Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Contrasting profiles in hope

By Anthony Scioli
I have made a career of studying hope. As a clinical psychologist most of my focus has been on the role of hope in relation to anxiety and depression, or the healing power of hope when confronting a serious illness. As a result of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign of “hope and change” I have increasingly been asked to comment on the role of hope in presidential politics. In 2010, I decided to do some research on hope and the presidency to see what I might learn.

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Friend, foe, or frontal lobe?

By Don Stuss and Bob Knight
In a scene from the movie The Shadow, the evil villain Khan, the last descendant of Genghis Khan, is defeated by the Shadow who hurls a mirror shard deep into his right frontal lobe. Khan does not die, but awakens in an asylum, confused as to how he got there and discovering that his powers no longer work. The doctors saved his life by removing the part of his brain that harbored his psychic abilities — his frontal lobes.

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Gifting the mind

By Jenni Ogden
Neuroscience today is high tech: fantastic imaging machines churn out brain scans of the living, thinking brain, and computers crunch data to highlight patterns that may or may not fit the latest theory about how the mind works. How far we have come from the studies of the great neurologists and psychiatrists of the 19th century who relied on clinical descriptions of individual patients to further our knowledge of the brain and its mind. Or have we?

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The future of an illusion

By Andrew Scull
Fights over how to define and diagnose mental illness are scarcely a novel feature of the psychiatric landscape, but their most recent manifestation has some unusual features. For more than a decade now, the American Psychiatric Association has been preparing a new edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the fifth (or by some counts the seventh) edition of that extraordinary tome, each incarnation weightier than the last. Over the past two years, however, major attacks have been launched on the enterprise, replete with allegations that the new edition shows signs of being built on hasty and unscientific foundations

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In memoriam: Christopher Peterson

Oxford University Press is saddened to hear of the passing of Christopher Peterson, who died yesterday in his home. One of the founders of the field of positive psychology, Chris’s focus over the last 15 years had been on the study of happiness, achievement, and physical well-being. His new book, Pursuing the Good Life, is scheduled to be published by OUP this December. 

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Addressing mental disorders in medicine and society

By Norman Sartorius
Stigma attached to mental disorders often makes the life of people who suffer from such illnesses harder than the illness itself. Once marked as having a mental illness, the persons who have them as well as their families encounter difficulties in finding jobs, marital partners, housing, or protection from violence. If they happen to have a physical illness as well, they get treatment of lesser quality for it.

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Achievement, depression, and politicians

‘For two or three years the light faded from the picture. I did my work. I sat in the House of Commons, but black depression settled on me.’
Starter for ten: who said this? (Apologies if you haven’t watched University Challenge). It was Winston Churchill, arguably the greatest British prime minister and certainly one who played a crucial role in guiding his nation through the Second World War.

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Violating evolved caregiving practices

By Darcia Narvaez
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently endorsed two controversial childrearing practices: sleep training and circumcision for infants. Both practices violate ancestral caregiving practices which we know are linked to positive child outcomes. Over 30 million years ago the social mammals emerged, characterized by extensive on-demand breastfeeding, constant touch, responsiveness to the needs of the offspring, and lots of free play. Humans are one branch of social mammals

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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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