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Lectures for a New Year: Is Time on Your Side?

In this brilliant talk, Professor Philip Zimbardo discusses different ways human minds focus on time. Do you focus on the past? If so, are you "Past Positive" (focusing on the good times) or "Past Negative" (focusing on failures)? Do you focus on the present? If so, are you hedonistic or do you just feel it doesn't pay to plan?

As Zimbardo says, "Most of us are here because we're future-oriented. We have learned to work, rather than play -- to resist temptation. But there's another way to be future-oriented. Depending on your religion, life begins after the death of the mortal body. To be future-oriented, you have to trust that when you make a decision about the future, it's gonna carry out." He proceeds to discuss how in different cultures, people have different paces of life, different time orientations, and how that affects their societies' function. He also goes into a detailed discussion of how computers and technology change our perception of time, and what that means for things like technology. Basically, Zimbardo makes a powerful argument that our individual (and collective) perception of time affects our health, wellbeing, and work habits. This is great stuff.

Topics: the six flavors of time orientation, how we all start out as hedonists, game-playing kids versus school, why some kids don't take safe sex messages onboard, an eight-day week, and family meals.

For: everyone, particularly those interested in living an examined life. (I'm looking at you, "everyone reading this.")

Best anecdote: Zimbardo is Sicilian, and gets into a discussion of how there's an ongoing debate in Italy about splitting the country into two. It appears, at least in part, to boil down to a surprising linguistic anomaly of the Sicilian language -- watch for this around the 3:15 mark.

Further Reading

Zimbardo is pretty awesome, and he's been around for a while -- he's the guy behind the Stanford Prison Experiment, for example. He has written a bunch of books, but the one on this topic is The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life.

You might also enjoy A Geography Of Time by Robert Levine, mentioned in this lecture.

Transcript

There's a transcript here.

Bonus Points

The video above ends a bit abruptly, largely because they're boiling down a much longer talk. Here's the (thoroughly awesome) full 40-minute lecture:

Suggest a Lecture

Got a favorite lecture? Is it online in some video format? Leave a comment and we’ll check it out!

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science
What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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History
Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter
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Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

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