Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Truman Capote’s artful lies

By William Todd Schultz, PhD
Why did Truman Capote try writing his last unfinished book, Answered Prayers? In a sometimes ruthless sautéing of jet set high society, he oddly and self-destructively scorched many of his closest friends, women like Babe Paley and Gloria Vanderbilt, among unlucky others, whom he liked to call, in a better mood, his “swans.” It turned out to be a sideways suicide. He never recovered from the fallout. His last years were a hurricane of drink, drugs, and artistic fragmentation.

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The seven myths of mass murder

For the past 15 years my colleagues and I have researched mass murder; the intentional killing of three or more individuals, during one event. Recent cases of mass murder have pointed to misconceptions about this rare and frightening act, and I would like to shed some light on some common myths.

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How the social brain creates identity

Who we are is a story of our self–a narrative that our brain creates. Like the science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind. But though the self is an illusion, it is an illusion we must continue to embrace to live happily in human society. In The Self Illusion, Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other.

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The battle over homework

By Kenneth Barish
For this back-to-school season, I would like to offer some advice about one of the most frequent problems presented to me in over 30 years of clinical practice: battles over homework. I have half-jokingly told many parents that if the schools of New York State no longer required homework, our children’s education would suffer, but as a child psychologist I would be out of business.

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Delirium in hospital: Bad for the brain

By Daniel Davis
Taking an elderly friend or relative to hospital is a painful experience for most people, and is often made worse when they become confused and disorientated during their stay.This acute confusional state is called delirium.

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Romney needed to pick Ryan

By David C Barker and Christopher Jan Carman
Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new Republican vice presidential nominee, has many virtues as a candidate. He is smart, charismatic and energetic, and he hails from a competitive but usually blue-leaning state that the GOP would like to secure into the red column. But one of Ryan’s virtues stands out above the rest for the Tea Partiers and other conservatives whom Governor Romney is still trying to win over.

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Early intervention for children with reading difficulties

By Karen L. Schiltz, Ph.D.
Getting ready to go back to school can be a challenge. It is even more of a challenge when you suspect something is not quite right with your child. As parents, we do not want our child to have problems. We deeply want our child to be o.k. in everyday life. When our child suffers, we suffer as well.

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Grammar sticklers may have OCD

By Dennis Baron
It used to be we thought that people who went around correcting other people’s grammar were just plain annoying. Now there’s evidence they are actually ill, suffering from a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder/oppositional defiant disorder (OCD/ODD). Researchers are calling it Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, or GPS.

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Bereavement: the elephant in the room

By Christine Young and Tracy Dowling
For most of us the death of a child is unimaginable and when it happens to someone close to us, or in our community, we may have no idea of how to respond.  If you’re a grandparent or close family member you may well be dealing with your own sense of loss as well as thinking about how to support the bereaved family and it’s the latter that people typically struggle with.

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Food Addiction

By Mark S. Gold, MD and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
In July of 2007, we hosted the first meeting of its kind, the Yale Conference on Food and Addiction. This Conference brought together 40 experts on nutrition, diabetes, obesity and addiction for two days to discuss and debate the controversies surrounding food and addiction. What emerged were the early signs of a developing field, one with experts from many disciplines, all of whom were interested in whether and how food might affect the brains in ways similar to classic substances of abuse.

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Finding and classifying autism for effective intervention

By Martin J. Lubetsky, MD
People are finding autism in their families, pediatric offices, day cares, preschools, playgrounds, and classrooms. Individuals with autism are now portrayed in movies, television shows, news reports, and documentaries. The diagnosis of autism is being hotly debated in the media, academic medical centers, universities, autism centers, and advocacy agencies. Autism, or soon-to-be-called Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a developmental neurobiological disorder, characterized by severe and pervasive impairments in reciprocal social interaction skills and communication skills (verbal and nonverbal) and by restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities.

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Genocide and identity conflict

By I. William Zartman
Genocide doesn’t burst out unannounced. It is preceded and prepared by identity conflict that escalates from social friction to contentious politics, from politics to violence, and eventually to targeted mass killing. The United Nations in 1946 defined genocide as “a denial of the right of existence of entire human groups” and redefined it in 1948 as “acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” It can be carried out by rebel movements, but it is more frequently the work of the sovereign state.

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Public Health, Public Hypochondria

By Catherine Belling
We used to feel reassured by the possibility that medicine might soon be able to find any disease hidden inside our bodies before it could do real harm, and remove it before we even began to feel sick. “Disease awareness” and “early detection” became public health buzzwords. We have been encouraged to get screened for diseases we probably don’t have (but just might). Some began paying for full body CT scans in the hope of catching and fixing all possible anomalies and pathologies the instant they appeared. What could possibly be wrong with such diligent vigilance?

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You are essentially what you wear

By Bruce Hood
I have been known on occasion to offer an audience the opportunity to wear a second-hand cardigan that it has been cleaned for $20. After an initial “what’s the catch?” reluctance, a large proportion of the audience usually raise their hands to volunteer. At this point, I tell them that the cardigan previously belonged to a mass murderer. For US audiences, it’s Jeffrey Dahmer whereas Fred West is our psychopath of choice in the UK. At this point you probably realize that I am lying and the cardigan does not belong to either.

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The stigma of mental illness

By Norman Sartorius
When asked, many people with mental illness will say that the consequences of the stigma of mental illness are worse than the illness itself. Stigmatization affects the position that people have in their community, their employment, their housing, the size and functioning of their social network. An episode of mental illness which is well treated may leave no trace in the mental state or functional capacity of the individual. Yet the stigma related to the disease will last for the rest of a person’s life and even often have repercussions for descendants of the person who experienced a stigmatizing illness.

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What is the probability that you are dreaming right now?

By Jan Westerhoff
Most people think that even though it is possible that they are dreaming right now, the probability for this is very small, perhaps as small as winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. In fact the probability is quite high. Let’s do the maths.

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