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Playing the Blame Game: Video Games Pros and Cons

Play­ing the Blame Game
– Video games stand accused of caus­ing obe­si­ty, vio­lence, and lousy grades. But new research paints a sur­pris­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed and pos­i­tive pic­ture, reports Greater Good Mag­a­zine’s Jere­my Adam Smith.

Cheryl Olson had seen her teenage son play video games. But like many par­ents, she didn’t know much about them.

Then in 2004 the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice asked Olson and her hus­band, Lawrence Kut­ner, to run a fed­er­al­ly fund­ed study of how video games affect ado­les­cents.

Olson and Kut­ner are the co-founders and direc­tors of the Har­vard Med­ical School’s Cen­ter for Men­tal Health and Media. Olson, a pub­lic health researcher, had stud­ied the effects of media on behav­ior but had nev­er exam­ined video games, either in her research or in her per­son­al life.

And so the first thing she did was watch over the shoul­der of her son, Michael, as he played his video games. Then, two years into her research—which com­bined sur­veys and focus groups of junior high school students—Michael urged her to pick up a joy­stick. “I def­i­nite­ly felt they should be famil­iar with the games if they were doing the research,” says Michael, who was 16 at the time and is now 18.

Olson start­ed with the PC game Read the rest of this entry »

Peace Among Primates- by Robert Sapolsky

(Editor’s Note: One of the most orig­i­nal minds we have ever encoun­tered is that of Robert Sapol­sky, the Stan­ford-based neu­ro­sci­en­tist, pri­ma­tol­o­gist, author of A Primate’s Mem­oir, and more. We high­ly rec­om­mend most of his books. Above all, for any­one inter­est­ed in brain health, this is a must read and very fun: Why Zebras Don't Have Ulcers- Robert SapolskyWhy Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updat­ed Guide To Stress, Stress Relat­ed Dis­eases, and Cop­ing. We are hon­ored to bring you a guest arti­cle series by Robert Sapol­sky, thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.)

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Peace Among Pri­mates

Any­one who says peace is not part of human nature knows too lit­tle about pri­mates, includ­ing our­selves.

–By Robert M. Sapol­sky

It used to be thought that humans were the only sav­age­ly vio­lent pri­mate.  “We are the only species that kills its own, nar­ra­tors intoned por­ten­tous­ly in nature films sev­er­al decades ago. That view fell by the way­side in the 1960s as it became clear that some oth­er pri­mates kill their fel­lows aplen­ty. Males kill; females kill. Some use their tool­mak­ing skills to fash­ion big­ger and bet­ter cud­gels. Oth­er pri­mates even engage in what can only be called war­fare, orga­nized, proac­tive group vio­lence direct­ed at oth­er pop­u­la­tions.

Yet as field stud­ies of pri­mates expand­ed, what became most strik­ing was the vari­a­tion in social prac­tices across species. Yes, some pri­mate species have lives filled with vio­lence, fre­quent and var­ied. But life among oth­ers is filled with com­mu­ni­tar­i­an­ism, egal­i­tar­i­an­ism, and coop­er­a­tive child rear­ing. Read the rest of this entry »

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