Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice

Hillary Rodham Clinton had a point when she recently urged: “The most important thing each of us can do… is to try even harder to see the world through our neighbors’ eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes, to share their pain and their hopes and their dreams.”

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Digital dating dynamics: age differences in online dating profiles

Online dating is becoming an increasingly prevalent context to begin a romantic relationship. Nearly 40% of single adults have used online dating websites or apps. Furthermore, the world of online dating is no longer confined to young adults; reports suggest adults aged 60 and older are the largest growing segment of online daters. Obviously, adults using these websites are motivated to find a partner, but we know little about why they want to date or how adults of different ages present themselves to potential partners.

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Cancer diagnosis response: Being hit by an existential Mack Truck

When I meet with patients newly diagnosed with cancer, they often find it difficult articulate the forbidding experience of being told for the first time they have cancer. All they hear is ‘die’-gnosis and immediately become overwhelmed by that dreadful feeling: “Oh my God, I’m gonna die!” I often try to meet them in that intimate and vulnerable moment of existential shock and disbelief by stating, “It’s like being hit by an existential Mack truck.”

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Get ready with Oxford for the 2015 APA Convention

We’re excited for the upcoming annual conference of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, Canada this year from 6-9 August 2015. The conference will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The annual convention of the American Psychological Association is the largest assembly of psychologists and psychology students in the world.

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A treatment for despair and loss of meaning

The Psychotherapy Laboratory within the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MSKCC was established about 12 years ago. I have been the Director of the Lab from its establishment. In addition to developing interventions for anxiety, depression, and PTSD, we have studied a whole group of existential problems that had as yet no established interventions.

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Beauty and the brain

Can you imagine a concert hall full of chimpanzees sitting, concentrated, and feeling ‘transported’ by the beauty of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? Even harder would be to imagine a chimpanzee feeling a certain pleasure when standing in front of a beautiful sculpture. The appreciation of beauty and its qualities, according to Aristotle’s definition, from his Poetics (order, symmetry, and clear delineation and definiteness), is uniquely human.

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What stays when everything goes

Imagine the unimaginable. Suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the person with whom you shared most of your life has forgotten who you are, and even worse, can no longer remember their own experiences, their relationships, and how to behave appropriately in everyday situations. But although most of their long-term memory is heavily impaired, they may continue to relate astonishingly well to autobiographically relevant pieces of music.

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The status of older people in modern times

The nineteenth century witnessed radical changes in the social and economic landscape, especially in Western Europe and North America. Social scientists observed that industrialized countries were becoming wealthier; more powerful and politically more stable. Yet, the changes that accompanied modernization were not altogether positive. There were also dramatic social changes such as the breakdown of the traditional extended family into nuclear families.

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The US Supreme Court, same-sex marriage, and children

During the decades of debates over marriage equality in the United States, opponents centered much of their advocacy on the purported need to maintain marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution in order to promote the well-being of children. It was therefore fascinating to see the well-being of children play a crucial role in the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans in Obergefell v. Hodges, albeit not in the way opponents of marriage equality hoped.

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The baby is all grown up

This year, the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education is celebrating its 20th birthday, and I’m celebrating my 20th year as Editor. After bringing JDSDE into this world, watching it grow up, attending to its bumps, bruises, and milestones, it’s time for me to let it go and let it find its own way in the world.

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Can schizophrenia really be treated by “talk therapy” alone?

A recent study published by psychologist Anthony Morrison and colleagues in the British medical journal, The Lancet, is stirring up a long-standing debate about the treatment of schizophrenia. The article describes a randomized controlled trial with people diagnosed with schizophrenia who refused to take psychiatric medications called “antipsychotics.” The researchers tested whether these patients could be treated with a form of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in lieu of medications.

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50 shades of touch

Disgusting or delighting, exciting or boring, sensual or expected, no matter what you think about it, 50 Shades of Grey is certainly not a movie that passes by without leaving a mark on your skin. Based on E.L. James’ novel (honestly, somehow even more breathtaking than the movie), it tells the story of the complicated relationship between the dominant multi-millionaire Christian Grey, and the newly graduated, inexperienced, and shy, Ana Steele.

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Wenk Blog

What 4,000 years of hallucinations have taught us about our brain

Over the past forty years, many of my students have shared their personal experiences with hallucinogenic drugs. They are typically more fascinated, than frightened, by the experience. About sixty years ago the scientist C.H.W. Horne commented that “It is remarkable that one characteristic which seems to separate man from the allegedly lower animals is a recurring desire to escape from reality.”

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From Galileo to Rosetta

For some people, recent images of the Rosetta space program have been slightly disappointing. We expected to see the nucleus of the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet as a brilliantly shining body. Instead, images from Rosetta are as black as a lump of coal. Galileo Galilei would be among those not to share this sense of disappointment.

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