Ever since I served as the launch editor of Scientific American Mind, a little more than a decade ago, our editors have had something of an obsession with relationships. The cover story of the premiere issue, for instance, offered to explain “why we help”—it explored altruism and other socially focused behavior. Through the years the magazine has examined whether men and women can be “just friends,” how certain parenting styles can foster happy and successful children, and why we feel social support from online communities even though there is no in-person contact.
In this edition, we take an expansive look at our close connections to our nonhuman “family” members. I speak, of course, of our pets: dogs, cats, birds, snakes, turtles, rabbits, fish, horses, and more. We also feature our first nonhuman cover model—a beautiful border collie named Ten, who delighted everyone at the photo shoot. As you will learn in our special report on “The Psychology of Pets,” we humans share an innate attraction to other species. Pets can provide strong emotional support and give their owners' lives a greater sense of meaning. Biologist and canine researcher Ádám Miklósi details how dogs in particular have become such an integral part of the human family.
Arguably, our most important relationship in life is the one we maintain with ourselves: it is our own consciousness that charts the through line of personal experience. In a provocative article, the eminent British psychologist Nicholas Humphrey contends that our sense of consciousness is akin to a work of art created by the brain.
Of course, relationships generally rely on some form of communication to share experiences, stories and concerns. In “Beyond Shyness,” Claudia Wallis describes a childhood anxiety disorder called selective mutism that disrupts social communication. Affected children clam up, especially in school, missing out on early learning and social development. Therapy, she writes, can lead to a happy ending—really a beginning—for such students.
While I'm talking about relationships and connections, I'd like to make an introduction. Wallis not only writes great feature articles for Scientific American Mind, she is its new managing editor. She brings a wealth of experience in award-winning journalism and a sure hand in editorial direction. I look forward to seeing how the magazine will continue to grow under her stewardship. And, as always, we welcome feedback from our community of readers every step of the way.