All posts in “Religion”

Faces on the subway

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: how dogs process human faces; the queer legacy of Ziggy Stardust; a Fitbit for feelings; the production of vocal emotion; anti-Muslim bias in the media.

Written on your face. A study finds that dogs are able to recognize and categorize human emotional states. From University of Lincoln via Science Daily.

Defying labels. David Bowie lived a life that defied labels and influenced a generation of LGBT youth. From Catherine Kustanczy via Pacific Standard.

Fitbit for feelings. A new wristband gathers data from your body to graph a visualization of your emotion levels throughout the day. From Michele Debczak via Mental Floss.

Tone it down. By digitally altering the tone of a speaker’s voice, researchers uncover new insights about vocal emotional perception. From Lund University via Psy Post.

Muslims in the media. A study finds that exposure to negative media representations of Muslims may increase support for anti-Muslim public policies. From Jared Wadley via Futurity.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Transformer18 CC BY 2.0

human gives monkey a piece of food

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the evolutionary roots of morality; storytelling in the age of iPads; debunking the “warfare” framing around science and religion; the amygdala and blame; the neurological appeal of bass and rhythm.

Ultra-social nature. A new book explores how our species’ social nature sets us apart from close animal relatives and lays the foundation for morality. From Emily Esfahani Smith via The Atlantic.

Screen time. An early childhood media researcher talks about how screen time is changing the ways kids tell stories. From Allison S Henward via The Conversation.

Science vs. religion. A worldwide survey finds that only a minority of scientists believe religion and science are in conflict. From Rice University via Psy Post.

The blame game. New research on the amygdala helps explain why we are quick to judge others, but slow to give them credit. From Duke University via Science Daily.

All about that bass. This video explains why our brains are hardwired to enjoy bass lines in music. From Caitlin Schneider via Mental Floss.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Vivek Joshi CC BY 2.0

Case Study: Peace of Mind for Terminally Ill People

Persuasion Strategies: How We Partnered with Compassion & Choices to Make Aid in Dying a Legal Option for Terminally Ill People and Their Families in California

For more than 20 years, advocates had worked unsuccessfully to pass a law allowing the option of medical aid in dying in California.

In 2014, Compassion & Choices approached Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, Wild Swan Resources and Wonder: Strategies for Good to lead public opinion research and to develop a successful messaging and storytelling strategy in California.

Previous unsuccessful efforts made it clear that the issue did not fall along neat partisan lines in otherwise “blue California.” Voters and legislators had both previously rejected efforts to allow this option for terminally ill people.

Our research showed that people’s lived experiences – including their experiences with doctors who had somehow “gotten it wrong” when it came to a terminal diagnosis, as well as watching their own loved ones die, made many Californians uncomfortable with this type of legislation.

Our role: Using Public Opinion Research, Psychological Analysis & Storytelling Strategies to Understand and Shape Attitudes

Goodwin Simon, Wild Swan and Wonder worked in partnership
 with Compassion & Choices to develop the research methodology and messaging strategy. To begin, Wonder led a media audit to determine how the issue had been framed in California and other states as well as social listening research to understand how ordinary Californians talked about the issue.

Wild Swan developed a psychological analysis of the media audit and social listening research led by Wonder. Wonder also led a pop culture analysis to better understand how stories about aid in dying have been told over the past 20 years in television shows, documentaries and feature films. Together, we created and tested message and story strategies in various qualitative research methods led by Goodwin Simon among African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino and Anglo voters in California.

Goodwin Simon developed an analysis of the qualitative research, which included a psychological and narrative analysis by Wild Swan and Wonder. The analysis helped us to better understand the competing needs, concerns, values and other conflicts that would prevent voters from being supportive and the messages and stories they needed to hear to manage those heartfelt conflicts.

Goodwin Simon, in partnership with Wild Swan, also developed a statewide survey that tested legislative language among California voters. Based on our research, we created a message and storytelling guide that guided Compassion & Choices in their public communications and legislative advocacy.

Complimenting their grassroots advocacy work, we worked with Compassion & Choices to feature the stories of California families struggling with the terminal illness of a loved one and how the law would give those families peace of mind even if they didn’t use the option. Compassion & Choices tapped their network to find families willing to share their stories.

Those emotionally powerful stories helped to generate empathy among reluctant audiences – even those who would never consider the option if they were terminally ill. The stories featured diverse characters including Catholics, Latinos and Republicans.

In an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta recounted the prolonged, agonizing death of her mother from breast cancer. In her appeal to legislators, she wrote:

For those caring legislators who could never imagine considering this option for themselves if they were terminally ill – because it may conflict with their values and beliefs – this vote must be especially tough.

My lifelong work as an advocate for social justice has taught me that these difficult moments require our utmost compassion, the wisdom to imagine walking in another person’s shoes and the ability to respect the wishes of others. Those of us who have cared for a loved one and witnessed a lengthy and painful dying process are urging legislators to act now. 

Our messaging strategy also emphasized the many safeguards included in the legislation to assure concerned Californians that the law would work as intended.

Change Created: After More Than 20 Years, Advocates Succeeded in Making Aid in Dying a Legal Option for Terminally Ill Californians and Their Families

On October 5, 2015, Gov. Brown signed legislation making California the largest state in the nation to allow the option for medical aid in dying – more than 20 years after voters rejected a similar proposal at the ballot box.

In his letter approving the legislation, Gov. Brown reflected the messaging framework we developed that had proven most powerful in persuading reluctant audiences – honoring and respecting the decision of a terminally ill person. He wrote:

In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death. I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.

Advocates are now looking to take the momentum from the victory in California to advance aid-in-dying policies in other states.

Rhinos butting horns

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads; overcoming political polarization; the brain-body divide; disrupting flawed mental templates; losing one’s inner monologue; the good that comes from gratitude.

Reframing the argument. Liberal and conservatives both find it hard to frame arguments that appeal to their political opponents’ values. From Rotman School of Management via Psy Post.

Brain-body divide. Cognitive scientist Guy Claxton argues that cognitive processes aren’t as separate from senses and motor functions as once thought. From Jack Meserve via Science of Us.

Disrupting the narrative. A group of writers seek to change the way Islam is seen and represented in American culture. From Emma Green via The Atlantic.

Inner monologue. We often talk to ourselves as a way of processing our own thoughts and emotions, but what happens when a stroke silences some of that inner monologue? From Claire Cameron via Nautilus.

Giving thanks. Gratitude can increase empathy and support personal well-being. From Tania Lombrozo via NPR.


Female scientist legos

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: female pioneers in STEM; what lies under the hood of our brains; a pop culture website uniting young Muslims; behind the scenes with Charlie Brown and Snoopy; why we “miswant.”

Women of science. In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day (October 13th), Futurity honors the achievements of pioneering women in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. From University of Melbourne via Futurity.

Our inner cosmos. David Eagleman’s new PBS documentary explores the ways “objective reality” is shaped by our subconscious. From Big Think Editors via Big Think.

Mozzies. Mozzified, a Muslim pop culture website, provides a light-hearted space for young Muslims to come together in community. From Leah Donnella via NPR.

Good grief. Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, outwardly simple, laid out a complex drama of social coping that depended on readers’ empathy. From Sarah Boxer via The Atlantic.

Miscalibrated expectations.Miswanting” is the name given for the scrambled logic behind our wants, and our tendency to poorly align those wants with what we’ll actually enjoy. From Michael Fitzgerald via Pacific Standard.


Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Maia Weinstock, CC by 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter (Dec 19)

Among this week’s #GeekReads: Why worriers are so smart; how culture “kindles” the physical sensation of spirituality; a reason to (re)discover the joy of giving this holiday season.


The gift of giving. In spite of the stress and financial strain of holiday gift-giving, psychology research suggests that gift-givers experience more joy than gift-receivers.

Why worry warts are smart. New research suggests that there is a link between anxiety and intelligence.

If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t trust it. The smarties over at Cognitive Lode explain why words that are easier to say are more trustworthy – which they’ve dubbed the speak-easy effect.

Feeling spiritual. Culture shapes how a person physically experiences their faith. Thai Buddhists and evangelical Christians experience different spiritual sensations – what the folks at Futurity call “cultural kindling.”

A resolution for resolutions. Give up on resolutions this New Year. Instead, focus on optimizing what’s right rather fixing something wrong with your life.

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.


Note: While we never stop geeking out, #GeekReads will be on vacation for the rest of December. We’ll be back the week of January 5th. Happy Holidays!

Image: flickr/JD Hancock, CC BY 2.0

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