Never mind what you've heard. Halle Berry was not the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was actually the 74th white one. And never mind all this talk about America electing its first black President; Barack Obama is actually the 44th white man to hold the job.
Credit or debit cards, for starters, are nothing short of shoppers' Novocain. Even in the age of digital purchases and virtual money, we still attach a special value to dirty paper with pictures of presidents on it. Handing some of that to a cashier simply hurts more than handing over a little sliver of plastic.
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Athletes often start life at the opposite end of the wealth and prestige spectrum, but as soon as they exhibit an unusual talent for swinging a bat or sinking a free-throw they may find that the rules have been suspended for them. They are waved through school and into the pros, and incidents of bad behavior are overlooked or covered up.
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When you're your parents' one shot at a genetic legacy, you may get to attend all the best schools, wear all the best clothes and eat all the best foods - at least relative to children in multiple-sibling households. But you also wind up with an overweening sense of your own importance.
The most decisive and certainly most delicious option for an aggrieved worker in a narcissist's office is simply quitting. Slamming your resignation letter on the boss's desk and striding out to take a better job somewhere else is satisfying and in both its finality and its totality. Instantly the feared figure is stripped of all power, reduced to a person of utter inconsequence in your life. Not only does this spell immediate freedom for the exiting employee, it can also contribute to the long-term decline of the boss.
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Every batch of sperm represents an opportunity for genetic typos - called de novo mutations - to be passed on. A 20-year-old man and woman will each pass on about 20 de novo mutations to a baby they conceive. By the time the couple is 40, a woman's total has remained at 20, while a man's has jumped to 65 - and it keeps climbing from there.
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Older fatherhood isn't all bad: testosterone rates drop about 1% per year as men age, making them less reactive and more patient, and a professionally established middle-aged man is likely to have more time and money to devote to his kids than a twenty-something who's just getting started.
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When you learn conflict-resolution skills in the playroom, you then practice them on the playground, and that in turn stays with you. If you have a combative sibling or a physically intimidating, older sibling, you learn a lot about how to deal with situations like that later in life. If you're an older sibling and you have a younger sibling who needs mentoring or is afraid of the dark, you develop nurturing and empathic skills that you wouldn't otherwise have.
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Marriage is a lot of things - a source of love, security, the joy of children, but it's also an interpersonal battlefield, and it's not hard to see why: Take two disparate people, toss them together in often-confined quarters, add the stresses of money and kids - now lather, rinse, repeat for the rest of your natural life. What could go wrong?
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The brain sits snugly inside the skull, but it's not a completely flush fit - there is still a layer of fluid between bone and soft tissue that serves as a natural shock absorber. Some shocks, however, can't be absorbed, and when the head gets clobbered too hard, the brain can twist or torque or rattle around inside its skeletal casing.
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At the root of the shy temperament is a deep fear of social judgment, one so severe it can sometimes be crippling. Introverted people don't worry unduly about whether they'll be found wanting, they just find too much socializing exhausting and would prefer either to be alone or in the company of a select few people.
As MBA professors endlessly tell their students, companies do best when they stick to what they do well. There's a reason Apple doesn't make blenders. There's a reason Haagen-Dazs doesn't sell meat. And there's a reason drug companies should focus on saving and improving lives - not jeopardizing them.
Science has yet to isolate the Godiva Chocolate or Prada gene, but that doesn't mean your weakness for pricey swag isn't woven into your DNA. According to a new study of identical twins, it's less TV ads or Labor Day sales that make you buy the things you do than the tastes and temperaments that are already part of you at birth.
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Spending $1 for a brand new house would feel very, very good. Spending $1,000 for a ham sandwich would feel very, very bad. Spending $19,000 for a small family car would feel, well, more or less right. But as with physical pain, fiscal pain can depend on the individual, and everyone has a different threshold.
The mind and the body are inextricably entwined, and rarely are their inseparability clearer than when we're under some kind of mental pressure. The moment we start trying to learn a new skill, make a decision or otherwise think on our feet, our nervous system reacts - with accelerated pulse rate, increased respiration, even sweating.
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Spare a thought for the poor introverts among us. In a world of party animals and glad-handers, they're the ones who stand by the punch bowl. In a world of mixers and pub crawls, they prefer to stay home with a book. Everywhere around them, cell phones ring and e-mails chime and they just want a little quiet.
There are a lot of obstacles in the way of our understanding animal intelligence - not the least being that we can't even agree whether nonhuman species are conscious. We accept that chimps and dolphins experience awareness; we like to think dogs and cats do. But what about mice and newts? What about a fly? Is anything going on there at all?
I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore with an extremely high concentration of Jewish families - where the Levys and Cohens in the high school yearbook went on for pages, where I could count far more temples than I ever could churches. Anti-Semitism, in our cultural biodome, was mostly an abstract concept.
There's only one thing harder than living in a home with an adolescent - and that's being an adolescent. The moodiness, the volatility, the wholesale lack of impulse control, all would be close to clinical conditions if they occurred at another point in life. In adolescence, they're just part of the behavioral portfolio.
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The vexing thing about human behavior is that when we say we know we should do something, we really and truly do know it. It's hard to be 50 lbs. overweight or smoke a pack a day or feel miserable every moment you spend at work and not understand in a deep and primal way that change is in order - and that in some cases it could even save your life.
Operating-room errors hold a special terror for patients, if only because they seem like the most avoidable kind of complications. The occasional horror stories of patients who have the wrong leg removed or the wrong knee replaced generate the most headlines, as do tales of patients whose identities are mixed up entirely.
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Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.
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It's far too much to say that effective hoping is the only - or even the biggest - part of what it takes to succeed. If 14% of business productivity can be attributed to hope, that means 86% is dependent on raw talent, fickle business cycles, the quality of the product you're selling, and often pure, dumb luck.
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