Following the sad death of Jane Tomlinson who devoted years of her life to charity work, last night’s edition of Newsnight on BBC 2 featured an item on altruism, involving Blair’s former spinmeister Alistair Campbell (who is also known for his charity efforts) and psychologist Dr Aric Sigman. Paxman asks “What is the mental alchemy that takes the capacity for despair and turns it into something positive?”. Among his contributions, Sigman explains the little known fact that caring and sharing – being altruistic – is one of the best forms of medicine and has been shown to have immunological benefits. (The item begins 37.49 mins into the programme).
Also on the Newsnight website is a recent video about the Flynn effect – the rise in IQ scores that has been observed around the world’s developing nations over the last 50 years or so. The effect’s discoverer Professor Jim Flynn features, as does Steven Johnson, author of ‘Everything that’s bad is good for you’, and intelligence expert Nicholoas Macintosh. Flynn thinks we’ve become better at categorising the world (rather than seeing things in purely utilitarian terms as our ancestors did). Johnson thinks we should thank computer games and popular culture. Macintosh cautions that IQ tests are limited in what they measure.