Mind Games: The Reality About Fiction

Nautilus: “Feeling a range of real emotions for fictional events is so commonplace we don’t often think to question it. But why should we get emotionally involved with characters and situations that we know are not real? Why should we get scared by something we know is only a movie? This is the paradox of fiction. To resolve this paradox we need to understand a bit about the nature of the human mind and brain.”

“The older parts of the brain evolved to see things, detect predators, manage emotions, and other, older cognitive skills. The newer parts of the brain are capable of reasoning and reflection. What this means is that only the newer parts (specifically the frontal lobes) ‘know’ that what you’re reading is fiction. The older parts of the brain have trouble distinguishing real from fictional faces, and even true from false sentences!”

“Storytelling is the ancestor of modern fiction, and it makes sense to speculate that a primary function of storytelling was to communicate important information about the environment … What probably happened was that we tended to believe what we heard by default, and only consider that it might be false if we have good reasons to suspect deception or misinformation … This is probably why literature can transport us, enrapture us, and create such transcendent experiences … Half of our minds believe these stories to be true.”

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Dad Shoes: Hot But Not Cool

Business Insider: “The Air Monarch is by all accounts a boring shoe, meant neither to inspire nor offend. This makes it stand out in terms of the other shoes on the usual lists of bestsellers … But the shoe’s mundane design could be precisely what attracts both older customers seeking something comfortable and acceptable, as well as some younger consumers looking to subvert trend-obsessed fashion attitudes.”

“Adidas’ Stan Smiths, similarly, have been flying off the shelves for years now. The shoe is distinctive enough that designers, models, and moguls want to be seen with them on their feet, but they’re not so outlandish and colorful that the average person would be wary of buying and wearing them. And indeed they do buy them, as the shoe has sold an estimated 40 million pairs since 1973.”

“Then take NBA MVP Steph Curry’s partnership with Under Armour. The ‘Che'” Curry Two Low was torn apart on Twitter after its debut because of its ‘boring’ appearance. But the shoes ended up performing very well, selling out in two days even though the shoes are not on limited offer like many of the collaborations that have star power behind them … The flashier shoes are designed to create a halo effect, enshrining the brands in a holy glow that makes it feel trendy and cool … but it’s the consistent and reliable success of dad-approved shoes like the Air Monarch, Stan Smith, and Chef Curry Two Low that are helping to make these brands real money.”

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Cellphone Chemistry: Your Portrait is on Your Mobile

The Wall Street Journal: “Those smudges on your cellphone reveal intimate details about your lifestyle, a new study says, potentially offering a new tool for criminal profiling, airport screening, clinical trials and environmental exposure studies. Traces of molecules and microbes left when you handle your phone can add up to a composite portrait, including gender, diet, medications, clothing, beauty products, and places visited,” according to researchers at the University of California in San Diego.

“Such chemical signatures likely build up whenever someone regularly touches a phone, keys, credit cards, or other personal possessions—and can linger for months … The researchers tested 39 people and their cellphones. They took samples from the front and back of each phone and from the palm and fingers of each person’s right hand. They used a mass spectrometer to detect the molecules in each sample and, consulting chemical databases, identified as many of them as they could.”

“Among the medications detected on the phones were anti-inflammatory and antifungal skin creams, hair loss treatments, antidepressants and eye drops. They identified traces of citrus, caffeine, black pepper, and chili spices. Traces of sunscreen ingredients and DEET mosquito repellent also turned up.” “We got 90% of the people correctly identified based on the chemistry of the phone,” said lead researcher Pieter Dorrestein, a professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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