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The Science of Nerdiness

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-of-nerdiness/

scientificamerican.com

The Science of Nerdiness
Scientific American is the essential guide to the most awe-inspiring advances in science and technology, explaining how they change our understanding of the world and shape our lives.

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Why some like learning something new

Why some like learning something new

If you get excited by the possibility of learning something new and complex, and you get intrigued by nuance and imaginative scenarios you may have an influx of dopamine in your synapses.

Dopamine is often labelled the "feel-good molecule". However, this is a misconception. Dopamine's primary role is to make us want things, not necessarily like things. It is an energising force, motivating us to explore.

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Finding your reward in information

Much research on dopamine has been done about its role to desire an "appetitive" reward, such as chocolate, social attention, or gambling. However, people who score high in the tendency toward exploration are prone to find their reward in information, not so much in money or drugs.

If some or all of these statements describe you, you may be highly sensitive to the reward value of information:

  • I love spending time reflecting on things.
  • I am full of ideas.
  • I have a vivid imagination.
  • I am interested in abstract ideas.
  • I am curious about many different things.

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The natural preferences of our brain

The natural preferences of our brain

In a perfect world, we would use both success and failure as instructive lessons. But our brain doesn't learn that way. It learns more from some experiences than others.

Confirm...

Choice influences our decision-making

A study found that choice had an apparent influence on decision-making. In the studies subjects learned more when they had a free choice and when the choice gave a higher reward.

However, when participants were forced to select a specific choice, they were less invested in the outcomes, similar to a child mindlessly practicing to please a parent.

Choice-confirmation bias

When people can make a free choice, they embrace positive or negative outcomes that confirm they were right.

Studies show that this tendency persists in both poor and rich conditions. This means the brain is primed to learn with a bias linked to our freely chosen actions. The brain learns differently and more quickly from free choices than forced ones.

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Early theories about dreaming

Early theories about dreaming

Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung put forth some of the most well-known theories of dreaming.

  • Freud's theory was that dreaming allows us to sort through unreso...

The relationship our dreams have with our memories

Recent studies suggest we employ the same neurophysiological mechanisms while dreaming that we use to construct and recall memories while we are awake.

Studies also found that vivid, bizarre and emotionally intense dreams are linked to parts of the amygdala and hippocampus. The amygdala plays a key role in processing and memory of emotional reactions. The hippocampus is implicated in important memory functions, such as the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory.

Dreams help us process emotions

Dreams seem to help us to process emotions by constructing memories of them. The experience in our dreams may not be real, but the emotions we experience are real.

Our dream stories try to strip emotion out of some experiences by creating a memory of it. This mechanism seems to fulfil an important role because it helps us process our emotions.

Social ambiguity

Social ambiguity

Social life can be full of uncertainty. Friends don't always smile back at you. Strangers sometimes look upset. The question is how you interpret these situations. Do you take everythin...

The victimhood mindset

Researchers found the tendency for interpersonal victimhood consists of four main dimensions:

  • Always seeking recognition for one's victimhood: Those who score high on this dimension have a constant need to have their suffering acknowledged. It is also normal for victims to want the perpetrators to take responsibility for their wrongdoing.
  • Moral elitism: Those who score high on this dimension perceive themselves as having perfect morality while viewing everyone else as immoral. They view themselves as persecuted, vulnerable and morally superior.
  • Lack of empathy for the pain and suffering of others: People who score high on this dimension are so preoccupied with their own victimhood that they are unaware of the pain and suffering of others.
  • Frequently thinking of past victimization: Those scoring high on this dimension continuously think about their interpersonal offences and their causes and consequences rather than about possible solutions.

Mindset and self-image in interpersonal conflicts

In interpersonal conflict, all parties are motivated to maintain a positive moral self-image. However, different parties are likely to create very different subjective realities. Offenders tend to downplay the severity of the transgression, and victims tend to perceive the offenders' motivations as immoral.

The mindset one develops - as a victim or a perpetrator - affects the way the situation is perceived and remembered.