress. America ranks 90th in the world in women in legislature. Even China is more progressive than we are in that respect.

Women hold a whopping three percent of power positions in the media—and that includes TV, radio, publishing, online media—all of it. So this means that pretty much everything we (and, more importantly, our children) see in the media is filtered through the sensibilities of men—and that is not to our benefit.


Let’s Talk About Keeping Passion Alive

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Keeping keep passion alive over the long haul is the greatest challenge to monogamy.

After you’ve rolled around together a few thousand times, sex can become rote, which is, to use the technical term, a bummer. People in long-term relationships do all kinds of things to try to keep the passion alive—dressing in costumes, role playing, bringing gizmos and gadgets into the bedroom.

Or  they could try just talking, suggests a study titled “Day-to-Day Changes in Intimacy Predict Heightened Relationship Passion, Sexual Occurrence, and Sexual Satisfaction.”

Not any old talking, but the kind of talk that advances intimacy. That is, self-disclosure; telling your partner stuff he or she didn’t know about you. Of course, this only works when your partner responds with warmth and sympathy. And vice versa.

The researchers theorize that one reason passion is so high in budding relationships is because couples are learning about each other, and each sympathetically received self-disclosure causes passion to flare. Over time, however, the revelations slow, the new information dries up, intimacy reaches a plateau, and sex hits the doldrums.


 

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