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Effects of Wealth on Psychology and Other News

July 27, 2014

There are always a few interesting stories and research results that readers forward to me, and the last few weeks have been no exception. We start this latest collection with the research done by US psychologist Paul Piff. He found that wealth makes people mean. You can watch his TED talk on the subject below. Following that we have reports on a new creativity pill, a consciousness switch, and the effects of young blood on old brains.

More specifically (for those of you skipped the video), he found, among other things, that drivers of expensive vehicles were four times as likely to cut off other drivers in traffic, and three times as likely to ignore people trying to use pedestrian crossings. He discovered that even thinking about being wealthy can cause a greater sense of entitlement.

Having had some ups and downs in my own income, I think there are some negative psychological/social effects that come with making more money. But I wonder if it all people are affected in negative ways, and if not, what the difference is in those who remain simple, unpretentious and nice when getting richer. Now there's a study worth doing.

A New Creativity Pill

Neurologist Rivka Inzelberg may have discovered a creativity pill. It's a synthetic dopamine-precursor pill, levodopa (L-DOPA), which she was using to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. An article in the Atlantic says she found those taking the drug wrote more novels and poems, and were painting much more than patients who were not taking the drug. Here's more from that article:

The patients with Parkinson’s disease did significantly better than their unafflicted peers in terms of verbal and visual creativity, divergent thinking and combinational novelty.

“We also found that patients taking higher doses of dopaminergic medication had more creative answers,” Inzelberg said.

Fear of Solitude

As reported in the Boston Globe, recent research finds that in most people do not like to sit by themselves and think. From the article:

In fact, we find our own musings so unsatisfying that, in research done at the University of Virginia, many people chose to administer painful electric shocks to themselves rather than sit in quiet contemplation, researchers from that university and Harvard reported Thursday.

"I was surprised that people find themselves such bad company,” said Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research. “It seems that the average person doesn’t seem to be capable of generating a sufficiently interesting train of thought to prevent them from being miserable with themselves."

Well, I'll have to sit here alone and think about that, although that electrical outlet over there is looking mighty enticing...

Switching on Your Consciousness

Apparently there is a type of "ignition switch" for consciousness, according to the latest research....

...scientists at George Washington were treating an epileptic patient with high frequency electric impulses via electrodes placed in her brain. They found that when the electrode placed next to the claustrum was activated, the woman temporarily lost consciousness. When the electrode was turned off and the claustrum was no longer being stimulated, the woman reverted back to consciousness having no memory of what had just occurred.

Your Self-Repairing Brain

A new type of neuron has been identified. In response to damage to cells in the brain it tells stem cells to create new neurons. Researchers hope that this discovery and others will lead to a way to upgrade our brain "hardware" in the future.

Blood and Brains

Finally, USA Today reports that researchers have found "substances in the blood of young mice rejuvenate the muscles and brains of older ones." Yes, put young blood into old mice and you get brain and body improvements. The researchers hope this works for humans as well.

Of course, if it does work, old wealthy people will need a steady supply of young blood. Sounds a bit ghoulish... or like an opportunity to make some money if you're young and willing to bleed a bit.

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