Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Reflections on war, past and present

By Michael D. Matthews
I am posting this article on February 6th. My father was born on this date in 1914, just months before the outbreak of World War I. In many ways the state of the world 100 years ago was not so different from today. Political instability plagued Europe, social change driven by advances in technology was sweeping the world, and yet most people felt a sense of security that the world as they knew it was stable.

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Is smell for the dogs?

By Barbara Malt
Dogs are the noses of modern society. They not only track the scent of prey across a meadow but find lost children, sniff out bombs and drugs, and conduct medical diagnosis. Pigs are good, too; we rely on them to hunt down rare and expensive truffles. Domestic cats can turn in an impressive performance, pawing out the last crumb of tuna sandwich at the bottom of a workbag. But humans?

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Mad politics

By Matthew Flinders
If you are reading this blog then you’ve obviously survived ‘Blue Monday’. That is, the day in the third week of January when suicide levels tend to peak and demands for counseling rocket as a result of post-Christmas debt, dashed New Year resolutions, and the inevitable sense that this year is actually unlikely to be much different to the last.

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Is cosmetic plastic surgery on the increase?

By Hank Giele
In its article ‘UK plastic surgery statistics 2012: brows up, breasts down’, The Guardian reported that 39,000 women underwent cosmetic plastic surgery in 2012: nearly 10,000 breast augments, 4,000 reductions, 5,000 facelifts, 3,000 nose jobs and 3,000 tummy tucks.

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Seeing the ball: The view from Seattle to the Super Bowl

By Viki McCabe, PhD
How did the Seattle Seahawks, “the best collection of leftovers this side of the day after Thanksgiving” according to sports writer John Boyle and the “guys who have kind of been thrown aside by other teams, guys with chips on the shoulders” pointed out fondly by former Seahawk wide receiver Brandon Stokely punch the ticket to the 2014 Super Bowl?

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In the ‘mind’s eye’: two visual systems in one brain

By Mel Goodale and David Milner
Vision, more than any other sense, dominates our mental life. Our visual experience is so rich and detailed that we can scarcely distinguish that subjective world from the real thing. Even when we are just thinking about the world with our eyes closed, we can’t help imagining what it looks like.

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Why do polar bear cubs (and babies) crawl backwards?

This YouTube video of a three-month-old polar bear taking his first wobbly steps at the Toronto Zoo was viewed over 4.5 million times in the first four days of it being posted, and is sprouting all over the internet. Something I noticed immediately is that the baby polar bear is mostly crawling backwards. Many (human) infants do the same – crawling backwards for a few weeks before they crawl forwards.

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Be Book Smart on National Reading Day

By Anne Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky
If you want to help a child get ahead in school and in life, there is no better value you can impart to him or her than a love of reading. The skills that early and avid reading builds are the skills that older readers need in order to make sense of sophisticated and complex texts.

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Diseases can stigmatize

By Leonard A. Jason
Names of diseases have never required scientific accuracy (e.g. malaria means bad air, lyme is a town, and ebola is a river). But some disease names are offensive, victim-blaming, and stigmatizing. Multiple sclerosis was once called hysterical paralysis when people believed that this disease was caused by stress linked with oedipal fixations.

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Encore! Encore! Encore! Encore!

By Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis
How much repetition is too much repetition? How high would the number of plays of your favorite track on iTunes have to climb before you found it embarrassing? How many times could a song repeat the chorus before you stopped singing along and starting eyeing the radio suspiciously? And why does musical repetition often lead to bliss instead of exhaustion?

How high would the number of plays of your favorite track on iTunes have to climb before you found it embarrassing? How many times could a song repeat the chorus before you stopped singing along and starting eyeing the radio suspiciously?

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Remembering Daniel Stern

By Colwyn Trevarthen
Daniel N. Stern, a New Yorker, died in November 2012 after a long illness. He was a distinguished child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and a world-famous developmental psychologist who transformed ideas of human nature in infancy, and he made wonderful contributions to his last days.

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What the bilingual brain tells us about language learning

One of the most common questions people ask revolves around when and how to learn a second language. One common view is that earlier is better. There is good evidence for this view. A number of studies have found that the earlier a person learns a second language, the better they perform on a number of tests.

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Landfill Harmonic: lessons in improvisation

On the first day of class in my ‘Psychology of Music’ course, I often ask students to create their own musical instruments. The catch is… they have to make them out of whatever they happen to have in their backpacks and pockets that day!

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Everybody has a story: the role of storytelling in therapy

By Johanna Slivinske
When was the last time you told or heard a good story? Was it happy, sad, or funny? Was it meaningful? What message did the story convey? People have been telling stories throughout history. They tell stories to teach lessons, to share messages, and to motivate others.

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Buddhism and biology: a not-so-odd couple

By David P. Barash
Science and religion don’t generally get along very well, from the Catholic Church’s denunciation of the heliocentric solar system to vigorous denials — mostly from fundamentalist Protestantism this time — of evolution by natural selection.

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