Scientific American Mind - February/March 2009 - Volume 20 - Number 1 - The Serious Need for Play Every parent has probably suffered from this type of near catastrophe. My husband and I realized--too late--that we had forgotten to pack toys and books to entertain our older daughter, then about five, during a long drive. Our guilt soon turned to amusement tinged with open admiration. She solved the problem her own way: her feet instantly became two friendly characters cavorting together across her mental stage, with her narrating out loud for our benefit.
The drive to play is strong. But who knew that goofing off as children could be so constructive when it comes to establishing the long-term mental health of adults? As Melinda Wenner writes in the cover story, "The Serious Need for Play," frolicking in unstructured free play (as opposed to planned and rules-based activities such as chess clubs or after-school sports teams) is particularly critical for youngsters. Imaginary play and tumbling around in the sort of mock battles that my parents used to call "roughhousing" are both key for children to successfully acquire social skills, reduce stress, improve cognition and develop problem-solving abilities. Grown-ups can benefit from play breaks, too. We just have to remember to set the stage for our own fun times.
A different kind of performance issue, stage fright, is a common demon for many of us, causing us to seize up just when we most want to do well. In her feature, "Avoiding the Big Choke," Elizabeth Svoboda gives tips for successfully navigating through those difficult moments. One flaw we all fall prey to, as she explains, is simply thinking too hard. While you're tuning up your gray matter, flip to the article "Six Ways to Boost Brainpower," by Emily Anthes. Our malleable minds take well to proper mental care and feeding. To a great extent, as science tells us, we are what we make of ourselves.
Cover; February/March 2009; by Staff Editor; 1 Page(s) From the Editor; February/March 2009; by Mariette DiChristina; 1 Page(s) Play Time Table of Contents; February/March 2009; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s) Letters; February/March 2009; by Staff Editor; 2 Page(s) Head Lines; February/March 2009; by Siri Carpenter; Rachel Mahan; Clara Moskowitz; Charles Q. Choi; Emily Anthes; Melinda Wenner; Sharon Guynup; Erica Westly; Kurt Kleiner; Nicole Branan; Jeremy Hsu; 8 Page(s) Think Fast; Spotting a Fake Smile; Men Who Can Move; Finding Control in Chaos; How Teenagers Find Themselves; Baby Stress; Bias Doesn't Pay; Borrowed Identity; The Suicidal Brain; Hope For Paralyzed Patients; Separation Anxiety for Adults; Speaking of Race; See No Beauty; Marrying Mom; Seeing in Three Dimensions Perspectives: Psychotherapy for the Poor; February/March 2009; by Mason Inman; 2 Page(s) Innovative counseling programs in developing countries are repairing the psyches of civil war survivors and depressed mothers alike Consciousness Redux: Measure More, Argue Less; February/March 2009; by Christof Koch; 2 Page(s) One sign of progress in unraveling the mind-body problem is the development of new and ingenious ways to measure consciousness Illusions: Half a World; February/March 2009; by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran & Diane Rogers-Ramachandran; 3 Page(s) Victims of a disorder called neglect just don’t get the whole picture Calendar; February/March 2009; by Rachel Mahan and Karen Schrock; 1 Page(s) Exhibitions, conferences, movies and more The Serious Need for Play; February/March 2009; by Melinda Wenner; 8 Page(s) Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed The Father Factor; February/March 2009; by Paul Raeburn; 6 Page(s) Could becoming a father after age 40 raise the risks that your children will have a mental illness? Avoiding the Big Choke; February/March 2009; by Elizabeth Svoboda; 6 Page(s) Afraid of crumbling under pressure? Try not to think so hard Cure in the Mind; February/March 2009; by Maj-Britt Niemi; 8 Page(s) Belief is powerful medicine, even if the treatment itself is a sham. New research shows placebos can also benefit patients who do not have faith in them Portrait of a Lie; February/March 2009; by Matthias Gamer; 6 Page(s) In search of a better lie detector, scientists are peering into the brain to probe the origins of deception Six Ways to Boost Brainpower; February/March 2009; by Emily Anthes; 8 Page(s) The adult human brain is surprisingly malleable: it can rewire itself and even grow new cells. Here are some habits that can fine-tune your mind Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Lunacy and the Full Moon; February/March 2009; by Joshua Knobe; 2 Page(s) Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior? We're Only Human: A Recipe for Motivation; February/March 2009; by Wray Herbert; 2 Page(s) Exercise routine. Gourmet cooking. If it’s easy to read about, it must be a cinch to do Reviews and Recommendations; February/March 2009; by Nicole Branan; Corey Binns; Rachel Mahan; Melinda Wenner, Stuart Fox; 2 Page(s) More Than IQ; Beyond Pets; Creature Kin; Reading Faces; War-Torn Memory Ask the Brains; February/March 2009; by David Almeida; Mark A. W. Andrews; 1 Page(s) Is it true that people can have a midlife crisis, or is it a myth? Why does listening to music make it so much easier for me to complete a challenging workout? Head Games; February/March 2009; by The Editors; 1 Page(s) Match wits with the Mensa puzzlers
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