Twins switched at birth

There was a 1970 comedy called Start the Revolution Without Me. It took place during the period prior to the French revolution and begins with two very pregnant women, one a rich noblewoman and the other a poor peasant, who take shelter in a rural inn during a storm. They both deliver identical male twins but the local doctor who does the deliveries was either drunk or just otherwise doddering (I forget now) and mixes up the twins.
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Psychologists guilty of torture abuse

In May of this year, three Stephen Soldz (clinical psychologist and professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis), Steven Reisner (clinical psychologist and founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology), and Nathaniel Raymond (director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the former director of the campaign against torture at Physicians for Human Rights) issued a report that was highly critical of the complicity of the American Psychological Association in the torture practices of the Bush administration, providing it with the cover to claim that what it did was legal and ethical.
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Other people judge our likeness better than we do

We have all experienced the situation when we see a photograph of ourselves and are appalled. Surely we can’t look as bad as that? When we see ourselves in the mirror we think we look much better so conclude that the photograph must be introducing distortions or just happened to catch us at the wrong moment. Other people who look at the photograph rarely seem to share our opinion that it is not a good likeness but we can dismiss that by saying that of course they do not know us as well as we know ourselves.
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Changing racial identities

The Rachel Dolezal story (the 37-year old woman president of the Spokane, Washington NAACP with white parents who for some time since leaving college has presented herself as black) has certainly got people’s attention. Given that at bottom it seems to be a story of one person’s attempt to start a new life with a new identity in a new community, something that is not at all unusual given the mobile nature of modern society, the media buzz is extraordinary. The reason is of course because questions of race are always hot-button ones and also because of this story’s man-bites-dog nature. Stories of black people passing as white are not uncommon and, given the history of slavery and anti-black racism in the US, quite understandable. But white people adopting a black identity, while not unprecedented, is certainly unusual.
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Hysteria and slapping

While scanning the bookshelf in my house looking for a particular volume, I happened to come across a copy of one of the most well-known Agatha Christie novels Ten Little Indians that is a detective story without a detective, consisting of a somewhat contrived plot in which ten people are invited to an isolated island by a mysterious host and then get killed off one by one in a manner that reflects the children’s poem from which the book’s title is taken.
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Why don’t our brains explode when we watch films?

Suppose you are sitting in your living room and suddenly everything in front of you changed to something else, say a view of the ocean. Wouldn’t you be startled? And yet, when we watch films, a cut from one scene to another changes also the entire field of view instantaneously and yet it causes us no problems. And reports about the public viewing of the very first films suggest that this new thing did not cause viewers any problems at all. I wrote a few months ago about the research by Jeffrey M. Zacks, a professor of psychology and radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, and others about why our brains are not disoriented when we watch films with even very rapid cuts that change the entire field of view instantaneously.
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Hands-free cell phone use should be banned

More and more jurisdictions are cracking down on the use of cell phones by drivers. To read or text while driving is of course insane, but talking on the cell phone is also bad and is being increasingly banned. Up to now, the use of hands-free devices has not come under much criticism and laws banning cell phone use have exempted them. Some new cars even have such a system built in, adding to the suggestion that its use is safe.
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