The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

on humankind

Posted by Joy Icayan on February 10, 2010

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We’ve created life in our own image.

– Stephen Hawking


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Hello 2010

Posted by Joy Icayan on January 7, 2010

Happy new year, everyone and to start the year off, sex researcher Dr. Petra Boynton gives her sex and relationships predictions for 2010. My favorite is the one on media and long term love.

Also, Dr. John Grohol reports how 75% of New Year’s resolutions fail and how to better stick to them. Jonah Lehrer talks about that dwindling resource called willpower and how to better keep at it.

That’s all for now. Be back to normal programming real soon.

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from de Waal & Dawkins

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 12, 2009

Society is not really made to be a purely competitive operation. And I think we have learned that lesson, but I don’t know for how long. The whole argument that nature is red in tooth and claw, and for that reason society ought to be like that, is flawed. Because nature is not like that. If you look at our close relatives, you see animals who survive by cooperating. Yes, there is competition. There is dominance, hierarchy. They sometimes fight. They sometimes even kill each other. But they stick together because they survive together much better than alone.

Frans de Waal, primatologist and author of The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society

“The position I have always adopted is that much of animal nature is indeed altruistic, cooperative and even attended by benevolent subjective emotions, but that this follows from, rather than contradicts, selfishness at the genetic level.”

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of The Selfish Gene

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The comfort of sad songs

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 9, 2009

We were in a Richard Poon event in Eastwood last night. The Fil-Taiwanese jazz singer played a series of songs revolving around heartache/heartbreak, teasing the audience if they were in tears yet. He admitted he only got the habit of singing continuous slow sad songs from a fellow singer, and didn’t get the point of ‘paying a fee to get your painful experiences relived to you.’ But that he had noticed that it worked.

So why does it work? Why do we want to hear sad songs just when we’re sad? According to neuroscientist David Huron, listeners of sad songs feel an empathy similar to what they would feel hearing the voice of a loved one and that sad music triggers cues of our own experiences, which gives us the ‘they’re playing our song’ moment.

He adds that when music makes us cry, we release prolactin. The release of this hormone, along with oxytocin and dopamine mimics what we feel when we bond with others. “I suggest that the pleasure of musically induced weeping arises from cortical inhibition of the amygdala, and is linked to the release of the hormone prolactin . . . Weeping shares a deep kinship with laughter, frisson (‘chills’), and awe (‘gasping’) — responses that philosopher Edmund Burke called the ‘sublime emotions.’” Crying  over music makes us happy, comforts us, no matter how paradoxical that sounds.

[this is just a lame excuse to write about Richard Poon who did a Nobody jazz medley with the standard clap/steps, and who, uh, melted my, uh, heart. OK enough now.]

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from Jared Diamond

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 7, 2009

“We study the injustices of history for the same reason that we study genocide, and for the same reason that psychologists study the minds of murderers and rapists… to understand how those evil things came about. “

– Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel

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finally, a reason to discuss pole dancing

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 4, 2009

Tim Kurtz and Kally Whitehead discuss the shift of meanings with regards to pole dancing, from an activity that potentially objectifies women (as performed in strip bars usually subject to male gaze) to a form of aerobic exercise and as something that women enjoy and feel good about.

It is necessary to note that in instances of oppression (whether perceived or real), the ones oppressed often find ways to retrieve power back. This can be seen by how colonialized cultures assimilate their cultures to the dominant one, or how homosexuals have shifted the meaning of ‘queer’, and women of ‘bitch’. Language too, is power play.

(Pole dancing link comes from Patrick of Secret Vespers.)

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Live that moment

Posted by Joy Icayan on November 23, 2009

Moment: A specific point in time, especially the present time.

From Steven Maloney, the psychological present lasts three seconds…

And since we live permanently convinced that the past is past and it will be amended, and the future, even the immediate future, will certainly be better and with fewer errors, since we live permanently from and critical of our own past, permanently removed from and in the hope of our oncoming future, the present-time frame of several seconds is the only unconditional manifestation of our ego.

In this sense, our ego lasts three seconds.  Everything else is either hope or an embarrassing incident.  Usually both.

– Miroslav Holub, “The Dimension of the Present Moment”

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we keep the music

Posted by Joy Icayan on October 15, 2009

We have all heard the stories: the man who forgets his past but keeps his music, the old lady with Alzheimer’s who can detect a wrong note when childhood music is played. Music, in Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia has been found out to reach out to patients suffering from catatonia and Parkinson’s. Known to soothe and calm us down, it has also been found to trigger seizures, nightmares, and pain.

So what is it about music? It could be our experiences, or the fact that minor chords can sound so sad. Steinbeck once wrote of his musical therapy, listening to music while in a state of emotional loss, coming out of it quite shaken, cleansed. Whatever it is, our lives seem parallel to the soundtracks we’ve designed to document it.

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