Using the science of group conflict to understand Trump's campaign


In Five Beliefs That Propel Groups Toward Conflict, published in American Psychologist, a pair of researchers lay out the five beliefs that, when transmitted by leaders to their followers, creates a "group conflict" that propels the group forward. Read the rest

"Power Poses" are bullshit


In 2010, three psychologists published a paper on "power poses", with their finding that people who adopted "power poses" -- think of superheroes on skyscrapers -- felt more powerful and took more risks. Read the rest

Climate denial's internal contradictions spring from a need to defend economic doctrine


A trio of scholars who study the psychology and philosophy of science have written a fantastic paper for Springer's Sythese looking at the way that climate change conspiracy theorists construct their view of the world, and how these conspiracy theories contain self-contradictory theses (like the idea that climate change can't be predicted and the idea that the data shows we're actually headed for an ice-age). Read the rest

Psychology's reproducibility crisis: why statisticians are publicly calling out social scientists


Princeton University psych prof Susan Fiske published an open letter denouncing the practice of using social media to call out statistical errors in psychology research, describing the people who do this as "terrorists" and arguing that this was toxic because of the structure of social science scholarship, having an outsized effect on careers. Read the rest

Using Benjamin Franklin's behavioral economics maxim in magic


When Benjamin Franklin wanted someone to like him, he'd ask that person to do him a favor, because he noticed that people who'd done him a nice turn would rationalize this by assuming that they'd done so because they liked him, and so they'd continue to do him other favors in the future based on that affection. Read the rest

"Anger Release Machine": a coin-op for shattering fine breakables


In 2008, the Swiss/Danish design team Yarisal & Kublitz created their "Anger Release Machine," a vending machine stocked with "crystal glasses, plates, porcelain, various items" (the catalog helpfully adds "70 x 77 x 182 cm") -- insert coin, shatter breakables, feel better. Read the rest

Bad trips may be good for you

A "bad trip" on psychedelic mushrooms may lead to "enduring increases in well-being," according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Neuroscientist Roland Griffiths and colleagues surveyed nearly 2,000 adults about their psilocybin experiences. Those who experienced bad trips had taken, on average, a powerful dose of 4 grams. From Psypost:

A majority of the participants — 62 percent — said their bad trip was among the top 10 most psychologically difficult situations of their lives. Eleven percent said it was their number one most difficult experience.

But 34 percent of participants said the bad trip was among the top five most personally meaningful experiences of their life and 31 percent said it was the among the top five most spiritually significant. And 76 percent said the bad trip had resulted in an improved sense of personal well-being or life satisfaction. Forty-six percent said they would be willing to experience the bad trip all over again.

"Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences" (Journal of Psychopharmacology) Read the rest

Psychobook – psych tests used throughout the centuries


Psychobook: Games, Tests, Questionnaires, Histories by Julian Rothenstein (editor) Princeton Architectural Press 2016, 192 pages, 8.9 x 12.1 x 0.9 inches (hardcover) $40 Buy a copy on Amazon

I am not afraid of toads. I do not like to see men in their pajamas. Someone has been trying to get into my car. I think I would like the work of a librarian. I do not always tell the truth.

The above statements are examples of what could appear on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a “psychometric test” in which psychology patients must answer with only a “yes,” “no,” “true,” “false,” or “cannot say.” There is no place on the test to expand or explain your answers. The results of the exam help determine whether a test-taker is “normal” or “deviant.” This test has been helping to sort out the “crazies” from the “normals” since 1943, and yes, according to Psychobook, it’s still being used by some doctors today!

Psychobook, just released today, is a fun, fascinating, image-heavy book that looks at all kinds of ridiculous psych tests used throughout the centuries (some cancelled long ago, others still quacking along). Read about mental test kits such as: Lowenfeld Mosaic tests (make a design with colorful geometric toy pieces to see how carefree, thoughtful or anxious you are); the Szondi Test (see how your mind works by looking at portraits of men and guessing whether they’re homosexual, a psychopath, a maniac, or some other such type); Pictorial Completion Test (find out if your kid has delinquent tendencies by having them fill in a drawing with objects that are missing from the scene), and dozens more. Read the rest

How to behave in an elevator

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.

Read the rest

Circuitry found linking cerebral cortex to body's stress response


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


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.

Read the rest

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


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


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


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.

Read the rest

Watch a fantastic documentary about psych pioneer Roky Erickson


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.

Read the rest

Watch: movie directors using color to mess with your mind


"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

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