How does AI smile? In images generated by AI, the subjects have eery wide-mouthed, straight-teethed American-style selfie smiles. How does a USA-centric understanding of psychology affect our view of humanity? Lisa Feldman Barrett writes:

Most scientific research on emotion is conducted in English, using American concepts and American emotion words (and their translations). According to noted linguist Anna Wierzbicka, English has been a conceptual prison for the science of emotion. “English terms of emotion constitute a folk taxonomy, not an objective, culture-free analytic framework, so obviously we cannot assume that English words such as disgust, fear, or shame are clues to universal human concepts, or to basic psychological realities.”

In this Medium essay, Designer Jenka Gurfinkel breaks down the culturally-specific idea of the smile. She says that we naturally associate the American smile with lying. The prominence of the wide-mouthed smile in American culture is very particular. But, by imposing the American smile onto other cultures, we erase different cultural experiences, and the underlying understandings of humanity.

Why do some places have more people who live extremely long lives? Conventional wisdom says a slower pace of life, daily physical activity, plant-based diets, and tight communities will do it. That is to say, the lifestyle of places like Okinawa and Sardinia. A new study calls that into question.

Okinawa and Sardinia both have relatively high crime and poverty and relatively low life expectancy. So how could they possibly yield many exceptionally geriatric citizens? The study’s authors look at records in these regions and found evidence of widespread fraud, suggesting that people in these areas might be pretending to be older than they really are — or pretending to be another (older) person — to collect a pension. Mediterranean diet? It might be Mediterraneans lying.

In other areas, like some parts of the USA, super-old age correlates with poor record keeping, suggesting that it’s actually a phenomenon of misremembering.


I've been thinking a lot about coincidence.

Two guys playing backgammon.

I’ve seen a few Rosa Bonheur paintings in art galleries. The animals in her paintings have a sublime humanity that captivates you as a viewer. It’s easy to stare for a long time, wondering about these animals’ inner lives. This is a really nice analysis of a Rosa Bonheur painting — what makes it exceptional technically and emotionally.

I’m looking through photos from last year and appreciating that we had a lot of great times. It was a time of reuniting with friends after a long isolation.

© Sam Littlefair, 2023