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)

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-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

After we make peace with robots doing all the work, will our lives have meaning?

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Philosopher John Danaher's new paper "Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life" assumes that after the robots take all our jobs, and after the economic justice of figuring out how to share the productivity games can be equitably shared among the robot-owning investor class and the robot-displaced 99%, there will still be a burning question: what will give our life meaning? Read the rest

Heatmaps of the human body in varying emotional states

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Disappointingly, these heatmaps of human bodies whose owners are experiencing various emotional states were not produced with infrared cameras, but rather with self-reporting by subjects being asked to say where they were experiencing more and less sensation while watching videos and seeing words intended to trigger those emotions. Read the rest

The truth about writer's block

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Studies have found writer's block to be a simpler problem—unhappiness—than the legends around it suggest. But there are different kinds of unhappiness, and it's the blockee's job to be honest about which one they're suffering from.

The first, more anxious group felt unmotivated because of excessive self-criticism—nothing they produced was good enough—even though their imaginative capacity remained relatively unimpaired. (That’s not to say that their imaginations were unaffected: although they could still generate images, they tended to ruminate, replaying scenes over and over, unable to move on to something new.) The second, more socially hostile group was unmotivated because they didn’t want their work compared to the work of others. (Not everyone was afraid of criticism; some writers said that they didn’t want to be “object[s] of envy.”) Although their daydreaming capacity was largely intact, they tended to use it to imagine future interactions with others. The third, apathetic group seemed the most creatively blocked. They couldn’t daydream; they lacked originality; and they felt that the “rules” they were subjected to were too constrictive. Their motivation was also all but nonexistent. Finally, the fourth, angry and disappointed group tended to look for external motivation; they were driven by the need for attention and extrinsic reward. They were, Barrios and Singer found, more narcissistic—and that narcissism shaped their work as writers. They didn’t want to share their mental imagery, preferring that it stay private.

I bet group 1 (self-critics) account for most, though. Turn off your inner editor—and if necessary, move to a medium (longhand, typewriter) that deprives you of editorial tools Read the rest

Study: people who believe in innate intelligence overestimate their own

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In Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment, an open access paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psych researchers from Washington State U, Florida State U and Stanford report on their ingenious experiments to investigate how subjects' beliefs about intelligence affect their own intelligence. Read the rest

How to spot and avoid the "No True Scotsman" fallacy

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When your identity becomes intertwined with your definitions, you can easily fall victim to something called The No True Scotsman Fallacy.

It often appears during a dilemma: What do you do when a member of a group to which you belong acts in a way that you feel is in opposition to your values? Do you denounce the group, or do you redefine the boundaries of membership?

In this episode, you will learn from three experts in logic and argumentation how to identify, defend against, and avoid deploying this strange thinking quirk that leads to schisms and stasis in groups both big and small.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the third in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is brought to you by Trunk Club. Like Netflix for clothes, a professional stylist helps you define your new look, and then your new clothes arrive at your doorstep in a special trunk. Keep what you want, return the rest. Get started today and Trunk Club will style you for FREE. Plus FREE SHIPPING both ways! Click here for this special offer.

This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses Plus. Get unlimited access to a huge library of The Great Courses lecture series on many fascinating subjects. Start FOR FREE with The Fundamentals of Photography filmed in partnership with The National Geographic and taught by professional photographer Joel Sartore. Read the rest

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