All posts filed under: Anthropology

The study of humans, past and present.

The truth about early birds

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Anthropology / Biology / Evolution / Genetics / Health / Myths / Psychology

We all know the saying ‘The early bird catches the worm’. But are there any real benefits to being a morning person? What determines whether you’re an early bird or a night owl anyway? And can night owls become early risers if they want to? Tick tock Your body has an internal clock. It’s located in the base of your brain, in the hypothalamus. You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm: this is the natural […]

Nature as medicine

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Anthropology / Medicine / Myths / Psychology

For years, people have flocked to cities for greater job prospects and convenience. Tara Bautista explores why something in our psyche still yearns to escape the urban jungle and is soothed by the great outdoors. A few years ago, when I was struggling with some mental health issues, I realised that the cramped city apartment I was living in was not doing me any favours. The walls were painted a calming pale green that was […]

What if practice doesn’t make perfect?

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

You know the saying: practice makes perfect. But how much practice? If you believe the ‘10,000-hour rule’, you can become an expert at most things with 10,000 hours of practice. What’s the catch? Grand Masters Think about a skill you’d love to master: maybe chess, soccer, cello or speaking Spanish. What would it take for you to be truly exceptional at your chosen activity? Is raw talent essential? Perhaps early nurturing of natural talent makes […]

Counting friends

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

First: check how many friends you have on Facebook. Next: ask yourself how many of them you consider to be ‘real’ friends? According to Dunbar’s number, we can only maintain about 150 meaningful relationships at one time. And you can probably count your closest friends on one hand. Your social brain Robin Dunbar has spent nearly 50 years studying primates. Back in the 90s, he looked at the relationship between group size and brain size […]

Oldest, youngest, middle or only?

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Are you a rebellious youngest child, a responsible first-born, or perhaps a people-pleasing middle child? Much has been said about how birth order affects personality and intelligence. Is there any truth to the stereotypes? Neurotic, spoiled or independent? Personalities are interesting things. We like to understand our own personalities and wonder how hard it might be to change our personality. We want to know if it’s possible to predict personality, for example on the basis […]

Watch my space

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

We all have a bubble around us, a sense of personal space we don’t like to have invaded. How close are you happy to stand next to a friend? A stranger? And how is your comfort zone influenced by your nationality? Invisible bubbles Remember Elaine’s ‘close talker’ boyfriend on Seinfeld, who stood too close? So close that Kramer fell over trying to get away? Most of us have experienced meeting someone who just doesn’t seem […]

A measure of creativity

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Are you creative? Many people believe everyone is creative. But how do we define creativity and how can we measure it? What’s creativity? Creativity is a fascinating thing. We all have an idea of what it means to be creative – perhaps you’re thinking of Leonardo Da Vinci or Steve Jobs. But coming up with a solid definition of creativity has proven challenging. Most researchers use the words ‘new’ and ‘useful’ to describe creative thoughts, […]

Trumped-up confidence

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

Know anyone whose confidence in their own ability far outweighs their actual skills? It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. A question of confidence The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubt. –Nobel Prize Winner Bertrand Russell A lack of confidence is extremely common: seventy percent of us experience the imposter syndrome. Despite good evidence to the contrary, we worry we’re too […]

Hearing accents

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Anthropology / Myths / Psychology

We all speak with an accent, and we judge each other by our accents. Our accents can change gradually, or sometimes dramatically. But if you want to speak an additional language without any foreign accent, you may be facing an uphill battle. Accent, accents everywhere Everyone has an accent. And I’m not just talking about humans. The clicking sounds sperm whales use to communicate with each other vary by region, and Japanese Macaques have local […]

There’s a face in there

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

Ever seen Elvis in a corn chip? How about a face in a building or a cloud? Spotting faces – even ones that don’t exist – is something your brain is very good at. Do you see what I see? One of my favourite Twitter accounts is Faces in Things. You’d be amazed where people have spied faces and other human and animal shapes. You’ve probably heard about Jesus on a banana peel, the Man […]