There has long been a general assumption that human beings are essentially selfish. We’re apparently ruthless, with strong impulses to compete against each other for resources and to accumulate power and possessions.
If we are kind to one another, it’s usually because we have ulterior motives. If we are good, it’s only because we have managed to control and transcend our innate selfishness and brutality.
This bleak view of human nature is closely associated with the science writer Richard Dawkins, whose book The Selfish Gene became popular because it fitted so well with (and helped to justify) the competitive and individualistic ...
A lithograph from Gaston Tissandier's balloon travels depicts falling stars. Archive.orgNear the beginning of the new film “The Aeronauts,” a giant gas-filled balloon called the “Mammoth” departs from London’s Vauxhall Gardens and ascends into the clouds, revealing a bird’s eye view of London.
To some moviegoers, these breathtaking views might seem like nothing special: Modern air travel has made many of us take for granted what we can see from the sky. But during the 19th century, the vast “ocean of air” above our heads was a mystery.
Willpower and habits involve different parts of the brain. lemono/Shutterstock.comMore than 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions have already given up on their goals by February.
While there’s a lot of resolution advice on the internet, much of it fails to highlight the crux of behavioral change.
To make individual decisions – whether it’s what to wear or which gift to buy for someone – you draw on brain systems involving executive control. You make the decision, add a shot of willpower and, voilà, it’s done.
Words are often seen as the building blocks of languages. But as children we don’t learn lists of words like we might in a school language class. We learn longer strings of sounds and break them up into words as we grow up. One of the problems with our current theory of how language works is that it doesn’t take these longer strings into account.
In my own research, I’ve drawn on ideas from biological evolution and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ idea of memes and suggested a new way of ...