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Booster Shots

Many act on their dreams

February 22, 2009|Shari Roan and Caesar Ahmad and Tina Susman and Alana Semuels

Psychologists disagree vehemently about the significance of dreams. Some believe dreams are simply the neurological detritus of the previous day while others suggest that dreams represent unconscious thoughts and feelings. Science may not have settled the question, but according to a new study, many people favor the Freudian theory. That is, they believe their dreams reveal hidden truths.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology analyzes previous research that asks people what they think about their dreams. Across a range of ages and cultures, many people said dreams give them meaningful insight into their lives. The study shows that people tend to believe aspects of their dreams that correspond to their preexisting beliefs and experiences.

Perhaps most surprisingly, many people use information from their dreams to influence the decisions they make while awake and may even place more importance on information from dreams over conscious thought. The authors of the study say it is the very randomness of the information in dreams that makes people tend to believe them. The study showed that people even tend to believe dreams that foretell an event.

People who believe their dreams may find that dreams become self-fulfilling prophesies, warned the authors of the paper, from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard. For example, they wrote: "Dreams of spousal infidelity may lead to suspicious accusations, alienating one's spouse and potentially provoking actual infidelity."

-- Shari Roan

From: Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and some news from the world of health

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Weight-loss surgery in Iraq

Last year, we told the story of Haider Kareem Said, a young Iraqi man whose weight had ballooned to more than 495 pounds, attached precariously to his 5-foot-4 frame. Said was desperate to lose the extra pounds, but like many people, he had failed repeatedly at diets.

Years spent virtually locked in his house because of Baghdad's sectarian war only made matters worse. He spent much of his time sitting in front of the TV eating too much. In August, Said took what some would consider a desperate measure: He had weight-loss surgery. Said had a band surgically wrapped around his stomach by the one Baghdad surgeon who performs the operation, forcing him to eat a fraction of what he had been consuming.

Six months later, we visited Said at his home in eastern Baghdad to see how he's doing.

The results are impressive. Said remains a big, big man, but he has lost 100 pounds and now weighs 390 pounds. Instead of eating all day, he eats just once a day. His weight loss has been so dramatic that his surgeon tightened the band around his stomach to further restrict his food intake.

Said admitted to cravings but is following his doctor's orders to avoid rice and bread -- staples of the Iraqi diet. "I miss it so much," he said. "But I'm able to control myself. Even with one meal a day, I don't get really hungry. Before this surgery, this would have been impossible for me."

The fall of Saddam Hussein and the ensuing war had huge effects on Iraqis' health. Hussein's ouster opened the door to satellite TV and the Internet, which were illegal under the former dictator. This created a couch-potato culture that had not existed before.

As for Said, he's determined to lose at least another 132 pounds. "I still cannot feel it. I am not satisfied yet," he said of his current weight loss. Never a fan of exercise, Said now is taking long walks that last more than 40 minutes. Once he is at his desired weight, he hopes to get married and face another operation: to remove excess skin.

-- Caesar Ahmad and Tina Susman in Baghdad

From: Babylon & Beyond: Observations from Iraq, Iran, Israel the Arab world and beyond

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Celebuzz lets you zoom in on faces

Looking at pictures of celebrities strolling down the red carpet is all well and good. But wouldn't it be so much better if you could see them up close? Fashionistas, it's your lucky day. In advance of the Oscars, Los Angeles celebrity site Celebuzz is launching a super-freaky zoom feature that allows you to click on a celebrity photo for a mega-zoom.

It might be the ultimate sign of just how in-your-face we are with celebrities these days that you can look online to literally see every line on Renee Zellweger's face. But Celebuzz says it's just giving the people what they want. Plus, without zoom, how would you be able to see the glitter paint on Beyonce's shiny cheeks?

"There is a genuine appetite to see the details," said Karina Kogan, general manager of Celebuzz, which is owned by Buzznet, also a Los Angeles company.

But will seeing all the gory details turn us off to celebrities when we realize that they, too, have wrinkles and arm hair? (Well, some of them do at least.) Sibyl Goldman, general manager of Yahoo's Entertainment Group, which runs the site omg!, says people are more interested in seeing celebrities looking beautiful than they are of seeing goofs and hung-over stars.

"We're finding more and more that people are interested in the pretty stuff, like glamour shots and people looking really good," she said. "It's about entertainment and escapism."

-- Alana Semuels

From: Technology: the Business and culture of our digital lives

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