Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Mental fatigue has psychological triggers − new research suggests challenging goals can head it off

  Do you ever feel spacey, distracted, and worn down toward the end of a long work-related task – especially if that task is entirely a mental one? For over a century, psychologists have been trying to determine whether mental fatigue is fundamentally similar to physical fatigue or whether it is governed by different processes.

  Some researchers have argued that exerting mental effort depletes a limited supply of energy – the same way physical exertion fatigues muscles. The brain consumes energy in the form of glucose, which can run low.

  Other researchers see mental fatigue as more of a psychological phenomenon. Mind-wandering means the current mental effort is not being sufficiently rewarded – or opportunities to do other, more enjoyable activities are being lost.

Monday, April 29, 2024

AI ‘companions’ promise to combat loneliness, but history shows the dangers of one-way relationships

  The United States is in the grips of a loneliness epidemic: Since 2018, about half the population has reported that it has experienced loneliness. Loneliness can be as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to a 2023 surgeon general’s report.

  It is not just individual lives that are at risk. Democracy requires the capacity to feel connected to other citizens in order to work toward collective solutions.

  In the face of this crisis, tech companies offer a technological cure: emotionally intelligent chatbots. These digital friends, they say, can help alleviate the loneliness that threatens individual and national health.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

About a third of employees have faced bullying at work – here’s how to recognize and deal with it

  The phenomenon of bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse in workplaces throughout North America is widespread and harmful to both individuals and organizations. In fact, bullying at work affects up to 30% of workers over time.

  As practitioners and researchers who study workplace violence, including bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse, we define workplace bullying as harmful acts of mistreatment between people that go beyond incivility and cross the line to intentionally causing harm.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Thinking about work as a calling can be meaningful, but there can be unexpected downsides as well

  Many Americans – especially young adults – want to do work that feels meaningful. Creating meaning for oneself may be especially important as fewer workplaces provide good pay and benefits to their employees.

  Those who are religious or spiritual often want to connect their faith to their work through a sense of calling. But there can be unexpected downsides for those who do so. People who say they feel “called” report better work and life satisfaction, but they may also be less likely to address workplace problems or unfair treatment when it arises.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Church without God: How secular congregations fill a need for some nonreligious Americans

  Shared testimonies, collective singing, silent meditation, and baptism rituals – these are all activities you might find at a Christian church service on a Sunday morning in the United States. But what would it look like if atheists were gathering to do these rituals instead?

  Today, almost 30% of adults in the United States say they have no religious affiliation, and only half attend worship services regularly. But not all forms of church are on the decline – including “secular congregations,” or what many call “atheist churches.”

Thursday, April 25, 2024

20 of the most famous protests in U.S. history

  Two First Amendment freedoms are the least known: freedom of assembly and freedom to petition. Freedom of assembly protects the right to gather peacefully. Freedom to petition protects the right to tell government officials without fear of punishment if you think a policy is good or want something to change.

  When people have a protest, march, or rally, they use freedom of assembly. They may also use the freedom to petition.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What is resilience? A psychologist explains the main ingredients that help people manage stress

  The word resilience can be perplexing. Does it mean remaining calm when faced with stress? Bouncing back quickly? Growing from adversity? Is resilience an attitude, a character trait, or a skill set? And can misperceptions about resilience hurt people, rather than help?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Alabama’s DEI ban underscores need for anti-bias programs, understanding

  In March, Alabama became one of at least 10 states that have signed anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bills into law.

  The bill, which follows a nationwide trend, bans public institutions, such as public colleges and other state-run institutions, from maintaining DEI offices and programs. Despite DEI programs being used to correct inequities within an organization and promote anti-bias efforts, supporters of the Alabama law and similar legislation across the nation have attacked DEI programs as “divisive.”

Monday, April 22, 2024

Climate change matters to more and more people – and could be a deciding factor in the 2024 election

  If you ask American voters what their top issues are, most will point to kitchen-table issues like the economy, inflation, crime, health care, or education.

  Fewer than 5% of respondents in 2023 and 2024 Gallup surveys said that climate change was the most important problem facing the country.

  Despite this, research that I conducted with my colleauges suggests that concern about climate change has had a significant effect on voters’ choices in the past two presidential elections. Climate change opinions may even have had a large enough effect to change the 2020 election outcome in President Joe Biden’s favor. This was the conclusion of an analysis of polling data that we published on Jan. 17, 2024, through the University of Colorado’s Center for Social and Environmental Futures.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The curious joy of being wrong – intellectual humility means being open to new information and willing to change your mind

  Mark Twain apocryphally said, “I’m in favor of progress; it’s change I don’t like.” This quote pithily underscores the human tendency to desire growth while also harboring strong resistance to the hard work that comes with it. I can certainly resonate with this sentiment.

  I was raised in a conservative evangelical home. Like many who grew up in a similar environment, I learned a set of religious beliefs that framed how I understood myself and the world around me. I was taught that God is loving and powerful, and God’s faithful followers are protected. I was taught that the world is fair and that God is good. The world seemed simple and predictable – and most of all, safe.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

We’ve been here before: AI promised humanlike machines – in 1958

  A room-size computer equipped with a new type of circuitry, the Perceptron, was introduced to the world in 1958 in a brief news story buried deep in The New York Times. The story cited the U.S. Navy as saying that the Perceptron would lead to machines that “will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence.”

  More than six decades later, similar claims are being made about current artificial intelligence. So, what’s changed in the intervening years? In some ways, not much.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Lead from old paint and pipes is still a harmful and deadly hazard in millions of US homes

  Lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes severe health effects such as neurological damage, organ failure, and death.

  Widely used in products such as paint and gasoline until the late 1970s, lead continues to contaminate environments and harm the health of people around the world.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Why rural white Americans’ resentment is a threat to democracy

  Rural white voters have long enjoyed outsize power in American politics. They have inflated voting power in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the Electoral College.

  Although there is no uniform definition of “rural,” and even federal agencies cannot agree on a single standard, roughly 20% of Americans live in rural communities, according to the Census Bureau’s definition. And three-quarters of them – or approximately 15% of the U.S. population – are white.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Yes, efforts to eliminate DEI programs are rooted in racism

  Right-wing activists who have long criticized liberalism and “wokeness” in higher education and helped force the resignation of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first African American president, have now set their sights on ending the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs that these activists claim helped place figures like Gay in her job in the first place.

  Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who played a pivotal role in forcing Gay’s resignation, stated this view bluntly on X – formerly known as Twitter– following Gay’s ouster: “Today, we celebrate victory. Tomorrow, we get back to the fight. We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Patterson Test

  Before 2017, I would have struggled to pick out Jim Patterson in the Alabama House of Representatives.

  Patterson was a Meridianville Republican elected to the chamber in 2010. In his first term, he did what most freshman representatives do: handle local legislation and vote the party line. He sponsored tax exemption bills, too, and in his second term added education and retirement legislation to his docket.

  But Patterson didn’t stand out until he took on a big project.

Monday, April 15, 2024

College athletes still are not allowed to be paid by universities − here’s why

  Ever since July 1, 2021, student-athletes have been able to pursue endorsement deals. But when it comes to getting paid by the universities for which they play, the students have been shut down. Here, Cyntrice Thomas, a professor of sport management at the University of Florida, answers questions about the hurdles that stand in the way of college athletes being compensated for their athleticism.

What stands in the way of paying college sports players?

  NCAA rules are the main obstacle.

  Not long after it was formed in 1906, the NCAA prohibited schools from compensating student-athletes for their athletic ability. In 1948, the NCAA adopted the Sanity Code, which also prohibited athletic scholarships for students who couldn’t demonstrate financial need or economic hardship.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Fetal personhood rulings could nullify a pregnant patient’s wishes for end-of-life care

  The Alabama Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented decision in February 2024, holding that stored frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, were “minor children” under a state wrongful death law.

  The impact on the medical community was immediate and acute. Fearing newfound civil or criminal legal liability if embryos were now considered “persons” under Alabama law, IVF clinics had to make an overnight choice between providing patient care and risking that liability. As a result, multiple IVF clinics across the state immediately suspended IVF procedures. And the most direct impact, of course, was on patients.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

They want silence around Rosa Parks

  The Rosa Parks statue in Montgomery’s Court Square is not what you expect from a monument. That’s why I love it.

  There’s no pedestal. No stage. Nothing separating the viewer from Parks. It’s a life-sized and human-scaled depiction of a civil rights hero.

  This is no divinely ordained messenger walking in the sky above us. This is a woman going home after a day at work – a dignified, respected citizen with a long track record of activism. She has a plan for the bus ride ahead.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Absorbing half of Mexico altered American culture

  Proponents of America’s system of immigration controls lament what they say are “invaders” crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and entering the United States. Many of them say that this “invasion” is a conspiracy to alter the culture of the United States in a Hispanic direction.

  Ironically, very few, if any, of these anti-invaders ever condemn what the U.S. government did with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. That treaty did more to change the culture of the United States in a Mexican direction than immigrant “invaders” could ever hope to do.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Population and political power now rests in north Alabama

  Growing up as a teenager in the 1960s, I served as a page in the Alabama Legislature. One day when I was around 13 years old, I was looking around the House of Representatives and it occurred to me that north Alabama, as well as the state’s largest county, Jefferson, was vastly underrepresented. Even at that early age, I knew that the U.S. Constitution required that all people be represented equally and that the U.S. Constitution superseded our state constitution. Both Constitutions clearly state that the U.S. House of Representatives and the Alabama House of Representatives must be reapportioned every 10 years, and the representation should be based on one man, one vote. In other words, all districts should be equally apportioned. That is why the census is taken every ten years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Is this the least productive congress ever? Yes, but it’s not just because they’re lazy

  Congress has once again been making headlines for all the wrong reasons, with multiple news outlets in recent months touting the current 118th Congress as possibly the least productive in the institution’s history. In 2023, Congress only passed 34 bills into law, the lowest number in decades.

  Congress was only recently able to pass a budget bill that will keep the government open until the fall of 2024 after months of delay and stopgap measures.

  As a result, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s gavel seems to be hanging in the balance yet again, as conservative Republicans revolt over his support for the bill.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Why vacations feel like they’re over before they even start

  When a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it’s almost over before it starts?

  If so, you’re not alone.

Monday, April 8, 2024

‘Economic development’ is another way to say ‘cheap labor’

  There’s a lot that can get an Alabama politician mad.

  Black history lessons. Voting assistance. Acknowledging the danger of firearms.

  But nothing, and I mean nothing, sets officials off like a worker who lacks an attitude of gratitude.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Solar eclipses result from a fantastic celestial coincidence of scale and distance

  On April 8, 2024, millions across the U.S. will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to view a total solar eclipse. Cities including Austin, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Cleveland, Ohio, will have a direct view of this rare cosmic event that lasts for just a few hours.

  While you can see many astronomical events, such as comets and meteor showers, from anywhere on Earth, eclipses are different. You need to travel to what’s called the path of totality to experience the full eclipse. Only certain places get an eclipse’s full show, and that’s because of scale.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

US democracy’s unaddressed flaws undermine Biden’s stand as democracy’s defender − but Trump keeps favoring political violence

  President Joe Biden argues that “democracy is on the ballot” in the 2024 election.

  We believe there are potential threats to U.S. democracy posed by the choices voters make in this election. But the benefits of American democracy have for centuries been unequally available, and any discussion of the current threats needs to happen against that background.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Responsibilities of management

  Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Is the National Guard a solution to school violence?

  Every now and then, an elected official will suggest bringing in the National Guard to deal with violence that seems out of control.

  A city council member in Washington suggested doing so in 2023 to combat the city’s rising violence. So did a Pennsylvania representative concerned about violence in Philadelphia in 2022.

  In February 2024, officials in Massachusetts requested the National Guard be deployed to a more unexpected location – to a high school.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

What Marilyn Lands’ win says, and what it doesn’t

  One thing is clear from Marilyn Lands’ House District 10 victory: Abortion still motivates Democrats.

  Lands turned a seven-point loss in 2022 into a 25-point romp on March 26. And for the first time since 2002 – when then-Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman almost pulled off a shocking re-election upset – Alabama Democrats came out of an election with more legislators than they had before it.

  But the obvious question is whether Democrats can replicate Lands’ win around the state.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Are private conversations truly private? A cybersecurity expert explains how end-to-end encryption protects you

  Imagine opening your front door wide and inviting the world to listen in on your most private conversations. Unthinkable, right? Yet, in the digital realm, people inadvertently leave doors ajar, potentially allowing hackers, tech companies, service providers, and security agencies to peek into their private communications.

  Much depends on the applications you use and the encryption standards the apps uphold. End-to-end encryption is a digital safeguard for online interactions. It’s used by many of the more popular messaging apps. Understanding end-to-end encryption is crucial for maintaining privacy in people’s increasingly digital lives.

Monday, April 1, 2024

The history of April Fools' Day

  In certain countries, the April Fools' jokes must be made before noon on April 1, otherwise, it is the prankster who becomes the April Fool.