Web shatters focus, empathy of sociopaths and the importance of play

I bet that head-line was confusing! I’m playing a bit. The same old subject for my news round-ups get boring! But yes, this is a blog and news roundup.

  • The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains – Wired Magazine —From the article: “What kind of brain is the Web giving us? That question will no doubt be the subject of a great deal of research in the years ahead. Already, though, there is much we know or can surmise—and the news is quite disturbing. Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.” — A commentary from mattermedia on this piece:  Well, from the point of view of neuroscience and our current understandings of neural plasticity and adaptation to change, practically any activity we engage in literally alters the structure of our brains, particularly any repetitive or habitual activity. I never understood why people got so excited by the idea (recently ‘discovered’ in the mental health professions) that conversations (and not just drugs such as the various SSRIs) altered brain structures… of course they do! You would have to be dead for daily circumstances not to alter your brain! — It’s a question of how various circumstances alter brains. The Wired article is interesting but I’m not convinced that ‘skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought’. For instance, its not clear that ‘heavy multi-taskers’ will not go away from their computers from time to time, and in those periods, ruminate and digest the variety of affects and percepts given through online engagements. Furthermore, it doesn’t pay any attention whatsoever to the way in which multiple ‘modes of thought’ may contribute to a collective ‘intelligence’ or longer-duration thought.
  • Empathy for Sociopaths? — GoodTherapy.org — And there is hope, no? Currently, the odds of an adult without empathy ever developing the capacity to emotionally attach and feel remorse, regardless of the cause of their sociopathy, is probably quite low. Nonetheless, I believe that it’s better to stay open to the possibility that some sociopaths could have the capacity to develop attachment, remorse, guilt, and empathy. The latest research from the field of interpersonal neurobiology demonstrates that the adult brain can develop new neural connections and can even grow new neurons: a finding that offers tremendous hope. If we can envision future technologies developed through neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology and imagine how they could contribute to the understanding and treatment of sociopathy, I believe that there certainly is hope. What if the etiology and variations of sociopathy could be differentiated from each other and understood? What if sociopathy could be treated effectively? If sociopathy was a treatable condition, something we could reverse or heal, the amount of collective harm passed around from human-to-human and nation-to-nation could be greatly reduced. With an effective medical treatment for sociopathy millions of children with sociopathic parents might have a chance to develop a healthy attachment and a large number of people with sociopathy produced as a result of their childhood experiences could be prevented.
  • Empowering Neighborhoods and Restoring Play: A Modest Proposal | Psychology Today — Where have all the children gone? When I was growing up, and for some time after that, you could walk through any North American neighborhood–after school, or on weekends, or any time in the summer–and find children playing (see July 22, 2009, post). They would be playing freely, often in age-mixed groups, without adult supervision. Such play was great fun, and it served important developmental functions. It provided physical exercise; it allowed practice in a wide range of mental and physical skills; and, perhaps most important, it provided the context in which children learned how to solve problems without their parents and to get along with peers. As I have described in many previous posts (see the list), such play was the primary vehicle for children’s education throughout most of human history.
  • The Power of Play | Psychology Today — Most of us think of adult play as respite or indulgence, but having fun is no trivial pursuit. In fact, it’s crucial to put mental creativity, health and happiness.

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