Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer


Ideas

Gregory Currie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, recently argued in the New York Times that we ought not to claim that literature improves us as people, because there is no “compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy” or other great books.

Actually, there is such evidence. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories…

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The Most Proven Way to Get Smarter and Happier


TIME

Yes, It’s This Simple

Many of the fixes for our problems aren’t complex — something that’s clear in the things I recommend people do every day.

What’s a scientifically validated way to get smarter, happier, healthier and calmer?

Stop reading this right now and go for a walk.

It’s that simple.

Here’s why.

Exercise Powers the Body — and the Mind

They used to say you don’t grow new brain cells. They were wrong.

Via Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain:

As an illustration of just how new this territory is, I’ll go back to the story of neurogenesis, the once-heretical theory that the brain grows new nerve cells throughout life. “Ten years ago people weren’t even convinced that it happened,” says neurologist Scott Small. It was at his Columbia University lab, in 2007, where they witnessed telltale signs of neurogenesis for the first…

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How To Train Your Brain To Prefer Healthy Food


TIME

Which is more appealing: cheese pizza or salad? For many, the lure of lettuce hardly matches that of greasy comfort food, but new brain research from Tufts University published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes suggests that reconditioning can train adults to prefer healthy food and shun the junk.

“We don’t start out in life loving French fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” said study co-author and Tufts University professor Susan B. Roberts in a press release. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly! – what is out there in the toxic food environment.”

The researchers studied the brain scans of 13 people, then assigned eight of them to a new behavioral intervention geared toward weight loss. The program taught lessons on portion control and distributed menu plans geared around specific dietary targets, encouraging people to get 25% of their energy from protein and…

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Disruptive Technology Is Changing How Kids Learn


TIME

In a few weeks, the halls of a school in Nanuet, N.Y., will teem with mini race cars. The vehicles will sport custom-designed wheels, each set carefully tuned in diameter and thickness to achieve maximum speed.

But the cars’ makers aren’t college-level engineers; they’re middle-school students attempting to learn about physics and technology by using a device that combines both–the school’s 3-D printer. “It’s rewriting what’s possible” in education, says Vinny Garrison, the teacher who organizes the races.

It’s not the only innovation doing so. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. teachers use technology to motivate students to learn, according to a survey by PBS LearningMedia. And that tech is getting smarter: students can now virtually tour ancient worlds to learn history, take quizzes via smartphone and more.

Most of the changes are designed to better prepare U.S. students for careers in fast-growing fields like science and engineering. But they can come…

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