Do Liberal Policies Make People Happier?


Photo: DonkeyHotey

Though I’m loathe to wade into any discussion of politics in a public forum—and at the risk of earning the ire of conservatives—I want to explore in this post an argument put forth by Professor Benjamin Radcliff in his new book The Political Economy of Human Happiness that policies typically associated with the political left lead to greater happiness for citizens than policies typically associated with the political right. Continue reading…

Why Be Honest?

liar 2

Photo: Kenny Louie

We all lie. Admittedly, most of do so only occasionally. But we still all do. Yet most of us also consider ourselves honest. In his book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, Dan Ariely offers evidence that we’re able to believe we’re honest even though we lie or cheat by doing so only in little ways. We’re therefore able to tell ourselves we’re mostly honest—that is, we’re only dishonest in ways that we think don’t matter. Apparently this strategy works: most of us don’t suffer serious cognitive dissonance over our integrity. Thus it seems we can have the best of both worlds without too much work: we can lie or cheat in little ways that place us at an advantage but still get to view ourselves as fundamentally honest. Continue reading…

The Greatest Invention Of All Time

Photo: Horia Varlan

The greatest invention of all time isn’t, as is sometimes argued, penicillin. Nor is it the computer. Nor is it running water, electricity, the automobile, or the airplane. Rather, it’s the thing that has made all of these things—and so many more—possible: the scientific method itself.

Many people don’t realize that the scientific method is a relatively recent development, something not inborn but something that was invented, originating sometime around the 17th century. Prior to that, people explained the world around them with stories that they’d either learned from the previous generation or that they invented themselves. It wasn’t until the 17th century that anyone began trying to figure out how ideas could be rigorously tested. Continue reading…

What Makes A True Friend, Redux


Photo: ElektraCute

The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.”  The connotation suggests a bond between people who’ve made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny.  It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past. Continue reading…


no sleep

Photo: Carlos Martz

Whatever its cause, few things interfere with our waking lives like the inability to sleep at night. Insomnia has multiple causes: anxiety, depression, and medications, just to name a few. I find myself unable to sleep when I’m excited about something (if I’m anxious, I drop off right away—unlike most of my patients). Some people have primary insomnia, meaning we can’t identify any precipitating cause. These people tend to report a lifelong struggle with falling asleep. Continue reading…

How To Forgive Others, Redux


Photo: Hamed Saber

A few years ago I found myself thinking about what would happen if as an adult I encountered some of the children who terrorized me when I was in 7th grade (an experience I wrote about in an earlier post, Breaking Free Of The Past), wondering if I’d be able to forgive them for what they did to me.  I’d like to think I would, but the truth is I’m not sure.  As a result, I found myself thinking about the nature of forgiveness and of the power and value of being able to forgive. Continue reading…

When Patients Refuse Their Doctors’ Advice


Photo: NMR Photo

In the North American hemisphere flu season is fast approaching. Influenza, as most people know, is a serious respiratory infection that can be life-threatening in the very young and the very old. Some strains, as we’ve all heard about in the press in the past, are more deadly than others and may threaten even the strong. Luckily, however, we’ve developed a vaccine. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu: the influenza virus mutates rapidly and authorities must make their best guess about how to prepare a new vaccine every year, and sometimes they miss. Even when they get it right, you can still get the flu; you’ll just likely have milder symptoms and a shorter course. Continue reading…

How To Communicate With Your Life, Redux


Photo: Nuno Duarte

When my wife and I were first learning to ballroom dance (much fun!) I was amazed at how effortlessly our teacher was able to lead her when demonstrating a technique to me. She always seemed to know where he wanted her to go and how he wanted her to move, despite being as inexperienced as I. When I danced with her, she mostly found herself confused about what I wanted her to do.  “That’s because you’re confused yourself,” our teacher explained to me. “Don’t move her with your arms. Move her with your torso, your dance frame. Don’t worry about where you want her to go. Worry about where you want to go yourself.” Continue reading…

How To Manage Anger, Redux


Photo: darkpatator

Years ago, a hulk of a man came to see me with a lump in his neck.  He was as big as the lump was small, standing at least six and half feet tall with shoulders that seemed almost as broad.  His lump, in contrast, was only 2 cm wide.

Wide enough, however, to warrant concern.  It was firm rather than rubbery, fixed rather than mobile, and non-tender rather than painful—all hallmarks of something potentially malignant.  He’d noticed it only one month prior to coming to see me, which made me think it had grown rapidly, another bad sign.  He’d had no infection during that time that he could recall. Continue reading…

Being Considerate Of Your Future Self

future self

Photo: Natalie Barbosa

In a previous post, The Problem With Reincarnation, I wrote: “The sense of self I feel and have always felt has seemed constant throughout my life, which is why I feel as if I even have a core self. But a moment’s reflection reveals that what’s really remained constant is the feeling of the sense of self itself, not the content of that sense. Am I even remotely the same person I was at five? At fifteen? Last week? A moment ago?” In this post, I’d like to argue not only that we have no fixed identity but also that when we consider ourselves over the course of our entire lifetime, we are, in fact, just that—many selves—meaning, that is, to our ever-present-now-selves all our other selves might as well be entirely different people for the way we sometimes treat them. Continue reading…