Religious leaders tripping balls... for science

Psychologists at Johns Hopkins University are currently giving two dozen religious leaders psilocybin, the psychedelic drug in magic mushrooms, to, y'know, see what happens. From The Guardian:

Despite most organised religions frowning on the use of illicit substances, Catholic, Orthodox and Presbyterian priests, a Zen Buddhist and several rabbis were recruited. The team has yet to persuade a Muslim imam or Hindu priest to take part, but “just about all the other bases are covered,” according to (study co-leader Dr. William) Richards....

“It is too early to talk about results, but generally people seem to be getting a deeper appreciation of their own religious heritage,” he said. “The dead dogma comes alive for them in a meaningful way. They discover they really believe this stuff they’re talking about.”

There is also a suggestion that after their psychedelic journey, the leaders’ notions of religion shifted away from the sectarian towards something more universal. “They get a greater appreciation for other world religions. Other ways up the mountain, if you will,” said Richards.

“In these transcendental states of consciousness, people seem to get to levels of consciousness that seem universal,” he added. “So a good rabbi can encounter the Buddha within him.”

"Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science" (The Guardian) Read the rest

Here’s why people hate the word “moist”

Mashable explains why so many people can’t stand the word “moist.” It turns out it has to do with both word association and the bandwagon effect. Read the rest

The freaky tricks your memory can play on you

If there’s one thing this video from AsapSCIENCE taught me, it’s that I have a terrible memory. Thankfully (or then again, maybe not), it turns out a lot of other people do too. Read the rest

Giving vegetables seductive names gets people to eat them

Boring vegetables need better marketing. That's the gist of a new study from Stanford university psychologists who gave cafeteria vegetables more "indulgent" names to see if students would buy them more often. Healthy labels ("wholesome," etc) didn't do well but indulgent labels ("sizzlin'", "dynamite," etc.) boosted vegetable sales by 25%. From the BBC:

The experiment took place over the whole of the autumn academic term. Each day, a vegetable dish was labelled up in one of four ways:

• basic - where the description was simply "carrots", for example

• healthy restrictive - "carrots with sugar-free citrus dressing"

• health positive - "smart-choice vitamin C citrus carrots"

• indulgent - "twisted citrus-glazed carrots"

...The indulgent labels came out top and included "twisted garlic-ginger butternut squash wedges" and "dynamite chilli and tangy lime-seasoned beets".

Seductive names resulted in 25% more people selecting the vegetable compared with basic labelling, 41% more people than the healthy restrictive labelling and 35% more people than the healthy positive labelling.

"Association Between Indulgent Descriptions and Vegetable Consumption: Twisted Carrots and Dynamite Beets" (JAMA) Read the rest

Seven ways to be miserable, and how to avoid them

People often do things that make them miserable. CPG Grey presents seven of the most effective misery makers: Stay still - don't go outside, don't exercise. Screw with your sleep - vary your bedtime and sleep in a day or two a week. Never sleep or wake up at the same time. Maximize your screentime - let the screen keep you awake. Let a screen be the first thing you look at when you wake up. Use your screen to stoke your negative emotions - feed your anxiety and anger about things over which you have no control. Set v.a.p.i.d. goals - vague, amorphous, pie-in-the-sky, irrelevant, delayed. Do not set s.m.a.r.t. goals, which are specific, measurable, actionable, (goals for which you are) responsible, time-bounded. Pursue happiness directly - Expect that unending bliss is possible. Follow your instincts - do what makes you immediately happy even when you know it will make you sadder in the long run.

The video is based on Randy Paterson's book, How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use. Read the rest

Scientists think they are more rational and objective than others think they are

Apparently scientists tend to think of themselves as more rational, objective, and intelligent than non-scientists. Makes sense. And laypeople tend to think that of scientists too. But the scientists surveyed in a new study from Tilburg University in the Netherlands apparently see themselves as much more rational, objective, and intelligent than non-scientists. Are they overconfident or, well, right? From Scientific American:

The team surveyed both scientists and highly educated nonscientists and asked them to rate the two categories of people in terms of objectivity, rationality, integrity, open-mindedness, intelligence and cooperativeness.

Both groups rated scientists higher on every one of these measures, yet scientists perceived bigger differences between the two groups than laypeople did. “That surprised us,” says psychologist Coosje Veldkamp, the study's lead author. “We expected scientists to have a more realistic picture, but they see a larger difference,” she says. (Some of these perceptions may be accurate, of course, but other research would be needed to determine that.)

The scientists' positive self-ratings may be partly explained by the human tendency to judge members of groups we belong to more favorably than others. Further investigation showed that established scientists judged their established peers more positively than those at earlier career stages, and female scientists rated researchers of their own gender more highly. “People who identify more strongly with their group display more in-group bias,” Veldkamp explains. “Women are still a minority in science, and minority-group members have been found to identify more strongly with their group.”

Read the rest

The strange, mutating story of "willpower" and what we think it might be as of right now

"Willpower" began as an element of philosophical/theological arguments, used to explain riddles like how humans could commit sin even though they were created by a perfect, all-powerful god -- but it took on new meanings through the Enlightenment and then the Victorians imbued it with mystical, all-important significance, as a kind of synonym for morality and goodness. Read the rest

Why walking through a door makes you forget things

Why do people forget what they were going to do when they walk into a room? This video explains the "location updating effect," and how you can work it to your advantage. Read the rest

Why are so many cartoon characters yellow?

The Simpsons, SpongeBob Squarepants, Minions, Pikachu are yellow. So are many, many other popular cartoon characters. Why? The answer lies at the intersection of psychology, color theory, and, of course, aesthetics. (ChannelFrederator)

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Facebook use is a predictor of depression

A pair of social scientists from UCSD and Yale conducted an NIH study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on the link between Facebook use and mental health, drawing on data from the Gallup Panel Social Network Study combined with "objective measures of Facebook use" and self-reported data for 5,208 subjects, and concluded that increased Facebook use is causally linked with depression. Read the rest

How to complain better

The School of Life advises on "how the act of complaining can go better or worse, depending on our our approach." Guess what: Live fury doesn't tend to work. Neither does cold fury. Mature complaint is the goal but, well, easier explained than done, at least for me. (via Laughing Squid)

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How sound is used to make you remember brands

From the THX sound to Windows startup chimes, audio is a key weapon in the psychological branding arsenal. In this video from Wired, Andrew Stafford (Co-Founder & Director at Big Sync Music) and Steve Milton (Founding Partner at Listen) provide commentary on some of the most famous.

There was a time, Stafford says, when the Nokia ringtone was being played 20,000 times a second. [via MeFi]

Encore: the story behind Sosumi, the most annoying Mac sound. Read the rest

Video of 67 people paid to jump from a 33-feet diving tower for the first time

"Would you jump? Or would you chicken out?" That's the question asked of 67 different people who were asked to jump off a 10-meter diving tower into a pool. None of them had done it before, and it took most people a while to work up the nerve. I could do it, as long as someone push me off while I wasn't looking.

From the NYTimes:

"Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt...Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate."

Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high. We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping.

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Dan Ariely: The Corruption Experiment

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, set up an experiment to measure dishonesty using a coin and a six-sided die. Conclusion: "if the person running the system is telling us corruption or dishonesty is allowed, our understanding of what is acceptable changes instantly." Read the rest

How LSD microdosing made a mega difference in one woman's mood, marriage, and life

Ayelet Waldman is a novelist, non fiction author, and former federal public defender. Her latest book is called A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. I interviewed her this morning.

Why did you start microdosing?

I started microdosing because I was profoundly and dangerously depressed. I have a mood disorder and for many, many years my medication worked great. I took it, I did what my doctor told me and everything was fine. But at some point my medication stopped working. I tried all sorts of different things. And nothing helped. I was getting worse and worse and more and more full of despair and more and more full of rage and more and more unstable and I became suicidal. I started doing things like googling the effects of maternal suicide on children and I was so terrified that I was going to do something to myself, that I was going to hurt myself, that I decided to do something drastic and something that some people might think is crazy -- I decided to try microdosing with L.S.D.

Did it work?

Oh absolutely. It worked for sure. It's sub-perceptual. In fact, if I told you right now, "Hey Mark, I slipped a microdose of LSD. in your coffee," you wouldn't even know the difference. The effect for me was instantaneous. My depression lifted right away. The book is called A Really Good Day because at the end of that very first day, I looked back and I thought, "that was a really good day." It wasn't like everything was perfect. Read the rest

Why Trump brings clapping, laughing sycophants to his press events and appearances

The press reported cheering at Donald's press conference and at his address at the CIA memorial, and it turned out to be his staffers, an entourage of fawning sycophants paid to clap. It's funny, at first. Then you realize that it's a grotesque headgame that is only going to get worse. Read the rest

Can you "hear" flashes of light? Do you have synesthesia? Take a test.

Can you "hear" motion or light flashes? If so, according to new research from City University London, you may be experiencing a not-so-rare form of synaesthesia. Synesthesia is the fascinating neurological phenomenon whereby stimulation of one sense involuntarily triggers another sensory pathway. For example, a synesthete might taste sounds or hear colors. (In this study, 8 out of 40 participants, a very high percentage, were considered to have hearing-motion synaesthesia.) Here is their test for you to take yourself. From The Guardian:

(This new study) suggests that many more of us experience a less intrusive version of (synesthesia) in which visual movements or flashes are accompanied by an internal soundtrack of hums, buzzes or swooshes. Since movements are very frequently accompanied by sounds in everyday life, the effect is likely to be barely discernible.

When tested under laboratory conditions, the “hearing motion” effect appeared to enhance a person’s ability to interpret fine visual movements, but also interfered with the ability to hear real sounds when visual and audio signals were mis-matched.

“These internal sounds seem to be perceptually real enough to interfere with the detection of externally-generated sounds,” said Freeman. “The finding that this ‘hearing-motion’ phenomenon seems to be much more prevalent compared to other synaesthesias might occur due to the strength of the natural connection between sound and vision.”

In a separate study, the team tested for the phenomenon in trained musicians and found that it was much more common in the group. It is not clear if this is due to a natural disposition to link sounds and visual cues or whether thousands of hours of training might have strengthened the neural circuitry behind the effect.

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