Stoicism in times of pandemic: Some guidance from Marcus Aurelius

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the last famous Stoic philosopher of antiquity. During the last 14 years of his life he faced one of the worst plagues in European history. The Antonine Plague, named after him, was probably caused by a strain of the smallpox virus. It's estimated to have killed up to 5 million people, possibly including Marcus himself. From AD166 to around AD180, repeated outbreaks occurred throughout the known world. Roman historians describe the legions being devastated, and entire towns and villages being depopulated and going to ruin. Rome itself was particularly badly affected, carts leaving the city each day piled high with dead bodies. In the middle of this plague, Marcus wrote a book, known as the Meditations, which records the moral and psychological advice he gave himself at this time. He frequently applies Stoic...

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New study finds sexist beliefs are associated with narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism

The dark triad is a combination of three negative personality traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. It is more common for this set of traits to be found among men, and it can be spotted through characteristics like selfishness, impulsivity, and opportunism. Those who gain success at the workplace without regard to getting along with others are likely to score high on measures of the dark triad. How does one develop these traits? Is it due to genetics or does society play a role in forming individuals with these undesirable personality characteristics? A study published in Personality and Individual Differences attributes it to sexism. Researchers from the University of Florida suggest that the dark triad might be misproduced by society's promotion and maintenance of men's dominant social position over women. To test this, Melissa Gluck and her colleagues set out to...

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‘Successful’ psychopaths learn crucial skills that let them walk among us

They walk among us — psychopaths. These individuals possess a unique constellation of traits: callousness to others' suffering, a grandiose sense of self-worth, and a manipulative approach to dealing with others. Typically, such antisocial tendencies result in incarceration and other forms of exclusion from society. Yet some psychopathic individuals are able to suppress their psychopathic impulses enough to remain members of society. Many even rise to the upper ranks of business, law, and government. Yet, what allows some psychopathic individuals to wind up as 'successful' versus those who find themselves incarcerated for their harmful and impulsive behavior? In a recently-published article in the journal Personality Disorders, Emily Lasko, M.S., and I tested whether a very specific psychological process, impulse control, contributed to the development of 'successful' psychopathy. We analyzed data from the Pathways to Desistance study, which followed over 1,000...

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Thinking about your thinking: 7 ways to improve critical thinking skills

When I was in 7th grade, my U.S. history teacher gave my class the following advice: Your teachers in high school won't expect you to remember every little fact about U.S. history. They can fill in the details you've forgotten. What they will expect, though, is for you to be able to think; to know how to make connections between ideas and evaluate information critically. I didn't realize it at the time, but my teacher was giving a concise summary of critical thinking. My high school teachers gave similar speeches when describing what would be expected of us in college: it's not about the facts you know, but rather about your ability to evaluate them. And now that I'm in college, my professors often mention that the ability to think through and solve difficult problems matters more in the "real...

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