Who Dies to Fight Ebola? Who Kills in Fear of It?

In the milieu of the deadliest ebola outbreak on record, health workers and others risk their lives to fight the spread of this disease. They face danger not only from the destructive virus but from the very people they aim to help, villagers too terrified to welcome wandering strangers. How can any of us know if we’d be the ones who’d die or kill to fight it?

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Doctor Who: "Listen" to Your Fear

BBC’s time traveling hero turns proactive to root out his own childhood fear. A frightening “Doctor Who” episode about fright literally and figuratively explores how fear feeds itself, and turns that around to stress the value of fear and its function in the fight-or-flight response. If fear itself is not truly a thing to fear, fear instead may be your fuel.

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Serpents in a Happy Valley: Does the World Need Villains?

“The world needs villains so there can be heroes,” claims Netflix promotion for the BBC series “Happy Valley.” Can that be true? Does the world really need villains? Can heroism exist without villainy? From a storytelling standpoint, a villain has value, but not all emergencies in everyday life arise from evil intent. Are we so ready to take evil among people for granted?

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A Visit to the Rape Room: Who Sees Humor in Sexual Assault?

Who sees humor in sexual assault? Rape jokes take a variety of forms, generated by a greater variety of intentions. Should those individuals who jest about sexual violence learn greater sensitivity or should others who object to such jokes lighten up? What has empirical research shown us about how, why, and when people will make light of sex crimes? Who makes these jokes?

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Are We Blaming the Famous Victims of Nude Photo Theft?

Should 101 celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence have “known better”? When a hacker steals their private, encrypted photos and distributes them online, fault should be easy to assign. The victims did nothing wrong here, so why do people even discuss this issue of blame? Is hindsight bias at work in this manifestation of the just-world phenomenon, or is schadenfreude afoot?

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Stolen Celebrity Nude Photos: Stop Blaming the Victims!

Should 101 celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence have “known better”? When a hacker steals their private, encrypted photos and distributes them online, fault should be easy to assign. The victims did nothing wrong here, so why do people even discuss this issue of blame? Is hindsight bias at work in this manifestation of the just-world phenomenon, or is something darker afoot?

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Doctor Who and the Neuroscience of Morality Malfunctions

Has the Doctor misplaced one of his hearts? The latest version of the lead character on “Doctor Who” seems short on empathy and he worries whether regeneration skewed his morality when it completely altered his body. Both neural manipulation and traumatic brain injury can alter real people’s empathic and moral capabilities in terms of cognition, emotion, and compassion.

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Murder by Meme: Slender Man and the Wakefield Anti-Vax Hoax

Like scary Slender Man, viral views over a vaccine-autism link spread from a single human’s fiction. After Eric Knudsen created the Slender Man in a photo editing challenge, its myth spread as meme, a malleable open-source horror that inspired a murder attempt. After Andrew Wakefield falsified a vaccine-autism link, it panicked many into campaigning against vaccination.

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"Captain America: The Winter Soldier"–Who Is Bucky?

In “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014), amnesia-ridden James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes has been brainwashed into carrying out assassinations as the Winter Soldier. Does that make him a villain or a misguided hero? Exactly how might we diagnose an individual suffering his particular set of symptoms, and is there really any hope for one who has wrought so much wrong?

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MythBusters’ Kari, Grant, and Tory Leave a Myth Unfinished

MythBusters’ build team leaves the Discovery Channel series after more years than most TV shows last. Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tori Belleci depart, having tested only half of the Yerkes-Dodson arousal/performance curve. Having slapped some sense into understimulated, underaroused team members, they have not also slapped them silly when overstimulated and overaroused.

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JL8 Controversy: Is Sharing Phallic Photos Healthy Behavior?

When a children’s webcomic artist sends others sexually explicit photos of his own anatomy, is that simply some sexting as part of 21st century life, or is he engaging in sexual harassment or other aggression? How can outsiders judge whether he is a charitable hero or a predatory villain? Who should speak out about this? Is there ever such a thing as a safe sext?

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Doctor Who: Regeneration and a Dilemma of Doctor Identities

The BBC TV series “Doctor Who” has lasted 50 years. Its new season stars Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor – same Time Lord, different face. When the program’s hero regenerates into a new form (played by a new actor) how does that change affect his personality and self-concept? How do any real world human experiences relate to this science fiction character revision?

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Scarlett Johansson Film Lucy Pushes 10 Percent Brain Myth

The plot for Luc Besson’s science fiction action thriller “Lucy” starring Scarlett Johansson with Morgan Freeman hangs on the myth we only use 10% of our brains. As the heroine’s brain usage reaches 90%, she gains skills and psychic superpowers. Not only does that 10% figure come from no confirmable, scientific source, a long line of evidence contradicts it in every way.

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Star Trek vs. Star Wars: A Look at Bullying on Any World

Psychologists and actors compare depictions of bullying in Star Wars and Star Trek science fiction franchises. Children are not the only ones who might find themselves mocked, insulted over nerdy interests or anything else they enjoy as others try to suck the fun out of their lives. Can fantastic fiction empower us and teach lessons on responding to bullies in real life?

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