How can you know that any animal, other human beings, or anything that seems conscious, isn’t just faking it? Does it enjoy an internal subjective experience, complete with sensations and emotions like hunger, joy, or sadness? After all, the only consciousness you can know with certainty is your own. Everything else is inference. The nature of consciousness makes it by necessity a wholly private affair.
Honesty is one of the traits we value most in others. We often assume it is a rather rare quality, making it important for us to find out who we can actually trust in this selfish world. But according to new research, there’s no need to be so cynical – it turns out most people in the world are honourable enough to return a lost wallet, especially if it contains a lot of cash.
Having a sense of self lies at the heart of what it means to be human. Without it, we couldn’t navigate, interact, empathise or ultimately survive in an ever-changing, complex world of others. We need a sense of self when we are taking action, but also when we are anticipating the consequences of potential actions, by ourselves or others.
I recently visited the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia – one of the best art museums in the world. I was expecting to serenely experience its masterpieces, but my view was blocked by a wall of smart phones taking pictures of the paintings. And where I could find a bit of empty space, there were people taking selfies to create lasting memories of their visit.
Today Americans live in a world that thrives on being busy, productive and over scheduled. Further, they have developed the technological means to be constantly connected to others and to vast options for information and entertainment through social media. For many, smartphones demand their attention day and night with constant notifications.
How many times have you been told that something great will happen as long as you believe it is possible? From pop psychology books to self-improvement seminars and blogs, there’s a lot of hype surrounding the advantages of positive thinking. And there’s certainly some evidence behind it – a large body of work suggests that being optimistic reaps a number of positive rewards, including better health and wellbeing.
From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.
We’ve all been there: waiting for a boring meeting to finish or for a bus to arrive and time just seems to drag on far more slowly than usual. Yet our most enjoyable moments seem to whizz by at lightning speed. It seems obvious that more boring events appear to take longer than the ones that stimulate us. But there’s another reason we sometimes experience time differently.