Psychology

A holiday tipping how-to

December 18, 2007
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A holiday tipping how-to

The City Room blog on the New York Times website ran a guide to holiday tipping yesterday that draws much of its advice from Peter Bearman’s Doormen—a book the NYT‘s Sewell Chan says contains one of “the most sophisticated discussion of holiday tipping City Room has encountered.” Chan’s article continues: fraught with meaning. “is both a gift, a way of saying thanks, an obligation, and yet also a sign of expected reciprocal attention and an expression of social power,” Professor Bearman writes. “These contradictory meanings make the bonus difficult to talk about, and tenants often squirm in their seats (or cognitively) as they try to describe just what it means.” Professor Bearman writes that the holiday bonus is most often construed in one of two ways. “On the one hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as the acknowledgment of all of the assistance received during the past year,” he notes, adding later, “On the other hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as a pre-payment or down payment for the next year, an advance on the services to be received.” He distinguishes the bonus from a mere tip, a payment for services . . .

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Press Release: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

November 29, 2007
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Press Release: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

Power. Sex. Status. That’s pretty much what human life boils down to: a vicious, grasping struggle to get ahead and stay there. We look out for number one, claw for every advantage, and aren’t above using—and even betraying—friends and family to get what we want. So just what is it that separates us from the higher primates? Dario Maestripieri would argue that it’s less than you may think, and with Macachiavellian Intelligence he draws readers deep into the social life of the world’s most common monkey, the rhesus macaque, to show just how much we can learn from them about human life. Writing with a biting, sardonic wit, Maestripieri draws on primatology, evolutionary biology, economics, politics, and literature to present a wry, rational, and wholly surprising view of our humanity as seen through the monkey in the mirror. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations

November 27, 2007
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Review: Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations

In a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, reviewer John Desio delivers an interesting critique of Stephen E. Braude’s new book The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations. While Desio, like most, might remain skeptical about the existence of the paranormal he applauds Braude’s book for its open minded approach to the subject as it works both to confirm as well as debunk a variety of extraordinary parapsychological phenomena. Desio writes: The world of the paranormal is such a magnet for hustlers and charlatans that any book on the subject might seem at first like just another attempt to separate the curious or the desperate from their cash. But The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations is not a memoir from “Miss Cleo” of 900-number fame or advice from “cold reading” specialist John Edward on how best to contact your late Aunt Sophie. It is a strange work by Stephen E. Braude, a philosophy professor at the University of Maryland who believes in the existence of paranormal abilities in human beings—but who also, thank goodness, goes out of his way to address the concerns of skeptics and to shoot down fakers who populate the field. The paranormal, . . .

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Review: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

October 23, 2007
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Review: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

The Times Higher Education Supplement recently ran a positive review of Dario Maestripieri’s new book, Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World. A detailed examination of how rhesus macaques have come to claim the title of the world’s most prolific primates (after homo-sapiens, of course) Macachiavellian Intelligence delivers an insightful exploration of macaque social organization—revealing relationships perpetually subject to the cruel laws of the markets and power struggles that would impress Machiavelli himself. Alison Jolly’s review for the THES begins: If this review were written by a rhesus monkey, the author would get an O mouth threat and a clear chance of being bitten. Unless, of course, the author were dominant to the reviewer, in which case it would be a sycophantic fear grin in hopes of payoff—either promotion or sex. The only actual altruists in rhesus society are mothers, but The Times Higher doesn’t ask authors’ mothers to review books.… The review continues: Maestripieri tells story with incisive prose, sharp wit and admirable brevity, and the book should appeal to a wide audience from cynical teenagers to economists who believe that the “invisible hand” of competition underlies all human society. He also has perfect . . .

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That Gold Leaf Lady

September 19, 2007
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That Gold Leaf Lady

Stephen Braude is no stranger to controversy. Braude is a professor of philosophy who has investigated paranormal phenomena for over thirty years. In the preface to his new book, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations, he relates what happens when a philosopher who has previously limited his research to language, time, and logic turns to investigating parapsychology: Some philosophers I expected to be open-minded and intellectually honest instead behaved with surprising rigidity and cowardice. I clearly knew the evidence and issues much better than they did, but they condescendingly pretended to know this material well enough to ridicule my interest in it.… I had really thought that as philosophers—as people presumably devoted to the pursuit of wisdom and truth—my colleagues would actually be willing to admit their ignorance and be curious to learn more. I genuinely believed they’d be excited to discover that certain relevant bits of received wisdom might be mistaken. Fortunately, at least some revelations were more encouraging. Several philosophers whom I thought would be inflexible or disinterested surprised me with their honesty, courage, and open-mindedness. And some reactions I’ve never fully understood. One famous philosopher (I won’t say who) said to me, “Well if someone . . .

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Review: Gross, The Secret History of Emotion

May 30, 2007
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Review: Gross, The Secret History of Emotion

In his new book, The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle’s Rhetoric to Modern Brain Science author Daniel Gross embarks on an intellectual voyage to examine the history of emotions in western culture. Writing for the Times Literary Supplement reviewer Stephen Pender praises Gross’s newest work for delivering a fascinating counterpoint to the way we generally understand emotions today. Pender writes: One way to prise open the emotional sphere is to situate the passions socially, to investigate their exigencies with an eye on the polis. And we have a fine guide in Daniel Gross, the author of The Secret History of Emotion. To recognize the social in the passionate, Gross urges a turn to Aristotelian traditions, and in particular to the Rhetoric, which offers “a pragmatic phenomenology of the passions.” In opposition to “current platitudes of emotion,” Gross offers a bold, compelling and occasionally rebarbative argument about the turn from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century political rhetoric, which articulated the social and the particular in the passionate, to a hopelessly insular psychology, marked by disingenuous universalizing and specious materialism.… Gross’s deft and remarkable book should be required reading for neurobiologists and, of course, for humanists of every school. . . .

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Podcast: Alice Kuzinar, Melancholia’s Dog

February 15, 2007
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Podcast: Alice Kuzinar, Melancholia’s Dog

Alice A. Kuzinar, author of Melancholia’s Dog: Reflections on Our Animal Kinship, was recently interviewed by Deborah Harper for Psychjourney, her Web site for mental health professionals and consumers. Drawing from her new book, Kuzinar discusses the philosophical and psychological significance of man’s best friend and helps to demonstrate why “dog-love can be a precious but melancholy thing.” Archived audio from the interview is available in the podcasts section of Harper’s site. An attempt to understand human attachment to the canis familiaris in terms of reciprocity and empathy, Melancholia’s Dog tackles such difficult concepts as intimacy and kinship with dogs, the shame associated with identification with their suffering, and the reasons for the profound mourning over their deaths. In addition to philosophy and psychoanalysis, Alice A. Kuzniar turns to the insights and images offered by the literary and visual arts—the short stories of Ivan Turgenev and Franz Kafka, the novels of J. M. Coetzee and Rebecca Brown, the photography of Sally Mann and William Wegman, and the artwork of David Hockney and Sue Coe. Without falling into sentimentality or anthropomorphization, Kuzniar honors and learns from our canine companions, above all attending the silences and sadness brought on by the effort . . .

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Press Release: Jasper, Getting Your Way

September 19, 2006
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Press Release: Jasper, Getting Your Way

Although we’re generally unconscious of it, strategy is a regular component of daily life. Whether you’re planning a dinner party, fighting for a promotion, attempting to lose weight, trying to beat traffic, or occupied by any number of normal activities, you’re engaging in strategic thought and action. It’s crucial to our success and happiness. It’s no wonder then that books on strategy routinely find the bestseller list. Most of these accounts of strategy are brought to us by CEOs, self-help gurus, and military leaders who reduce strategy to straightforward sets of rules or, in the case of game theorists, mathematical equations. But in Getting Your Way: Strategic Dilemmas in the Real World, James M. Jasper reminds us that life’s really not so simple. The key to mastering strategy and finding success is to develop a more refined understanding of just how unique and complex any given situation really is. Read the press release. . . .

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Philip Rieff, 1922-2006

July 4, 2006
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Philip Rieff, 1922-2006

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Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

May 26, 2006
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Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution. What makes us human, renowned scholars Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd demonstrate, lies in our psychology—more specifically, our unparalleled ability to adapt. Building their case with such fascinating examples as the Amish rumspringa and the gift exchange system of the !Kung San, Not by Genes Alone throws aside the conventional nature-versus-nurture debate and convincingly argues that culture and biology are inextricably linked. Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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