When It Comes to Brains, Size Doesn’t Matter

Crows, ravens, and other corvids are sometimes called feathered apes. Like primates, these birds form social groups, use tools, solve puzzles, recognize faces, and enjoy a good joke (especially if it’s at the expense of cats). Now a group of researchers has shown in a series of tests that corvids exhibit the same levels of self-control that chimps do when faced with a task that requires them to forgo a quick reward in favor of a bigger one that comes later.

The researchers published a fascinating description of their work in Royal Society Open Science, and their paper challenges a long-held belief that both absolute and relative brain volume correlate with intelligence. No longer will humans and our ape cohorts be able to claim that we’re smart just because our brains are big. Instead, say the researchers, it’s more likely that intelligence stems from neural complexity, whether that’s numbers of neurons or connections between them.

Source: When it comes to brains, size doesn’t matter


As someone who owns a small parrot (a Green Cheek Conure), I can attest to how remarkably true this is. Despite ~350 million years of evolution separating us from a common ancestor, our parrot Eddie, at only a year old, can communicate verbally with a number of phrases (not just mimic, but communicate – he uses phrases like “Hi there”, “good boy”, and “can I have a kiss” contextually), he recognizes our emotions, learns tricks quickly and solves tasks (though not to the same extent as a raven or African Grey), recognizes and remembers faces, and more. All this from a bird that weighs 70 grams and has a head less than 1″ in diameter.

With his intelligence, verbal communication, excellent colour vision, and social bonding, I feel like Eddie and I see the world in a much more similar way than a dog or a cat does to a human. Birds are pretty cool.

Q: Why Don’t We Have Crows as Pets?

They’re illegal to keep as pets in America because they’re recognized as protected “migratory birds”. Which is ridiculous, because they’re so prolific, many consider them pests. But end result, you can’t hunt them or keep them as pets. Sadly.

They also are intelligent and assertive and don’t like being kept in small places.

Improve Your Self-Control With a 10-Minute Delay

When it’s far too difficult to deny yourself that cigarette, eating that donut, or splurging on a new coat, tell yourself to instead wait just 10 minutes before you give in. This “mini” delay in gratification will help you build more self-control over time.

Source: Improve Your Self-Control With a 10-Minute Delay

Depending on your office, if you wait 10 minutes, the good donuts may be gone (if not all of them) which will make the self control that much easier. 😉

If You Could Take a Pill to Improve Your Creativity, Would You?

Sure, who wouldn’t want to be more creative? But what about a pill to improve your self-control, or sociability? What if you enjoy being impulsive, or revel in your alone time? If a pharmacological enhancement changed a defining aspect of your personality, how would it change your perception of that enhancement?

Source: If You Could Take a Pill to Improve Your Creativity, Would You?

The findings were interesting.  I disagree with what the subjects were assessed with wanting to improve only innate abilities.  If I’m already good at something, I want to improve where I’m not.  But the finding is consistent with another study where people were found to generally not want to see others improve.

Why Setting Large Fitness Goals Can Backfire on You

I’m about to tell you why I believe traditional goal setting might be bringing frustration and anxiety upon you and decreasing your quality of life. Furthermore, I’ll show you how a simple focus shift can fix the problem in a matter of minutes, resulting in better results in the gym and living a more enjoyable life in the process.

To illustrate my point, let me start by sharing a very personal story with you.

Source: Why You Need To STOP Setting Goals

Recently, someone started coming out on my weekend [cycling] group rides.  Saturday is much more competitive, and this person can barely hang on in the warm up.  But they’re determined to ride with the A group, even though I’ve consistently encountered them before the 2/3rd mark of the route.  They’re so burnt out, they can’t hang onto the B group.

I have no problem with their goal.  I have the same one.  I don’t agree with their approach, but all the power to them.  I’m still healing, but I’m trying to get back to leading B group.  Only then is it worth it to me to bother trying to hold onto A group.  I might not ever get there – I was having my doubts I could before, or at least not without putting effort into training.

There’s goals and dreams – it takes honest reflection to know the difference.

Four Things Nobody Tells You About Successful Weight Loss

Everyone who loses weight successfully overcomes a set of similar challenges. But let us be honest: successful weight loss is relatively uncommon, making many of these challenges unheard of. Consequently, when they arise, you might think you’re doing things wrong. But you’re not, and here’s why.

Source: Four Things Nobody Tells You About Successful Weight Loss

If people are really, truly concerned about you – take a step back and re-examine what you’re doing and why. I ask for this pause for self-reflection because that could be life with an eating disorder.  It’s a fine line we walk when we’re talking about weight loss. I just want to be sure we remember the other side of the coin, and why losing weight in a healthy, sustainable way is so important.

Personally, I haven’t dealt with a lot of #3.  Rather the opposite – they would not comment on my progress.  I’ve overheard chatter about me, but few will say something to me.

Regarding #4, I never thought of the journey being over.  I had ideas for what thought I’d look like, but watched over time to see the weight loss seemed to favour one side over the other.  It was top down at the start, but more recently has gone between left and right sides.  But it was a while back that I considered my goals were quite likely due to photoshop, and I was quite happy with my progress.  Part of that came from being more focused on eating for proper nutrition and fueling, so I was distracted.  I’m still working out what’s best for the diet, and surprisingly I’m still seeing weight loss results but I am getting concerned about fueling/energy/ketosis.

How to Combat Diet and Exercise Self-Sabotage with Mindfulness

You’ve stuck to your diet today and you feel unstoppable…until your co-worker hands you a cupcake. “It’s just one,” you rationalize, devouring every inch. Guilt sets in. The once promising day is ruined, but not until you polish off a large pizza and a dozen cookies. Does this sound familiar?

Source: How to Combat Diet and Exercise Self-Sabotage with Mindfulness

There are benefits to failing on your plan (diet or fitness) – there will be days you can’t stick to it.

Science: How to Make Your Willpower Stronger

The holiday season is over, so it’s time to get serious about your New Year’s resolutions. But those fine intentions are only as good as your self-control. Here’s what you need to know about the neuroscience of willpower — and what you can do to make your will even stronger.

Source: How to Make Your Willpower Stronger — According to Science

It’s a rather long article, bordering on being a meta-study with how many studies it references for support.

Study: Sharing Dessert Reduces Guilt

Normally, people do not enjoy being forced to do something. People also do not enjoy the guilt that comes with doing something that is bad for them. Surprisingly, these two wrongs seem to make a right: when people are compelled to engage in vices, they feel better than when they freely choose the vice for themselves. According to a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, persuading a friend to share a dessert removes the burden of choice from them, reducing their feelings of guilt and making them less conflicted about the decision.

Source: Get ordered to eat a brownie, and you’ll feel good about it

Before you go adopting a more hedonistic lifestyle, consider this webcomic.