Maia Szalavitz—she does all this great neuroscience innovation reporting—is doing a story for us on the idea of a pill that could sever your emotional attachement to someone. There’s side effects for drugs like Prozac that have been reported to have that effect. Now she’s taking it a step further and saying: Once we’ve fully identified the biochemistry of love, or elements like oxytocin or other big buzzwords, what would it mean if you could take a pill to sever your emotional attachment? There’s all these fascinating ethical questions that shoot out of this notion. There’s another one that one of our staff writers is working on about the question of stress in pregnancy and its effects on things like autism. Stress in pregnancy has been tied to everything, so what she’s trying to do is separate actual stress in pregnancy—what happens if you’re a low-income woman, or in a developing country without resources—versus Park Slope stress, like, “Oh I’m freaking out about what preschool our child’s older sister is going to get into.” She’s trying to deliver a little bit of clarity in our very Park Slope-ized version of it.
The last few years you’ve covered psychology and social science pretty exclusively. How did this become your interest area?
I’d always been somewhat interested in psychology; I took a couple courses in college. And I think like a lot of, frankly, white dudes in their late teens and early twenties, I became convinced that my opinion on things like George W. Bush as a president were very important. So my college columns were like that: Issuing opinions on things I knew nothing about. At some point something clicked, and I got less interested in arguing with myself, which I still do sometimes, and more interested in answering the question of why people believe what they do. And once you peel back this veneer of self righteousness, like—“How could anyone disagree with me?”—the question of why people believe what they do is completely fascinating and leads you down these unexpected alleyways.
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