Monday, August 31, 2015

FOR THE LOVE OF CRIME

It's a different kind of fatal attraction.

Hybristophilia is a term used by criminologists -- but not scientists -- to describe a sexual attraction to violent killers in prison, who often receive racy love letters or sexy undergarments from their fans.
Also known as the "Bonnie and Clyde syndrome," it has existed throughout time and across borders.

Norway's most famous mass murderer gets hundreds of fan letters from lovelorn women, including marriage proposals. Charles Manson had his cult following, even in prison.

Why some women are attracted to "the bad boy" persona baffles normal men.

Perhaps, due to societal pressures and expectations, women have to repress their desires for freedom and adventure. They seek to find fulfillment with "exciting" men who appear to be the rebellious answer to their conservative peer pressures. It also may a motherly adaptation of the theme of trying to change a bad man into a good one.

So who were the "bad boys" of LOST?

Sawyer, the charming con man, clearly used his image and talents to find women falling over him. Even after the con, some women still adored him. The women who fell for him were usually those lonely housewives that lacked a spark of excitement in their marriages, or had self-worth issues that could be solved with a "big financial score." However, Kate was clearly drawn to Sawyer because they shared a same reckless, self-first survival mode.

Ben was a sociopath, a mass murderer. In the show, he had no girlfriend. He tried to impose his will on the women in the compound, but his tyranny did not evoke any connection with women in the camp. However, in fan groups, there were several women who adored Ben's character, which may be closer to the Bonnie and Clyde syndrone mentioned above. Women could be attracted to such a bad character because Ben was not a real person in their lives, much as a prisoner in a life sentence without parole could never be part of the real lives. It is that real barrier that allows the fantasy connection to be expressed by these women.

Jacob may have also been a sociopath. He brought people to the island as candidates, only to have almost all of the candidates perish. He played games with human lives. But he was also a loner. We never saw any connection to anyone, except his Crazy Mother (also a sociopath) and his estranged brother. In an odd way, perhaps Jacob's game of bringing people to the island was a means of combating his loneliness, or a weak attempt to attract someone he could truly love. The mystery of Jacob did spawn a group of followers, including women in the Others camp. But it seems that Jacob never acted upon his cult followers in any way to allow them to meet or interact with him in a human way. Even in Greek stories, the gods would at times come to Earth to mingle, tease, and procreate with interior humans, usually to invoke the wrath of higher gods.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

PRIORITIES AND PAIN

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. ― Mark Twain

Relationships may be the hardest work human beings do.

Attraction is almost involuntary. Becoming a loving couple is intentional.

If one person promises to make the other person in their life their number one priority, that is viewed as an unconditional commitment. But what if the other person is not at the same place in their relationship? Things can quickly turn to a disaster.

Part of building a strong relationship is peeling away the layers of personal illusion (the fantasies, the desires, the dreams of what each individual wants in his/her life, and life partner), and building in its place,  a solid foundation of love, trust and respect for the other person.

If one gets ahead of the other, he will be tearing a part his soul with nothing to replace the missing pieces - - - - and he will become empty inside.

The best in Life is a series of layered, shared experiences. If you can draw the best out of another person, you should be with that person. The little differences, the arguments, the misunderstandings, can easily be balanced through simple, honest and open communication. Working things out is one of the great "shared" experiences that help couples grow fonder and foster a deeper bond between them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

LONELINESS

At the core of the LOST character tree was loneliness. Most of the characters were extremely lonely people with no true friends. This includes Jack, who was a brilliant surgeon, but in his back story had no friends he hung out with outside of work. 

The effect of long term loneliness on the brain and social interaction shows that lonely people tend to create a barrier, a shell, around themselves. Then, they tend to focus on negative aspects in the world around them.

One of the saddest things about loneliness is that it leads to what psychologists call a “negative spiral.” People who feel isolated come to dread bad social experiences and they lose faith that it’s possible to enjoy good company. The usual result is more loneliness. This hardly seems adaptive, but experts say it’s because we’ve evolved to enter a self-preservation mode when we’re alone. Without the backup of friends and family, our brains become alert to threat, especially the potential danger posed by strangers.

Until now, much of the evidence to support this account has come from behavioral studies. For example, when shown a video depicting a social scene, lonely people tend to spend more time than others looking for signs of social threat,  such as a person being ignored by their friends or one person turning their back on another. Research also shows that lonely people’s attention seems to be grabbed more quickly by words that pertain to social threat, such as rejected or unwanted.

Now the University of Chicago’s husband-and-wife research team of Stephanie and John Cacioppo — leading authorities on the psychology and neuroscience of loneliness — have teamed up with their colleague, Stephen Balogh, to provide the first evidence that lonely people’s brains, compared to the non-lonely, are exquisitely alert to the difference between social and nonsocial threats. The finding, reported in the journal, Cortex,  supports the broader theory that, for evolutionary reasons, loneliness triggers a cascade of brain-related changes that put us into a socially nervous, vigilant mode.

The researchers used a loneliness questionnaire to recruit 38 very lonely people and 32 people who didn’t feel lonely (note that loneliness was defined here as the subjective feeling of isolation, as opposed to the number of friends or close relatives one has). Next, the researchers placed an electrode array of 128 sensors on each of the participants’ heads, allowing them to record the participants’ brain waves using an established technique known as electro-encephalography (EEG) that’s particularly suited to measuring brain activity changes over very short time periods.
With the apparatus in place, the participants were asked to look at various words on a computer screen and to indicate with keyboard keys, as quickly as possible, what color they were written in.

This is an adaptation of a classic psychology test known as the Stroop Test. The idea is that since participants are asked to focus not on the word itself but on its color, any influence that the word’s meaning has on the participant is considered to be automatic and subconscious.

Some of the words were social and positive in nature (e.g., belong and party), some were social and negative (e.g., alone and solitary), while others were emotionally positive but nonsocial (e.g., joy), and others were nonsocial and emotionally negative (e.g., sad). The researchers were specifically interested in when and how the participants’ brains responded to the sight of negative words that were social in nature, compared to those that were nonsocial. To do this, they analyzed the participants’ brain waves to see when, after looking at different word types, their brains entered discrete “microstates,” which are periods of relative stability when a sustained pattern of brain regions are activated. When the brain enters a new microstate, this is a sign that it has initiated a new mental operation — that it’s processing some stimulus in a new way.

For the first 280 milliseconds (about one-quarter of a second) after a word was shown on the screen, lonely people’s brains entered a series of three discrete microstates that were identical whether a negative word was socially relevant or not. After that point, however, their brains entered a distinct microstate in response to socially negative words — with activation particularly notable in neural areas involved in the control of attention — suggesting that they had entered a highly vigilant mode. By comparison, non-lonely people’s brains continued to respond with the same microstates to social and nonsocial negative words for a full 480 milliseconds (nearly half a second). This difference between lonely and non-lonely people’s brains might sound subtle, but this is an important finding because it shows how lonely people’s brains are primed at a basic level to tune into social threats more quickly than is “normal.”

Because these effects occurred so early on in the lonely participants’ response to negative social words — and because this was all done in the context of the Stroop Test (where you focus on the word’s color, not the meaning) — the researchers say this shows lonely people’s vigilance to social threat is an implicit, nonconscious bias. In other words, it’s not something they’re aware of. The participants weren’t even meant to be paying attention to the words’ meaning, yet lonely people picked up on the difference between a socially threatening word like hostile and a negative nonsocial word like vomit more quickly than non-lonely people did.

In a real-world context, this is a troubling finding. When people feel most alone, these results suggest their brains are not tuned in to smiles and laughter, they’re switched on to frowns and snarls — they’re vigilantly looking out for negativity without really knowing it. This might have helped our distant ancestors stay alive back when lacking social ties was more of a direct threat to one’s well-being than it is today, making it evolutionarily adaptive. But in the modern world, it’s a stressful, unhelpful state to be in. It might even help explain why lonely people often have poorer health and shorter lives than people who feel connected and cared for.

If you take this research and apply it the LOST character base, the light is shown on the motivations of the characters. Many did see social threats all around them, even to the point of paranoia (like Ben, and Locke). Kate looked to the negative aspects of people around her, and when something got "good" and "positive," she fled that person (her husband, and Jack). In fact, some people with the mind set of negative behavior will push themselves toward more destructive behavior (such as Desmond and his ill-advised and nonsensical of the solo voyage across the Pacific to prove his true love to Penny or Charlie's spiral into drug use when his brother left the band to start a new family.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

HAPPINESS

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw

Monday, August 24, 2015

HAPPY NEWS TO MARRIED COUPLES

The reaction of happy married couples to news is now news.

New York Magazine report sunder the heading of this question:

Have you ever waited with excitement to share some amazingly good news with your partner, only to experience a surge of frustration and resentment when he or she barely reacts to your announcement?

As a society, we place a huge amount of emphasis on being there for each other when we’re in need, but past research has actually shown that relationship satisfaction is influenced as much, if not more, by how we react to each other’s good news. Whereas emotional support from a partner when we’re down can have the unfortunate side-effect of making us feel indebted and more aware of our negative emotions, a partner’s positive reaction to our good news can magnify the benefits of that good fortune and make us feel closer to them.

An unusual brain scan study,  published recently in Human Brain Mapping, has added to this picture, showing that the relationship satisfaction of longtime married elderly women is particularly related to the neural activity they show in response to their husbands’ displays of positive emotion, rather than negative emotion.

Psychologist Raluca Petrican at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and her colleagues at the University of Toronto recruited 14 women with an average age of 72 who’d been married for an average of 40 years. The researchers scanned these women’s brains as they watched some carefully prepared videos.

The silent ten-second videos showed each woman’s husband or a stranger displaying an emotion that mismatched the way the video clip was labeled in a one-sentence description on the screen. For example, the clip might show the husband smiling or laughing about a happy memory (such as the first house they bought), but the video was labeled misleadingly to suggest that the man was showing this emotion while talking about a sad memory (such as the time he got fired). Other videos showed the reverse mismatch: a negative emotional display, ostensibly shown while talking about the memory of a happy event.

Essentially, the videos were designed to make the women feel like they were seeing their husband or the stranger display a surprising emotional reaction that didn’t match their own feelings. The real-world equivalent would be a situation in which a husband is happy about something that his wife doesn’t “get”; and the questions are whether she will notice, and whether she is she more sensitive to this in congruent emotion in her husband than she would be in a stranger.

The first important finding to emerge from this setup was that the women showed enhanced overall brain activity — which suggests more mental and emotional neural processing  — when watching the videos of their husbands compared with videos of the strangers, but only when the videos showed displays of surprisingly in congruent positive emotion. During the other types of videos (when the men appeared to display strangely negative emotion), the women’s brains showed just as much overall activity when watching a stranger as when watching their husband. In other words, their levels of whole-brain activity betrayed a special sensitivity to their husband’s (versus a stranger’s) unexpected positive emotion.    

This jibes with the past research that’s shown it’s our response to our partners’ positive news that is all-important for relationship satisfaction. Remember that these women had been married for decades, so it’s likely that they and their husbands have been doing something right relationship-wise. The brain-imaging data suggest part of the reason might be that the women are acutely tuned to when their husbands are showing happiness that’s personal to them (rather than common to both partners).
This specific interpretation trips up a little with another main result: The women’s levels of marital satisfaction (according to a questionnaire) correlated with the amount of neural processing they showed in response to their husbands positive and negative emotion.

However, the special importance of how we respond to our partners’ positive emotion was supported by another key finding. Namely, women who scored higher on relationship satisfaction showed more brain activation in regions thought to contain mirror neurons (neurons that are considered important for empathy) when watching their spouses than they did when watching a stranger. Moreover, this enhanced mirror-neuron activity was especially present for the videos showing their husbands’ positive, rather than negative, emotion. Again, this appears to support the idea that marital happiness goes hand in hand with sensitivity to our partners’ positive emotion (though the researchers acknowledge a different or complementary interpretation that people in happy relationships have a suppressed response to their partners’ in congruent negative emotion).

We need to interpret these preliminary and complex findings with caution. And the exclusive focus on wives’ reactions to their husbands’ emotions does lend the study a slightly retro ’70s vibe — what about the way that husbands respond to their wives’ emotions, and the importance of that for the marital happiness of both parties? But that said, the results are tantalizing in suggesting that at a neural level, people in a long-term, committed relationship are especially sensitive to their partners’ positive emotion, and particularly so when this emotion is different from their own. This neatly complements other research showing, for example, that people who are unable to differentiate their partners’ emotions from their own (they assume they’re the same), tend to be viewed by their partners as more controlling and smothering.

As a whole, this entire body of research gives pause for thought. How do you react when your partner arrives home on an emotional high? Would you only notice if you were feeling happy too?

Positive responses to positive emotions makes a married couples more positive toward each other. It also goes to show that when a partner is "indifferent" to their significant other's news or needs, the relationship can quickly turn toxic. There is a probability of negative reinforcement that will gradually build between couples because they think since they are together, they should each feel the same toward each other. In most cases, that is probably true. But in every relationship, there is a roller coaster ride of highs and low points. Listening, respect and trust are the most important factors to get through any rough times. If one can try to mine a nugget of positive out of a negative situation, it is better for everyone.

Friday, August 21, 2015

DEJA VU AGAIN

We don't know exactly because it’s difficult to study—you can’t induce déjà vu in most people. 

But scientists have theories. It may be a memory error: An experience triggers a memory, but the brain can’t retrieve it. When that happens, your brain fails to distinguish the past from the present, leaving you with an odd feeling of familiarity. 

Another theory holds that two parts of the brain perceive an experience at the same time. If information arrives slightly faster to one part, a person can feel like they’re having the same experience twice. 

However, a group of scientists from the U.K., France, and Canada think another cause could be anxiety. They recently studied the bizarre case of a 23-year-old man with chronic déjà vu and found in one instance that the more distressed he became by the endless loop of déjà vu experiences, the worse they got. But you’ve probably heard that before.

We play mind games all the time: puzzles, board games, mental math tables, etc.

But most people do not realize that their own mind plays games on them. We may be aware of the mind game consciously when we hear a noise in the dark and the mind flashes to an intruder, or a banging shutter. But the mind can also play subconscious tricks on you.

Some psychologists believe that the subconscious mind tricks as a defensive or coping mechanism. For example, past hurtful experiences may be housed in a section of the brain that is triggered under similar circumstances. When a shy person sees a person that is attractive, his subconscious mind triggers a hurtful memory of rejection so the shy person never attempts to say hello to the attractive lady. This sets off another reaction in the conscious mind of guilt, remorse, loneliness and shame. But a person usually can cope, in reality hide, with their internal demons than a public display of rejection that puts a cloud of group judgment on themselves.

Deja vu could also be the mental process in which to solve problems. In third grade, you did math tables. As an adult, you are trying to split a $36 bar tab three ways. You access that math table in an instant to figure out the share sums. You may not mentally flash to the third grade chalkboard, but the subconscious mind does that for you.

The whole concept of LOST's flash backs and flash forwards could have been incorporated into mental experiments by scientists trying to figure out the brain functions that trigger deja vu memory recall.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A DISEASED MIND

One of the branches of LOST theories is mental experiments. The premise of the show has to be centered upon some mental institution where evil scientists are probing the minds of the main characters, manipulating their consciousness while under medications or sedation. 

It is possible to make a connection between the strange and wild mental swings of the characters to anyone who has watched the slow unraveling of the mind of a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's is one of the crueler diseases because it does not affect the patient's body but slowly takes away their mind.  Or so that is how loved one perceive is happening to the patient because the patient begins to lose a sense of reality, goes back deeper into memory, to finally be lost to the real world.

Science knows how crucial it is to develop new treatments. In America alone, currently more than 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and 15 million are providing care for loved ones with the disease. Unless treatments are developed to slow or even cure it, 28 million baby boomers will fall ill with Alzheimer's by 2040, consuming 24 percent of Medicare spending, according to AAIC.

Alzheimer’s, an aggressive form of age-related dementia is a result of accumulations and “misfolding” of proteins in the brain known as amyloid fibrils and tau tangles. 

In large amounts, these proteins are toxic to brain cells and cause degeneration.

But there is hope on the horizon for earlier detection due to new research, and new studies into treatments that may eventually lead to drugs and, possibly, a cure. Since Alzheimer’s is generally considered an elderly person’s disease, very early onset Alzheimer’s—which can begin as early as age 50—often goes undetected until it’s far too late for significant symptom treatment. That's why earlier detection is such a focus of research. 

The idea that the LOST universe is the collapsing mind of an Alzheimer's patient has never been discussed as a fan theory, but it makes some sense. If the LOST characters actions on the island were internal manifestations of the disease at various levels of severity (like when Claire went squirrel insane), then the island as a fantasy world inhabited by "real" people makes some sense.

A wasted mind is a terrible thing. A diseased mind is a sad occurrence. If one has wasted their life, would those regrets and sadness compound themselves in a diseased mind to create a vivid and dangerous LOST world?