Arquivo da tag: Psicologia

Life-hack: Rituals spell anxiety relief (Science Daily)

Date: June 30, 2020

Source: University of Connecticut

Summary: Researchers are examining the important roles rituals play in reducing our anxiety levels.

With graduation ceremonies, weddings, funeral, annual parades, and many other gatherings called off, it is apparent that our lives are filled with rituals. UConn Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dimitris Xygalatas studies rituals and how they impact our health. In research published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Xygalatas and collaborators from Masaryk University, Czech Republic, including former UConn student Martin Lang, examine the important roles rituals play in reducing our anxiety levels.

“In the current context of the pandemic, if you were a completely rational being — perhaps an extraterrestrial who’s never met any actual humans — you would expect that given the current situation people wouldn’t bother doing things that do not seem crucial to their survival. Maybe they wouldn’t care so much about art, sports, or ritual, and they would focus on other things,” says Xygalatas. “If you were to think that, it would show you didn’t know much about human nature, because humans care deeply about those things.”

Further, Xygalatas says, rituals play an important role in people’s lives, helping them cope with anxiety and functioning as mechanisms of resilience.

This research started years ago, says Xygalatas. He explains that to study something as complex as human behavior, it is important to approach the question from multiple angles to collect converging evidence. First, in a laboratory study, they found that inducing anxiety made people’s behavior more ritualized, that is, more repetitive and structured. So the next step was to take this research out to real-life situations, where they examined whether performing cultural rituals in their natural context indeed helps practitioners cope with anxiety.

“This approach also goes to show the limitations of any study. One study can only tell us a tiny bit about anything, but by using a variety of methods like my team and I are doing, and by going between the highly controlled space of the lab and the culturally relevant place that is real life we are able to get a more holistic perspective.”

The experiment reported in their current publication took place in Mauritius, where the researchers induced anxiety by asking participants to prepare a plan for dealing with a natural disaster that would be evaluated by government experts. This was stressful, as floods and cyclones are very pertinent threats in that context. Following this stress-inducing task, one half of the group performed a familiar religious ritual at the local temple while the other half were asked to sit and relax in a non-religious space.

The researchers found that the speech was successful in inducing stress for both groups but those who performed the religious ritual experienced a greater reduction in both psychological and physiological stress, which was assessed by using wearable technology to measure heart rate variability.

Stress itself is important, says Xygalatas, “Stress acts as a motivation that helps us focus on our goals and rise to meet our challenges, whether those involve studying for an exam, flying a fighter jet, or scoring that game-winning goal. The problem is that beyond a certain threshold, stress ceases to be useful. In fact, it can even be dangerous. Over time, its effects can add up and take a toll on your health, impairing cognitive function, weakening the immune system, and leading to hypertension or cardiovascular disease. This type of stress can be devastating to our normal functioning, health, and well-being.”

This is where Xygalatas and his team believe ritual plays an important role in managing stress.

“The mechanism that we think is operating here is that ritual helps reduce anxiety by providing the brain with a sense of structure, regularity, and predictability.”

Xygalatas explains that in recent decades we have begun to realize the brain is not a passive computer but an active predictive machine, registering information and making predictions to help us survive.

“We come to expect certain things — our brain fills in the missing information for the blind spot in our vision, and prompts us to anticipate the next word in a sentence — all of these things are due to this effect because our brain makes active predictions about the state of the world.”

Well-practiced rituals, like the one included in the study, are repetitive and predictable and therefore the researchers believe they give our brains the sense of control and structure that we crave, and those feelings help alleviate stress. This stress reducing impact of rituals could be a way to cope with chronic anxiety.

In today’s stressful context, we see ritual taking different forms, from people gathering to applaud healthcare workers, to virtual choirs singing across the internet. Xygalatas also notes a recent study that tracked the increase in people typing ‘prayer’ in Google searches. In this unpredictable time, people are continuing to find relief in ritual.

“One thing I like to tell my students is that we as human beings are not as smart as we’d like to think. But thankfully, we are at least smart enough to be able to outsmart ourselves. We have many ways of doing this, for instance when we look at ourselves in the mirror before an interview and tell ourselves, ‘Ok I can do this’. Or when we take deep breaths to calm down. We have all of these hacks that we can use on our very brain. We could rationalize it and tell ourselves ‘Ok I’m going to lower my heartbeat now’. Well that doesn’t work. Ritual is one of those mental technologies that we can use to trick ourselves into doing that. That is what these rituals do — they act like life hacks for us.”

Going forward, Xygalatas points out that he and his colleagues intend to do more work on the exact mechanisms underlying these effects of ritual.

“Of course it is a combination of factors, and that is why ritual is so powerful: because it combines a number of mechanisms that have to do both with the behavior itself, the physical movements, and with the cultural context, the symbolism, and the expectations that go into that behavior. To be able to disentangle those things is what we are trying to do next: we are examining these factors one at a time. Those rituals have gone through a process of cultural selection and they are still with us because they fulfil specific functions. They are life hacks that have been with and have served us well since the dawn of our kind.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Connecticut. Original written by Elaina Hancock. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. M. Lang, J. Krátký, D. Xygalatas. The role of ritual behaviour in anxiety reduction: an investigation of Marathi religious practices in Mauritius. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2020; 375 (1805): 20190431 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0431

Book Review: Why Science Denialism Persists (Undark)


Two new books explore what motivates people to reject science — and why it’s so hard to shake deep-seated beliefs.

By Elizabeth Svoboda – 05.22.2020

To hear some experts tell it, science denial is mostly a contemporary phenomenon, with climate change deniers and vaccine skeptics at the vanguard. Yet the story of Galileo Galilei reveals just how far back denial’s lineage stretches.

BOOK REVIEW “Galileo and the Science Deniers,” by Mario Livio (Simon & Schuster, 304 pages).

Years of astronomical sightings and calculations had convinced Galileo that the Earth, rather than sitting at the center of things, revolved around a larger body, the sun. But when he laid out his findings in widely shared texts, as astrophysicist Mario Livio writes in “Galileo and the Science Deniers,” the ossified Catholic Church leadership — heavily invested in older Earth-centric theories — aimed its ire in his direction.

Rather than revise their own maps of reality to include his discoveries, clerics labeled him a heretic and banned his writings. He spent the last years of his life under house arrest, hemmed in by his own insistence on the expansiveness of the cosmos.

Nearly 400 years later, the legacy of denial remains intact in some respects. Scientists who publish research about climate change or the safety of genetically modified crops still encounter the same kind of pushback from deniers that Galileo did. Yet denialism has also sprouted some distinctly modern features: As Alan Levinovitz points out in “Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science,” sometimes we ourselves can become unwitting purveyors of denial, falling prey to flawed or false beliefs we may not realize we’re holding.

Levinovitz passionately protests the common assumption that natural things are inherently better than unnatural ones. Not only do people automatically tend to conclude organic foods are healthier, many choose “natural” or “alternative” methods of cancer treatment over proven chemotherapy regimens. Medication-free childbirth, meanwhile, is now considered the gold standard in many societies, despite mixed evidence of its health benefits for mothers and babies.

BOOK REVIEW “Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science,” by Alan Levinovitz (Beacon Press, 264 pages).

“What someone calls ‘natural’ may be good,” writes Levinovitz, a religion professor at James Madison University, “but the association is by no means necessary, or even likely.” Weaving real-life examples with vivid retellings of ancient myths about nature’s power, he demonstrates that our pro-natural bias is so pervasive that we often lose the ability to see it — or to admit the legitimacy of science that contradicts it.

From this perspective, science denial starts to look like a stunted outgrowth of what we typically consider common sense. In Galileo’s time, people thought it perfectly sensible that the planet they inhabited was at the center of everything. Today, it might seem equally sensible that it’s always better to choose natural products over artificial ones, or that a plant burger ingredient called “soy leghemoglobin” is suspect because it’s genetically engineered and can’t be sourced in the wild. Yet in these cases, what we think of as common sense turns out to be humbug.

In exploring the past and present of anti-science bias, Livio and Levinovitz show how deniers’ basic toolbox has not changed much through the centuries. Practitioners marshal arguments that appeal to our tendency to think in dichotomies: wrong or right, saved or damned, pure or tainted. Food is either nourishing manna from the earth or processed, artificial junk. The Catholic Church touted its own supreme authority while casting Galileo as an unregenerate apostate.

In the realm of denialism, Levinovitz writes, “simplicity and homogeneity take precedence over diversity, complexity, and change. Righteous laws and rituals are universal. Disobedience is sacrilege.”

The very language of pro-nature, anti-science arguments, Levinovitz argues, is structured to play up this us-versus-them credo. Monikers like Frankenfood — often used to describe genetically-modified (GM) crops — frame the entire GM food industry as monstrous, a deviation from the supposed order of things. And in some circles, he writes, the word “unnatural” has come to be almost a synonym for “moral deficiency.” Not only is such black-and-white rhetoric seductive, it can give deniers the heady sense that they occupy the moral high ground.

Both pro-natural bias and the Church’s crusade against Galileo reflect the human penchant to fit new information into an existing framework. Rather than scrapping or changing that framework, we try to jerry-rig it to make it function. Some of the jerry-rigging examples the authors describe are more toxic than others: Opting for so-called natural foods despite dubious science on their benefits, for instance, is less harmful than denying evidence of a human-caused climate crisis.

What’s more, many people actually tend to cling harder to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence. Studies confirm that facts and reality aren’t likely to sway most people’s pre-existing views. This is as true now as it was at the close of the Renaissance, as shown by some extremists’ stubborn denial that the Covid-19 virus is dangerous.

In the realm of denialism, “simplicity and homogeneity take precedence over diversity, complexity, and change.”

In one of his book’s most compelling chapters, Livio takes us inside a panel of theologians that convened in 1616 to rule on whether the sun was at the center of things. None of Galileo’s incisive arguments swayed their thinking one iota. “This proposition is foolish and absurd in philosophy,” the theologians wrote, “and formally heretical, since it explicitly contradicts in many places the sense of Holy Scripture.” Cardinal Bellarmino warned Galileo that if he did not renounce his heliocentric views, he could be thrown into prison.

Galileo’s discoveries threatened to topple a superstructure that the Church had spent hundreds of years buttressing. In making their case against him, his critics liked to cite a passage from Psalm 93: “The world also is established that it cannot be moved.”

Galileo refused to cave. In his 1632 book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” he did give the views of Pope Urban VIII an airing: He repeated Urban’s statement that no human could ever hope to decode the workings of the universe. But Livio slyly points out that Galileo put these words in the mouth of a ridiculous character named Simplicio. It was a slight Urban would not forgive. “May God forgive Signor Galilei,” he intoned, “for having meddled with these subjects.”

At the close of his 1633 Inquisition trial, Galileo was forced to declare that he abandoned any belief that the Earth revolved around the sun. “I abjure, curse, and detest the above-mentioned errors and heresies.” He swore that he would never again say “anything which might cause a similar suspicion about me.” Yet as he left the courtroom, legend goes, he muttered to himself “E pur si muove” (And yet it moves).

In the face of science denial, Livio observes, people have taken up “And yet it moves” as a rallying cry: a reminder that no matter how strong our prejudices or presuppositions, the facts always remain the same. But in today’s “post-truth era,” as political theorist John Keane calls it, with little agreement on what defines a reliable source, even the idea of an inescapable what is seems to have receded from view.

Levinovitz’s own evolution in writing “Natural” reveals how hard it can be to elevate facts above all, even for avowed anti-deniers. When he began his research, he picked off instances of pro-natural bias as if they were clay pigeons, confident in the rigor of his approach. “Confronted with a false faith, I had resolved that it was wholly evil,” he reflects.

Yet he later concedes that a favoritism toward nature is logical in domains like sports, which celebrate the potential of the human body in its unaltered form. He also accepts one expert’s point that it makes sense to buy organic if the pesticides used are less dangerous to farm workers than conventional ones. By the end of the book, he finds himself in a more nuanced place: “The art of celebrating humanity and nature,” he concludes, depends on “having the courage to embrace paradox.” His quest to puncture the myth of the natural turns out to have been dogmatic in its own way.

In acknowledging this, Levinovitz hits on something important. When deniers take up arms, it’s tempting to follow their lead: to use science to build an open-and-shut case that strikes with the finality of a courtroom witness pointing out a killer.

But as Galileo knew — and as Levinovitz ultimately concedes — science, in its endlessly unspooling grandeur, tends to resist any conclusion that smacks of the absolute. “What only science can promise,” Livio writes, “is a continuous, midcourse self-correction, as additional experimental and observational evidence accumulates, and new theoretical ideas emerge.”

In their skepticism of pat answers, these books bolster the case that science’s strength is in its flexibility — its willingness to leave room for iteration, for correction, for innovation. Science is an imperfect vehicle, as any truth-seeking discipline must be. And yet, as Galileo would have noted, it moves.

Elizabeth Svoboda is a science writer based in San Jose, California. Her most recent book for children is “The Life Heroic.”


Opinion: The Roots of Modern Medical Denialism

Acute stress may slow down the spread of fears (Science Daily)

Date: May 12, 2020

Source: University of Konstanz

Summary: Psychologists find that we are less likely to amplify fears in social exchange if we are stressed.

New psychology research from the University of Konstanz reveals that stress changes the way we deal with risky information — results that shed light on how stressful events, such as a global crisis, can influence how information and misinformation about health risks spreads in social networks.

“The global coronavirus crisis, and the pandemic of misinformation that has spread in its wake, underscores the importance of understanding how people process and share information about health risks under stressful times,” says Professor Wolfgang Gaissmaier, Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Konstanz, and senior author on the study. “Our results uncovered a complex web in which various strands of endocrine stress, subjective stress, risk perception, and the sharing of information are interwoven.”

The study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, brings together psychologists from the DFG Cluster of Excellence “Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour” at the University of Konstanz: Gaissmaier, an expert in risk dynamics, and Professor Jens Pruessner, who studies the effects of stress on the brain. The study also includes Nathalie Popovic, first author on the study and a former graduate student at the University of Konstanz, Ulrike Bentele, also a Konstanz graduate student, and Mehdi Moussaïd from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

In our hyper-connected world, information flows rapidly from person to person. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how risk information — such as about dangers to our health — can spread through social networks and influence people’s perception of the threat, with severe repercussions on public health efforts. However, whether or not stress influences this has never been studied.

“Since we are often under acute stress even in normal times and particularly so during the current health pandemic, it seems highly relevant not only to understand how sober minds process this kind of information and share it in their social networks, but also how stressed minds do,” says Pruessner, a Professor in Clinical Neuropsychology working at the Reichenau Centre of Psychiatry, which is also an academic teaching hospital of the University of Konstanz.

To do this, researchers had participants read articles about a controversial chemical substance, then report their risk perception of the substance before and after reading the articles, and say what information they would pass on to others. Just prior to this task, half of the group was exposed to acute social stress, which involved public speaking and mental arithmetic in front of an audience, while the other half completed a control task.

The results showed that experiencing a stressful event drastically changes how we process and share risk information. Stressed participants were less influenced by the articles and chose to share concerning information to a significantly smaller degree. Notably, this dampened amplification of risk was a direct function of elevated cortisol levels indicative of an endocrine-level stress response. In contrast, participants who reported subjective feelings of stress did show higher concern and more alarming risk communication.

“On the one hand, the endocrine stress reaction may thus contribute to underestimating risks when risk information is exchanged in social contexts, whereas feeling stressed may contribute to overestimating risks, and both effects can be harmful,” says Popovic. “Underestimating risks can increase incautious actions such as risky driving or practising unsafe sex. Overestimating risks can lead to unnecessary anxieties and dangerous behaviours, such as not getting vaccinated.”

By revealing the differential effects of stress on the social dynamics of risk perception, the Konstanz study shines light on the relevance of such work not only from an individual, but also from a policy perspective. “Coming back to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it highlights that we do not only need to understand its virology and epidemiology, but also the psychological mechanisms that determine how we feel and think about the virus, and how we spread those feelings and thoughts in our social networks,” says Gaissmaier.

Se os adultos não estragarem as coisas, o COVID-19 pode ter efeito positivo na vida política do Brasil

Renzo Taddei – 25 de março de 2020

Hoje, pela manhã, em conversa por WhatsApp com parentes quarentenados, ao falarmos sobre o pronunciamento do Bolsonaro da noite de ontem, um adolescente da família postou um emoticon de careta e disparou: “qual o problema desse cara?” Mais tarde, encontrei nas redes sociais vídeo postado por um grande amigo argentino, Hugo Partucci, em que ele toca, ao violão, canção composta por seu grupo artístico há alguns anos, e que fala de um adulto que, vivendo a perseguição política da ditadura argentina, coloca uma criança para dormir e deseja a ela que tenha bons sonhos. De repente, numa dessas associações de ideias que aparecem de forma espontânea na mente, ocorreu-me que, se nós, adultos, não estragarmos as coisas, o COVID-19 pode melhorar tremendamente a vida política do Brasil.

A ideia, algo contra intuitiva, reconheço, é a seguinte: as pessoas da minha geração (tenho 47), com margem de variação de menos ou mais quinze anos, viram as coisas darem mais ou menos certo da forma bastante errada na política brasileira, e com isso desenvolveram uma atitude cínica com relação ao processo político, de maneira geral. Este cinismo se manifesta, de forma explícita ou nas profundezas do subconsciente, no pensamento algo recorrente que diz que eleições não servem pra nada, que são um imenso teatro para manter as mesmas elites de sempre no poder. Com o Bolsonaro no Planalto, se a juventude entender o que está acontecendo sem herdar nossos vícios de pensamento e nossas emoções apodrecidas, as coisas podem mudar. Que criança ou jovem que tenha memória, no futuro, do que está acontecendo agora vai pensar que as eleições não são importantes? Ocorre, no entanto, que podemos estragar tudo se não tivermos cuidado.

Quando digo que as coisas deram certo da forma errada, refiro-me especificamente ao fato de que no Brasil, desde o fim da ditadura, as coisas caminham mas nunca segundo as aspirações da população. O país se redemocratizou, mas o movimentos Diretas Já não teve sucesso; posteriormente, o processo democrático se estruturou de forma lenta e insegura, com Sarney, Collor, Itamar e FHC, sem que as elites que defendem políticas excludentes tivessem arredado pé do governo por um segundo sequer. O consolo vinha sempre na forma do mantra “O Brasil é uma democracia jovem”. Com o PT no governo, as ânsias e desejos do passado se reascenderam; houve um período de êxtase na juventude progressista, enquanto o Lula distribuía o excedente do dinheiro do pré-sal, associava-se aos banqueiros e não fazia as reformas necessárias nem uma distribuição de renda estrutural e efetiva. Quando a coisa toda desmoronou, veio junto o que restava de esperança naquela geração de jovens no processo político. Sobrou desesperança e amargura, mesmo que em um país mais rico, mais educado e menos desigual do que há 30 anos.

Tenho amigos e parentes que, antilulisticamente, ajudaram a colocar o Bolsonaro no poder. A grande maioria parou de dizer “ah, mais no tempo do PT…” quando o governo Bolsonaro começou a patinar no seu tratamento da epidemia. Depois do pronunciamento de ontem, praticamente todos eles estão gritando “impeachment” nas redes sociais. E o que está fazendo a maioria dos que sempre foram mais politicamente alinhados comigo? Está postando mensagens de ódio, do tipo “deixa eu avisar que eu lembro de cada pessoa da minha lista de contatos que votou no Bolsonaro”, ou inserindo a expressão “eu avisei” nos seus nomes, em seus perfis de redes sociais. Até ontem, isso não me espantava. Hoje de manhã ocorreu-me que podemos estrar estragando a única oportunidade que nos resta de ver o processo político melhorar.

Em que contexto político um grupo vê o rival mudar para o seu lado, e ao invés de congratular-se, reage com ódio? Nossa geração está destruindo o pouco que sobrou da política – com ajuda dos algoritmos das redes sociais, sem dúvida. Em algum momento paramos de fazer política, aquela estruturada ao redor da ideia de que os outros têm direito de pensar diferente e a melhor forma de lidar com isso é exatamente que eles venham dizer isso na nossa cara, e escutem o que temos a dizer a respeito. O processo político virou a válvula de escape de nossas frustrações e da nossa raiva. No processo eleitoral, parecia que os antipestistas eram os que estavam votando com o sistema digestivo. Depois das eleições, aparentemente todo o país passou a viver a política de forma gástrica, e nada mais. A reação mais natural, por ser espontânea e porque já a naturalizamos, é insultar o Bolsonaro quando temos que mencionar o seu nome.

Ocorre, no entanto, que isso pode ter consequências terríveis a longo prazo. Mudemos um pouco a perspectiva da cena: saia dos teus olhos e entre nos da criança que te observa, enquanto você, aos brados, diz que o presidente é um jumento, um palhaço, um imbecil, um retardado, uma pilha de esterco, um psicopata, um monstro, um assassino, um genocida. O que você acha que está acontecendo no pensamento desta criança?

Se há lições a serem aprendidas com o COVID-19, acredito que uma das mais importantes não seja para a nossa geração, mas para a das crianças e jovens. Se eles entenderem que o que causou isso, de forma mais imediata, foi o voto, e que é pelo voto que isso pode ser evitado, jamais terão atitude cínica como a nossa. O processo democrático no futuro será mais maduro e verdadeiro.

Só não vai acontecer se contaminarmos a percepção que os jovens têm da política, com tanto refluxo verbal, de modo que eles não sejam capazes de perceber que o momento atual mostra, com clareza que minha geração nunca teve, o valor que o voto tem. É preciso que admitamos, então, nossas limitações, para que possamos ajudar as crianças e jovens a construírem realidade melhor do que a nossa.

Para tanto, é preciso tratar dos sentimentos que temos dentro de nós, sobre o governo, sobre o papel que o estado-nação tem em nossas vidas, sobre a forma como nos fizemos dependentes e vulneráveis a coisas que não controlamos; precisamos tentar aprender com quem vive de forma mais autônoma, livre e em paz, e precisamos trabalhar para que a relação entre o estado e as pessoas seja mais saudável no futuro. É possível que não sejamos mais capazes de consertar isso; o que estou argumentando aqui é que talvez nossos filhos o sejam, e não devemos atrapalhá-los com nossas limitações. O elemento mais inconveniente do fato de que nossa reação às ações do Bolsonaro é gastrointestinal é não conseguirmos fazer efetivamente nada que mude as coisas com isso. Há, inclusive, a possibilidade de que isso seja estratégia bolsonarista. Quem consegue pensar de forma politicamente estratégica, hoje, não está dando chilique.

Isso tudo passa, a meu ver, por não alienar os jovens do que está acontecendo, no sentido de “protegê-los”. Quando fazemos isso, estamos apenas materializando o pensamento de que eles não poderão ser melhores do que somos e fomos. Quem pensa assim não está colocando a devida atenção em quem são as crianças e jovens de hoje. Ao invés de pautar sua compreensão da realidade pelo programa do Datena ou do Ratinho, olhe ao seu redor, escute as conversas das crianças e jovens, e compare com o que éramos a três ou quatro décadas. Tenho a impressão forte de que muita gente nesta geração nova é mais capaz de empatia, de colaboração, de amor e de perdão do que éramos (e somos).

É preciso encontrar formas de fazer os jovens entenderem o que está acontecendo sem repetir neles nossas limitações emocionais, nossa incapacidade de manter a serenidade, nossos traumas. Por isso, antes de falar aos jovens sobre o que deveria estar acontecendo e não está, tomemos o tempo de tentar analisar o que se passa com nossas emoções, com nossa necessidade de descarregar as emoções negativas através da política (o que aniquila a capacidade da política ser tudo o que poderia). E trata-se mais de postura afetiva do que de ação: podemos e devemos bater panela, assinar petições pedindo o impeachment, participar de manifestações de rua quando o perigo do COVID-19 estiver controlado, e estarmos preparados para a desobediência civil. Mas agindo com a cabeça, e não com os intestinos. Crianças e jovens são imensamente capazes de perceber o que nos move, e isso pode deixar neles marca profunda, positiva ou negativa.

Se fizermos isso tudo – o que vai tomar algum tempo e não vai ser fácil -, podemos pelo menos contribuir para a formação de uma nova geração que será imensamente mais capaz de viver em comunidade e resolver seus problemas de forma pacífica e colaborativa. O ponto central do meu pensamento, entenda-se bem, não é transferir aos jovens a responsabilidade de resolver algo que não fomos capazes. É apenas aproveitar a intervenção drástica e em escala planetária do COVID-19 para que tratemos nossas feridas politico-emocionais, e sejamos capazes de deixar que a crise seja uma lição de crescimento civilizacional para crianças e jovens. Se isso vai ser amargo ou sereno para eles, depende muito de como nossas emoções embotadas afetarão a mensagem.

Quarentena: porque você deveria ignorar toda a pressão para ser produtivo agora (Medium)

Uma pesquisadora com experiência em ambientes adversos dá conselhos aos acadêmicos ansiosos com a quebra de rotina causada pelo coronavírus

Por Aisha S. Ahmad, no Chronicle of Higher Education.
Tradução de Renato Pincelli.

O QUE TENHO OBSERVADO entre meus colegas e amigos acadêmicos é uma resposta comum à contínua crise da COVID-19. Eles estão lutando bravamente para manter um senso de normalidade — correndo para os cursos online, mantendo rigorosos cronogramas de escrita e criando escolinhas Montessori nas mesas de cozinha. A expectativa deles é apertar os cintos por um breve período, até que as coisas voltem ao normal. Para qualquer um que segue esse caminho, desejo muita saúde e boa sorte.

Entretanto, como alguém que tem experiência com diversas crises ao redor do mundo, o que eu vejo por trás dessa busca pela produtividade é uma suposição perigosa. A resposta para a pergunta que todo mundo está se fazendo — “Quando isso vai acabar?” — é simples é óbvia, mas difícil de engolir. A resposta é nunca.

Catástrofes globais mudam o mundo e esta pandemia é muito semelhante a uma grande guerra. Mesmo que a crise do coronavírus seja contida dentro de alguns meses, o legado dessa pandemia vai viver conosco por anos, talvez décadas. Isso vai mudar o modo como nos movemos, como construímos, como aprendemos e nos conectamos. É simplesmente impossível voltar à vida como se nada disso tivesse acontecido. Assim, embora possa parecer bom por enquanto, é tolice mergulhar num frenesi de atividade ou ficar obcecado com sua produtividade acadêmica neste momento. Isso é negação e auto-ilusão. A resposta emocional e espiritualmente saudável seria se preparar para ser mudado para sempre.

O resto deste artigo é um conselho. Fui constantemente procurada por meus colegas ao redor do mundo para compartilhar minhas experiências de adaptação às condições de crise. Claro que sou apenas uma humana, lutando como todo mundo para se ajustar à pandemia. Entretanto, já trabalhei e vivi sob condições de guerra, conflitos violentos, pobreza e desastres em muitos lugares do mundo. Passei por racionamento de comida e surtos de doenças, bem como prolongados períodos de isolamento social, restrição de movimento e confinamento. Conduzi pesquisas premiadas sob condições físicas e psicológicas extremamente difíceis — e tenho orgulho de minha produtividade e desempenho na minha carreira de pesquisadora.

Deixo aqui os seguintes pensamentos durante esse momento difícil na esperança de que eles ajudem outros acadêmicos a se adaptar a essas condições duras. Pegue o que precisa e deixe o resto.

Primeiro Estágio: Segurança

SEUS PRIMEIROS dias ou suas primeiras semanas numa crise são cruciais e você deveria ter um amplo espaço para fazer um ajuste mental. É perfeitamente normal e aceitável sentir-se mal ou perdido durante essa transição inicial. Considere positivo que não esteja em negação e que está se permitindo trabalhar apesar da ansiedade. Nenhuma pessoa sã sente-se bem durante um desastre global, então agradeça pelo desconforto que sente. Neste estágio, eu diria para focar em alimentação, família, amigos e talvez exercícios físicos — mas você não vai virar um atleta olímpico em quinze dias, então baixe sua bola.

Em seguida, ignore todo mundo que está postando a pornografia da produtividade nas mídias sociais. Está bem se você continua acordado às 3 da manhã. Está bem esquecer de almoçar ou não conseguir fazer uma teleaula de ioga. Está bem se faz três semanas que você nem toca naquele artigo-que-só-falta-revisar-e-submeter.

Ignore tanto as pessoas que dizem estar escrevendo papers quanto as que reclamam de não conseguir escrever. Cada qual está em sua jornada. Corte esse ruído.

Saiba que você não está fracassando. Livre-se das ideias profundamente toscas que você tem a respeito do que deveria estar fazendo agora. Em vez disso, seu foco deve se voltar prioritariamente para sua segurança física e mental. Neste começo de crise, sua prioridade deveria ser a segurança da sua casa. Adquira itens essenciais para sua dispensa, limpe seu lar e faça um plano de coordenação com sua família. Tenha conversas razoáveis sobre preparos de emergência com seus entes queridos. Se você é próximo de alguém que trabalha nos serviços de emergência ou num ramo essencial, redirecione suas energias e faça do apoio a essa pessoa uma prioridade. Identifique e cubra as necessidades dessas pessoas.

Não importa como é o perfil da sua família: vocês vão ter que ser um time nas próximas semanas ou meses. Monte uma estratégia para manter conexões sociais com um pequeno grupo de familiares, amigos e/ou vizinhos, mas mantenha o distanciamento físico de acordo com as orientações de saúde pública. Identifique os vulneráveis e garanta que eles estejam incluídos e protegidos.

A melhor maneira de construir um time é ser um bom companheiro de equipe, então tome alguma iniciativa para não ficar sozinho. Se você não montar essa infra-estrutura psicológica, o desafio das medidas de distanciamento social necessárias pode ser esmagador. Crie uma rede sustentável de apoio social — agora.

Segundo Estágio: Modificação Mental

ASSIM QUE estiver seguro junto com seu time, você vai começar a se sentir mais estável e seu corpo e sua mente vão se adaptar, fazendo-o buscar desafios mais exigentes. Depois de um tempo seu cérebro pode e vai reiniciar sob condições de crise e você vai reaver sua capacidade de trabalhar em alto nível.

Essa modificação mental permitirá que você volte a ser um pesquisador de alta performance, mesmo sob condições extremas. No entanto, você não deve tentar forçar sua modificação mental, especialmente se você nunca passou por um desastre. Um dos posts mais relevantes que vi no Twitter (do escritor Troy Johnson) dizia: “Dia 1 da Quarentena — vou meditar e fazer treinamento físico. Dia 4 — ah, vamos misturar logo o sorvete com o macarrão”. Pode parecer engraçado, mas diz muito sobre o problema.

Mais do que nunca, precisamos abandonar o performativo e abraçar o autêntico. Modificar nossas essências mentais exige humildade e paciência. Mantenha o foco nessa mudança interna. Essas transformações humanas vão ser sinceras, cruas, feias, esperançosas, frustrantes, lindas e divinas — e serão mais lentas do que os acadêmicos atarefados estão acostumados. Seja lento. Permita-se ficar distraído. Deixe que isso mude o modo como você pensa e como você vê o mundo. Porque o nosso trabalho é o mundo. Que essa tragédia, enfim, nos faça derrubar todas as nossas suposições falhas e nos dê coragem para ter novas ideias.

Terceiro Estágio: Abrace o Novo Normal

Do outro lado dessa mudança, seu cérebro maravilhoso, criativo e resiliente estará te esperando. Quando suas fundações estiverem sólidas, faça uma agenda semanal priorizando a segurança do seu time doméstico e depois reserve blocos de tempo para as diferentes categorias do seu trabalho: ensino, administração e pesquisa. Faça primeiro as tarefas simples e vá abrindo caminho até os pesos-pesados. Acorde cedo. Aquela aula online de ioga ou crossfit vai ser mais fácil nesse estágio.

A essa altura, as coisas começam a parecer mais naturais. O trabalho também vai fazer mais sentido e você estará mais confortável para mudar ou desfazer o que estava fazendo. Vão surgir ideias novas, que nunca lhe passariam pela cabeça se você tivesse ficado em negação. Continue abraçando sua modificação mental, tenha fé no processo e dê apoio ao seu time.

Lembre-se que isso é uma maratona: se você disparar na largada, vai vomitar nos seus pés até o fim do mês. Esteja emocionalmente preparado para uma crise que vai durar 12 ou 18 meses, seguida de uma recuperação lenta. Se terminar antes, será uma surpresa agradável. Neste momento, trabalhe para estabelecer sua serenidade, sua produtividade e seu bem-estar sob condições prolongadas de desastre.

Nenhum de nós sabe quanto tempo essa crise vai durar. Gostaríamos de receber nossas tropas de volta ao lar antes do Natal. Essa incerteza nos enlouquece.

Porém, virá o dia em que a pandemia estará acabada. Vamos abraçar nossos vizinhos e amigos. Vamos retornar às nossas salas de aula e cantinhos do café. Nossas fronteiras voltarão a se abrir para o livre movimento. Nossas economias, um dia, estarão recuperadas das recessões por vir.

Só que, agora, estamos no começo desta jornada. Muita gente ainda não entendeu o fato de que o mundo já mudou. Alguns membros da faculdade sentem-se distraídos ou culpados por não conseguir escrever muito ou dar aulas online apropriadas. Outros usam todo seu tempo em casa para escrever e relatam um surto de produtividade. Tudo isso é ruído — negação e ilusão. Neste momento, essa negação só serve para atrasar o processo fundamental da aceitação, que permite que a gente possa se reinventar nessa nova realidade.

Do outro lado desta jornada de aceitação estão a esperança e a resiliência. Nós sabemos que podemos passar por isso, mesmo que dure anos. Nós seremos criativos e responsivos; vamos lutar em todas as brechas e recantos possíveis. Vamos aprender novas receitas e fazer amizades desconhecidas. Faremos projetos que nem podemos imaginar hoje e vamos inspirar estudantes que ainda estamos para conhecer. E vamos nos ajudar mutuamente. Não importa o que vier depois: juntos, estaremos preparados e fortalecidos.

Por fim, gostaria de agradecer aos colegas e amigos que vivem em lugares difíceis, que sentem na própria pele essa sensação de desastre. Nos últimos anos, rimos ao trocar lembranças sobre as dores da infância e exultamos sobre nossas tribulações. Agradecemos à resiliência que veio com nossas velhas feridas de guerra. Obrigado a vocês por serem os guerreiros da luz e por partilhar de sua sabedoria nascida do sofrimento — porque a calamidade é uma grande professora.

AISHA AHMAD é professora-assistente de Ciências Políticas na Universidade de Toronto, no Canadá, onde também dá cursos avançados sobre Segurança Internacional. Fruto de pesquisas feitas no Afeganistão, Paquistão, Somália, Mali e Líbano, seu livro “Jihad & Co: Black Markets and Islamist Power” (2017) explora as motivações econômicas por trás dos conflitos no mundo islâmico. Este artigo com conselhos sobre produtividade acadêmica em condições adversas foi publicado originalmente no “Chronicle of Higher Education” em 27/03/20.

O efeito Dunning-Kruger, ou por que os ignorantes acham que são especialistas (Universo Racionalista)

[A ironia do autor parece indicar que ele não entendeu muito bem o assunto de que trata. Há frases inconsistentes, como “o efeito Dunning-Kruger não é uma falha humana; é simplesmente um produto da nossa compreensão subjetiva do mundo”, por exemplo. RT]

Por Julio Batista – fev 20, 2020

Imagem via Pxhere.

Artigo original em português

Traduzido por Julio Batista
Original de Alexandru Micu no ZME Science

O efeito Dunning-Kruger é um viés cognitivo que foi descrito pela primeira vez no trabalho de David Dunning e Justin Kruger no (agora famoso) estudo de 1999 Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.

O estudo nasceu baseado em um caso criminal de um rapaz chamado McArthur Wheeler que, em plena luz do dia de 19 de abril de 1995, decidiu roubar dois bancos em Pittsburg, Estados Unidos. Wheeler portava uma arma, mas não uma máscara. Câmeras de vigilância o registraram em flagrante, e a polícia divulgou sua foto nas notícias locais, recebendo várias denúncias de onde ele estava quase que imediatamente.

Um gráfico mostrando o efeito Dunning-Kruger. Imagem adaptada do Wikimedia.

Quando eles foram o prender, o Sr. Wheeler estava visivelmente confuso.

“Mas eu estava coberto de suco”, ele disse, antes que os oficiais o levassem.

Não existe “métodos infalíveis”

Em algum momento de sua vida, Wheeler aprendeu de alguém que o suco de limão poderia ser usado como uma ‘tinta invisível’. Se algo fosse escrito em um pedaço de papel usando suco de limão, você não veria nada – a não ser que você aquecesse o suco, o que tornaria os rabiscos visíveis. Então, naturalmente, ele cobriu seu rosto de suco de limão e foi assaltar um banco, confiante de que sua identidade permaneceria secreta para as câmeras, desde que ele não chegasse perto de nenhuma fonte de calor.

Ainda assim, devemos dar créditos pro sujeito: Wheeler não apostou cegamente. Ele realmente testou sua teoria tirando uma selfie com uma câmera polaroid (existe um cientista dentro de todos nós). Por alguma razão ou outra, talvez porque o filme estava com defeito, não sabemos exatamente o porquê, a câmera revelou uma imagem em branco.

As notícias circularam pelo mundo, todo mundo deu uma boa risada, e o Sr. Wheeler foi levado para a cadeia. A polícia concluiu que ele não era louco, nem usava drogas, ele realmente acreditava que seu plano funcionaria. “Durante sua interação com a polícia, ele ficou incrédulo sobre como sua ignorância havia falhado com ele”, escreveu Anupum Pant para a Awesci.

David Dunning estava trabalhando como psicólogo na Universidade Cornell na época, e a história bizarra chamou sua atenção. Com a ajuda de Justin Kruger, um de seus alunos de pós-graduação, ele começou a entender como o Sr. Wheeler podia estar tão confiante em um plano que era claramente estúpido. A teoria que eles desenvolveram é que quase todos nós consideramos nossas habilidades em determinadas áreas acima da média e que a maioria provavelmente avalia as próprias habilidades como muito melhores do que elas são objetivamente – uma “ilusão de confiança” que sustenta o efeito Dunning-Kruger.

Sejamos todos sem noção

“Cuidado com o vão”… entre como você se vê e como realmente é. Imagem via Pxfuel.

“Se você é incompetente, você não pode saber que é incompetente”, escreveu Dunning no seu livro Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself.

“As habilidades necessárias para produzir uma resposta certa são exatamente as habilidades necessárias para reconhecer o que é uma resposta certa”.

No estudo de 1999 (o primeiro realizado sobre o tópico), a dupla fez uma série de perguntas aos alunos de Cornell sobre gramática, lógica e humor (usadas para medir as habilidades reais dos alunos) e, em seguida, pediu que cada um avaliasse a pontuação geral que eles alcançariam e como suas pontuações se relacionariam às pontuações dos outros participantes. Eles descobriram que os estudantes com a pontuação mais baixa, superestimaram consistente e substancialmente suas próprias capacidades. Os alunos do quartil inferior (25% mais baixos por nota) pensaram que atavam acima de dois terços em média dos outros estudantes (ou seja, que ficaram entre os 33% melhores por pontuação).

Um estudo relacionado realizado pelos mesmo autores em um clube de tiro esportivo mostrou resultados semelhantes. Dunning e Kruger usaram uma metodologia semelhante, fazendo perguntas aos aficionados sobre segurança de armas, visando que estes estimassem a si próprios sobre seus desempenhos no teste. Aqueles que responderam o menor número de perguntas de forma correta também superestimaram demasiadamente seu domínio do conhecimento sobre armas de fogo.

Não é específico apenas às habilidades técnicas, pois afeta todas as esferas da existência humana por igual. Um estudo descobriu que 80% dos motoristas se classificam como acima da média, o que é literalmente impossível, porque não é assim que as médias funcionam. Tendemos a avaliar nossa popularidade relativa da mesma maneira.

Também não se limita a pessoas com habilidades baixas ou inexistentes em um determinado assunto – funciona em praticamente todos nós. Em seu primeiro estudo, Dunning e Kruger também descobriram que os alunos que pontuavam no quartil superior (25%) subestimavam rotineiramente sua própria competência.

Uma definição mais completa do efeito Dunning-Kruger seria que ele representa um viés na estimativa de nossa própria capacidade decorrente de nossa perspectiva limitada. Quando temos uma compreensão ruim ou inexistente sobre um tópico, sabemos literalmente muito pouco para entender o quão pouco sabemos. Aqueles que de fato possuem o conhecimento ou habilidades, no entanto, têm uma ideia muito melhor que as outras pessoas com quem andam. Mas eles também pensam que, se uma tarefa é clara e simples para eles, também deve ser assim para todos os outros.

Uma pessoa no primeiro grupo e uma no segundo grupo são igualmente suscetíveis de usar sua própria experiência como base e tendem a dar como certo que todos estão próximos dessa “base”. Ambos tem “ilusão de confiança” – em um, essa confiança eles tem em si mesmos, e no outro, eles tem em todos as outras pessoas.

Mas talvez não sejamos igualmente sem noção

Errar é humano. Mas, persistir com confiança no erro é hilário.

Dunning e Kruger pareciam encontrar uma saída para o efeito que ajudaram a documentar. Embora todos pareçamos ter a mesma probabilidade de nos iludir, há uma diferença importante entre aqueles que são confiantes, mas incapazes, e aqueles que são capazes e não têm confiança: a forma que lidam e absorvem o feedback ao próprio comportamento.

O Sr. Wheeler tentou verificar sua teoria. No entanto, ele olhou para uma polaroid em branco de uma foto que ele tinha acabado de tirar – um dos grandes motivos que sinalizava que algo não deu muito certo na sua teoria – e não viu motivo para se preocupar; a única explicação que ele aceitou foi que seu plano funcionava. Mais tarde, ele recebeu um feedback da polícia, mas nem isso conseguiu diminuir sua certeza; ele estava “incrédulo em como sua ignorância havia falhado com ele”, mesmo quando ele tinha absoluta confirmação (estando na prisão) de que isso falhou.

Durante sua pesquisa, Dunning e Kruger descobriram que bons alunos previam melhor seu desempenho em exames futuros quando recebessem feedback preciso sobre a pontuação que alcançaram atualmente e sobre sua classificação relativa entre a turma. Os alunos com pior desempenho não mudariam suas expectativas, mesmo após um feedback claro e repetido de que estavam tendo um desempenho ruim. Eles simplesmente insistiram que suas suposições estavam corretas.

Brincadeiras à parte, o efeito Dunning-Kruger não é uma falha humana; é simplesmente um produto da nossa compreensão subjetiva do mundo. Na verdade, serve como uma precaução contra supor que estamos sempre certos e serve pra destacar a importância de manter uma mente aberta e uma visão crítica de nossa própria capacidade.

Mas se você tem medo de ser incompetente, verifique como o feedback afeta sua visão sobre seu próprio trabalho, conhecimento, habilidades e como isso se relaciona com outras pessoas ao seu redor. Se você realmente é um incompetente, não vai mudar de ideia e esse processo é basicamente uma perda de tempo, mas não se preocupe – alguém lhe dirá que você é incompetente.

E você não vai acreditar neles.

Esse desconforto que você está sentindo é luto (HBR/Medium)

Por Scott Berinato, da Harvard Business Review. Traduzido por Ana Marcela Sarria (aqui); revisado por Renzo Taddei.

Texto original em inglês

HBR Staff/d3sign/Getty Images

Parte da equipe da HBR se reuniu virtualmente outro dia — uma tela cheia de rostos, numa cena que está se tornando cada vez mais comum por todos lados. Falamos sobre o conteúdo que estamos produzindo nestes tempos angustiantes e como podemos ajudar as pessoas. Mas também falamos sobre como estamos nos sentindo. Uma colega mencionou que o que ela sentia era luto. Cabeças acenaram em concordância na tela.

Se podemos nomeá-lo, talvez possamos lidar com ele. Conversamos com David Kessler sobre ideias de como fazer isso. Kessler é um grande especialista em luto. Ele co-escreveu, com Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, o livro On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. Seu novo livro adiciona outro estágio no processo, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. Kessler também trabalhou por uma década no sistema hospitalar de Los Angeles. Ele participou da equipe de risco biológico. Seu trabalho voluntário inclui ser membro da Reserva de Especialistas da polícia de Los Angeles para eventos traumáticos, assim como ter servido na equipe de serviços em situação de desastre da Cruz Vermelha. Ele é o fundador do, que tem mais de 5 milhões de visitas anuais advindas de 167 países.

Kessler compartilhou seus pensamentos sobre por que é importante reconhecer o luto que você pode estar sentindo, como controlá-lo, e por que ele acredita que vamos encontrar um sentido nele. A conversa está levemente editada para garantir maior clareza.

HBR: As pessoas estão sentindo muitas coisas agora. Écorreto chamar algumas das coisas que elas estão sentindo de luto?

Kessler: Sim, e estamos sentindo vários lutos diferentes. Estamos sentindo que o mundo mudou, e ele mudou mesmo. Sabemos que é temporário, mas não sentimos que seja, e compreendemos que as coisas vão ser diferentes. Assim como ir ao aeroporto mudou para sempre depois do 11 de setembro, as coisas vão mudar e este é o ponto no qual mudaram. A perda da normalidade; o medo do estrago econômico; a perda de conexão. Estamos sendo afetados por essas coisas, e estamos em luto. Não estamos acostumados a este tipo de luto coletivo no ar.

Você disse que estamos sentindo mais de um tipo de luto?

Sim, estamos sentindo, também, luto antecipado. Luto antecipado é esse sentimento que temos sobre o que o futuro nos reserva quando estamos incertos a respeito. Normalmente se centra na morte. Sentimos isso quando alguém tem um diagnóstico ruim, ou quando pensamos a respeito do fato de que vamos perder nosso pais em algum momento. Luto antecipado é também, mais maneira mais geral, sobre futuros imaginados. Tem uma tempestade chegando. Tem algo ruim lá fora. Com um vírus, este tipo de luto é muito confuso para as pessoas. Nossa cognição sabe que algo ruim está acontecendo, mas não podemos vê-lo. Isso rompe nosso sentido de segurança. Estamos sentindo a perda da segurança. Eu acho que jamais havíamos perdido coletivamente nosso senso geral de segurança desta forma. Indivíduos ou grupos específicos passaram por isso, mas isso é inédito em escala planetária. Estamos em luto nos níveis micro e macro.

O quê podemos fazer para lidar com o luto?

Entender os estágios do luto é um começo. Mas sempre que falo sobre os estágios do luto, eu lembro as pessoas de que os estágios não são lineares e podem não acontecer nessa ordem. Não é um mapa, mas nos fornece uma plataforma para acessar este mundo desconhecido. Existe a negação, que acontece bastante no início: “este vírus não vai nos afetar”. Existe a raiva: “vocês estão nos fazendo ficar em casa e tirando nossos trabalhos”. Existe a barganha: “ok, se estabelecemos o distanciamento social por duas semanas, tudo vai melhorar, certo?”. Existe a tristeza: “eu não sei quando isto vai terminar”. E, finalmente, a aceitação: “isto está acontecendo; eu tenho que descobrir como seguir adiante”.

A aceitação, como você pode imaginar, é onde está nosso poder. Encontramos o controle quando chegamos na fase da aceitação. “Eu posso lavar minhas mãos. Eu posso manter uma distância segura. Eu posso aprender a trabalhar virtualmente.”

Quando estamos sentindo luto, existe uma dor física. E a mente acelerada. Existem técnicas para lidar com isso e fazer com que seja menos intenso?

Vamos voltar para o luto antecipado. Luto antecipado não-saudável é, na verdade, ansiedade; esse é o sentimento sobre o qual você está falando. Nossa mente começa a nos mostrar imagens. Meus pais ficando doentes. Vemos os piores cenários. Essa é nossa mente sendo protetiva. Nosso objetivo é não ignorar essas imagens ou tentar fazê-las ir embora — sua mente não vai deixar você fazer isso e pode ser doloroso se você forçar. O objetivo é encontrar o equilíbrio nas coisas que você está pensando. Se você sente que imagens ruins estão tomando forma, mude o seu pensamento para imagens positivas. Todos nós ficamos doentes e o mundo segue adiante. Nem todo mundo que eu amo morre. Talvez não morram porque estamos todos fazendo as coisas certas. Nenhum cenário deve ser ignorado, mas nenhum deve dominar também.

Luto antecipado é a mente projetando-se para o futuro e imaginando o pior. Para se acalmar, você quer voltar para o presente. Este conselho vai soar familiar para qualquer pessoa que já meditou ou praticou mindfulness, mas as pessoas podem sempre se surpreender com o quão simples isto pode ser. Você pode nomear cinco coisas que estão na sala onde você está. Existe um computador, uma cadeira, uma foto de um cachorro, um tapete velho e uma xícara de café. É simples assim. Respire. Perceba que, no momento presente, nada do que você tinha antecipado aconteceu. Neste momento, você está bem. Você tem comida. Você não está doente. Use seus sentidos e pense sobre o que eles sentem. A mesa é dura. O cobertor é macio. Eu consigo sentir o ar entrando em minhas narinas. Isto efetivamente funciona para reduzir a dor.

Você também pode pensar sobre como abrir mão do que você não tem controle. O que seu vizinho está fazendo está fora do seu controle. O que está no seu controle é ficar a um metro de distância dele, e lavar suas mãos. Foque nisso.

Finalmente, é um bom momento para multiplicar a compaixão. As pessoas vão ter níveis diferentes de medo e luto e isso se manifesta de formas diferentes. Uma pessoa com quem trabalho ficou muito rude comigo outro dia e eu pensei: “não parece a mesma pessoa; essa é a forma como a pessoa está lidando com a situação. Estou vendo seu medo e ansiedade”. Então seja paciente. Pense sobre como as pessoas geralmente são e não quem elas parecem ser neste momento.

Um aspecto particularmente perturbador nesta pandemia é não saber quando ela acaba.

Isto é um estado temporário. Ajuda falar sobre isso. Eu trabalhei 10 anos no sistema hospitalar. Eu fui treinado para situações como esta. Eu também estudei a pandemia da gripe de 1918. As precauções que estamos tomando são corretas. A história nos conta isso. Isto se chama sobrevivência. Vamos sobreviver. Este é um tempo de se superproteger, mas não se reagir de forma desmedida.

E acredito que vamos encontrar sentido nisto. Eu fiquei honrado que a família de Elisabeth Kübler-Ross me deu permissão para acrescentar um sexto estado ao luto: significado. Eu tinha falado bastante com Elisabeth sobre o que viria depois da aceitação. Eu não quis parar na aceitação quando experimentei o luto pessoal. Eu quis significado naquelas horas mais difíceis. E efetivamente acredito que encontramos iluminação nestes momentos. Agora mesmo as pessoas estão percebendo que elas podem se conectar através da tecnologia. Elas não estão tão distantes quanto imaginavam. Elas estão percebendo que podem usar seus telefones para conversas longas. Estão apreciando caminhadas. Eu acredito que vamos continuar encontrando significado agora e quando isso tiver acabado.

O que você diria para alguém que lê tudo isto e ainda assim se sente sobrecarregado com o luto?

Continue tentando. Há algo poderoso em nomear o luto. Isso nos ajuda a sentir o que está dentro de nós. Tantas pessoas me disseram na última semana: “estou dizendo para meus colegas de trabalho que estou tendo dificuldades” ou “chorei na noite passada”. Quando você nomeia o luto, você é mais capaz de senti-lo e ele se move através de você. Emoções precisam de movimento. É importante que entendamos o que estamos passando. Um produto infeliz do movimento de autoajuda é que somos a primeira geração que tem emoções sobre suas emoções. Falamos para nós mesmos: “estou me sentindo triste, mas não deveria sentir isso; outras pessoas se sentem pior”. Nós podemos — devemos — parar no primeiro sentimento. “Eu me sinto triste. Vou me deixar sentir triste, por cinco minutos”. Seu objetivo nesse momento é sentir sua tristeza e medo e raiva, independente do que estejam sentindo as demais pessoas. Lutar contra isso não ajuda porque seu corpo está produzindo o sentimento. Se permitimos que os sentimentos aconteçam, eles vão acontecer de uma maneira ordenada, e nos empoderar. Então não seremos vítimas.

Numa maneira ordenada?

Sim. às vezes tentamos não sentir o que estamos sentindo porque temos essa imagem de um “bando de emoções”. Se eu me sentir triste e acolher a tristeza, ela não irá embora. O bando de emoções ruins vai me dominar. A verdade é que uma emoção se move através de nós. Não existe um bando de emoções que vai nos pegar. É absurdo pensar que não deveríamos sentir luto agora. Permita-se sentir o luto e siga adiante.

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (HBR)

Scott Berinato

March 23, 2020

HBR Staff/d3sign/Getty Images

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Some of the HBR edit staff met virtually the other day — a screen full of faces in a scene becoming more common everywhere. We talked about the content we’re commissioning in this harrowing time of a pandemic and how we can help people. But we also talked about how we were feeling. One colleague mentioned that what she felt was grief. Heads nodded in all the panes.

If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it. We turned to David Kessler for ideas on how to do that. Kessler is the world’s foremost expert on grief. He co-wrote with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. His new book adds another stage to the process, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. Kessler also has worked for a decade in a three-hospital system in Los Angeles. He served on their biohazards team. His volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events as well as having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. He is the founder of, which has over 5 million visits yearly from 167 countries.

Kessler shared his thoughts on why it’s important to acknowledge the grief you may be feeling, how to manage it, and how he believes we will find meaning in it. The conversation is lightly edited for clarity.

HBR: People are feeling any number of things right now. Is it right to call some of what they’re feeling grief?

Kessler: Yes, and we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. Just as going to the airport is forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will change and this is the point at which they changed. The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.

You said we’re feeling more than one kind of grief?

Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.

What can individuals do to manage all this grief?

Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.

When we’re feeling grief there’s that physical pain. And the racing mind. Are there techniques to deal with that to make it less intense?

Let’s go back to anticipatory grief. Unhealthy anticipatory grief is really anxiety, and that’s the feeling you’re talking about. Our mind begins to show us images. My parents getting sick. We see the worst scenarios. That’s our minds being protective. Our goal is not to ignore those images or to try to make them go away — your mind won’t let you do that and it can be painful to try and force it. The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one does because we’re all taking the right steps. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either.

Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.

You can also think about how to let go of what you can’t control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.

Finally, it’s a good time to stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That’s not like this person; that’s how they’re dealing with this. I’m seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.

One particularly troubling aspect of this pandemic is the open-endedness of it.

This is a temporary state. It helps to say it. I worked for 10 years in the hospital system. I’ve been trained for situations like this. I’ve also studied the 1918 flu pandemic. The precautions we’re taking are the right ones. History tells us that. This is survivable. We will survive. This is a time to overprotect but not overreact.

And, I believe we will find meaning in it. I’ve been honored that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s family has given me permission to add a sixth stage to grief: Meaning. I had talked to Elisabeth quite a bit about what came after acceptance. I did not want to stop at acceptance when I experienced some personal grief. I wanted meaning in those darkest hours. And I do believe we find light in those times. Even now people are realizing they can connect through technology. They are not as remote as they thought. They are realizing they can use their phones for long conversations. They’re appreciating walks. I believe we will continue to find meaning now and when this is over.

What do you say to someone who’s read all this and is still feeling overwhelmed with grief?

Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.

In an orderly way?

Yes. Sometimes we try not to feel what we’re feeling because we have this image of a “gang of feelings.” If I feel sad and let that in, it’ll never go away. The gang of bad feelings will overrun me. The truth is a feeling that moves through us. We feel it and it goes and then we go to the next feeling. There’s no gang out to get us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

Original post

Conspiracy theories: how belief is rooted in evolution – not ignorance (The Conversation)

December 13, 2019 9.33am EST – original article

Mikael Klintman PhD, Professor, Lund University

Despite creative efforts to tackle it, belief in conspiracy theories, alternative facts and fake news show no sign of abating. This is clearly a huge problem, as seen when it comes to climate change, vaccines and expertise in general – with anti-scientific attitudes increasingly influencing politics.

So why can’t we stop such views from spreading? My opinion is that we have failed to understand their root causes, often assuming it is down to ignorance. But new research, published in my book, Knowledge Resistance: How We Avoid Insight from Others, shows that the capacity to ignore valid facts has most likely had adaptive value throughout human evolution. Therefore, this capacity is in our genes today. Ultimately, realising this is our best bet to tackle the problem.

So far, public intellectuals have roughly made two core arguments about our post-truth world. The physician Hans Rosling and the psychologist Steven Pinker argue it has come about due to deficits in facts and reasoned thinking – and can therefore be sufficiently tackled with education.

Meanwhile, Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler and other behavioural economists have shown how the mere provision of more and better facts often lead already polarised groups to become even more polarised in their beliefs.

Tyler Merbler/Flickr, CC BY-SA

The conclusion of Thaler is that humans are deeply irrational, operating with harmful biases. The best way to tackle it is therefore nudging – tricking our irrational brains – for instance by changing measles vaccination from an opt-in to a less burdensome opt-out choice.

Such arguments have often resonated well with frustrated climate scientists, public health experts and agri-scientists (complaining about GMO-opposers). Still, their solutions clearly remain insufficient for dealing with a fact-resisting, polarised society.

Evolutionary pressures

In my comprehensive study, I interviewed numerous eminent academics at the University of Oxford, London School of Economics and King’s College London, about their views. They were experts on social, economic and evolutionary sciences. I analysed their comments in the context of the latest findings on topics raging from the origin of humanity, climate change and vaccination to religion and gender differences.

It became evident that much of knowledge resistance is better understood as a manifestation of social rationality. Essentially, humans are social animals; fitting into a group is what’s most important to us. Often, objective knowledge-seeking can help strengthen group bonding – such as when you prepare a well-researched action plan for your colleagues at work.

But when knowledge and group bonding don’t converge, we often prioritise fitting in over pursuing the most valid knowledge. In one large experiment, it turned out that both liberals and conservatives actively avoided having conversations with people of the other side on issues of drug policy, death penalty and gun ownership. This was the case even when they were offered a chance of winning money if they discussed with the other group. Avoiding the insights from opposing groups helped people dodge having to criticise the view of their own community.

Similarly, if your community strongly opposes what an overwhelming part of science concludes about vaccination or climate change, you often unconsciously prioritise avoiding getting into conflicts about it.

This is further backed up by research showing that the climate deniers who score the highest on scientific literacy tests are more confident than the average in that group that climate change isn’t happening – despite the evidence showing this is the case. And those among the climate concerned who score the highest on the same tests are more confident than the average in that group that climate change is happening.

This logic of prioritising the means that get us accepted and secured in a group we respect is deep. Those among the earliest humans who weren’t prepared to share the beliefs of their community ran the risk of being distrusted and even excluded.

And social exclusion was an enormous increased threat against survival – making them vulnerable to being killed by other groups, animals or by having no one to cooperate with. These early humans therefore had much lower chances of reproducing. It therefore seems fair to conclude that being prepared to resist knowledge and facts is an evolutionary, genetic adaptation of humans to the socially challenging life in hunter-gatherer societies.

Today, we are part of many groups and internet networks, to be sure, and can in some sense “shop around” for new alliances if our old groups don’t like us. Still, humanity today shares the same binary mindset and strong drive to avoid being socially excluded as our ancestors who only knew about a few groups. The groups we are part of also help shape our identity, which can make it hard to change groups. Individuals who change groups and opinions constantly may also be less trusted, even among their new peers.

In my research, I show how this matters when it comes to dealing with fact resistance. Ultimately, we need to take social aspects into account when communicating facts and arguments with various groups. This could be through using role models, new ways of framing problems, new rules and routines in our organisations and new types of scientific narratives that resonate with the intuitions and interests of more groups than our own.

There are no quick fixes, of course. But if climate change were reframed from the liberal/leftist moral perspective of the need for global fairness to conservative perspectives of respect for the authority of the father land, the sacredness of God’s creation and the individual’s right not to have their life project jeopardised by climate change, this might resonate better with conservatives.

If we take social factors into account, this would help us create new and more powerful ways to fight belief in conspiracy theories and fake news. I hope my approach will stimulate joint efforts of moving beyond disputes disguised as controversies over facts and into conversations about what often matters more deeply to us as social beings.

Why did humans evolve such large brains? Because smarter people have more friends (The Conversation)

June 19, 2017 10.01am EDT

Humans are the only ultrasocial creature on the planet. We have outcompeted, interbred or even killed off all other hominin species. We cohabit in cities of tens of millions of people and, despite what the media tell us, violence between individuals is extremely rare. This is because we have an extremely large, flexible and complex “social brain”.

To truly understand how the brain maintains our human intellect, we would need to know about the state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, as well as the varying strengths with which they are connected, and the state of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point. Neurobiologist Steven Rose suggests that even this is not enough – we would still need know how these connections have evolved over a person’s lifetime and even the social context in which they had occurred. It may take centuries just to figure out basic neuronal connectivity.

Many people assume that our brain operates like a powerful computer. But Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, says this is just shoddy thinking and is holding back our understanding of the human brain. Because, while humans start with senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms, we are not born with any of the information, rules, algorithms or other key design elements that allow computers to behave somewhat intelligently. For instance, computers store exact copies of data that persist for long periods of time, even when the power is switched off. Our brains, meanwhile, are capable of creating false data or false memories, and they only maintain our intellect as long as we remain alive.

We are organisms, not computers

Of course, we can see many advantages in having a large brain. In my recent book on human evolution I suggest it firstly allows humans to exist in a group size of about 150. This builds resilience to environmental changes by increasing and diversifying food production and sharing.


As our ancestors got smarter, they became capable of living in larger and larger groups. Mark Maslin, Author provided

A social brain also allows specialisation of skills so individuals can concentrate on supporting childbirth, tool-making, fire setting, hunting or resource allocation. Humans have no natural weapons, but working in large groups and having tools allowed us to become the apex predator, hunting animals as large as mammoths to extinction.

Our social groups are large and complex, but this creates high stress levels for individuals because the rewards in terms of food, safety and reproduction are so great. Hence, Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues our huge brain is primarily developed to keep track of rapidly changing relationships. It takes a huge amount of cognitive ability to exist in large social groups, and if you fall out of the group you lose access to food and mates and are unlikely to reproduce and pass on your genes.


Great. But what about your soap opera knowledge? ronstik / shutterstock

My undergraduates come to university thinking they are extremely smart as they can do differential equations and understand the use of split infinitives. But I point out to them that almost anyone walking down the street has the capacity to hold the moral and ethical dilemmas of at least five soap operas in their head at any one time. And that is what being smart really means. It is the detailed knowledge of society and the need to track and control the ever changing relationship between people around us that has created our huge complex brain.

It seems our brains could be even more flexible that we previously thought. Recent genetic evidence suggests the modern human brain is more malleable and is modelled more by the surrounding environment than that of chimpanzees. The anatomy of the chimpanzee brain is strongly controlled by their genes, whereas the modern human brain is extensively shaped by the environment, no matter what the genetics.

This means the human brain is pre-programmed to be extremely flexible; its cerebral organisation is adjusted by the environment and society in which it is raised. So each new generation’s brain structure can adapt to the new environmental and social challenges without the need to physically evolve.


Evolution at work. OtmarW / shutterstock

This may also explain why we all complain that we do not understand the next generation as their brains are wired differently, having grown up in a different physical and social environment. An example of this is the ease with which the latest generation interacts with technology almost if they had co-evolved with it.

So next time you turn on a computer just remember how big and complex your brain is – to keep a track of your friends and enemies.

Groups are often smarter without ‘opinion leaders’ (Futurity)


Equality may counteract the tendency toward groupthink, research suggests.

The classic “wisdom of crowds” theory goes like this: If we ask a group of people to guess an outcome, the group’s guess will be better than any individual expert. So, when a group tries to make a decision, in this case, predicting the outcome of an election, the group does a better job than experts. For market predictions, geopolitical forecasting, and crowdsourcing product ideas, the wisdom of crowds has been shown to even outperform industry experts.

“On average, opinion leaders were more likely to lead the group astray than to improve it.”

That is true—as long as people don’t talk to each other. When people start sharing their opinions, their conversations can lead to social influences that produce “groupthink” and destroy the wisdom of the crowd. So says the classic theory.

But Damon Centola, an associate professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and School of Engineering and Applied Science and director of the Network Dynamics Group, discovered the opposite.

When people talk to each other, the crowd can get smarter, report Centola, PhD candidate Joshua Becker, and recent PhD graduate Devon Brackbill in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Equal influence

“The classic theory says that if you let people talk to each other groups go astray. But,” says Centola, “we find that even if people are not particularly accurate, when they talk to each other, they help to make each other smarter. Whether things get better or worse depends on the networks.

“In egalitarian networks,” he says, “where everyone has equal influence, we find a strong social-learning effect, which improves the quality of everyone’s judgments. When people exchange ideas, everyone gets smarter. But this can all go haywire if there are opinion leaders in the group.”

An influential opinion leader can hijack the process, leading the entire group astray. While opinion leaders may be knowledgeable on some topics, Centola found that, when the conversation moved away from their expertise, they still remained just as influential. As a result, they ruined the group’s judgment.

“On average,” he says, “opinion leaders were more likely to lead the group astray than to improve it.”

Gut responses

The online study included more than 1,300 participants, who went into one of three experimental conditions. Some were placed into one of the “egalitarian” networks, where everyone had an equal number of contacts and everyone had equal influence. Others were placed into one of the “centralized” networks, in which a single opinion leader was connected to everyone, giving that person much more influence in the group. Each of the networks contained 40 participants. Finally, Centola had several hundred subjects participate in a “control” group, without any social networks.

In the study, all of the participants were given a series of estimation challenges, such as guessing the number of calories in a plate of food. They were given three tries to get the right answer. Everyone first gave a gut response.

Then, participants who were in social networks could see the guesses made by their social contacts and could use that information to revise an answer. They could then see their contacts’ revisions and revise their answers again. But this time it was their final answer. Participants were awarded as much as $10 based on the accuracy of their final guess. In the control group, participants did the same thing, but they were not given any social information between each revision.

“Everyone’s goal was to make a good guess. They weren’t paid for showing up,” Centola says, “only for being accurate.”

Patterns began to emerge. The control groups initially showed the classic wisdom of the crowd but did not improve as people revised their answers. Indeed, if anything, they got slightly worse. By contrast, the egalitarian networks also showed the classic wisdom of the crowd but then saw a dramatic increase in accuracy. Across the board, in network after network, the final answers in these groups were consistently far more accurate than the initial “wisdom of the crowd.”

“In a situation where everyone is equally influential,” Centola says, “people can help to correct each other’s mistakes. This makes each person a little more accurate than they were initially. Overall, this creates a striking improvement in the intelligence of the group. The result is even better than the traditional wisdom of the crowd! But, as soon as you have opinion leaders, social influence becomes really dangerous.”

In the centralized networks, Centola found that, when the opinion leaders were very accurate, they could improve the performance of the group. But even the most accurate opinion leaders were consistently wrong some of the time.

“Thus,” Centola says, “while opinion leaders can sometimes improve things, they were statistically more likely to make the group worse off than to help it.

“The egalitarian network was reliable because the people who were more accurate tended to make smaller revisions, while people who were less accurate revised their answers more. The result is that the entire crowd moved toward the more accurate people, while, at the same time, the more accurate people also made small adjustments that improved their score.”

Engineers and doctors

These findings on the wisdom of crowds have startling real-world implications in areas such as climate-change science, financial forecasting, medical decision-making, and organizational design.

For example, while engineers have been trying to design ways to keep people from talking to each other when making important decisions in an attempt to avoid groupthink, Centola’s findings suggest that what matters most is the network. A group of equally influential scientists talking to one another will likely lead to smarter judgments than might arise from keeping them independent.

He is currently working on implementing these findings to improve physicians’ decision-making. By designing a social network technology for use in hospital settings, it may be possible to reduce implicit bias in physicians’ clinical judgments and to improve the quality of care that they can offer.

Whether new technologies are needed to improve the way the groups talk to each other, or whether we just need to be cautious about the danger of opinion leaders, Centola says it’s time to rethink the idea of the wisdom of crowds.

“It’s much better to have people talk to each other and argue for their points of view than to have opinion leaders rule the crowd,” he says. “By designing informational systems where everyone’s voices can be heard, we can improve the judgment of the entire group. It’s as important for science as it is for democracy.”

Partial support for the work came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

Sente com as entranhas? Seu corpo tem um segundo cérebro dentro da barriga (UOL Saúde)


Tem um segundo cérebro dentro da sua barriga

Tem um segundo cérebro dentro da sua barriga. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sabe esse seu cérebro aí na cabeça? Ele não é tão único assim não como a gente imagina e conta com uma grande ajuda de um parceiro para controlar nossas emoções, nosso humor e nosso comportamento. Isso porque o corpo humano tem o que muitos chamam de um “segundo cérebro”. E em um lugar bem especial: na nossa barriga.

O “segundo cérebro”, como é chamado informalmente, está situado bem ao longo dos nove metros de seu intestino e reúne milhões de neurônios. Na verdade, faz parte de algo com uma nomenclatura um pouquinho mais complicada: o Sistema Nervoso Entérico.

Getty Images

Dentro do nosso intestino há entre 200 e 600 milhões de neurônios

Funções que até o cérebro duvida

Uma das razões principais para ele ser considerado um cérebro é a grande e complexa rede de neurônios existentes nesse sistema. Para se ter uma ideia, nós temos ali entre 200 milhões e 600 milhões de neurônios, de acordo com pesquisadores da Universidade de Melbourne, na Austrália, que trabalham em conjunto com o cérebro principal.

É como se tivéssemos o cérebro de um gato na nossa barriga. Ele tem 20 diferentes tipos de neurônios, a mesma diversidade encontrada no nosso cérebro grande, onde temos 100 bilhões de neurônios”

Heribert Watzke, cientista alimentar durante em uma palestra na TED Talks

As funções desse cérebro são várias e ocorrem de forma autônoma e integrada ao grande cérebro. Antes, imaginava-se que o cérebro maior enviava sinais para comandar esse outro cérebro, Mas, na verdade, é o contrário: o cérebro em nosso intestino envia sinais por meio de uma grande “rodovia” de neurônios para a cabeça, que pode aceitar ou não as indicações.

“O cérebro de cima pode interferir nesses sinais, modificando-os ou inibindo-os. Há sinais de fome, que nosso estômago vazio envia para o cérebro. Tem sinais que mandam a gente parar de comer quando estamos cheios. Se o sinal da fome é ignorado, pode gerar a doença anorexia, por exemplo. O mais comum é o de continuar comendo, mesmo depois que nossos sinais do estômago dizem ‘ok, pare, transferimos energia suficiente'”, complementa Watzke.

A quantidade de neurônios assusta, mas faz sentido se pensarmos nos perigos da alimentação. Assim como a pele, o intestino tem que parar imediatamente potenciais invasores perigosos em nosso organismo, como bactérias e vírus.

Esse segundo cérebro pode ativar uma diarreia ou alertar o seu “superior”, que pode decidir por acionar vômitos. É um trabalho em grupo e de vital importância.


Muito além da digestão

É claro que uma das funções principais tem a ver com a nossa digestão e excreção – como se o cérebro maior não quisesse “sujar as mãos”, né? Ele inclusive controla contrações musculares, liberação de substâncias químicas e afins. O segundo cérebro não é usado em funções como pensamentos, religião, filosofia ou poesia, mas está ligado ao nosso humor.

O sistema entérico nervoso nos ajuda a “sentir” nosso mundo interior e seu conteúdo. Segundo a revista Scientific American, é provável que boa parte das nossas emoções sejam influenciadas por causa dos neurônios em nosso intestino.

Já ouviu a expressão “borboletas no estômago”? A sensação é um exemplo disso, como uma resposta a um estresse psicológico.

É por conta disso que algumas pesquisas tentam até tratamento de depressão atuando nos neurônios do intestino. O sistema nervoso entérico tem 95% de nossa serotonina (substância conhecida como uma das responsáveis pela felicidade). Ele pode até ter um papel no autismo.

Há ainda relatos de outras doenças que possam ter a ver com esse segundo cérebro. Um estudo da Nature em 2010 apontou que modificações no funcionamento do sistema podem evitar a osteoporose.

Getty Images

Vida nas entranhas

O “segundo cérebro” tem como uma de suas principais funções a defesa do nosso corpo, já que é um dos grandes responsáveis por controlar nossos anticorpos. Um estudo de 2016 com apoio da Fapesp mostrou como os neurônios se comunicam com as células de defesa no intestino. Há até uma “conversa” com micróbios, já que o sistema nervoso ajuda a ditar quais deles podem habitar o intestino.

Pesquisas apontam que a importância do segundo cérebro é realmente enorme. Em uma delas, foi percebido que ratos recém-nascidos cujos estômagos foram expostos a um químico irritante são mais depressivos e ansiosos do que outros ratos, com os sintomas prosseguindo por um bom tempo depois do dano físico. O mesmo não ocorreu com outros danos, como uma irritação na pele.

Com tudo isso em vista, tenho certeza que você vai olhar para suas vísceras de uma maneira diferente agora, né? Pensa bem: na próxima vez que você estiver estressado ou triste e for comer aquela comida bem gorda para confortar, pode não ser culpa só da sua cabeça.

Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence? (BBC)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved.

When this “observer effect” was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science: that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what can “reality” really mean?

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”

Some of those researchers felt forced to conclude that objectivity was an illusion, and that consciousness has to be allowed an active role in quantum theory. To others, that did not make sense. Surely, Albert Einstein once complained, the Moon does not exist only when we look at it!

Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.

Might it be that, just as quantum objects can apparently be in two places at once, so a quantum brain can hold onto two mutually-exclusive ideas at the same time?

These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind. But if nothing else, these possibilities show just how strangely quantum theory forces us to think.

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”. Imagine shining a beam of light at a screen that contains two closely-spaced parallel slits. Some of the light passes through the slits, whereupon it strikes another screen.

Light can be thought of as a kind of wave, and when waves emerge from two slits like this they can interfere with each other. If their peaks coincide, they reinforce each other, whereas if a peak and a trough coincide, they cancel out. This wave interference is called diffraction, and it produces a series of alternating bright and dark stripes on the back screen, where the light waves are either reinforced or cancelled out.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits

This experiment was understood to be a characteristic of wave behaviour over 200 years ago, well before quantum theory existed.

The double slit experiment can also be performed with quantum particles like electrons; tiny charged particles that are components of atoms. In a counter-intuitive twist, these particles can behave like waves. That means they can undergo diffraction when a stream of them passes through the two slits, producing an interference pattern.

Now suppose that the quantum particles are sent through the slits one by one, and their arrival at the screen is likewise seen one by one. Now there is apparently nothing for each particle to interfere with along its route – yet nevertheless the pattern of particle impacts that builds up over time reveals interference bands.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits and interferes with itself. This combination of “both paths at once” is known as a superposition state.

But here is the really odd thing.

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

If we place a detector inside or just behind one slit, we can find out whether any given particle goes through it or not. In that case, however, the interference vanishes. Simply by observing a particle’s path – even if that observation should not disturb the particle’s motion – we change the outcome.

The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: “observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position.” In other words, Jordan said, “we ourselves produce the results of measurements.”

If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.

And it gets even stranger.

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

If nature seems to be changing its behaviour depending on whether we “look” or not, we could try to trick it into showing its hand. To do so, we could measure which path a particle took through the double slits, but only after it has passed through them. By then, it ought to have “decided” whether to take one path or both.

The sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse

An experiment for doing this was proposed in the 1970s by the American physicist John Wheeler, and this “delayed choice” experiment was performed in the following decade. It uses clever techniques to make measurements on the paths of quantum particles (generally, particles of light, called photons) after they should have chosen whether to take one path or a superposition of two.

It turns out that, just as Bohr confidently predicted, it makes no difference whether we delay the measurement or not. As long as we measure the photon’s path before its arrival at a detector is finally registered, we lose all interference.

It is as if nature “knows” not just if we are looking, but if we are planning to look.

(Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute Physics/Science Photo Library)

Eugene Wigner (Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)

Whenever, in these experiments, we discover the path of a quantum particle, its cloud of possible routes “collapses” into a single well-defined state. What’s more, the delayed-choice experiment implies that the sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse. But does this mean that true collapse has only happened when the result of a measurement impinges on our consciousness?

It is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked

That possibility was admitted in the 1930s by the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner. “It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness,” he wrote. “Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

Wheeler even entertained the thought that the presence of living beings, which are capable of “noticing”, has transformed what was previously a multitude of possible quantum pasts into one concrete history. In this sense, Wheeler said, we become participants in the evolution of the Universe since its very beginning. In his words, we live in a “participatory universe.”

To this day, physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.

Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrosesuggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

What if, Penrose asked, there are molecular structures in our brains that are able to alter their state in response to a single quantum event. Could not these structures then adopt a superposition state, just like the particles in the double slit experiment? And might those quantum superpositions then show up in the ways neurons are triggered to communicate via electrical signals?

Maybe, says Penrose, our ability to sustain seemingly incompatible mental states is no quirk of perception, but a real quantum effect.

Perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness

After all, the human brain seems able to handle cognitive processes that still far exceed the capabilities of digital computers. Perhaps we can even carry out computational tasks that are impossible on ordinary computers, which use classical digital logic.

Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for “orchestrated objective reduction”. The phrase “objective reduction” means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble.

Orch-OR draws on Penrose’s suggestion that gravity is responsible for the fact that everyday objects, such as chairs and planets, do not display quantum effects. Penrose believes that quantum superpositions become impossible for objects much larger than atoms, because their gravitational effects would then force two incompatible versions of space-time to coexist.

Penrose developed this idea further with American physician Stuart Hameroff. In his 1994 book Shadows of the Mind, he suggested that the structures involved in this quantum cognition might be protein strands called microtubules. These are found in most of our cells, including the neurons in our brains. Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition.

But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

It has been suggested that the idea of quantum superpositions in microtubules is supported by experiments described in 2013, but in fact those studies made no mention of quantum effects.

Besides, most researchers think that the Orch-OR idea was ruled out by a study published in 2000. Physicist Max Tegmark calculated that quantum superpositions of the molecules involved in neural signaling could not survive for even a fraction of the time needed for such a signal to get anywhere.

Other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings

Quantum effects such as superposition are easily destroyed, because of a process called decoherence. This is caused by the interactions of a quantum object with its surrounding environment, through which the “quantumness” leaks away.

Decoherence is expected to be extremely rapid in warm and wet environments like living cells.

Nerve signals are electrical pulses, caused by the passage of electrically-charged atoms across the walls of nerve cells. If one of these atoms was in a superposition and then collided with a neuron, Tegmark showed that the superposition should decay in less than one billion billionth of a second. It takes at least ten thousand trillion times as long for a neuron to discharge a signal.

As a result, ideas about quantum effects in the brain are viewed with great skepticism.

However, Penrose is unmoved by those arguments and stands by the Orch-OR hypothesis. And despite Tegmark’s prediction of ultra-fast decoherence in cells, other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings. Some argue that quantum mechanics is harnessed by migratory birds that use magnetic navigation, and by green plants when they use sunlight to make sugars in photosynthesis.

Besides, the idea that the brain might employ quantum tricks shows no sign of going away. For there is now another, quite different argument for it.

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

In a study published in 2015, physicist Matthew Fisher of the University of California at Santa Barbara argued that the brain might contain molecules capable of sustaining more robust quantum superpositions. Specifically, he thinks that the nuclei of phosphorus atoms may have this ability.

Phosphorus atoms are everywhere in living cells. They often take the form of phosphate ions, in which one phosphorus atom joins up with four oxygen atoms.

Such ions are the basic unit of energy within cells. Much of the cell’s energy is stored in molecules called ATP, which contain a string of three phosphate groups joined to an organic molecule. When one of the phosphates is cut free, energy is released for the cell to use.

Cells have molecular machinery for assembling phosphate ions into groups and cleaving them off again. Fisher suggested a scheme in which two phosphate ions might be placed in a special kind of superposition called an “entangled state”.

Phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells

The phosphorus nuclei have a quantum property called spin, which makes them rather like little magnets with poles pointing in particular directions. In an entangled state, the spin of one phosphorus nucleus depends on that of the other.

Put another way, entangled states are really superposition states involving more than one quantum particle.

Fisher says that the quantum-mechanical behaviour of these nuclear spins could plausibly resist decoherence on human timescales. He agrees with Tegmark that quantum vibrations, like those postulated by Penrose and Hameroff, will be strongly affected by their surroundings “and will decohere almost immediately”. But nuclear spins do not interact very strongly with their surroundings.

All the same, quantum behaviour in the phosphorus nuclear spins would have to be “protected” from decoherence.

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

This might happen, Fisher says, if the phosphorus atoms are incorporated into larger objects called “Posner molecules”. These are clusters of six phosphate ions, combined with nine calcium ions. There is some evidence that they can exist in living cells, though this is currently far from conclusive.

I decided… to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions

In Posner molecules, Fisher argues, phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells. That means they could influence how the brain works.

The idea is that Posner molecules can be swallowed up by neurons. Once inside, the Posner molecules could trigger the firing of a signal to another neuron, by falling apart and releasing their calcium ions.

Because of entanglement in Posner molecules, two such signals might thus in turn become entangled: a kind of quantum superposition of a “thought”, you might say. “If quantum processing with nuclear spins is in fact present in the brain, it would be an extremely common occurrence, happening pretty much all the time,” Fisher says.

He first got this idea when he started thinking about mental illness.

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

“My entry into the biochemistry of the brain started when I decided three or four years ago to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions,” Fisher says.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea

Lithium drugs are widely used for treating bipolar disorder. They work, but nobody really knows how.

“I wasn’t looking for a quantum explanation,” Fisher says. But then he came across a paper reporting that lithium drugs had different effects on the behaviour of rats, depending on what form – or “isotope” – of lithium was used.

On the face of it, that was extremely puzzling. In chemical terms, different isotopes behave almost identically, so if the lithium worked like a conventional drug the isotopes should all have had the same effect.

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

But Fisher realised that the nuclei of the atoms of different lithium isotopes can have different spins. This quantum property might affect the way lithium drugs act. For example, if lithium substitutes for calcium in Posner molecules, the lithium spins might “feel” and influence those of phosphorus atoms, and so interfere with their entanglement.

We do not even know what consciousness is

If this is true, it would help to explain why lithium can treat bipolar disorder.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea. But there are several ways in which its plausibility can be tested, starting with the idea that phosphorus spins in Posner molecules can keep their quantum coherence for long periods. That is what Fisher aims to do next.

All the same, he is wary of being associated with the earlier ideas about “quantum consciousness”, which he sees as highly speculative at best.

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Physicists are not terribly comfortable with finding themselves inside their theories. Most hope that consciousness and the brain can be kept out of quantum theory, and perhaps vice versa. After all, we do not even know what consciousness is, let alone have a theory to describe it.

We all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation

It does not help that there is now a New Age cottage industrydevoted to notions of “quantum consciousness“, claiming that quantum mechanics offers plausible rationales for such things as telepathy and telekinesis.

As a result, physicists are often embarrassed to even mention the words “quantum” and “consciousness” in the same sentence.

But setting that aside, the idea has a long history. Ever since the “observer effect” and the mind first insinuated themselves into quantum theory in the early days, it has been devilishly hard to kick them out. A few researchers think we might never manage to do so.

In 2016, Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge in the UK, one of the most respected “quantum philosophers”, speculated that consciousness might alter the behaviour of quantum systems in subtle but detectable ways.

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

Kent is very cautious about this idea. “There is no compelling reason of principle to believe that quantum theory is the right theory in which to try to formulate a theory of consciousness, or that the problems of quantum theory must have anything to do with the problem of consciousness,” he admits.

Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble

But he says that it is hard to see how a description of consciousness based purely on pre-quantum physics can account for all the features it seems to have.

One particularly puzzling question is how our conscious minds can experience unique sensations, such as the colour red or the smell of frying bacon. With the exception of people with visual impairments, we all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation and there is nothing in physics that tells us what it should be like.

Sensations like this are called “qualia”. We perceive them as unified properties of the outside world, but in fact they are products of our consciousness – and that is hard to explain. Indeed, in 1995 philosopher David Chalmers dubbed it “the hard problem” of consciousness.

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

“Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble,” says Kent.

This has prompted him to suggest that “we could make some progress on understanding the problem of the evolution of consciousness if we supposed that consciousnesses alters (albeit perhaps very slightly and subtly) quantum probabilities.”

“Quantum consciousness” is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away

In other words, the mind could genuinely affect the outcomes of measurements.

It does not, in this view, exactly determine “what is real”. But it might affect the chance that each of the possible actualities permitted by quantum mechanics is the one we do in fact observe, in a way that quantum theory itself cannot predict. Kent says that we might look for such effects experimentally.

He even bravely estimates the chances of finding them. “I would give credence of perhaps 15% that something specifically to do with consciousness causes deviations from quantum theory, with perhaps 3% credence that this will be experimentally detectable within the next 50 years,” he says.

If that happens, it would transform our ideas about both physics and the mind. That seems a chance worth exploring.

Impedir barulho e vaias da torcida é imperialismo cultural, diz sociólogo americano (BBC Brasil)


Mulher grita durante partida na Rio 2016

Sociólogo americano diz que vê legitimidade no comportamento da torcida brasileira na Rio 2016. GETTY IMAGES

Assim como muitos observadores internacionais acompanhando os Jogos Olímpicos do Rio, o sociólogo americano Peter Kaufman ficou espantado com o episódio das vaias ao atleta francês do salto com vara Renaud Lavillenie. No caso do acadêmico, porém, o que pareceu incomodá-lo mais foi a reação contrária ao comportamento da torcida.

Para o professor da Universidade Estadual de Nova York, que escreve sobre sociologia do esporte e estudou as reações do público ao comportamento de atletas, houve exagero na condenação das manifestações, sobretudo depois do “pito” público dado nos brasileiros pelo presidente do Comitê Olímpico Internacional (COI), o alemão Thomas Bach.

Após as vaias a Lavillenie no pódio, Bach usou a conta do COI no Twitter para dizer que o comportamento do público foi “chocante” e “inaceitável nas Olimpíadas”.

“O COI certamente tem questões bem mais importantes para lidar do que vaias de torcedores”, disse Kaufman, em conversa com a BBC Brasil, por telefone.

Veja abaixo, trechos da entrevista:

BBC Brasil – O senhor acompanhou a polêmica das vaias no Brasil?

Peter Kaufman – Sim, porque houve um repercussão considerável de alguns incidentes envolvendo o público na Olimpíada do Rio. O comportamento de torcedores é algo interessante, porque estão em jogo fatores culturais.

Cada cultura tem seus próprios valores: em algumas, é apropriado beijar em vez de apertar a mão quando se é apresentado a alguém, por exemplo. Em outras, é muito aceitável vaiar, assim como em certos países aplausos efusivos podem ser vistos como algo rude.

Torcida durante partida na Rio 2016

Sociólogo aponta que vaias podem ter diferentes motivos, inclusive descontentamento com os gastos nos Jogos. GETTY IMAGES

BBC Brasil – Por que as pessoas vaiam?

Kaufman – É uma questão de expressão, uma forma de interação social e participação. E isso varia de lugar para lugar. Se um alienígena chegasse aqui hoje e fosse assistir a uma competição esportiva, possivelmente teria outra maneira de se comportar de acordo com sua realidade. E, óbvio, sabemos que não é apenas esporte. As Olimpíadas têm um significado muito maior. O público brasileiro pode estar vaiando em desafio às autoridades, ao governo brasileiro e até mesmo ao dinheiro gasto na Olimpíada.

BBC Brasil – É injusto com os atletas?

Kaufman – Alvos de vaias podem se sentir ofendidos, tristes e até ameaçados por uma torcida mais ruidosas. Não os culpo por pensarem apenas na qualidade de seu desempenho em vez de analisar aspectos culturais ou políticos. É perfeitamente compreensível que o atleta francês tenha ficado bastante chateado com as vaias que recebeu até no pódio. Mas ele estava competindo contra um atleta brasileiro e em casa. Pelo que tenho lido sobre a torcida brasileira, era inevitável que ele fosse alvo dessas manifestações.

BBC Brasil – Renaud Lavillenie não foi a primeira “vítima” e não deverá ser a última, mas o comportamento da torcida no Estádio Olímpico, em especial durante provas em que normalmente o silêncio do público é uma questão de etiqueta, como o tênis e a esgrima, irritou até o presidente do COI, Thomas Bach. Como achar um meio termo?

Brasileiros na Rio 2016

Torcida brasileira ficou conhecida pelo excesso de vaias durante os jogos da Rio 2016. GETTY IMAGES

Kaufman – Olha, é irônico que sentimentos de nacionalismo e tribalismo surjam na Olimpíada, uma competição concebida em sua forma moderna para promover a paz e a união ente os povos. Mas o esporte é passional e excitante. As pessoas querem vaiar seu adversário para tentar afetar o resultado de uma partida. E, como costuma ser o caso por causa das rivalidades locais, os brasileiros “pegaram no pé dos argentinos”. Também vimos o público vaiando atletas russos por causa da controvérsia envolvendo o doping. As vaias, por sinal, são o menor dos problemas que o COI tem para resolver.

BBC Brasil – Mas Lavillenie não teria razão ao reclamar do barulho durante o momento de seus saltos? Não seria preciso criar uma cultura de torcida mais apropriada para o esporte olímpico?

Kaufman – Isso seria uma atitude de imperialismo cultural. Por que a maneira do brasileiro torcer é errada? A realidade que conhecemos é criada pelo ambiente em que crescemos. Você mencionou o tênis anteriormente: será que não vale a pena discutirmos a razão para o silêncio durante o saque no tênis enquanto no futebol a torcida pode urrar nos ouvidos de um atacante que vai bater um pênalti? A diferença é que o tênis é um esporte muito mais elitizado.

BBC Brasil: O senhor defende o comportamento da torcida, então?

Kaufman: De certa maneira, sim, apesar de que os esportes têm regras para lidar com isso. Acho fascinante o fato de que as normas de comportamento podem ser diferentes. Fica a impressão de que o COI foi pego de surpresa pela passionalidade do torcedor brasileiro. Mas lembremos da Copa do Mundo de 2010, em que as vuvuzelas do torcedor sul-africano criaram um problema até para quem viu os jogos pela TV. Mas ter proibido seu uso teria amputado um componente cultural.

Vaiar é uma expressão de crenças e valores. É tão “errado” quanto torcer.

Quais são os seis tipos de vaias da torcida brasileira na Rio 2016

Torcida brasileira na Rio 2016

Torcida brasileira já é reconhecida pelo excesso de vaias durante as competições na Rio 2016. GETTY IMAGES

Da esgrima à natação, do basquete ao tênis, atletas foram intensamente vaiados no Rio de Janeiro. E enquanto as vaias são comuns na maioria das Olimpíadas – apesar da ideia de que seja um momento em que o espírito esportivo deve reinar -, já está claro que a Rio 2016 é mais barulhenta que os Jogos mais recentes.

A BBC News fez uma lista com os seis tipos de vaias mais comuns durante a Olimpíada no Brasil, na tentativa de explicar ao público internacional esse fenômeno que vem sendo um dos mais discutidos pela imprensa esportiva:

1. Vaiar por diversão

O público brasileiro tem uma tendência a escolher ” um lado” – torcer por um time, ou um atleta, e vaiar os rivais. Mas eles podem trocar essa lealdade num piscar de olhos.

“Os torcedores brasileiros parecem ser bem igualitários. Eles são capazes de vaiar atletas de muitos países. É muito difícil de identificar o porquê da vaia a um outro atleta”, disse o diretor de comunicação do Comitê Olímpico Internacional, Mark Adams.

A mesma reação foi identificada pelo especialista em Jogos Olímpicos da Universidade de Salford, Andy Miah.

“Eu fiquei surpreso com o quanto eles são verbais e achei uma falta de espírito esportivo toda essa gritaria e vaia. Até eu perceber que era a forma que eles encontraram de se envolver com o drama do evento”, diz.

“Não é malicioso. Eu estava na esgrima ontem e eles estavam vaiando os jogadores e depois torcendo muito e apoiando muito quando eles ganharam. É tudo parte do teatro que é o que eles curtem”.

Ele ainda opina que há diferenças com Londres 2012: “era muito mais quieto, quase nunca tinha gritaria, só aplausos”.

2. Vaiar os favoritos

O público na Rio 2016 demonstrou uma clara preferência pelos azarões. Em uma das primeiras partidas de basquete, os torcedores apoiaram a Croácia enquanto vaiavam os favoritos – a seleção espanhola. A Espanha então começou a perder e foi derrotada por 72-70.

Esse não é um fenômeno novo.

Torcida brasileira na Rio 2016

Em uma das primeiras partidas de basquete, torcedores brasileiros apoiaram a Croácia torcendo pelo time enquanto vaiavam os favoritos, da seleção espanhola. GETTY IMAGES

Durante a Olimpíada de Atenas, em 2004, por exemplo, os torcedores apoiaram a equipe de futebol masculino do Iraque – durante uma semifinal contra o Paraguai – e vaiavam cada vez que os paraguaios ficavam com a bola.

De acordo com o professor de história da mídia da Universidade de Sussex, na Inglaterra, David Hendy, a vaia é “uma tradição nobre” e um lembrete de que o espetáculo é sobretudo para o público, mais do que para os competidores.

“E o público sempre vê tudo em termos dramáticos – um conflito entre heróis e vilões”, explica.

3. Vaiar os russos

Por causa a revelação de um esquema estatal de doping e da decisão do Comitê Olimípico de não suspender todos os atletas, os russos encontraram uma reação particularmente hostil do público no Rio de Janeiro.

As vaias começaram logo na entrada da delegação russa no Maracanã durante a cerimônia de abertura.

“Os russos sempre iriam ser vaiados porque muitos pensam que o COI não deveria ter comprometido os Jogos”, diz Andy Miah.

A nadadora russa Yulia Efimova, que foi banida por 16 meses em 2013 e conquistou o direito de competir novamente no Rio de Janeiro depois de apelar ao Tribunal Arbitral do Esporte, foi vaiada durante toda a competição dos 100 metros peito nas eliminatórias e na final, na qual levou a medalha de prata.

Ela caiu no choro depois que o ouro foi para a americana Lily King, que comentou: “isso só prova que você pode competir limpa e ainda chegar ao topo do pódio”.

Torcida do Brasil em jogo da Alemanha

Torcida brasileira costuma vaiar atletas russos desde o início dos Jogos. GETTY IMAGES

O boxeador russo Evgeny Tishchenko demonstrou frustração com a reação negativa do público aos atletas russos.

“É uma pena que o público se comporte dessa forma, apoiando quem quer que esteja contra a Rússia”, disse ele ao jornal Chicago Tribune.

“Estou bastante irritado com isso. É a primeira vez que eu enfrento esse tipo de tratamento. Para falar a verdade, estou um pouco decepcionado”.

4. Vaias políticas

Ao declarar os Jogos Olímpicos abertos na cerimônia de abertura, o presidente interino Michel Temer foi vaiado.

Temer assumiu em maio depois da suspensão de Dilma Rousseff e foi vaiado apesar dito apenas uma frase. Mas as vaias quase se dissiparam em meio aos fogos de artíficio e à música, até porque o nome de Temer não chegou a ser anunciado.

Presidente em exercício, Michel Temer

Presidente em exercício, Michel Temer, é vaiado na cerimônia de abertura da Rio 2016. GETTY IMAGES

Mas essa não é a primeira vez que uma Olimpíada é um catalisador para a insatisfação com a elite política de um país. O ex-chanceler George Osborne e a então ministra do Interior – e atual premiê – Theresa May foram vaiados na entrega de medalhas durante a Paralimpíada de Londres 2012.

“Foi uma resposta visceral e instantânea de um público indignado com as políticas para os deficientes físicos e que se sentiam sem voz”, diz Hendy.

5. Vaias patrióticas

Os fãs brasileiros foram rápidos em demonstrar apoio aos atletas nativos ao vaiarem vigorosamente seus oponentes.

O tenista alemão Dustin Brown foi vaiado até depois de cair e torcer o tornozelo durante uma partida com Thomaz Bellucci, apesar de ter recebido aplausos e apoio quando se levantou para ser levado ao hospital.

O francês Renaud Lavillenie queixou-se publicamente da vaias que ouviu no Engenhão na noite em que perdeu de Thiago Braz no salto com varas. “Dei tudo de mim e não tenho nenhum arrependimento. Uma prova inacreditável! Só estou decepcionado com a total falta de respeito do público. Isso não é digno de um estádio olímpico”, afirmou.

“As Olimpíadas sempre foram sinônimo de respeito internacional. Então as vaias podem distrair e até evitar que os atletas tenham o melhor desempenho”, diz Rhonda Cohen, psicóloga do esporte da Universidade de Middlesex, na Inglaterra.

O boxeador camaronês Hassan N’Dam N’Jijam certamente não ficou feliz ao perder a luta contra o brasileiro Michel Borges depois de muitas vaias pantomímicas. Segundo ele, o barulho pode ter influenciado os juízes.

Os atletas argentinos também foram vaiados durante a cerimônia de abertura só porque são… argentinos – nossos vizinhos e rivais, especialmente no futebol.

E há o caso da goleira da seleção feminina de futebol dos Estados Unidos, Hope Solo, que postou fotos nas redes sociais falando sobre o vírus da Zika e foi vaiada ao coro de “Zika!”durante a partida contra a Nova Zelândia.

Mas os torcedores não reservaram as vaias apenas aos estrangeiros. A performance ruim dos jogadores brasileiros da seleção de futebol também provocou vaias depois das partidas contra a África do Sul e o Iraque.

6. Vaia aos juízes

Até os juízes olímpicos caíram nas vaias do público brasileiro.

Como anfitriões, os brasileiros conquistaram uma vaga na final do salto sincronizado de 10 metros masculino, apesar de os atletas não terem chances na competição. Inevitavelmente, os juízes consistentemente deram notas baixas, gerando vaias nervosas do público.

Mas vale lembrar que nada se compara à final de ginástica masculina em Atenas 2004. O russo Alexei Nemov animou o público com uma rotina de barras arriscada, e, quando os juízes o avaliaram com notas baixas, ouviu vaias por sete minutos ininterruptos.

Paranormal beliefs can increase number of dé jà vu experiences (Science Daily)

April 27, 2016
British Psychological Society (BPS)
A belief in the paranormal can mean an individual experiences more déjà vu moments in their life.

A belief in the paranormal can mean an individual experiences more déjà vu moments in their life.

This is one of the findings of a study by 3rd year undergraduate student Chloe Pickles and Dr Mark Moss, of Northumbria University, who will present their poster today, Thursday 28 April 2016, at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Nottingham. Over 100 participants completed surveys relating to perceived stress, belief in paranormal experiences and beliefs about déjà vu. Analysis of the results showed a strong link between belief in paranormal experiences and the frequency, pleasantness and intensity of déjà vu experiences. Stress was linked significantly to intensity and duration only.

Chloe Pickles said: “Our study calls in to question whether stress increases the number of déjà vu moments for an individual. Previous research had not considered the impact of belief when experiencing the feeling that this moment has happened before. Déjà vu might be a normal experience for those more open to it as well as (or instead of) a consequence of a negative life events.”

Excessive empathy can impair understanding of others (Science Daily)

April 28, 2016
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, JMU
People who empathize easily with others do not necessarily understand them well. To the contrary: Excessive empathy can even impair understanding as a new study conducted by psychologists has established.

Excessive empathy can impair understanding as a new study conducted by psychologists from Würzburg and Leipzig has established. Credit: © ibreakstock / Fotolia

People who empathize easily with others do not necessarily understand them well. To the contrary: Excessive empathy can even impair understanding as a new study conducted by psychologists from Würzburg and Leipzig has established.

Imagine your best friend tells you that his girlfriend has just proposed “staying friends.” Now you have to accomplish two things: Firstly, you have to grasp that this nice sounding proposition actually means that she wants to break up with him and secondly, you should feel with your friend and comfort him.

Whether empathy and understanding other people’s mental states (mentalising) — i.e. the ability to understand what others know, plan and want — are interrelated has recently been examined by the psychologists Anne Böckler, Philipp Kanske, Mathis Trautwein, Franca Parianen-Lesemann and Tania Singer.

Anne Böckler has been a junior professor at the University of Würzburg’s Institute of Psychology since October 2015. Previously, the post-doc had worked in the Department of Social Neurosciences at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig where she conducted the study together with her co-workers. In the scientific journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the scientists present the results of their work.

“Successful social interaction is based on our ability to feel with others and to understand their thoughts and intentions,” Anne Böckler explains. She says that it had been unclear previously whether and to what extend these two skills were interrelated — that is whether people who empathise easily with others are also capable of grasping their thoughts and intentions. According to the junior professor, the scientists also looked into the question of whether the neuronal networks responsible for these abilities interact.

Answers can be gleaned from the study conducted by Anne Böckler, Philipp Kanske and their colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig within the scope of a large-scale study led by Tania Singer which included some 200 participants. The study enabled the scientists to prove that people who tend to be empathic do not necessarily understand other people well at a cognitive level. Hence, social skills seem to be based on multiple abilities that are rather independent of one another.

The study also delivered new insight as to how the different networks in the brain are orchestrated, revealing that networks crucial for empathy and cognitive perspective-taking interact with one another. In highly emotional moments — for example when somebody talks about the death of a close person — activation of the insula, which forms part of the empathy-relevant network, can have an inhibiting effect in some people on brain areas important for taking someone else’s perspective. And this in turn can cause excessive empathy to impair social understanding.

The participants to the study watched a number of video sequences in which the narrator was more or less emotional. Afterwards, they had to rate how they felt and how much compassion they felt for the person in the film. Then they had to answer questions about the video — for example what the persons could have thought, known or intended. Having thus identified persons with a high level of empathy, the psychologists looked at their portion among the test participants who had had good or poor results in the test about cognitive perspective-taking — and vice versa.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the scientists observed which areas of the brain where active at what time.

The authors believe that the results of this study are important both for neuroscience and clinical applications. For example, they suggest that training aimed at improving social skills, the willingness to empathise and the ability to understand others at the cognitive level and take their perspective should be promoted selectively and separately of one another. The group in the Department of Social Neurosciences in Leipzig is currently working on exactly this topic within the scope of the ReSource project, namely how to specifically train different social skills.

Journal Reference:

  1. Artyom Zinchenko, Philipp Kanske, Christian Obermeier, Erich Schröger, Sonja A. Kotz. Emotion and goal-directed behavior: ERP evidence on cognitive and emotional conflictSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2015; 10 (11): 1577 DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsv050

Social media technology, rather than anonymity, is the problem (Science Daily)

Date: January 20, 2016

Source: University of Kent

Summary: Problems of anti-social behavior, privacy, and free speech on social media are not caused by anonymity but instead result from the way technology changes our presence. That’s the startling conclusion of a new book by an expert on the information society and developing media.

Problems of anti-social behaviour, privacy, and free speech on social media are not caused by anonymity but instead result from the way technology changes our presence.

That’s the startling conclusion of a new book by Dr Vincent Miller, a sociologist at the University of Kent and an expert on the information society and developing media.

In contending that the cause of issues such as online anti-social behaviour is the design/software of social media itself, Dr Miller suggests that social media architecture needs to be managed and planned in the same way as physical architecture. In the book, entitled The Crisis of Presence in Contemporary Culture: Ethics, Privacy and Speech in Mediated Social Life, Dr Miller examines the relationship between the freedom provided by the contemporary online world and the control, surveillance and censorship that operate in this environment.

The book questions the origins and sincerity of moral panics about use — and abuse — in the contemporary online environment and offers an analysis of ethics, privacy and free speech in this setting.

Investigating the ethical challenges that confront our increasingly digital culture, Dr Miller suggests a number of revisions to our ethical, legal and technological regimes to meet these challenges.

These including changing what he describes as ‘dehumanizing’ social media software, expanding the notion of our ‘selves’ or ‘bodies’ to include our digital traces, and the re-introduction of ‘time’ into social media through the creation of ‘expiry dates’ on social media communications.

Dr Miller is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Cultural Studies within the University’s School of Social Research, Sociology and Social Policy. The Crisis of Presence in Contemporary Culture: Ethics, Privacy and Speech in Mediated Social Life, is published by Sage.

More information can be found at:

Extreme weather: Is it all in your mind? (USA Today)

Thomas M. Kostigen, Special for USA TODAY9:53 a.m. EDT October 17, 2015

Weather is not as objective an occurrence as it might seem. People’s perceptions of what makes weather extreme are influenced by where they live, their income, as well as their political views, a new study finds.

There is a difference in both seeing and believing in extreme weather events, according to the study in the journal Environmental Sociology.

“Odds were higher among younger, female, more educated, and Democratic respondents to perceive effects from extreme weather than older, male, less educated, and Republican respondents,” said the study’s author, Matthew Cutler of the University of New Hampshire.

There were other correlations, too. For example, people with lower incomes had higher perceptions of extreme weather than people who earned more. Those who live in more vulnerable areas, as might be expected, interpret the effects of weather differently when the costs to their homes and communities are highest.

Causes of extreme weather and the frequency of extreme weather events is an under-explored area from a sociological perspective. Better understanding is important to building more resilient and adaptive communities. After all, why prepare or take safety precautions if you believe the weather isn’t going to be all that bad or occur all that often?

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows a significant rise in extreme weather events since the 1970s, the most back-to-back years of extremes over the past decade since 1910, and all-time record-high levels clocked in 1998 and 2012.

“Some recent research has demonstrated linkages between objectively measured weather, or climate anomalies, and public concern or beliefs about climate change,” Cutler notes. “But the factors influencing perceptions of extreme or unusual weather events have received less attention.”

Indeed, there is a faction of the public that debates how much the climate is changing and which factors are responsible for such consequences as global warming.

Weather, on the other hand, is a different order of things: it is typically defined in the here and now or in the immediate future. It also is largely confined, because of its variability, to local or regional areas. Moreover, weather is something we usually experience directly.

Climate is a more abstract concept, typically defined as atmospheric conditions over a 30-year period.

When weather isn’t experiential, reports are relied upon to gauge extremes. This is when beliefs become more muddied.

“The patterns found in this research provide evidence that individuals experience extreme weather in the context of their social circumstances and thus perceive the impacts of extreme weather through the lens of cultural and social influences. In other words, it is not simply a matter of seeing to believe, but rather an emergent process of both seeing and believing — individuals experiencing extreme weather and interpreting the impacts against the backdrop of social and economic circumstances central to and surrounding their lives,” Cutler concludes.

Sophocles said, “what people believe prevails over the truth.” The consequences of disbelief come at a price in the context of extreme weather, however, as damage, injury, and death are often results.

Too many times do we hear about people being unprepared for storms, ignoring officials’ warnings, failing to evacuate, or engaging in reckless behavior during weather extremes.

There is a need to draw a more complete picture of “weather prejudice,” as I’ll call it, in order to render more practical advice about preparing, surviving, and recovering from what is indisputable: extreme weather disasters to come.

Thomas M. Kostigen is the founder of and a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. He is the National Geographic author of “The Extreme Weather Survival Guide: Understand, Prepare, Survive, Recover” and the NG Kids book, “Extreme Weather: Surviving Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Hailstorms, Thundersnow, Hurricanes and More!” Follow him @weathersurvival, or email

What Concepts and Emotions Are (and Aren’t) (Knowledge Ecology)

August 1, 2015

Adam Robbert

Lisa Feldman Barrett has an interesting piece up in yesterday’s New York Times that I think is worth some attention here. Barrett is the director of the The Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory, where she studies the nature of emotional experience. Here is the key part of the article, describing her latest findings:

The Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory (which I direct) collectively analyzed brain-imaging studies published from 1990 to 2011 that examined fear, sadness, anger, disgust and happiness. We divided the human brain virtually into tiny cubes, like 3-D pixels, and computed the probability that studies of each emotion found an increase in activation in each cube.

Overall, we found that no brain region was dedicated to any single emotion. We also found that every alleged “emotion” region of the brain increased its activity during nonemotional thoughts and perceptions as well . . .

Emotion words like “anger,” “happiness” and “fear” each name a population of diverse biological states that vary depending on the context. When you’re angry with your co-worker, sometimes your heart rate will increase, other times it will decrease and still other times it will stay the same. You might scowl, or you might smile as you plot your revenge. You might shout or be silent. Variation is the norm.

This highly distributed, variable, and contextual description of emotions matches up quite well with what scientists have found to be true of conceptualization—namely, that it is a situated process drawn from a plurality of bodily forces. For instance, compare Barrett’s findings above to what I wrote about concepts in my paper on concepts and capacities from June (footnote references are in the paper):

In short, concepts are flexible and distributed modes of bodily organization grounded in modality-specific regions of the brain;[1] they comprise semantic knowledge embodied in perception and action;[2] and they underwrite the organization of sensory experience and guide action within an environment.[3] Concepts are tools for constructing in the mind new pathways of relationship and discrimination, for shaping the body, and for attuning it to contrast. Such pathways are recruited in an ecologically specific way as part of the dynamic bringing-to-apprehension of phenomena.

I think the parallel is clear enough, and we would do well to adopt this more ecological view of emotions and concepts into our thinking. The empirical data is giving us a strong argument for talking about the ecological basis of emotion and conceptuality, a basis that continues to grow stronger by the day.

Playing Along: Fieldwork, Emotional Labor and Self-Care (The Geek Anthropologist)

July 24, 2015

By Emma Louise Backe

For any practicing or aspiring anthropologist, fieldwork is the defining, almost qualifying practice of the discipline. As an undergraduate studying sociocultural anthropology, we read the seminal journals of Bronislaw Malinowski, followed by foundational ethnographic research from around the world. Even though the field has ostensibly moved beyond the “exotic”—no longer wholly consumed with discovering new indigenous communities or uncovering a culture untouched by capitalism and globalization—students are still encouraged to conduct their fieldwork in remote, isolated, and, yes, tacitly exotic locations. As my professor lectured during my Anthropology Senior Seminar at Vassar College, you have to conduct your first fieldwork abroad if you want to be taken seriously as an anthropologist. The implication was that if you don’t go somewhere distant and strange, you won’t experience the same level of cultural difference, linguistic estrangement, physical hardship, and existential negotiation that molds the student into a consummate ethnographer. Fieldwork, rather than being a praxis for cultural research, has rather become the test for one’s anthropological training and credentials. Yet, throughout my undergraduate degree, we never discussed the emotional or physical challenges of fieldwork—it was always framed as this transformative, clarifying experience during which the theory we worked so assiduously to grasp could finally be applied. It was understood that everyanthropologist inherently falls in love with their site, integrates into their chosen community, and concludes their fieldwork with a sense of kinship and satisfaction at the rich ethnographic data and knowledge they have been able to accumulate. This silence surrounding the very real personal challenges of fieldwork can, however, be detrimental to a student’s first foray into fieldwork.

After graduating from college, I almost immediately joined the Peace Corps as a community health volunteer in Fiji. I felt certain that my anthropological training had adequately prepared me for my service in the South Pacific, where I was expected to learn the language, integrate into the community, and develop programs based off of local needs-assessments and desire. After spending my Pre-Service Training at a home stay in a remote, mountainous fishing village, I moved to my site in an equally remote town on the Eastern Coast of Viti Levu, one of the bigger islands the country consists of. Throughout my service, in an attempt to adapt to the culture and be accepted into my community, I found myself emptying out my identity to make space for a new “Fijian” version of myself. I struggled with how to translate my personality into my adopted social space, while simultaneously struggling with health issues from the moment of my arrival. Because of my anthropological training, and the ideologies that undergird Peace Corps, I took responsibility for any programmatic failures or difficulties I had connecting with my local partners. If I wasn’t able to befriend a neighbor, I felt that it was my fault—I wasn’t being sensitive or reflexive or open enough, there must be a flaw in my personality. I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to members of the Peace Corps staff, for fear that my struggles would reflect poorly on me as a volunteer. Similarly, I was anxious to contact my anthropological mentors, afraid that my seeming challenges to connect with my Fijian counterparts meant that despite all my education and devotion to the discipline, I was not personally adept at cultural integration. This concern was perhaps the most devastating and depressing aspect of my service.

Conducting a health screening at a local secondary school

These anxieties, frustrations and feelings of guilt are ones that anthropologists share. As Amy Pollard has written for Anthropology Matters, many of the anthropology students she interviewed about field work experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation, stress, stress, regret, feelings of powerlessness or captivity to your site, disappointment, fear, frustration, guilt, depression coupled with self-hate for feeling depressed during fieldwork, and embarrassment at perceptions of poor success or lack of productivity. Despite these struggles, “Some students reported feeling they should not talk about how difficult they had found fieldwork because other people would perceive them as weak” (Pollard 2009). This feeling of weakness stems from the misapprehension that anthropological training inures you to feelings of culture shock or the other mental health crises others might experience during prolonged periods of time in new cultural habitats. Indeed, as Rachel Irwin writes,

For multiple reasons, researchers admitting to fear or depression during fieldwork may be ridiculed or dismissed as ‘cowardly anthropologists’. I was once strongly encouraged to conduct fieldwork in a remote village rather than a larger town, so that I could be a ‘courageous anthropologist’. Chiefly, I would argue that this is closely linked to a sense of academic bravado and competitive virility. I was given the idea that there is something inherent about studying anthropology that protects one against ‘culture shock,’ and that anthropologists are naturally better at negotiating unfamiliar situations than other sojourners. As such, anthropologists can feel a certain ‘culture shock’ within their own academic community, because their experiences of culture shock ‘in the field remain unacknowledged, and they are feeling something that they believe they ought not feel. (2007)

When anthropologists actively avoid discussing the feelings of anxiety, depression and desperation associated with their fieldwork, they do a disservice to the next generation of aspiring anthropologists. Even though ethnography relies upon qualitative research methods, anthropologists inevitably enter their field site with certain expectations about the questions they want answered, the traditions they intend to explore, the in-depth interviews they hope to conduct. If, for any number of mitigating and complicating reasons and factors, you aren’t able to accomplish these goals, it precipitates yet another watershed of shame and regret that you simply weren’t good enough. Because anthropologists are participant observers, their bodies and identities are essentially the very tools of their practice. Therefore, personality clashes or the development of stress or fear under certain situations place the onus of culpability on the researcher. As an anthropologist, a “failure of fieldwork” is essentially conflated with a failure of yourself. In so doing, “A large number of students felt profound shame over their sense of failure in the field […] For some, going home early was a source of great shame” (Pollard 2009). When I left my Peace Corps service early, after months of illness and the impending signs of depression, it felt like I was abandoning the aspirations I had to become an anthropologist, despite the fact that the majority of my fellow volunteers were struggling with similar programmatic and personal issues. After spending so many years planning my trajectory toward becoming an anthropologist, this belief that my emotional struggles somehow disqualified me as an anthropologist only further tangled the crisis of identity I had undergone during my service. And I didn’t know how to talk about it because I felt completely alone.

Upon returning to the United States, I was covered in scars from persistent skin infections and stress hives, my hair had fallen out, and my mood was ragged. I experienced many of the symptoms of depression, including sleeplessness and moodiness; sometimes interactions or objects would trigger uncontrollable feelings of sadness or anger. I had difficulty being around people and I walked everywhere draped in a cloak of self-loathing. For my friends and family members who haven’t traveled widely or spent long periods abroad, they couldn’t understand why I believed that my difficulties in Fiji were solely my fault. When I sought out therapists to talk through my lingering misgivings, they praised me for my strength and courage, when what I wanted was not to be coddled, but to understand why I hadn’t “worked” in my community, when it felt like I had spent all my energy trying to integrate. Many friends and acquaintances also did not want to hear that I hadn’t had a positive experience—in their minds, Fiji was nothing more than a tropical paradise and it seemed feckless to explain my humanitarian, existential misgivings about it. This was not reverse culture shock per se, yet I was at a loss about how to recuperate and heal, mentally as well as physically, let alone negotiate my anthropological path moving forward. I was simply afraid that I wasn’t cut out to do fieldwork.

During this period of uncertainty, I turned to video games. In the past, I’ve also used video games as a coping mechanism. After suffering from a traumatic brain injury my freshman year, I suffered from sometimes crippling dissociation and self-doubt about my cognitive abilities. My neurologist was unhelpful, and the only option I was offered to heal was to sit and wait for my brain to stop bleeding. Brain injuries are unique in that they often invoke crises of identity. With so much forthcoming research on the connection between the frontal lobe and personality, I experienced an acute crisis of self after my brain contusion. Offered with no other recourse or resilience methods, video games helped coax me back to a space of equilibrium. In both cases, playing video games provided a viable alternative to being social. If I felt disconnected from the world around me, or anxious about having to explain why I had come home early, I could retreat to RPG’s. Video games can put you in touch with a wide online community, thereby facilitating social contact for those who might otherwise feel stress or anxiety at the prospect of socializing with strangers. For me, I felt powerless to help myself—video games were an active way to use my time and process my emotions. Rather than passively consuming other forms of media, such as movies or television shows, video games provide you with tangible goals, objectives that, when achieved, provide players with a sense of success and achievement. As Romeo Vitelli wrote for Psychology Today, “By setting specific tasks and allowing young people to work through obstacles to achieve those tasks, video games can help boost self-esteem and help children learn the value of persistence. By providing immediate feedback as video game players solve problems and achieve greater expertise, players can learn to see themselves as having skills and intelligence they might not otherwise realize they possess” (2014). During a period of such acute self-doubt, it was extremely satisfying to be posed with challenges and obstacles that at first seemed insurmountable, but that could be accomplished through patience, creativity and skill-building.

Video games became a refuge for my cultural concerns as well. Games like BioShock: Infinite (2013) and Dishonored (2012) were dystopian alternatives to human history, new life worlds I could explore and inhabit through a sense of play and constant discovery. I was particularly drawn to games with robust storytelling mechanics, where the developers and programmers had clearly invested a lot of time and attention to the minutia of the world, encouraging players to interact with minor characters, read books and notes scattered around the stages, and learn about the internal mythologies, politics and social dynamics that informed the action of the game. I no longer felt powerless, but had a degree of agency to determine the kind of player I wanted to be. In Dishonored, like other games such as Infamous (2009), your actions as a player determine the internal stability of the virtual play space. Even though I had spent months working on community health empowerment, with few visible signs that my efforts were making any difference, I could immediately see how acts of benevolence positively impacted the city of Dunwall. In recent games, many of the avatars that players inhabit are also saddled with their own traumatic experiences which are explored throughout the game. Booker DeWitt of Bioshock: Infinite has a dark past, and other characters, like Bruce Wayne’s Batman throughout Arkham Asylum, City and Origins, are constantly battling their own demons, whether invented or embodied as supervillains. To a certain extent, I was able to project my internal monsters onto the villains in the games, channeling my anger and frustration in a way that felt both productive and cathartic. I could go to bed at night feeling as though I had accomplished something, and had something in the morning I could look forward to. In the absence of other motivations, and paralyzed by fear about the future, this sense of purpose saved me.

There's always a lighthouse, BioShock: Infinite,

New literature has begun to indicate the salutary psychological effects of video games. Studiessuggest that video games may have beneficial effects on cognition, motivation, emotion and sociality; some psychologists have even begun to recommend video games as a form of therapyfor patients with mental health issues, including depression. Contemporaneously, programmers and developers are working on video games as tools to cope with mental health issues. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest (made famous due to its involvement in the #Gamergate controversy) was created to explore what life was like living with depression; other forms of e-literature build interactive stories around the expression of grief and mourning. Whereas several years ago, critics and concerned parents worried that video games like Grand Theft Auto were producing violent, unempathetic adolescents, practitioners are beginning to understand that the process of play may actually serve a positive psychological function. On a related note, The Mary Sue recently published “Coping With Anxiety and Depression Through Fiction” (2015), a poignant piece outlining the ways in which Guardians of the Galaxy’s character development and musical composition helped the writer overcome anxiety attacks and obtain a sense of emotional stability. Marie-Pierre wrote about rewatching episodes of Star Trek to maintain her equilibrium during fieldwork and Peter Olthoff remarked on the therapeutic efficacy of geek culture. Whether it’s a space opera, a society ravaged by an infection of zombies, or a fantastical universe populated by dragons, elves and other mythological beings, video games help transport you to another world, not necessarily as a form of escapism, but rather as a creative space to process your own lived reality.

As it turned out, the rediscovery of video games upon my return led me back to anthropology. I read about ground-breaking games like The Last of Us (2013) and its place within the larger resurgence in zombie-lore. Through my research, I discovered the work of Louise Krasniewicz, a UPenn Anthropology professor who built a class around The Walking Dead. I was lucky enough to sit down for coffee with Dr. Krasniewicz to discuss her approach to geek anthropology, but after running through our recent favorite shows and theories about monstrosity, we inevitably turned to the topic of fieldwork. Emboldened by our conversation, I opened up to her about my experience in Fiji, my doubts as an anthropologist, and my misgivings about the negative consequences of prolonged sojourns in new cultural territory. Expecting reproach or judgement, my story was instead met by a laugh from her. “Welcome to your first time doing fieldwork! It’s horrible for everyone!” she replied. She then went on to recount her own experience conducting fieldwork in upstate New York—hardly the “exotic” destination one would expect for an Ivy League professor—and how difficult the process was emotionally. Even within her native country, where she spoke the language and shared similar cultural assumptions, she struggled to find a community and sense of connection with her interlocutors. Yet, despite her ethnographic challenges, she went on to become a successful anthropology professor. She did not interpret the issues with immersion as her failure as a practitioner, as I had during my experience in Fiji. While many anthropologists have written about the role of emotion during ethnography, such as James Davies and Dimitrina Spencer’s book Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of Fieldwork Experience (2010), and phenomenological anthropologists encourage attention to the ways we physically and emotionally react to our surroundings, I don’t believe that there has been enough discussion about the emotional labor of fieldwork, both to prepare students and acknowledge that the anthropologist is not wholly culpable for “failure” in the field.

In professional fields that deal with emotionally draining issues, such as gender-based violence, there is a heavy emphasis on self-care for activists. An advocate may experience vicarious trauma if they work with survivors of sexual violence day after day, sometimes leading to emotional fatigue and burn-out. For humanitarian researchers conducting interviews with refugees, internally displaced populations, or war-torn communities still reeling from horrific acts of violence, program managers ensure that the interviewers have sufficient support and counselling mechanisms to decompress and work through the emotional labor of their work. The same practices can and should be applied to anthropology. Indeed, as Amy Pollard points out, “Students reported finding it difficult to let go of the traumas of fieldwork, because the writing-up process meant they were continually having to relive them” (2009); their recuperation process may be only further stymied by the culture of silence that pervades discussions about what occurs in the field. Students of anthropology recognize and perhaps relish in the hardships they will encounter during ethnographic research, but if they are given no inkling of the possibility that they won’t always jive with their chosen community or culture, they will have no coping mechanisms or strategies for resilience. Larissa Begley writes of her experience in Rwanda, “As anthropologists, we are part of the narrative we create. Our fieldwork does not exist detached from our own emotions and our lives. We impact on those we study and they impact on us. It is because of this dialectical relationship we have with the ‘field’ that we must recognize the impact that fieldwork can have emotionally, psychologically and physically on us” (2009). Just because we are academically prepared to live in a different culture, doesn’t mean we have the emotional methodologies to succeed.

How do you translate your personality into a new cultural space while also being sensitive and flexible? Rachel Irwin writes that, “Depression, in the form of culture shock, occurs when the firm grounding in one’s own symbolic world is lost” (2007)—this symbolic world and one’s own identity is thrown into flux when you enter and attempt to become a part of a new cultural space. There are bound to be growing pains and types of people you don’t always get along with. I realize now that I didn’t have to suppress my identity in the process of incorporating into Fijian culture. I wish I had read Jessika Tremblay’s post on “10 Tips For Surviving Anthropological Fieldwork” before my service, especially her recommendations on not taking things so personally and “harnessing the power of your introversion” (2014). I know that there were nights in Fiji I retreated to my house to decompress and write, but felt guilty if I was skipping one of the nightly kava sessions held on my compound. If anthropology is to continue to grow as a discipline, we need to ensure that students are prepared for fieldwork, equipped to be both emotionally vulnerable while mentally sustainable. A vital part of self-care is an institutional support system, one that the anthropological community can strive to cultivate. If we are concerned with cross-cultural psychiatry, we should be equally in tune with the mental health of our comrades. You can never predict how fieldwork will change you, and it’s important to maintain a disposition of self-reflexivity, yet the process of discovery should not necessarily come at the cost of self. We need to turn, yet again, within our own community to analyze our professional and personal predispositions, and clarify how we can support one another through the process.

Audre Lorde,

Works Cited

Backe, Emma Louise (2014). “Geeking Out With Louise Krasniewicz.” The Geek Anthropologist.

Begley, Larissa R. (2009). “The other side of fieldwork: experiences and challenges of conducting research in the border area of Rwanda/eastern Congo.” Anthropology Matters, Vol. 11, No. 2.

BioShock Infinite (2013). Irrational Games.

“Coping with Anxiety and Depression Through Fiction” (2015). The Mary Sue.

Davies, James & Dimitrina Spencer (2010). Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of Fieldwork Experience . Stanford University Press.

Dishonored (2012). Arkane Studios.

Granic, Isabela et al. (2014). “The Benefits of Playing Video Games.’ American Psychologist, Vo. 69, No. 1, pp. 66-78.

Infamous (2009). Sucker Punch Productions.

Irwin, Rachel (2007). “Culture Shock: Negotiating Feelings in the Field.” Anthropology Matters, Vol. 9, No. 1.

Olthoff, Peter (2015). “The Many Roles of Popular Culture in Therapy.” The Geek Anthropologist.

Petronzio, Matt (2014). “Your Next Psychologist May Prescribe ‘Legend of Zelda’.” Mashable.

Pollard, Amy (2009). “Field of Screams: Difficulty and Ethnographic Fieldwork.” Anthropology Matters, Vol. 11, No. 2.

Renaud, Marie-Pierre (2015). “Note From the Field: Go Home To A Starship.” The Geek Anthropologist.

The Last of Us (2013). Naughty Dog.

Tremblay, Jessika (2014). “10 Tips For Surviving Anthropological Fieldwork.” Netnographic Encounters.

Quinn, Zoe (2014). Depression Quest.

Vitelli, Romeo (2014). “Are There Benefits to Playing Video Games?” Psychology Today

Climate change: world’s wealthiest understand, but only half see it as threat (The Guardian)

In every South American country, along with Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco, concern over climate change is above 90%

Waves break into anti-tsunami barriers

A typhoon breaks near the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan is one of the few rich states whose population is as concerned about climate change as poorer countries. Photograph: Damir Sagolj/REUTERS

People living in the world’s wealthiest nations generally understand what climate change is but in many countries just half perceive it to be a threat, new research has found.

The analysis of perceptions in 119 countries found living standards and relative wealth are “poor predictors” of whether someone considers climate change to be a severe risk.

While more than 75% of people in Australia, the US, UK and most of the rest of Europe were aware of climate change, far fewer considered it to be detrimental to themselves or their families.

In Australia – recently cited as being a world leader in climate science denialism – as well as the US, Germany and the Scandinavian countries, climate change was perceived to be a threat by just over half of those polled.

In Russia, despite widespread understanding of climate change, less than 50% of people thought it was a risk to them.

The risks of climate change are more widely believed by people in France and Spain, but the greatest concern about its impacts are held elsewhere.

In every South American country, concern over climate change is above the 90% mark, with this level of worry shared by Mexico, India, Tanzania and Morocco. Japan is one of the few highly advanced economies in the world to have a population as concerned about the risks of climate change.

The paper, published in Nature Climate Change, found different factors drove awareness and risk perceptions of climate change. Education levels and understanding the human influence upon the climate was the greatest factor in Europe, while perception of changing temperatures is the key influence in many African and Asian countries.

Authors of the paper, who come from a selection of US universities, say the results show “the need to develop tailored climate communication strategies for individual nations. The results suggest that improving basic education, climate literacy, and public understanding of the local dimensions of climate change are vital to public engagement and support for climate action.”

The paper analysed the results of Gallup polls taken in 119 countries, where respondents were asked how much they know about climate change and whether they consider it a threat to them.

Dr Debbie Hopkins, an expert at the social understandings of climate change at the University of Otago, said many people still see climate change as a remote issue.

“People can be aware of it but they see it as a distant risk and don’t engage with it much,” she said. “This disjunction can negate the feeling that we need to act on climate change.

“In many developed countries we have confidence in our adaptive capacity. We think we can adapt and cope, and in many ways we can do so more than developing economies.

“We also talk about global averages and that’s a difficult term for many people because two degrees doesn’t seem like a lot. That risk seems diminished whereas if you’re living somewhere with extreme variability and extreme weather events, two degrees can seem like a lot.”

Hopkins said accurate media reporting of climate change and more engaged conversations with people on the issue at a local level would help illustrate the threat posed by changes such as rising sea levels and increased heat waves.

Climate change is already having its biggest impact upon the world’s most vulnerable, according to the UN, which voiced concern last year that rising temperatures will fuel conflict, war and migration.

The number of natural disasters between 2000 and 2009 was around three times higher than in the 1980s, the UN said.

Climate change: Embed the social sciences in climate policy (Nature)

David Victor

01 April 2015

David G. Victor calls for the IPCC process to be extended to include insights into controversial social and behavioural issues.

Illustration by David Parkins

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is becoming irrelevant to climate policy. By seeking consensus and avoiding controversy, the organization is suffering from the streetlight effect — focusing ever more attention on a well-lit pool of the brightest climate science. But the insights that matter are out in the darkness, far from the places that the natural sciences alone can illuminate.

With the ink barely dry on the IPCC’s latest reports, scientists and governments are planning reforms for the next big assessment12. Streamlining the review and writing processes could, indeed, make the IPCC more nimble and relevant. But decisions made at February’s IPCC meeting in Nairobi showed that governments have little appetite for change.

The basic report-making process and timing will remain intact. Minor adjustments such as greater coverage of cross-cutting topics and more administration may make the IPCC slower. Similar soul searching, disagreement, indecision and trivial procedural tweaks have followed each of the five IPCC assessments over the past 25 years3.

This time needs to be different. The IPCC must overhaul how it engages with the social sciences in particular (see Fields such as sociology, political science and anthropology are central to understanding how people and societies comprehend and respond to environmental changes, and are pivotal in making effective policies to cut emissions and collaborate across the globe.

The IPCC has engaged only a narrow slice of social-sciences disciplines. Just one branch — economics — has had a major voice in the assessment process. In Working Group III, which assesses climate-change mitigation and policy, nearly two-thirds of 35 coordinating lead authors hailed from the field, and from resource economics in particular. The other social sciences were mostly absent. There was one political scientist: me. Among the few bright spots in that report compared with earlier ones is greater coverage of behavioural economics and risk analysis. In Working Group II, which assesses impacts and adaptation, less than one-third of the 64 coordinating lead authors were social scientists, and about half of those were economists.

Bringing the broader social sciences into the IPCC will be difficult, but it is achievable with a strategy that reflects how the fields are organized and which policy-relevant questions these disciplines know well. It will require big reforms in the IPCC, and the panel will have to relinquish part of the assessment process to other organizations that are less prone to paralysis in the face of controversy.

Tunnel vision

The IPCC walks a wavering line between science, which requires independence, and diplomacy, which demands responsiveness to government preference. Although scientists supply and hone the material for reports, governments have a say in all stages of assessment: they adopt the outline for each chapter, review drafts and approve the final reports.

“Insights such as which policies work (or fail) in practice are skirted.”

Such tight oversight creates incentives for scientists to stick to the agreed scope and strip out controversial topics. These pressures are especially acute in the social sciences because governments want to control statements about social behaviour, which implicate policy. This domain covers questions such as which countries will bear the costs of climate change; schemes for allocating the burden of cutting emissions; the design of international agreements; how voters respond to information about climate policy; and whether countries will go to war over climate-related stress. The social sciences can help to provide answers to these questions, key for effective climate policy. In practice, few of these insights are explored much by the IPCC.

The narrowness of what governments will allow the IPCC to publish is particularly evident in the summary for policy-makers produced at the end of each assessment. Governments approve this document line-by-line with consensus. Disagreements range from those over how to phrase concepts such as a ‘global commons’ that requires collective action to those about whole graphs, which might present data in ways that some governments find inconvenient.

For example, during the approval of the summary from Working Group III last April, a small group of nations vetoed graphs that showed countries’ emissions grouped according to economic growth. Although this format is good science — economic growth is the main driver of emissions — it is politically toxic because it could imply that some countries that are developing rapidly need to do more to control emissions4.

Context dependent

The big problem with the IPCC’s output is not the widely levelled charge that it has become too policy prescriptive or is captivated by special interests5. Its main affliction is pabulum — a surfeit of bland statements that have no practical value for policy. Abstract, global numbers from stylized, replicable models get approved because they do not implicate any country or action. Insights such as which policies work (or fail) in practice are skirted. Caveats are buried or mangled.

Readers of the Working Group III summary for policy-makers might learn, for instance, that annual economic growth might decrease by just 0.06 percentage points by 2050 if governments were to adopt policies that cut emissions in line with the widely discussed goal of 2 °C above pre-industrial levels6. They would have to wade through dense tables to realize that only a fraction of the models say that the goal is achievable, and through the main report to learn that the small cost arises only under simplified assumptions that are far from messy reality.

Source: Ref. 6

That said, the social sciences are equally culpable. Because societies are complex and are in many ways harder to study than cells in a petri dish, the intellectual paradigms across most of the social sciences are weak. Beyond a few exceptions — such as mainstream economics — the major debates in social science are between paradigms rather than within them.

Consider the role of international law. Some social scientists treat law like a contract; others believe that it works mainly through social pressures. The first set would advise policy-makers to word climate deals precisely — to include targets and timetables for emissions cuts — and to apply mechanisms to ensure that countries honour their agreements. The second group would favour bold legal norms with clear focal points — striving for zero net emissions, for example7. Each approach could be useful in the right context.

Multiple competing paradigms make it hard to organize social-science knowledge or to determine which questions and methods are legitimate. Moreover, the incentives within the social sciences discourage focusing on particular substantive topics such as climate change — especially when they require interdisciplinary collaboration. In political science, for example, research on political mobilization, administrative control and international cooperation among other specialities are relevant. Yet no leading political-science department has a tenured professor who works mainly on climate change8.

The paradigm problem need not be paralysing. Social scientists should articulate why different intellectual perspectives and contexts lead to different conclusions. Leading researchers in each area can map out disagreement points and their relevance.

Climate scientists and policy-makers should talk more about how disputes are rooted in different values and assumptions — such as about whether government institutions are capable of directing mitigation. Such disputes help to explain why there are so many disagreements in climate policy, even in areas in which the facts seem clear9.

Unfortunately, the current IPCC report structure discourages that kind of candour about assumptions, values and paradigms. It focuses on known knowns and known unknowns rather than on deeper and wider uncertainties. The bias is revealed in how the organization uses official language to describe findings — half of the statements in the Working Group III summary were given a ‘high confidence’ rating (see ‘Confidence bias’).

Wider vista

Building the social sciences into the IPCC and the climate-change debate more generally is feasible over the next assessment cycle, which starts in October and runs to 2022, with efforts on the following three fronts.

First, the IPCC must ask questions that social scientists can answer. If the panel looks to the social-sciences literature on climate change, it will find little. But if it engages the fields on their own terms it will find a wealth of relevant knowledge — for example, about how societies organize, how individuals and groups perceive threats and respond to catastrophic stresses, and how collective action works best.

Dieter Telemans/Panos

The solar-powered Barefoot College in Rajasthan, India, trains rural villagers in how to install, build and repair solar technologies.

As soon as the new IPCC leadership is chosen later this year, the team should invite major social-sciences societies such as the American Political Science Association, the American and European societies of international law, the American Sociological Association and the Society for Risk Analysis to propose relevant topics that they can assess and questions they can answer. Multidisciplinary scientific organizations in diverse countries — such as the Royal Society in London and the Third World Academy of Sciences — would round out the picture, because social-sciences societies tend to be national and heavily US-based.

These questions should guide how the IPCC scopes its next reports. The agency should also ask such societies to organize what they know about climate by discipline — how sociology examines issues related to the topic, for example — and feed that into the assessment.

Second, the IPCC must become a more attractive place for social-science and humanities scholars who are not usually involved in the climate field and might find IPCC involvement daunting. The IPCC process is dominated by insiders who move from assessment to assessment and are tolerant of the crushing rounds of review and layers of oversight that consume hundreds of hours and require travel to the corners of the globe. Practically nothing else in science service has such a high ratio of input to output. The IPCC must use volunteers’ time more efficiently.

Third, all parties must recognize that a consensus process cannot handle controversial topics such as how best to design international agreements or how to govern the use of geoengineering technologies. For these, a parallel process will be needed to address the most controversial policy-relevant questions.

This supporting process should begin with a small list of the most important questions that the IPCC cannot handle on its own. A network of science academies or foundations sympathetic to the UN’s mission could organize short reports — drawing from IPCC assessments and other literature — and manage a review process that is truly independent of government meddling. Oversight from prominent social scientists, including those drawn from the IPCC process, could give the effort credibility as well as the right links to the IPCC itself.

The list of topics to cover in this parallel mechanism includes how to group countries in international agreements — beyond the crude kettling adopted in 1992 that split the world into industrialized nations and the rest. The list also includes which kinds of policies have had the biggest impact on emissions, and how different concepts of justice and ethics could guide new international agreements that balance the burdens of mitigation and adaptation. There will also need to be a sober re-assessment of policy goals when it becomes clear that stopping warming at 2 °C is no longer feasible10.

The IPCC has proved to be important — it is the most legitimate body that assesses the climate-related sciences. But it is too narrow and must not monopolize climate assessment. Helping the organization to reform itself while moving contentious work into other forums is long overdue.

Nature 520, 27–29 (02 April 2015), doi:10.1038/520027a


  1. IPCC. Future Work of the IPCC: Chairman’s Vision Paper on the Future of the IPCC (IPCC, 2015).
  2. IPCC. Future Work of the IPCC: Consideration of the Recommendations by the Task Group on Future Work of the IPCC (IPCC, 2015).
  3. Committee to Review the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeClimate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC (InterAcademy Council, 2010).
  4. Victor, D. G.Gerlagh, R. & Baiocchi, G. Science 3453436 (2014).
  5. Hulme, M. et alNature 463730732 (2010).
  6. IPCCSummary for Policymakers in Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Edenhofer, O. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).
  7. Hafner-Burton, E. M.Victor, D. G. & Lupu, Y. Am. J. Intl Law 1064797 (2012).
  8. Keohane, R. O. PS: Political Sci. & Politics 481926 (2015).
  9. Hulme, M. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009).
  10. Victor, D. G. & Kennel C. F. Nature 5143031 (2014).

Why Communicating About Climate Change Is so Difficult: It’s ‘The Elephant We’re All Inside of’ (Huffington Post)

Jim Pierobon

Posted: 02/05/2015 8:48 pm EST Updated: 02/05/2015 8:59 pm EST

How stakeholders communicate about climate change has long been framed by who’s doing the framing as much, or more so, than the information being communicated. So I am forever curious how various stakeholders — believers, skeptics and deniers alike — are talking about it and who, if anybody, is “moving the needle” in either direction.

One of the most salient and recent inputs to the climate communications conundrum is Don’t Even Think About It — Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change, by George Marshall in Oxford, England.

Marshall’s work deserves to be spotlighted for how it illuminates why skeptics and deniers alike will not be moved to engage in thoughtful exchanges unless those communicating respect certain tenets of what academic and nonprofit research are finding.

Marshall draws on the efforts of the climate information network (COIN) he co-founded along with research by two leading university-based centers: the Project on Climate Change Communications at Yale University in Princeton, NJ and the Center for Climate Change Communications at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

George Marshall is the co-founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, a nonprofit organization that specializes in public communication around climate change.

Marshall also taps into the works of authorities who’ve written and/or spoken extensively about climate change, such as Harvard Professor of Psychology Daniel Gilbert, GOP pollster Frank Luntz, Princeton Psychology and Public Affairs Professor Daniel Kahneman, former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Oregon Kari Norgaard and ABC-TV network correspondent Bill Blakemore.

Perhaps it would behoove those preparing for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, aka COP21, in Paris November 30 – December 11, 2015 to heed much of what Marshall and other top-tier researchers are finding and sharing if they are serious about forging a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.

Here is my synthesis of the most illuminating take-a-ways from Marshall’s book. I offer it as a checklist with which to gauge climate communications efforts, regardless of which — if any — side of the issue you’re on. Be sure to share your thoughts.

  • Perceptions are shaped by individual psychological coping mechanisms and the collective narratives that they shape with the people around them.
  • A compelling emotional story that speaks to peoples’ core values has more impact than rational scientific data such as hotter global temperatures and rising sea levels.
  • People’s social identity has an extraordinary hold over their behaviors and views.
  • Drawing too much attention to an undesirable norm (e.g. catastrophic weather) can seriously backfire.
  • In high-carbon societies, EVERYone has a strong reason to ignore the problem or to write their own alibi. What might work better are narratives based on cooperation, mutual interests and a common humanity.
  • The real story is about our fear, denial and struggle to accept our own responsibility. “Climate change isn’t the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant we’re all inside of,” said ABC’s Bill Blakemore.
  • Our brains are UNsuited to deal with climate change unless the threats are personal, abrupt, immoral and immediate. A distant, abstract and disputed threat does not have the necessary characteristics for seriously mobilizing public opinion.
  • Without a clear deadline for action, we create our own timeline. We do so in ways that remove the compulsion to act. We make it just current enough to accept that something needs to be done but put it just too far into the future to require immediate action.

We’d all benefit the most from: what models for communicating about climate change are working, and which ones are not?

  • The messenger is more important than the message. The messenger can be the most important — but also the weakest link — between scientific information and personal conviction. Building on that, to break the partisan “deadlock” and public disinterest starts, Marshall asserts educational efforts need to create the means for new messengers to be heard.
  • There may be lessons learned from the campaign by oil giant BP in the early 2000s offering person-on-the-street testimonials about the need to deal with climate change. Full disclosure: While a Senior Vice President of Public Affairs with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide from 2001-2006, I helped develop and execute elements of BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign.
  • Until the economy is back on a strong growth track, climate change advocates will struggle to earn attention in their home countries as long as bread-and-butter ‘pocketbook’ issues are more important to an overwhelming majority of citizens.

See George Marshall in action from this recent interview on TalkingStickTV via YouTube.

While we’re on the subject, I recommend reading the excellent work by the MacArthur Foundation’s “Connecting on Climate” guide completed in 2014. It includes 10 principles for effective climate change communication based on research from various social science fields.