Lack of Diversity Correlates with Religious Hostility

world-religious-diversityQuick! What is the most religiously diverse area of the world? Not the Middle East—it’s primarily Muslim, and not Latin America—it’s primarily Christian.

It is, of course, the Asia Pacific region, home to a great diversity of religious traditions including Islam and Christianity, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and loads more. This is just one interesting tidbit from a report on world religions released this week by the Pew Research Center.

More noteworthy than this fact, however, is that some of the world’s least religiously diverse places are home to the highest rates of social violence involving religion. Of the five countries exhibiting the most religious violence:
  • Afghanistan and Somalia both rank in the bottom ten for religious diversity, with a “Religious Diversity Index” or RDI of 0.1.
  • Pakistan ranks as having “low diversity,” with an RDI of 0.8.
  • India (RDI 4.0) and Israel (RDI 4.5) are ranked as “moderately diverse.”

If diversity indeed correlates with lower violence, that is indeed good news for diversity and pluralism, and a desire to discourage violence and promote inclusion are good reasons to put Cultural Detective Islam and Cultural Detective Jewish Culture to good use! And please, help us create packages for other major world religions! Such tools are especially needed given that the Pew Research studies show huge increases in religious hostilities in nearly every world region.

increase in religious hostilities

How did this finding, correlating the lack of religious diversity and hostility, come about? In December 2012, Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life published a report entitled, “The Global Religious Landscape,” based on data gathered in 2010. It found, in part, that:

“Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories … estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.”

01_groupsThen, in January 2014 Pew published the results of another study in its article, “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High.” It involved data on 198 countries:

“A third (33%) of the countries and territories in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.”

socialHostilitiesJust this month, April 4, 2014, the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world, published further analysis that it conducted on the 2010 data. They produced a very interesting index that ranks each country by its level of religious diversity—its RDI, or “Religious Diversity Index.” RDI was calculated based on the percentage of each country’s population that belongs to the eight major religious groups defined by Pew. The closer a country comes to having equal shares of the eight groups, the higher its score on the 10-point index.

To quote from the report,

“In order to have data that were comparable across many countries, the study focused on five widely recognized world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism—that collectively account for roughly three-quarters of the world’s population. The remainder of the global population was consolidated into three additional groups: the religiously unaffiliated (those who say they are atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular); adherents of folk or traditional religions (including members of African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions); and adherents of other religions (such as the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism).”

This, of course, means that diversity within these larger religious sub-groups was not examined.

Linking the findings from phase two (social hostility) and phase three (religious diversity) shows the correlation between lack of religious diversity and social hostility.

I would emphasize that the link between lack of religious diversity and increased social violence does not appear to be a finding reported by Pew Research. Rather, it is an observation written by Emma Green in The Atlantic. The top five—and many others—of the most socially hostile countries do indeed have lower RDIs. However, there are countries with low religious diversity that also show low ratings for religious hostility: Namibia, Marshall Islands, Malta, Kiribati, Cambodia, Djibouti, Lesotho, and Grenada among them.

The research is definitely worth reading. The overall increase in religious hostility is driven by certain types of hostility, including abuse of religious minorities, harassment of women over religious dress, violence to enforce religious norms, mob violence related to religion, and religion-related terrorist violence. Click on any photo to enlarge.

Emma Green ends her article with an interesting thought:

“It may not be true everywhere, but these data suggest something remarkable: Religious pluralism can be, and often is, compatible with peaceful societies.”

What do you think? What is your experience? What successful efforts have you seen to bridge religious differences and increase tolerance and respect?

Ten Years of Building Respect, Understanding, Justice and Collaboration!

P1110373Thank you for joining us on the journey to build respect, justice and collaboration across cultures!

A group of our authors recently gathered in Mazatlán, Mexico to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this collaborative project, Cultural Detective. We held three days of work meetings and a facilitator certification workshop; we hosted a wonderful party that included the indigenous Yoreme Deer Dance; and we played—on the beach, in the water, at restaurants, with music, and all around town!

Our community members will have more celebrations around the world throughout 2014; contact us if you’d like to join one!

Below is a slideshow of just some of the many authors and community members who have contributed to making Cultural Detective such an amazing tool, and to using it to transform the world in which we live, bit by bit.

Are you curious about how Cultural Detective came to be? You might want to read this short history of our project.

We have received quite a few greetings from customers and community members—their videos show the breadth of application of this toolset. Take a look at the anniversary playlist on the Cultural Detective YouTube channel.

Want to become more active, transforming the communities in which you live and work? Join us for a free webinar and three-day pass to Cultural Detective Online, or join the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Happy Tet—New Year of the Horse!

1555587_10152184068913988_503611650_nMay the Lunar New Year of the Horse bring you health, joy, and much success in spreading cross-cultural respect, understanding, collaboration and justice in this world of ours!

2014 is the Year of the Horse. It is also Cultural Detective‘s 10th anniversary year (our CD project was born in the Year of the Monkey). Characteristics of the horse are unremitting efforts to improve oneself, communication, kindness, perseverance, and a love of travel—which is definitely in keeping with what the CD Method and our community are all about! May this new year bring out these and more positive traits in all of us!

On behalf of the Cultural Detective team, here is Phuong Mai Nguyen, co-author of Cultural Detective Vietnam (and her mother) with a greeting for everyone:

10th Anniversary of Cultural Detective!

Cultural Detective 10th Anniversary

Do you know that 2014 is Cultural Detective‘s 10th anniversary year? It’s also the 25th anniversary of my company—Nipporica Associates, and the 35th anniversary of my work in the intercultural field! Help us celebrate! Show our authors some love! Send us a greeting and win a one-year subscription to Cultural Detective Online.

The Cultural Detective Worksheet was born back in the early 1980s in Japan, emerging out of the need for a real-time multicultural conflict resolution tool. The Values Lenses came shortly thereafter—what are today termed “negative perceptions” were then called “the dark side,” echoing the Star Wars popularity of the day.

I used Cultural Detective tools in my proprietary work for about ten years with enormous success. Then, around 2002, Shell Oil began saying that Cultural Detective gave them the most highly rated global management training they’d ever experienced—from Nigeria to Malaysia, The Hague to Houston. They told us they wanted us to develop packages for every country in which they did business. While I envisioned nothing so ambitious, I did ask ten of my most esteemed colleagues to develop five “test packages”—Cultural Detectives England, Germany, Japan, Sweden and USA. They were so enthused about this Method and material that more and more admired colleagues asked if they could author packages. Today, the Cultural Detective series includes 65 packages (with several more to be released in the next few months) and an online subscription service.

Our vision was to provide theoretically sound, practical development tools, easy for the lay person to use, effective for beginners and experienced interculturalists, at accessible prices. Our goal was to help build respect, understanding, justice, collaboration and sustainability in this world of ours. Bless you for accompanying us on this journey thus far!

Thank you so much, to all our authors, our customers, certified facilitators, users, colleagues and friends! What a grand adventure it has been! Growing faster than we ever imagined possible, and building intercultural competence in areas we never dared dream of: spiritual communities, universities and study abroad programs, professional associations, NGOs, governments, and business. Over the last ten years, the Cultural Detective Method as been refined, deepened, and broadened—thanks to all of you!

A group of Cultural Detective authors will gather this month—February 2014—in Mazatlán, México to celebrate the project’s 10th anniversary. Other authors are planning events in their locations around the world to commemorate this auspicious occasion. We have started to receive greetings, and I thought you would enjoy seeing a few of them. I’ll post a selection below.

Would you like to get in on the action? Share your greetings? Thank our authoring team? Thank the person who first introduced you to CD? How about if we make it fun?!

10th ANNIVERSARY CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT
Share your greeting with us, and the authors of our favorite submissions will receive a complimentary ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to Cultural Detective Online!

As you already know, Cultural Detective Online is a terrific personal development too. But what you may not know is that the user agreement allows you to project the contents for your students, trainees or coaches—as long as you tell them Cultural Detective Online is a publicly available tool to which they can subscribe, too. As a colleague told me yesterday,

“Why would any intercultural trainer NOT pay $150 for a TWO YEAR subscription to this tool? It gives me access to over 60 packages, allowing me to conduct such a breadth of quality training!”

How to enter? Record a video and upload it to YouTube, then send the url to ten@culturaldetective.com. Alternatively, you can send a photo greeting to that same address. Here’s the first photo we’ve received. It’s a good one, don’t you think? Many thanks to our partners at the International Educators Training Program, Queens University, Canada.

Allison10thCome on, join in the celebration! Your greeting can be as short as you like, funny or serious. We’d love to hear what Cultural Detective means to you, what difference it’s made for you, what impact it’s had on the field. Perhaps you can share a funny story of cross-cultural miscommunication, or share your success—a Cultural Defective or Cultural Effective! We can’t wait! If this series has meant something to you, please take a moment to let us know.

Send your entries by March 15th, 2014. We will contact the winners by email with instructions on how to redeem their prize of a full year’s access to all the content in CD Online, to use on their own or with their students. We can’t wait to receive your message!

Following are a few of the video greetings that we’ve already received, with a bit of background about each:

Microsoft uses Cultural Detective to coach their international support engineers. The first year they used it, they attributed a 30% increase in customer satisfaction directly to Cultural Detective. The Culture and Communication Program staff is truly inspiring. In the clip below, Shalini Thomas shares her greetings with the Cultural Detective community.

AFS, the international exchange organization with operations in more than 50 countries, has long used Cultural Detective with staff, volunteers, students, and host families. Nearly everywhere I travel, anywhere on our planet, there is almost always someone from AFS in the audience. We are thrilled to know that our leaders of tomorrow are developing intercultural competence through our partnership with AFS! I first met Hazar Yildirim in Istanbul, where he and the AFS contingent there gave me a very warm welcome. Now he’s based in New York. Here is what Hazar has to say:

The Intercultural Development Research Institute (IDRI) is committed to longer-term, sustained development of intercultural competence. Their motto is “coherent theory generates powerful practice.” Thus, it means a lot to me when the co-founder of that Institute, Milton Bennett, says Cultural Detective is a tool that truly translates theory into practice and carries on the heritage of the founders of the intercultural field. I met Milton back in 1982, at the Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC).

The last greeting I’ll share with you here comes from another customer, Atieh International, specialists in emerging and risky markets. “The world of today comes filled with new opportunities hidden in a sea of uncertainty and risk. It is our job to assist our clients to understand and be prepared for the tides and waves, the ebbs and flows in each market, to appreciate the beauty and depth of cultures and diversity and to build sustainable strategies founded on reliable intelligence and trust.” We are privileged to be associated with them. Managing Partner Pari Namazie shares her remarks, below.

Please block some time now to make or record your greeting and send it to us! We are looking forward to hearing from you, and we would especially love to share a gift subscription with you! Our authors work hard, not to pursue monetary wealth, but impassioned by a commitment to the vision of everybody having a voice, sharing their gifts, and realizing their potential. Let them know they have made a difference!

We will post the video greetings we receive to the playlist below. Take a look at those we have so far, including greetings from CIEE, Korn Ferry, and EDS. They are very heartening to watch! We look forward to hearing from you!

Join us in Warm Sun AND Accomplish a New Year’s Resolution

snowbeach

  • Are you tired of the cold, the ice, and the snow? Is it all getting to be too much, and you’d like a break? Are you longing for some warmth, sunshine, the beach, and vibrant Latin music?
  • Have you promised yourself that in 2014 you will spend more time on yourself, invest in your professional development, network with like-minded professionals, or expand your training/facilitation/coaching repertoire?
  • Do you realize that global and multicultural competence are requisites in today’s world, and you want to improve these vital skills and learn to help develop them in others?

You can accomplish all these things by joining us in Mazatlán Mexico in February, or in Atlanta Georgia in March for our Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop! Early bird registration rates are available, so now is a good time to secure your seat in one of these workshops.

The Cultural Detective Facilitator Certification Workshop receives high accolades from the most experienced interculturalists as well as from those with significant life experience but who are new to the intercultural field. Clients rave about the Cultural Detective Method and use it worldwide. Facilitators love having Cultural Detective in their toolkit. It helps them truly make a difference and secure repeat business from clients—ongoing coaching, training and consulting revenue—as clients commit to the continuing practice that developing true intercultural competence requires.

Many people do not realize that Cultural Detective is flexible enough to integrate nicely with existing training programs—adding depth and practical skills that learners can use immediately and build upon in the future. Participants easily remember the Cultural Detective Method, and can put it into practice when encountering a challenging situation—solving misunderstandings before they become problems!

“It is difficult to exaggerate how fundamentally important Cultural Detective has become for us. The difference between courses we conduct with and without CD is astounding.”
- Chief Academic Officer

“We have achieved, for the first time in my five years working on the Learning and Development team, a 100% satisfaction rating from our learners. Thank you, Cultural Detective!
- Chief Learning and Development Officer

“Our customer satisfaction rates have increased 30% thanks to Cultural Detective.”
- Customer Support Manager

Click here for details on dates, locations and pricing, and click here for a detailed agenda of the workshop. Sound tempting? Get out of the cold AND spend time developing your effectiveness and employability! We’d be delighted to have you join us! Of course, if you are living somewhere warm, we’d gladly welcome you, too!

Living Your Ideal Global Life Summit

SummitCollage-Website-FixedHave you been wanting to launch your ideal global life, but you are unsure where to get started, how to make it happen, or how to figure out what your ideal global life even looks like? 

Cultural Detective colleagues, Cate Brubaker and Sabrina Zieglar, have put together a slate of 20 experts who will present and chat with you free-of-charge during the week of January 13-17, 2014. The five-day summit will be conducted virtually. The full schedule along with daily themes is now live, and registration is open. I am a speaker, several esteemed colleagues are also part of the summit, and there are quite a few others that I don’t know but I am also very excited to learn from. Do not miss this opportunity!

As a supplement to the Summit itself, or if you have to miss some of the sessions, I’m excited to let you know of a value-packed resource of inspiring videos from the 20 experts, including life-changing tools like the Destination: Nomadtopia ebook, the Build Your Online Business ebook, a workbook on relaunching yourself after being abroad, and more. Click here for more information or to purchase the bundle.

BundleImage

Who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing can’t hold you back from living the rewarding global life you desire. Whether you’re a digital nomad, expat, work-at-home mom, or travel newbie, 2014 is the year to launch your ideal global life. And this is the only comprehensive resource available that covers everything for the newly global to the experienced digital nomad.

The bundle is only available for a limited time, so don’t miss out on this chance to launch your ideal global life with 20 experts and their communities supporting you. Through January 13th the bundle will be discounted at US$47; after that date it is forecast to sell for US$97.

I hope to see you at the Summit!

Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (Scoop.it, Paper.li, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. Vekantiebabbels.nl: voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Terrific Video Clip on “Funny” Names Across Cultures

The clip below is both very funny and a reminder for some of what it feels like to be on the other end of having a “funny name.” It comes from a hugely popular British TV comedy sketch series of the late 1990s —“Goodness Gracious Me”—in which almost the entire cast were British Asians (or “Hounslow Punjabis, to be precise,” as one of the cast members once said). The running gags were about the Asian migrant experience. Many thanks to David Patterson for bringing this clip to our attention.

I share it with you today, Christmas Eve for those of us who celebrate it, in the hopes that it might add some humor to your day, as well as serve as an enjoyable (yet insightful) clip to share with those uncles, cousins or other family members who, despite our love and affection for them, drive us crazy with their stereotypical (racist?) comments during family get-togethers.

This clip is a terrific complement to the video interview I conducted with Dr. Emmanuel Ngomsi on names. Below are the links to those two posts:

New Brain Study Illustrates Gender Differences

Top: male brain networks Bottom: female brain networks

Top: male brain networks • Bottom: female brain networks
Average findings from the University of Pennsylvania study
Images ©study authors

“At any given moment, a woman is likely to be using her whole brain while a man is using half of his. Men are more likely to be right-brained (more intuitive) or left-brained (more logical) than women.”
—Ruben Gur, neuropsychologist and one of the study authors

A just-published study of the brain functionality of 949 young people shows striking differences in brain wiring between men and women. The authors of the study suggest that male brains are biologically structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action (motor and spatial abilities), whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes (memory, social adeptness, multi-tasking).

The study of 428 males and 521 females aged 8-22 was conducted by ten colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They used a technique called “diffusion tensor imaging” (DTI), which scans the paths travelled by water molecules around the brain.

“The maps show us a stark difference in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks and women at others.”
—Ragini Verma, researcher

The story is making a big splash in the press and in social media. It is a notable study, however, the main interpretation the researchers and the media seem to be taking from the study is that gender differences are biologically determined. I found such a conclusion very puzzling, because the study results themselves show that differences in brain wiring are not congenital!

The study showed that boys and girls are born with similar connectivity, and that differences in brain pathways between the genders begin to manifest at about 13 years of age, and diverge even further at 17. The study authors attribute this to the time sex begins to become important in a person’s life. I suppose that means the time hormones begin to kick in? But, of course I wondered if the differences emerge during the teenage years because that is about the age that gender socialization really begins to manifest.

Then Kathryn Stillings, our editor, found this article by science writer of the year Robin McKie. Robin explains that the study’s findings actually disprove the authors’ interpretations and reinforce the view that gender differences are the result of acculturation.

“Yes, men and women probably do have differently wired brains, but there is little convincing evidence to suggest these variations are caused by anything other than cultural factors. Verma’s results showed that the neuronal connectivity differences between the sexes increased with the age of her subjects. Such a finding is entirely consistent with the idea that cultural factors are driving changes in the brain’s wiring. The longer we live, the more our intellectual biases are exaggerated and intensified by our culture, with cumulative effects on our neurons. In other words, the intellectual differences we observe between the sexes are not the result of different genetic birthrights but are a consequence of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.”
—Robin McKie, The Observer

I trust you’ll read the study and the various interpretations, and draw your own conclusions. Either way, via biological determinism, acculturation/socialization, or a mix of the two, Cultural Detective Women and Men is a terrific package that delves into gender differences in a practical, dynamic way. It combines beautifully with national, religious tradition or generational packages. We trust you will try it out in your work, to help ensure that the broadest spectrum of cognitive skills are accessed for innovation and effectiveness in our organizations and societies.

More on the New Brain Study

The study’s findings show that the dominant connections in the male cerebrum (top left image above) are within either the left or right hemisphere (blue lines), and the dominant connections for females are between hemispheres (bottom left image/orange lines).

In the cerebellum (right-hand images, lower part of brain) it is just the opposite: the average male brain shows connections between hemispheres while the average female brain has dominant connections within hemispheres.

“Forget right-brain or left-brain thinking. What may be more important from a gender standpoint is back-to-front or side-to-side thinking.”
—Stacey Burling, Philly.com

“The strong link with the cerebellum might make men more action oriented, better at tasks that require quick response time or an ‘I-see-and-then-I-do’ attitude. The side-to-side thinking likely boosts women’s memory and social skills and seems designed, the authors said, to combine analytical and intuitive thinking. Communication within the hemisphere facilitates connection between perception and coordinated action,” writes Stacey Burling in her online review of the study in philly.com. Women’s brains “more easily integrate the rational, logical, verbal mode of thinking and the more intuitive, spatial, holistic mode of thinking,” she quotes Gur as saying. “Women’s thinking is likely to be more contextual. Their brains are better connected between their decisions and their memories. For men, memories are memories. Decisions are decisions.”

It is noteworthy that DTI or diffusion tensor imaging provides only indirect measures of structural connectivity and is, therefore, different from the well validated microscopic techniques that show the real anatomy of axonal connections,” says Marco Catani, of London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “Images of the brain derived from diffusion tensor MRI should extreme caution.”

I am curious about the results we’d see of a similar brain study of people older than 22, as I feel we change significantly as we age. This point is echoed by Professor Heidi Johansen-Berg of Oxford University, who attacked the idea that brain connections should be considered as hard-wired. “Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning.” Hopefully the next step of this work will include such a study.

Care to learn more? Click the link above to the abstract of the original study, or read this terrific article from The Atlantic.

Film Review: The Lunchbox (India)

MV5BMjM2ODkxMzA5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTYwOTYxMDE@._V1_SY317_CR175,0,214,317_Another terrific movie for us to watch, thanks to the generosity of the very talented Sunita Nichani, President of SIETAR India.

The Lunchbox by Ritesh Batra, screened during International Critic’s week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

A film set in Mumbai, around the service of the iconic dabbawallahs who ferry thousands of lunchboxes to office-goers in the crowded city without the slightest glitch. The film, however, revolves around one such lunchbox delivered to the wrong person, leading to an epistolary romance between the unintended recipient and the lonely housewife who prepares the gastronomic treats hoping to win her indifferent husband’s heart through his stomach.

What personally facinating me was the contrast between the almost antiquated means of communication showcased in the movie — a basket hanging on a rope to exchange tidbits with the upstairs neighbor, paper notes in the lunchbox instead of the ubiquitous text messages of today—and the modernity of the characters who each broke their cultural shackles to choose freedom and second chances.

Unlike typical Bollywood cinema, the film ends on an ambiguous note, letting the viewer connect the dots as s/he wishes. A wonderful visual resource for exploring some of the facets of contemporary evolving Indian society.

Comment from Dianne: If you are unfamiliar with the dabbawallah system, you owe it to yourself to learn! Please click on this link for a quick intro.