Neuroscientists explains how free will might be an illusion. 

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Neuroscientists explains how free will might be an illusion.

It happens hundreds of times a day: We press snooze on the alarm clock, we pick a shirt out of the closet, we reach for a beer in the fridge. In each case, we conceive of ourselves as free agents, consciously guiding our bodies in purposeful ways. But what does science have to say about the true source of this experience?

In a classic paper published almost 20 years ago, the psychologists Dan Wegner and Thalia Wheatley made a revolutionary proposal: The experience of intentionally willing an action, they suggested, is often nothing more than a post hoc causal inference that our thoughts caused some behavior. The feeling itself, however, plays no causal role in producing that behavior. This could sometimes lead us to think we made a choice when we actually didn’t or think we made a different choice than we actually did.

But there’s a mystery here. Suppose, as Wegner and Wheatley propose, that we observe ourselves (unconsciously) perform some action, like picking out a box of cereal in the grocery store, and then only afterwards come to infer that we did this intentionally. If this is the true sequence of events, how could we be deceived into believing that we had intentionally made our choice before the consequences of this action were observed? This explanation for how we think of our agency would seem to require supernatural backwards causation, with our experience of conscious will being both a product and an apparent cause of behavior.

In a study just published in Psychological SciencePaul Bloom and I explore a radical—but non-magical—solution to this puzzle. Perhaps in the very moments that we experience a choice, our minds are rewriting history, fooling us into thinking that this choice—that was actually completed after its consequences were subconsciously perceived—was a choice that we had made all along.

Though the precise way in which the mind could do this is still not fully understood, similar phenomena have been documented elsewhere. For example, we see the apparent motion of a dot before seeing that dot reach its destination, and we feel phantom touches moving up our arm before feeling an actual touch further up our arm. “Postdictive” illusions of this sort are typically explained by noting that there’s a delay in the time it takes information out in the world to reach conscious awareness: Because it lags slightly behind reality, consciousness can “anticipate” future events that haven’t yet entered awareness, but have been encoded subconsciously, allowing for an illusion in which the experienced future alters the experienced past.

In one of our studies, participants were repeatedly presented with five white circles in random locations on a computer monitor and were asked to quickly choose one of the circles in their head before one lit up red. If a circle turned red so fast that they didn’t feel like they were able to complete their choice, participants could indicate that they ran out of time. Otherwise, they indicated whether they had chosen the red circle (before it turned red) or had chosen a different circle. We explored how likely people were to report a successful prediction among these instances in which they believed that they had time to make a choice.

Unbeknownst to participants, the circle that lit up red on each trial of the experiment was selected completely randomly by our computer script. Hence, if participants were truly completing their choices when they claimed to be completing them—before one of the circles turned red—they should have chosen the red circle on approximately 1 in 5 trials. Yet participants’ reported performance deviated unrealistically far from this 20% probability, exceeding 30% when a circle turned red especially quickly. This pattern of responding suggests that participants’ minds had sometimes swapped the order of events in conscious awareness, creating an illusion that a choice had preceded the color change when, in fact, it was biased by it.

Importantly, participants’ reported choice of the red circle dropped down near 20% when the delay for a circle to turn red was long enough that the subconscious mind could no longer play this trick in consciousness and get wind of the color change before a conscious choice was completed. This result ensured that participants weren’t simply trying to deceive us (or themselves) about their prediction abilities or just liked reporting that they were correct.

In fact, the people who showed our time-dependent illusion were often completely unaware of their above-chance performance when asked about it in debriefing after the experiment was over. Moreover, in a related experiment, we found that the bias to choose correctly was not driven by confusion or uncertainty about what was chosen: Even when participants were highly confident in their choice, they showed a tendency to “choose” correctly at an impossibly high rate.

Taken together, these findings suggest that we may be systematically misled about how we make choices, even when we have strong intuitions to the contrary. Why, though, would our minds fool us in such a seemingly silly way in the first place? Wouldn’t this illusion wreak havoc on our mental lives and behavior?

Maybe not. Perhaps the illusion can simply be explained by appeal to limits in the brain’s perceptual processing, which only messes up at the very short time scales measured in our (or similar) experiments and which are unlikely to affect us in the real world.

A more speculative possibility is that our minds are designed to distort our perception of choice and that this distortion is an important feature (not simply a bug) of our cognitive machinery. For example, if the experience of choice is a kind of causal inference, as Wegner and Wheatley suggest, then swapping the order of choice and action in conscious awareness may aid in the understanding that we are physical beings who can produce effects out in the world. More broadly, this illusion may be central to developing a belief in free will and, in turn, motivating punishment.

Yet, whether or not there are advantages to believing we’re more in control of our lives than we actually are, it’s clear that the illusion can go too far. While a quarter-of-a-second distortion in time experience may be no big deal, distortions at longer delays—which might plague people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder—could substantially and harmfully warp people’s fundamental views about the world. People with such illnesses may begin to believe that they can control the weather or that they have an uncanny ability to predict other people’s behavior. In extreme cases, they may even conclude that they have god-like powers.

It remains to be seen just how much the postdictive illusion of choice that we observe in our experiments connects to these weightier aspects of daily life and mental illness. The illusion may only apply to a small set of our choices that are made quickly and without too much thought. Or it may be pervasive and ubiquitous—governing all aspects of our behavior, from our most minute to our most important decisions. Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in between these extremes. Whatever the case may be, our studies add to a growing body of work suggesting that even our most seemingly ironclad beliefs about our own agency and conscious experience can be dead wrong.



Malaysia minister calls for atheists to be ‘hunted down’ and ‘re-educated’

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Malaysia minister calls for atheists to be ‘hunted down’ and ‘re-educated’

Atheists in Malaysia should be “hunted down” as they violate the constitution, a government minister in the increasingly fundamentalist Muslim-majority nation has said.

Shahidan Kassim, who serves in the Prime Minister’s inner circle, called on Islamic scholars to re-educate non-believers.

Apostasy is not a federal crime in Malaysia, but critics say the country’s increasingly conservative trajectory is threatening religious freedoms.

“The [Federal Constitution] does not mention atheists. It goes against the Constitution and human rights,” Mr Kassim said during a press conference.

“I suggest that we hunt them down vehemently and we ask for help to identify these groups.”

The MP for Arau, a town in the far north of Malaysia close to the border with Thailand, said atheists were “misled” and claimed they “don’t want to be atheists but it happens because of the lack of religious education”.

Mr Kassim called on “all muftis [Muslim religious scholars]” to “return them to the faith”.

It comes as the Malaysian government ordered an investigation into an international atheist organisation that is operating in the country.

A photo of a meeting of the Kuala Lumpur chapter of Atheist Republic sparked uproar among some Muslims and lead to death threats against the group on social media.

Malaysia’s deputy minister in charge of religious affairs, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, said on Monday he had instructed the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department to investigate the Atheist Republic chapter to see if any Muslims were involved.

“We need to determine whether any Muslims attended the gathering, and whether they are involved in spreading such views, which can jeopardise the aqidah [faith] of Muslims,” he told Reuters.

Ex-Muslims in the group would be sent for counselling, while attempts to spread atheist ideas could be prosecuted under existing laws, Asyraf said.

“We need to use the soft approach with (apostates). Perhaps they are ignorant of the true Islam, so we need to engage them and educate them on the right teachings,” he said.

Atheist Republic’s founder, Armin Navabi, said the group’s gatherings caused no harm to the public and were not considered a threat in other countries.

“They [atheists] are treated like criminals. They are just hanging out and meeting other atheists. Who are they harming?!” he said in a post on his Facebook account.

Malaysian states, which have their own laws governing Islamic affairs, do not allow Muslims to formally renounce Islam, preferring instead to send them for counselling, or fining or jailing them.

The country’s apostasy laws have left many former Muslims in legal limbo, as they are not allowed to register their new religious affiliations or legally marry non-Muslims.

In 2007, Lina Joy, a Malaysian convert to Christianity, lost a high-profile legal battle to have the word “Islam” removed from her identity card. In delivering judgment in that case, the Federal Court’s chief justice said the issue was related to Islamic law, and civil courts could not intervene.


White People are Going to Asia to Beg For Money on the Streets.

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White People are Going to Asia to Beg For Money on the Streets.

Many Western backpackers frequent the streets of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and other Asia countries to beg for money. Some can be seen sitting on pavements with posters asking for money, while others play music to attract people on the street. But with their expensive looking cameras, musical instruments, and the notion that they have more money than an average local, many Asian residents are finding the sight bizarre.

Photos of these foreign “beg-packers” surface on social media and mixed reactions from netizens.  While some admired these backpackers for their free spirit, paving their paths to the unknown, still, many were unimpressed.

According to The Sun, most locals are not happy that that these foreigners are begging people for money to fund their vacations.

A young Singaporean, Maisarah Abu Samah, told France 24 that she finds it “extremely strange” to see “white people” asking for money to fund their trips.

“Selling things in the street or begging isn’t considered respectable. People who do so are really in need: they beg in order to buy food, pay their children’s school fees or pay off debts. But not in order to do something seen as a luxury!” she said.

A Twitter user who goes by the handle Solo Traveller shared some snaps of foreign backpackers on the streets of Thailand.

“Poor foreigners, only in #Bangkok #Thailand,” he captioned one photo.

The rise of Western backpackers travelling to Asian regions has long been on the horizon and locals are more than happy to accommodate them as guests, but probably not so as “beg-packers.”


“Spiritual Capitalism” Yes. Apparently it is a thing now.

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“Spiritual Capitalism” Yes. Apparently it is a thing now.

In a recent interview, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger discussed the nuances of what made his invention a billion-dollar app: an intense focus on quick upload time, user friendly features, and, well, luck. When Instagram began adding sponsored photos into user feeds, uproar ensued: how dare this Facebook-owned company try to make money from my free app.

A similar denouncement was bellowed with Facebook’s monetization efforts. Sure, it has that ‘icky’ feeling—damn capitalists!—but it’s a business. Capitalization is part of the game. More and more, it’s happening on both sides of this equation. One continually emerging trend is the user-generated income streams couched in New Age psychobabble pretending to be something it patently is not.

Product placement was addressed early on Youtube. On Instagram it’s harder to detect given that it’s often disguised by neo-spiritual verbiage. Gaze at the endless barrage of yoga-inspired posturing and you’ll see no dearth in the growing spiritual capitalism movement.

Thomas Frank addressed this issue when pointing out that seventies business mentality took its cue from sixties radicalism. Corporations profited by selling the cult of the individual. No longer did you have to rebel against society while dressed like a slob; anarchy gained an outfit. Our ancestors knew freedom comes at a cost. We’re taking that concept to a new level. To witness the evolution of this ideology simply peek into boutiques on Bedford Ave and Abbot Kinney.

Or simply follow any number of ‘celebrity’ yogis, nutrition ‘coaches,’ and other lifestyle gurus on Instagram. Spirituality does indeed have a price, but no longer does it require silent retreats, self-reflection, or simply being a good person. It is for sale, and there are plenty of people willing to sell you their brand

. A few examples:


  • Believing that the ‘universe’ is on your side is a guaranteed seller: “Sometimes the universe knocks at your door when it’s time for you to make a positive change…” A swan eventually does something in this lackluster prose, but don’t forget the tag for the clothing sponsor. Swans can’t live on feathers alone.
  • My favorites always include mala beads; this amethyst string amazingly helps you “overcome addictions and protects in stressful situations.” How does it do that? Why be so analytical? It just does! Who wouldn’t pay $250 for a red garnet mala that “transmutes negative to beneficial energy?” What does that even mean? Who cares! It’s spiritual.
  • Naked Juice, owned by Pepsico, can’t resist this game either. The company’s Kale Blazer has found its way into one kale fanatic’s feed. She promises to deliver ‘sweet nectar’ if you reciprocate with a tag—Pepsico does need to make sure her analytics match the pay. Sweet is an understatement: each ‘healthy’ bottle contains 34 grams of sugar. Diabetes be damned, there are beaches that I haven’t taken pictures of myself at yet.


In her article, ‘Taking Liberties: Cults and Capitalism,’ from Issue No. 30 of The Baffler, Ann Nuemann writes about the Synanon cult that set up camp in Santa Monica in the seventies. Self-styled guru Chuck Dederich eventually grew so power-bloated that his campus imploded, acolytes fleeing to Venice and beyond. Like many cult leaders,

Dederich kept his hands on the purse strings while everyone else was forced to live impoverished for their spiritual good.

Most cults operate this way, though Synanon made its money not only from tithing, but from Syanon Industries, which “operated gas stations, manufactured and distributed merchandise (such as Synanon-branded pens, rulers, and T-shirts), and begged and bartered for tax-deductible goods.” Dederich was ahead of the spiritual capitalism curve, the reverberations of his empire resonating today in the spiritual doublespeak of yoga lifestyle brands and fresh-pressed juiceries.

Billions of dollars are spent where spirituality meets narcissism.

In a culture in which people are more concerned with being brands than humans such a noxious cocktail was inevitable. We’re living on our own Island of Misfit Toys: if you tell everyone they’re broken, they’ll buy into it. As a solution these Insta-lebrities offer easy-to-digest solutions to life’s pressing problems (the universe loves you!). And they can be humble, too: Sure, these leggings might not fix you, but at least you’ll look good trying.

As Neumann expresses it,

The castigation of narcissism…has done little to wrest the yoga mats and herbal teapots from our tremulous hands. Nor has it convinced us to put down our self-chronicling digital devices.

Because, if you didn’t take a photo of it (and tag your sponsor), it didn’t happen.

I’m reminded of the beautiful moment when a bird landed on Bernie Sanders’s podium. Without reading anything metaphysical into it, it was simply that: a moment. Yet within a day my inbox and feeds were flooded with ‘Birdie Sanders’ mugs and stickers for sale. Like Insta-yogis, no one seems to let a moment be a moment anymore.

A hero of modern yoga is Mahatma Gandhi, who you might recognize from the Apple ad. While Gandhi is generally unquestionably revered, he was a flawed man. He announced his (and by extension, his wife’s) celibacy without discussion; he forced servants and nieces to sleep naked cuddled with him to prove his spiritual prowess.

What I always respected about Gandhi, though, was his constant growth. His dietary restrictions might be considered an eating disorder today, but he was steadfast in his devotion in locating his greatest good. Then there was the loincloth, probably his most symbolic aspect beyond the baldhead and glasses.

To fight British rule Gandhi set off a national revolt in fashion. Combating Indian reliance on foreign products he inspired many to invest in spinning wheels. He himself lived in a dhoti of simple making. The initiative was twofold: get Indians off the teet of British commerce and empower them to take control of their lives. Nationalistic and economic. Gandhi wanted to see people rise above poverty.

America’s spiritual capitalism has subverted such messaging. Freedom isn’t earned. It’s purchased. Clothing isn’t for warmth, it’s for chakra alignment.

In a nation of plenty more is never enough. The capitalists have won, selling spirituality as shamelessly as whatever other product they can produce. Sadly, the people who should be fighting are nothing more than its over-sugared servants, desperately fighting for their fifteen seconds of Insta-fame.


Rabbi and several others arrested in welfare fraud case.

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Rabbi and several others arrested in welfare fraud case.

Seven married couples from the same New Jersey shore town, including a rabbi and his wife, now face charges that they misrepresented their income to get a combined $2 million in public welfare benefits to which they were not entitled.

Three couples were arrested late Tuesday in Lakewood after four couples, including Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, of Congregation Lutzk, and his wife, Tzipporah, were arrested Monday.

The three couples were identified as Yitzchock and Sora Kanarek; Chaim and Liatt Ehrman; and William and Faigy Friedman.

Prosecutors say the three couples misrepresented their income and then collected more than $674,000 in benefits. They say the couples failed to disclose income from numerous sources on applications for Medicaid, housing, Social Security and food assistance benefits.

The state and federal investigation centers on Lakewood, which is home to a large and growing ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

In the arrests Monday, the Sorotzkins were charged with collecting more than $338,000 in benefits prosecutors say they weren’t entitled to. Their attorney said they will plead not guilty.

They were charged in state court along with Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin, who prosecutors said collected more than $585,000 in benefits they weren’t entitled to.

Zalmen Sorotzkin’s brother, Mordechai, and his wife, Rachel, were one of two couples charged in separate federal complaints with conspiring to fraudulently obtain Medicaid benefits.

They made more than $1 million in 2012 and in 2013, the complaint alleges, but still received more than $96,000 in Medicaid benefits, including $22,000 to pay for medical expenses when their sixth child was born in November 2013.

“Everything is going to work out and all will be vindicated,” said Rachel Sorotzkin’s attorney, Fred Zemel.

According to a federal complaint, Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum hid their income by creating companies that were run by relatives on paper but that the couple actually controlled. They made a total of $1.8 million in 2013, but still received Medicaid, food benefits and housing assistance into 2014, prosecutors said.


Israeli Judge Rules Airlines Can’t Reseat Women At Request Of Men.

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Israeli Judge Rules Airlines Can’t Reseat Women At Request Of Men.

Renee Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor in her 80s, was flying from Newark, N.J., to Tel Aviv in 2015, when a flight attendant on Israel’s El Al airline asked if she would be willing to change seats. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man had said he did he not feel comfortable sitting next to her.

Rabinowitz agreed to move. But afterward, she said she felt “deep humiliation” — and sued the airline in Israeli court.

Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court ruled Thursday in her favor, saying that asking her to change seats based on her gender was discrimination.

“I’m thrilled because the judge understood the issue,” Rabinowitz told The New York Times. Her lawyers are calling it a “revolutionary” decision.

Rabinowitz, an Orthodox Jew, is a retired lawyer with a Ph.D. in educational psychology, according to the Times. “Despite all my accomplishments — and my age is also an accomplishment — I felt minimized,” she told the newspaper.

Rabinowitz was represented by the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Israel Reform movement. The group says requests for seat changes to accommodate men who don’t want to sit next to women have become common.

“It’s difficult to find someone who has flown New York to Tel Aviv who hasn’t seen it or been a part of it,” IRAC Deputy Director Steven Beck told NPR. “Particularly around the holidays, a lot of ultra-Orthodox are taking flights” and the men “would not sit down.”

Some deeply religious Jews believe any contact between the sexes is immodest. That has caused delays and even chaos on numerous flights in recent years when men refused to take seats next to women.

Beck says the phenomenon isn’t limited to flights on the Israeli airline: “It’s just [that] the number of ultra-Orthodox Jews on El Al is greater, and the effort to accommodate them is greater.”

The court ruling requires El Al to instruct its staff in writing that such requests are illegal and train workers in the new rule within six months. The court awarded Rabinowitz 6,500 shekels, or about $1,800, in damages.

Requests from El Al for comment were not immediately returned. The airline was owned by the Israeli government before being privatized in 2006.

After the lawsuit was filed last year, El Al told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that its “employees in the air, on the ground, in Israel and around the globe do all possible to listen to and provide solutions to the concerns or requests from our customers whatever they might be, including seating requests on the airplane.”

ainst women because its reseating policies also applied to men. But it pointed out that Israeli courts have allowed religious observance to be considered in the past.

Why doesn’t El Al have passengers request special seating requirements in advance, as they would request a kosher or vegetarian meal?

Beck says his organization suggested El Al require passengers to do just that, but the airline refused.

“Our problem is with pressuring women,” says Beck. “It’s not fun to be told a flight will be delayed or sent back to the gate if you don’t accommodate a man’s request.”

Rabinowitz’s case echoed other recent battles in Israeli public life. Beck called the ruling a victory over “the gender segregation that Israel has been battling for more than a decade — all of the attempts by the ultra-Orthodox community to push women out of the public sphere.”

IRAC won a lawsuit in 2007 against gender segregation on public buses (though Beck notes that buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods continue to have de facto segregation). And in 2014, an Orthodox feminist group won a class-action lawsuit against an ultra-Orthodox radio station that wouldn’t allow women’s voices on the air.

Rabinowitz’s family fled Europe to escape the Nazis at the beginning World War II and moved to the United States; she later moved to Israel. Beck said his client is a mother of two, grandmother of six, great-grandmother of 32, “and now a civil rights activist.”

Rabinowitz told the Times she was “exhilarated” by Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach’s ruling because “she realized it is not a question of money; they awarded a very small sum. She realized it’s a matter of El Al changing its policy, which they have been ordered to do.”


10 Toxic People You Should Avoid At All Costs.

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10 Toxic People You Should Avoid At All Costs.

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons.

As important as it is to learn how to deal with different kinds of people, truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy—and they take a lot of each. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, stress.

“People inspire you, or they drain you—pick them wisely.” – Hans F. Hansen

Recent research from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany shows just how serious toxic people are. They found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus, an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to brain cells, and months of stress can permanently destroy them. Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to identify toxic people and keep them at bay.

It’s often said that you’re the product of the five people you spend the most time with. If you allow even one of those five people to be toxic, you’ll soon find out how capable he or she is of holding you back.

You can’t hope to distance yourself from toxic people until you first know who they are. The trick is to separate those who are annoying or simply difficult from those who are truly toxic. What follows are ten types of toxic drainers that you should stay away from at all costs so that you don’t become one yourself.

10. The Arrogant

  • Arrogant people are a waste of your time because they see everything you do as a personal challenge. Arrogance is false confidence, and it always masks major insecurities. A University of Akron study found that arrogance is correlated with a slew of problems in the workplace. Arrogant people tend to be lower performers, more disagreeable, and have more cognitive problems than the average person.
9. The Judgmental

  • Judgmental people are quick to tell you exactly what is and isn’t cool. They have a way of taking the thing you’re most passionate about and making you feel terrible about it. Instead of appreciating and learning from people who are different from them, judgmental people look down on others. Judgmental people stifle your desire to be a passionate, expressive person, so you’re best off cutting them out and being yourself.

8. The Twisted

  • There are certain toxic people who have bad intentions, deriving deep satisfaction from the pain and misery of others. They are either out to hurt you, to make you feel bad, or to get something from you; otherwise, they have no interest in you. The only good thing about this type is that you can spot their intentions quickly, which makes it that much faster to get them out of your life.
7. The Dementor

  • In J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, Dementors are evil creatures that suck people’s souls out of their bodies, leaving them merely as shells of humans. Whenever a Dementor enters the room, it goes dark, people get cold, and they begin to recall their worst memories. Rowling said that she developed the concept for Dementors based on highly negative people—the kind of people who have the ability to walk into a room and instantly suck the life out of it.

    Dementors suck the life out of the room by imposing their negativity and pessimism upon everyone they encounter. Their viewpoints are always glass half empty, and they can inject fear and concern into even the most benign situations. A Notre Dame University study found that students assigned to roommates who thought negatively were far more likely to develop negative thinking and even depression themselves.

6. The Manipulator

  • Manipulators suck time and energy out of your life under the façade of friendship. They can be tricky to deal with because they treat you like a friend. They know what you like, what makes you happy, and what you think is funny, but the difference is that they use this information as part of a hidden agenda. Manipulators always want something from you, and if you look back on your relationships with them, it’s all take, take, take, with little or no giving. They’ll do anything to win you over just so they can work you over.

5. The Envious

  • To envious people, the grass is always greener somewhere else. Even when something great happens to envious people, they don’t derive any satisfaction from it. This is because they measure their fortune against the world’s when they should be deriving their satisfaction from within. And let’s face it, there’s always someone out there who’s doing better if you look hard enough. Spending too much time around envious people is dangerous because they teach you to trivialize your own accomplishments.

4. The Self-Absorbed

  • Self-absorbed people bring you down through the impassionate distance they maintain from other people. You can usually tell when you’re hanging around self-absorbed people because you start to feel completely alone. This happens because as far as they’re concerned, there’s no point in having a real connection between them and anyone else. You’re merely a tool used to build their self-esteem.

3. The Victim

  • Victims are tough to identify because you initially empathize with their problems. But as time passes, you begin to realize that their “time of need” is all the time. Victims actively push away any personal responsibility by making every speed bump they encounter into an uncrossable mountain. They don’t see tough times as opportunities to learn and grow from; instead, they see them as an out. There’s an old saying: “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” It perfectly captures the toxicity of the victim, who chooses to suffer every time.

2. The Temperamental

  • Some people have absolutely no control over their emotions. They will lash out at you and project their feelings onto you, all the while thinking that you’re the one causing their malaise. Temperamental people are tough to dump from your life because their lack of control over their emotions makes you feel bad for them. When push comes to shove though, temperamental people will use you as their emotional toilet and should be avoided at all costs.

1. The Gossip

  • “Great minds discuss ideas, average ones discuss events, and small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

    Gossipers derive pleasure from other people’s misfortunes. It might be fun to peer into somebody else’s personal or professional faux pas at first, but over time, it gets tiring, makes you feel gross, and hurts other people. There are too many positives out there and too much to learn from interesting people to waste your time talking about the misfortune of others.