How to behave in an elevator

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Psychologist Lane Longfellow is the go-to expert on how people behave in elevators. After years of research, Longfellow came up with a simple guide to "How to Behave in an Elevator," including suggestions like "face forward," "watch the numbers," and "stop talking with anyone you do know when anyone enters the elevator." While learning about Longfellow, Alex at Weird Universe compiled a collection of fascinating nuggets from ongoing research in this area:

• Studies of elevator body placement show a standard pattern. Normally the first person on grabs the corner by the buttons or a corner in the rear. The next passenger takes a catercorner position. Then the remaining corners are seized, and next the mid-rear-wall and the center of the car. Then packing becomes indiscriminate.

• "When the sixth person gets on you can watch the shuffle start," says Longfellow. "People don't quite know what to do with the sixth person. Then another set of rules comes into play governing body contact."

• In an uncrowded elevator, men stand with hands folded in front or women will hold their purses in front. That's called the Fig Leaf Position. Longfellow says, "As it gets more crowded you can see hands unfold and come down to the sides, because if you have your hands folded in front of you in a really crowded elevator, there's no telling where your knuckles might end up. So out of respect for the privacy of other people you unfold them and put them at your side."

• High-status individuals are given more space.

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Circuitry found linking cerebral cortex to body's stress response

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Our autonomic nervous system influences internal organs and governs key functions such as heart rate, digestion, and temperature regulation. Psychosomatic diseases are those without clear physical basis, and are presumed to have a mental component. They are often viewed with suspicion by modern medicine because a neural link between brain areas of cognitive function and the autonomic nervous system has been lacking. Until now.

In a paper appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dum et al. have identified a neural network linking the adrenal medulla to areas of the cerebral cortex in monkeys. These cortical areas are involved in motion planning and control, cognitive function, and emotional regulation. The authors believe this circuitry can provide top-down control of the adrenal gland's release of stress hormone which govern "fight or flight" responses. They state that:

Taken together, these findings raise the possibility that the areas of the cerebral cortex that influence the adrenal medulla also are key cortical nodes of a “stress and depression connectome.”

An approachable summary of this work can be found here. Read the rest

Police officer swallowed 40 knives because he "felt like eating" them

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In Amritsar, India, surgeons removed 40 knives from a police officer complaining of stomach pain.

"Patient's ultrasound revealed a growth in his stomach," Dr. Jatinder Malhotra, managing director of The Corporate Hospital, told the Times of India. "To confirm the diagnosis, an endoscopy was done which showed a few metallic knives inside the stomach. After that a CT Scan of the abdomen was done, which showed multiple knives inside the stomach."

During the last two months, said the 40-year-old patient, "I felt like eating knives and ate them."

The surgery took five hours and the patient is expected to make a full recovery. The news report references that he has a "psychological problem" but does not specify if it is pica, a disorder in which an individual is compelled to eat material that isn't food, such as paper, hair, or rocks.

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Take this test to find out if you are a "super recognizer" of faces

Image: Paulo Philippidis/Flickr

Josh P. Davis, a psychology professor at the University of Greenwich estimates the 1% of the population are "super-recognizers" of faces.

From Science Alert:

In 2009, a team of neuroscientists from Harvard did one of the first studies of super-recognisers. In it, they looked at just four people who claimed to have an unusually good ability to recognise faces.

All four subjects told the researchers about instances when they'd recognised practical strangers: family members they hadn't seen for decades or actors they'd glimpsed once in an ad and then seen again in a movie. They felt like there was something wrong with them.

One of the people in the study told the researchers that she tried to hide her ability and "pretend that I don't remember [people] ... because it seems like I stalk them, or that they mean more to me than they d.".

I've always felt that I'm sometimes a super-recognizer and sometimes nearly face blind. I just took the five-minute online test. I scored 11 out of 14. My results said, "If you scored above 10 you may be a super recogniser, but you would need to do more tests to find this out." Read the rest

The Creative Architect – An iconic '50s creativity study finally comes to light in book form

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

In 1958 and '59, an unprecedented study was conducted by the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California, Berkeley. The idea was to apply the latest psychological tests on the world’s most famous and accomplished architects to try and determine what makes them so creative and successful. In studying them, could some magical key to creativity be discovered?

Astoundingly, some 40 major architects volunteered, including Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Louis Kahn, and A. Quincy Jones. The group spent three days being subjected to a battery of tests, sitting for interviews, even evaluating the creative and design prowess of each other. While the idea was to publish the results of the tests at the time, besides some news and fluff pieces about the study, and some superficial conclusions about the nature of the creative impulse that drove these design superstars, the full results of the study have remained unpublished until this impressive new release from Monacelli Press.

The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study is a lovely and thought-provoking time-capsule of a book. Through its numerous black and white photos and reprints of the research materials, correspondences between the subjects of the study and the psychologists, and news clippings of the day, the book paints a surprisingly evocative picture of this unique study and the era in which it was conducted. Reading the test results, in the architects’ own hands, and the evaluations of the researchers, is fascinating. Read the rest

Scientist uses magic (and psychology) to implant thoughts and read minds

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In a new scientific study, McGill University researcher Jay Olson combined stage magic with psychology to make people think that an fMRI machine (actually a fake) could read their minds and implant thoughts in their heads. Essentially, Olson and his colleagues used "mentalist" gimmicks to do the ESP and "thought insertion" but convinced the subjects that it was real neuroscience at work. The research could someday help psychologists study and understand why some individuals with mental health problems think they are being controlled by external forces. Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell blogged about Olson's research for the British Psychological Society. From Vaughan's post:

(The subjects) reported a range of anomalous effects when they thought numbers were being "inserted" into their minds: A number “popped in” my head, reported one participant. Others described “a voice … dragging me from the number that already exists in my mind”, feeling “some kind of force”, feeling “drawn” to a number, or the sensation of their brain getting “stuck” on one number. All a striking testament to the power of suggestion.

A common finding in psychology is that people can be unaware of what influences their choices. In other words, people can feel control without having it. Here, by using the combined powers of stage magic and a sciency-sounding back story, Olson and his fellow researchers showed the opposite – that people can have control without feeling it.

"Using a cocktail of magic and fMRI, psychologists implanted thoughts in people's minds" (BPS)

"Simulated thought insertion: Influencing the sense of agency using deception and magic" (Consciousness and Cognition)

Illustration by Rob Beschizza Read the rest

In Japan, you can rent your friends

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For around US$115 for two hours, you can rent a friend via Tokyo company Client Partners. (No, this isn't code for prostitution.) From Chris Colin's article in The Week:

As we nibble at pork with ginger, (rent-a-friend) Yumi cheerfully tells me about the gigs she has had since joining Client Partners. (The six-year-old agency is the largest of its kind in Japan, with eight branches across Tokyo and another that recently opened in Osaka.) There was the mystery writer who wanted her to read the novel he'd toiled away at for 10 years. Another man needed someone to talk with about his aging parents — not in person, but via months of emails. Like Miyabi, Yumi works weddings. For one, she was hired to play the sister of the bride — a real, living woman who was in a family feud that precluded her actual attendance. The mother of the bride was also a rental. The two impostors got along swimmingly.

Yumi explains that these are just the more theatrical gigs. The bulk of her clients? They just want basic, uncomplicated companionship. From Yumi's vantage point, the breadth and depth of that need says something profound about her country.

There's a word in Japanese, gaman, that translates roughly as "stoic forbearance in the face of the unbearable." It's a deep-seated Japanese value, this idea that you suck it up no matter what. A lot has been happening lately. Anxiety and depression spiked after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The country itself is shrinking, its population plummeting and aging rapidly.

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Watch a fantastic documentary about psych pioneer Roky Erickson

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Roky Erickson is the founder of pioneering Texan psychedelic band the 13th Floor Elevators, an outfit that emerged in mid-1960s from Austin's underground scene and influenced bands ranging from ZZ Top and Primal Scream to The Flaming Lips and Queens of the Stone Age.

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Watch: movie directors using color to mess with your mind

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"Color Psychology" by Lilly Mtz-Seara (Vimeo)

-MUSIC- Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons "Summer" III.Presto

-LIST OF FILMS- Maleficent (2014), Robert Stromberg My Girl (1991), Howard Zieff Boyhood (2014), Richard Linklater Marie Antoinette (2006), Sofia Coppola Grease (1978), Randal Kleiser The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Wes Anderson Chicago (2002), Rob Marshall Mean Girls (2004), Mark Waters Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Christopher Landon The Wolf of Wall Street (2011), Martin Scorsese Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), David Yates Jennifer’s body (2009), Karyn Kusama Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), David Yates Moulin Rouge! (2001), Baz Luhrmann Belly (1998), Hype Williams Spring breakers (2012), Harmony Korine Legally Blonde (2001), Robert Luketic Whiplash (2014), Damien Chazelle Big Eyes (2014), Tim Burton Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), George Miller Only God forgives (2013), Nicolas Winding Refn Hard Candy (2005), David Slade The shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick The Aviator (2004), Martin Scorsese 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick Alice in Wonderland (2010), Tim Burton Fifty shades of Grey (2014), Sam Taylor-Johnson Inglourious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino/Eli Roth American Beauty (1999), Sam Mendes Upstream color (2013), Shane Carruth Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Matt Reeves The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Wes Anderson The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Wes Anderson Born to be wild (2011), David Lickley Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Wes Anderson Skyfall (2012), Sam Mendes Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola The Martian (2015), Ridley Scott Pan (2015), Joe Wright The Virgin Suicides (1999), Sofia Coppola Ruby Sparks (2012), Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), Alejandro G. Read the rest

"Gang stalking" victims who believe they are targets of mind control

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Last year, the Richmond, California city council passed a ban on space-based weapons that are secretly causing physical and psychological damage against people via "remote transmission." This legislation was driven by a community of people who have banded together to fight the "operatives" they believe are targeting them and ruining their lives with mind-control weapons. Today's New York Times reports on the phenomenon, called "gang stalking" and the people who claim to be "targeted individuals (T.I.s)."

Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, who is co-author of perhaps the only study of gang-stalking, said the community poses a danger that sets it apart from other groups promoting troubling ideas, such as anorexia or suicide. On those topics, the internet abounds with medical information and treatment options.

An internet search for “gang-stalking,” however, turns up page after page of results that regard it as fact. “What’s scary for me is that there are no counter sites that try and convince targeted individuals that they are delusional,” Dr. Sheridan said.

“They end up in a closed ideology echo chamber,” she said.

In instructional tracts online, veteran T.I.s explain the ropes to rookies:

• Do not engage with the voices in your head.

• If your relatives tell you you’re imagining things, they could be in on it.

• “Do not visit a psychiatrist...."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the (T.I.) community is divided over the contours of the conspiracy. Some believe the financial elite is behind it. Others blame aliens, their neighbors, Freemasons or some combination.

The movement’s most prominent voices, however, tend to believe the surveillance is part of a mind-control field test done in preparation for global domination.

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Why we are unaware of how unaware we are

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Each one of us has a relationship with our own ignorance, a dishonest, complicated relationship, and that dishonesty keeps us sane, happy, and willing to get out of bed in the morning.

Part of that ignorance is a blind spot we each possess that obscures both our competence and incompetence.

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In the case of singing, you might get all the way to an audition on X-Factor on national television before someone finally provides you with an accurate appraisal. David Dunning says that the shock that some people feel when Simon Cowell cruelly explains to them that they suck is often the result of living for years in an environment filled with mediocrity enablers. Friends and family, peers and coworkers, they don’t want to be mean or impolite. They encourage you to keep going until you end up in front of millions reeling from your first experience with honest feedback. Read the rest

Magic: Conjurers' audiences are most suspicious of extra effort

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The Jerx (previously) gave an audience at a magic show an app that let them tap when their suspicions were aroused.

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If you could choose to find out your death date, would you?

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Today we travel to a future where everybody knows exactly when they’re going to die. Read the rest

Behavioral economist on why Americans freak out when you attribute their success to luck

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Cornell economist Robert Frank drew the ire of the nation's business press when he published an article that said something most economists would agree with: hard work and skill aren't enough (or even necessary) to succeed; but luck is. Rather than back down from the angry reception, he's expanded the article into a book, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy, which came out last month. Read the rest

Listen: thought experiments about who or what has a mind

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Rick Kleffel sends us his latest podcast (MP3), "A conversation with one of the authors of a wonderful and strange book; science-fiction thought experiments ('robot versus baby') informed by social psychology experiments of fascinating design, part ethics, philosophy, neuroscience, the minds of god and the dead and machines... authentically mind-boggling. And Fun!" Read the rest

How to: apologize

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In An Exploration of the Structure of Effective Apologies , written by business school academics from Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky U and published in Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, the authors report on two studies that trace the reactions of 755 subjects to apologies based and report on the six factors most likely to assuage a wounded party. Read the rest

People who feel out of control of their lives are more likely to believe in conspiracies

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Like you, I know some people who are really hampered by an irrational belief that the people around them are judging them; I've long thought that these beliefs were linked to a sense that their lives were out of their control, and that this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- the more paranoid compulsions they expressed, the more their lives were made worse. Read the rest

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