Trump is lying to us, but our brains are part of the problem. Here's how.

When President Trump chose to trust Putin over the United States' own intelligence agencies on live TV, it was arguably the most abnormal moment in a presidency rife with them.

Trump's statements in Helsinki have received swift and, so far, sustained condemnation. But the summit is just one in a series of Trump controversies that would have ended another presidency. And despite how shockingly and indisputably out of the norm Trump's comments were, the public may struggle to grasp their enormity and could soon move on, if history is any guide.

What's behind the collective tendency to normalize Trump's out-of-the-ordinary behavior and policies?


Blame your brain.

Our brains are really great at adapting to stimuli, both positive and negative.

The hedonic treadmill theory (usually used to conceptualize why happiness fades) suggests that there is no happy or tragic event that humans don't end up quickly adapting to.

Get a job that pays you five million dollars a week? You'll be happy for a bit, but soon the newness will become normal and you'll settle into a routine.

Lose a a job? Get broken up with? Yes, it hurts. But eventually, you adjust to the new normal.

The same thing happens when a sitting president tells blatant lies on a continual basis. It feels huge at first — remember the outrage over Trump's crowd sizes? — but after a while, it's just the order of the day. The disingenuous use of "alternative facts" and "fake news" becomes commonplace and banal while the stakes for outrage and action are raised even higher.

Here's a fun fact: Our brains don't let us be as smart as we think we are.

Hold up one second! I don't mean you're unintelligent. But the reality is that our brains are not objective arbiters of truth; they're always tricking us in order to make sense of reality.  

As humans, categorizing and making sense of things is essential to our survival, but research shows that we're not so great at making these kinds of discernments. Just think about how quickly you've seen people whose intellect you respect fall for "fake news" as long as it was coming from their camp.

The fact that our minds are intent on making things normal isn't inherently a bad thing. But it can be a huge problem when our politicians use it against us.

Normalcy is important for the human race's continuance — otherwise we'd be plagued with anxiety over every little change. But as the BBC pointed out, humans are "so protective over the concept of normal" that we sometimes allow complacency to take over, allowing even the most terrifying ideas to seem "not so bad" until it's too late.

In an article published by The New York Times shortly after Trump's inauguration, Yale psychologists Adam Bear and Joshua Knobe, who study normalization, wrote that people have a hard time separating "how things out to be" (ie, the ideal) from what's actually going on (the average), thereby blurring the two into "a single undifferentiated judgment of normality." This, they argued, allows Trump to commit more egregious actions with less blowback.

"Our research suggests, for example, that as President Trump continues to do things that once would have been regarded as outlandish, these actions are not simply coming to be regarded as more typical; they are coming to be seen as more normal," Bear and Knobe wrote. "As a result, they will come to be seen as less bad and hence less worthy of outrage."

Now more than ever, we can't let our brains trick us out of seeing reality.  

Perhaps rushing out into the street to scream "this isn't normal" every time the president does something disgraceful isn't the best course of action — who would get any work done? — but it's imperative that we don't allow it to happen without pushback. And that means being cognizant every time any elected official acts in bad faith and hopes to get away with it.

As Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post, Americans must see the press conference Trump and Putin gave as a "moment of truth," as well as a call to action.

Journalists have already started answering that call. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer NBC reporter Hallie Jackson's questions at a July 18 press briefing, The Hill's Jordan Fabian yielded his time to her so she could follow up — and it's up to all of us to follow suit.

Trump's behavior has never been normal. It can't be treated as such any longer.

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture