Building Consciousness, Suffocating Marriages, and the Dark-side of Self-Control, plus more weekly links


A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Michael Graziano, who we featured in a Q&A this week, explains in Aeon how one might build a conscious brain. In an intriguing thought experiment, Graziano details his Attention Schema theory, which might make you rethink the way you think. (Aeon)
  • Give a chimpanzee a typewriter and infinite time and you’ll get Shakespeare. But who has an infinite amount of time? Can’t we speed up the process? Researchers recently linked the brains of two chimpanzees, who learned to control a robot arm that incorporated signals from both their brains. Researchers also linked up trios of rat brains, showing their combined learning was better than a single rat on its own. Given these advances, we can probably expect something akin to 50 Shades of Grey by the end of 2017. Oh how far we’ve come since giving a group of macaques an actual typewriter in 2003. (New York Times)
  • New research suggests that more self-control may come at a price, particularly for those from impoverished backgrounds. A study recently published in PNAS found that people with more self-control tended to have cells that aged prematurely, but only if they were of low socioeconomic status. For those from more advantaged backgrounds, better self-control meant more youthful cells. Does this finding point to a need to find ways to “circumvent the adverse effects of self-control,” as The Economist suggests? Or is the problem not too much self-control, but too much poverty? (The Economist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).


  • Poverty can negatively impact brain development, cognitive functioning, and physical health. The APA Monitor reviews the latest psychological research on poverty, revealing a sobering reality. But the article also highlights some hopeful lines of research, including Matthew Diemer’s work understanding how “critical consciousness” can lead people to break out of poverty’s grasp. (APA Monitor)
  • A workplace policy of unlimited vacation sounds too good to be true. For employees at British company Triggertrap it was. People stopped taking vacation. However, with a few adjustments to the policy, including bonuses for employees that take more than 14 days off every six months, Triggertrap hopes to strike the perfect balance between autonomy and accountability. (Slate)

On your wedding day,
he took your breath away.
Yet despite your vow,
it’s a different story now.
He’s breathing your air,
stifling, exasperating,
and always there.

  • Researchers at Northwestern recently examined how marriage has evolved in the US in an article titled, “The Suffocation Model: Why Marriage in America Is Becoming an All-or-Nothing Institution.” (Current Directions in Psychological Science; Link to full article)
  • Was the former first lady of Argentina, Eva Peron (better known as Evita) the victim of a forced lobotomy? A new look into her death reveals evidence that President Juan Peron, her husband, may have ordered the operation as a way to silence her and keep her under control. (BBC)


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