human behavior

How Not To Name Your Baby

Mar 6, 2014

Six weeks ago today, I gave birth to a baby girl. Like her older sister, she spent the first few days of life without a name.

You see, my husband and I wanted to get our children's names just right, and that meant taking some time to consider the options and get a feel for how well they fit each new baby. But we also happen to be cognitive scientists of an evidence-based persuasion so, for us, it also meant gathering and analyzing some data.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Last Sunday, we took a road trip into New York City, but before we left, I read Beth Boyle Machlan's New York Times essay about the joys she sometimes gets driving with her kids, and surrendering their collective eardrums to the serendipities of commercial radio. She learns some of their songs, they learn some of hers... Everybody gives up some of the fierce control we all maintain these days over what we call our "playlists."

Question: Which of these foods are said to stir passion? An oyster, and avocado or a turnip? (Scroll down to the bottom for the answer.)

One of these, at least, is a gimme. The stories linking oysters and other shellfish to lust go back to at least the ancient Greeks.

Think of the image of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, rising out of the sea from the half-shell.

"There's something primal about eating oysters," says oyster-lover MJ Gimbar. He describes them as creamy and velvety. "It's like a kiss from the ocean."

National Park Service

I'm trying to get my panelists for today's Nose interested in this, so I have to lay out some thoughts.

I will tell this story (a) without permission and (b) quoting only to the best of my abilities. A few years ago, Bill Curry and I, and some dogs, were walking in the meadows of Avon.

Somehow, we got onto the subject of deism, and I must have said it was difficult to believe in the existence of God, given all the devastation and profound  unfairness which overspread the world every day. And Curry turned and stretched his arms out as if to encompass the landscape. He's a big guy, which enhanced the effect.

Javie Delgado, Flickr Creative Commons

It's hard to improve on the poet, Rilke, who wrote, "Love consists of this, that two solitudes meet, protect, and greet each other." But did Rilke have to deal with Angry Birds and Snap Chat?

Jeng_Niamwhan/iStock / Thinkstock

Heroin use is on the rise in Connecticut and nationwide. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin arrests and seizures in the northeast outpace the rest of the country, two to one.

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On Thursday, February 13 -- the day before Valentine's Day -- The Colin McEnroe Show is talking about modern love, its staggering beauty, and its profound absurdity.

We'll hear from Laura Kipnis, the author of Against Love: A Polemic, and Dan Jones, an editor for the Modern Love column at The New York Times.

Here's where you come in. We want you to call our voicemail, and tell us your story about when you started or stopped believing in romantic love.

New 1Illuminati / Creative Commons

The first secret society, according to Theodore Ziolkowski, a Princeton-based scholar on the literature of cults and conspiracies, "consisted of Eve and the serpent and then it just kept going," Ziokowski writes.

He’s being called the “Jeopardy villain,” but Arthur Chu of Broadview Heights, Ohio, considers himself more of a “mad genius.” The 30-year-old insurance analyst and voiceover artist has won three times since he came on the show last week.

Some say Chu is taking all the fun out of the game. He goes for the hardest questions first, slams down his buzzer incessantly and tries to get the host to speed up. It’s all part of his strategy inspired by game theory — a model of strategic, mathematical decision making.

We all probably sort of knew this already, but a new map seems to show quite clearly that it doesn't take much snow to close schools in the Southern U.S. — and that it takes a lot to close them in the Northern half of the nation.

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Women’s health is the next frontier for a team of medical researchers at Yale who believe video games can be powerful tools in the fight against HIV and other serious diseases.

For the last several years, Yale’s Play2Prevent lab has been a hub of collaboration between doctors and computer programmers testing the capacity of games to educate users and, perhaps, even change risky behavior. Their work is part of a fast-growing movement in public health to better understand how virtual gaming environments can improve players’ lives in the real world.

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From Faith Middleton: The "doyenne of civility," Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, has decided that the fast-changing modern workplace could use some tips on what is and is not okay. And she delivers it in her characteristic dry, witty way, in the book she has co-authored with her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin—Miss Manners Minds Your Business.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I spent one night in the company of James Carville and Mary Matalin, in the course of being their onstage moderator at the Bushnell. My lasting impression was that these were two people whose primary loyalty was to each other. To an unusual degree, when there was down time, they wanted to be alone, together, door closed. I don't know how they sort out their extreme political differences, but I think the answer lies somewhere in what I just said.

Shortening words, swapping them out, giving them different meanings — that's not new. Remember in Mean Girls when the queen bee character, Regina George, berated one of her underlings for trying to make the word "fetch" catch on?

Noah Strycker/iStock / Thinkstock

Rosalind Wiseman's book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, became a bestseller and was inspiration for the popular movie "Mean Girls." While the movie was hilarious and painful to watch, the book took a more serious look at new ways to understand girls’ social dynamics. 

A Tribute To Failure

Jan 8, 2014

In a society where success is pursued and celebrated above everything else, where media stars, sport champions and the very rich are idolized, failure is seen as an embarrassment, something we must avoid at all costs and, when we can't, must be hidden from everyone else.

Could a little red circle really make me bypass short ribs and mashed potatoes for some cod and rice instead? You've got to be kidding.

Well, a team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital sure think so — at least sometimes — and they have a study that backs them up.

It's research that hits close to home: Last April, when NPR moved into new headquarters, we got a snazzy new cafeteria. And little colored circles started popping up on menus.

Atlantic magazine editor Scott Stossel has countless phobias and anxieties — some you've heard of, others you probably haven't.

"There's a vast encyclopedia of fears and phobias," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "and pretty much any object, experience, situation you can think of, there is someone who has a phobia of it."

Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock.

The seconds left in 2013 are slipping away. And you know what else is slipping away? The seconds left in your life.

Luckily for you, there's a new product called Tikker, a wristwatch that counts down your life, so you can watch on a large, dot-matrix display as the seconds you have left on Earth disappear down a black hole.

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got butterflies in your stomach or your heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

danielgoleman.info

Psychologist and former New York Times reporter Daniel Goleman presented us with an important idea - “Emotional Intelligence” - it challenges the old concept of IQ as the most important measure of one’s abilities.

But his newest research might be even more important for our current world - filled with multiple screens and distractions. It’s all about “Focus.”

About one-third of American adults say they have problems falling asleep. And prescriptions for sleeping medications are on the rise, with about 4 percent of people using the drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But sleep specialists say people should exercise caution before deciding to take medication to help them sleep.

Pete Souza / White House

Governor Dannel Malloy was quick to say that he didn't, and doesn't, want to make what happened in Newtown about him.

Still, on that day, Malloy was at the center of the story.  

As Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sped from Hartford to Newtown nearly a year ago, the death toll kept rising. When he arrived on the scene, he found himself in charge — and it fell to him to answer the question: How long should family members have to wait to learn that their loved ones were gone?

Malloy decided that he was going to do what he thought was right. Still, standing in front of more than two dozen families gathered in a firehouse, he doubted that it was.

Sophfronia Scott

Sandy Hook resident Sophfronia Scott never asked to have these conversations, but since the shooting that left 20 students and six educators dead, they follow her. Like when she tells a person from out of town that she's from Sandy Hook.

"There's that stunned silence, and they say, 'Oh. Oh, those poor people. And how are you doing?'" said Scott. "I will tell them right away, because I know they want to ask, and if anything, I know they are afraid to ask. So I will say to them, 'Yes, I'm from Sandy Hook. Yes, my son attends the school. Yes, he was in the building.'"

The number of children being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And families increasingly are opting for medications to treat kids. Two-thirds of children with a current diagnosis are being medicated — a jump of 28 percent from 2007 to 2011.

This holiday season, the video game industry is looking to reignite sales as two game titans, Sony and Microsoft, launch the next generation of game consoles.

Their target demographic is the group of dedicated players known as hard-core gamers. Dive into the wide world of video game culture on YouTube and you'll hear that term being thrown about.

So what exactly is a hard-core gamer?

Chion Wolf

I've been writing a newspaper column for The Hartford Courant since 1982. For my first 15 years or so, I tended to write the column at The Hartford Courant. In the last ten years, I have written columns in the following places: a sports bar in San Francisco; a boat moving along the Rhine; the famous Brasserie Balzar in Paris; an outdoor clearing in the Yucatan jungle where, bizarrely, there was WiFi; and a living room in Kobe, Japan.

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."

Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!

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