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Main page » Non-Fiction » Science literature » Scientific American Mind, February/March 2007

Scientific American Mind, February/March 2007


"67-year-old dissatisfied fl¿neur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding towards pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet."
No surprises there. Romantic hopefuls in the London Review of Books personals drolly dis themselves routinely, boasting that they are, among other things, older than 100, infertile, flatulent, "big-boned" and look like "Herv¿ Villechaize and carry an odour of wheat." David Rose of the London Review collected gems such as the one above in They Call Me Naughty Lola (Scribner, 2006).
Such humble notices starkly contrast the superhero-like self-portraits in online dating venues, where every woman seems to be attractive, fit and 29 and each man is wealthy, tall and toned. But all lovelorn writers share a goal: telegraphing their worth (whether by self-abasement or by self-promotion) to potential partners. In his article "The Truth about Online Dating," psychologist Robert Epstein takes a look at what modern courting reveals about us.
Delving deeper into the mysteries of our unconscious longings, neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields writes of a little-known cranial nerve that may provide a signaling link for subliminal sexual attraction. In "Sex and the Secret Nerve," he reveals the intriguing findings about cranial nerve zero.
Most people would say that finding love is a key to greater happiness, along with achievements like a bigger home, a better car, more money and fame. But research suggests none of these things is likely to increase bliss significantly. "Why It's So Hard to Be Happy," by psychologist Michael Wiederman, tells how ancient humans' perpetual search for a better life--historically, a survival advantage--can now leave us dissatisfied despite the comforts of today's world. One lesson is that "happy people tend to engage in activities that are challenging and absorbing"--such as reading articles in Scientific American Mind. Okay, I slipped in that last part. Happy now?

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Tags: American, better, Scientific, Happy, people