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Why Is It So Hard to Give Good Directions

The reason we find it hard to give good directions is because of the “curse of knowledge,” a psychological quirk whereby, once we have learned something, we find it hard to appreciate how the world looks to someone who doesn’t know it yet. 

This same quirk is why teaching is so difficult to do well. Once you are familiar with a topic, it is very hard to understand what someone who isn’t familiar with it needs to know. The curse of knowledge isn’t a surprising flaw in our mental machinery, it is just a side effect of our basic alien-ation from each other. We all have different thoughts and beliefs, and no special access to each other’s minds. 

Some occasions call for a proper understanding of other people’s feelings and beliefs. Our skill at Theory of Mind, the ability think about others’ beliefs and desires, distinguishes humans from all other species—only chimpanzees seem to have anything approaching a true understanding that others might believe different things from themselves.

The good news is that your Theory of Mind isn’t completely automatic—you can use deliberate strategies to help you understand better what other people know. Which is a good thing, since good Theory of Mind skills is what makes a considerate partner, friend, or co-worker—and a good giver of directions.

Source: Excerpted from BBC Future, Neurohacks, Nov. 6, 2012 


Rate of Suicide by Hanging/Suffocation Doubles in Middle-Aged Men and Women

A new report finds that the majority of the previously reported increase in suicide in the United States between 2000 and 2010 is attributable to an increase in hanging/suffocation, which increased from 19 percent of all suicides in 2000 to 26 percent of all suicides in 2010. 

The largest increase (104%) in hanging/suffocation occurred among those aged 45–59 years. 
“Suicide recently exceeded motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the U.S; this report is the first to examine changes in the method of suicide, particularly by demographics such as age,” said lead study author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with and founding director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

“While suicide by firearm remains the predominant method in the U.S., the increase in hanging and suffocation particularly in middle-aged adults, warrants immediate attention.” 
The researchers also found that the proportion of suicide by poisoning increased, from 16 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010. Much like hanging/suffocation, dramatic increases were seen in certain age groups: 85 percent in those age 60–69 years. Taken together, suicide by firearm, hanging/suffocation, and poisoning make up 93 percent of all suicides in the United States. 

The increase in suicide overall in the United States was first reported earlier in 2012, and is thought to be related in part to the effects of the economic recession. 

Source: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The results are published in the December 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.