Guess what -- Boing Boing has added a new show to its line-up of terrific podcasts! It's called You Are Not So Smart and it's hosted by David McRaney, a journalist and self-described psychology nerd. He's the author of the books You Are Not So Smart and You Are Now Less Dumb. David runs the You Are Not So Smart website, a blog about about the psychology of self delusion. In each episode, David explores cognitive biases and delusions, and is often joined by a guest expert. David concludes each episode by eating a delicious cookie. Enjoy! -- Mark
In this episode we discuss the how video games can help us understand our delusions and speak with Jamie Madigan, the curator of psychologyofgames.com. Also, at the end, we eat a white chocolate oatmeal cookie and discuss a misconception about poverty.
For the last couple of years, each train line on the London Underground has been given its own voice. Ed Jefferson analyzed the lines' tweets to assign Kiersey/Myers-Briggs psychological temperaments to each. [via MeFi]
You might think that Waterloo & City Line couldn’t even have a Myers-Briggs Type, being a tunnel in London with some trains in it, but you’d be wrong. Whilst the normal way to establish a Myers-Briggs Type is get someone to fill in a questionnaire, it’s apparently possible to use a sample of text to analyse the personality of the author. And while the Waterloo & City Line didn’t have much to say for most of its 115 year history, for the last couple of years, it, and all the other London Underground lines, have been tweeting. So I use samples of tweets to discover what kinds of personalities they have.
I just took the test (an enneagram-style sorting hat of dubious scientific rigor) and join the Waterloo & City Line in being an ESFP.
Regardless of type, of course, the Northern Line (ESTJ) is a complete arsehole on Friday nights. One interesting takeaway: the results suggest that two or three individual writers are handling all the lines.
The Uncanny Valley is that point where something designed to look human gets too close to success, and ends up accidentally reminding us of the many, many ways that it also looks totally alien. The result: A one-way ticket to Creepoutsville.
Or, anyway, that's the hypothesis. See, despite the fact that we've long treated it as a given, the Uncanny Valley isn't a proven concept. In fact, writes Rose Eveleth at The BBC, the original 1970 paper that described the Uncanny Valley wasn't really based on research at all. It was more of an essay. An essay that nobody much questioned for 30 years. Since 2000, there's been some actual research on the subject, and the results are very mixed. Some studies can find evidence of the Uncanny Valley. In others, though, it appears to not exist at all.
There's a theory that seeing something over and over and over will increase your acceptance of that thing. Applied to art, the idea suggests that what we think of as "good art" is actually just the stuff that we've seen a bunch of times. Which is sort of depressing. But here's some good news: There's evidence that this theory isn't true (at least, not always). A recent study found that people exposed to Thomas Kinkade paintings liked his work less and less the more often they saw it. — Maggie
A domesticated ferret has more in common with a domesticated dog, behavior wise, than with its own wild cousins. At The Thoughtful Animal, Jason Goldman writes about research that shows how domestication changes animals' social cognitive skill set, leading to creatures that are more likely to respond to very human social cues like eye contact and pointing. — Maggie
[Video Link] Professor Daniel H. Cohen, a philosopher who specializes in argumentation theory, argues that the loser in an argument is often the real winner.
He explains, “Suppose you and I have an argument. You believe a proposition, P, and I don’t. I’ve objected, I’ve questioned, I’ve raised all sorts of counter-considerations, and in every case you’ve responded to my satisfaction. At the end of the day, I say, ‘You know what? I guess you’re right.’ So I have a new belief. And it’s not just any belief, but it’s a well-articulated, examined and battle-tested belief. Cohen continues, “So who won that argument? Well, the war metaphor seems to force us into saying you won, even though I’m the only one who made any cognitive gain. What did you gain cognitively from convincing me? Sure, you got some pleasure out of it, your ego stroked, maybe you get some professional status in the field but just from a cognitive point of view who was the winner?
Moheb Costandi has written two amazing profiles on psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, a researcher who has challenged the way we rely on memory in the courtroom and fought against attempts to legitimize "recovered" memories. Hugely controversial — she's received death threats from people who blame her for setting criminals free — Loftus' story isn't purely about science vs. emotion. In fact, Costandi writes, in her efforts make our concept of memory more evidence based, Loftus might be glossing over the rare and the weird-but-real. — Maggie
Quora asks "What does it feel like to have schizophrenia?" The answers are, by turns, haunting, heartbreaking, and thoroughly engrossing. They also provide a really unique opportunity to better understand how the human brain operates, and what happens when it turns in on itself. Definitely worth reading. — Maggie
Human emotions and social interaction have a lot to do with body language — how our faces express what we're thinking and feeling, how our gestures are read by other people, and how we invade (or retreat from) each other's personal space. In fact, those movements and behaviors are so important that, if you map them onto an otherwise completely non-human, non-animal form, we'll start interpreting it as engaging with us — even if that form is nothing more than a moving stick.
This video, clips from a study that was published in 2011 by computer scientists at the University of Calgary, shows what test subjects did and said when they were left alone in a room with a stick-like robot, and asked to just think out loud and interact with the robot in whatever ways felt natural. Some people made friends. Others tried to fight it. And a few tried to talk it out of wanting to fight them.
The "close-door" button in the elevator, the crosswalk button at the intersection, even the thermostat in your office — there's a good chance that they're all placebos. Over the last 20 years or so, many (though, weirdly, not all) of these buttons have become technically useless, but are left in place both because it's expensive to replace existing equipment and because, psychologically, they still serve a purpose. — Maggie
"Baader-Meinhof phenomenon": That's the colloquial name for a funny thing that happens when your brain collides with popular culture. You know how sometimes you'll hear about something for the first time — a new ukelele duo, perhaps, or a scientist whose work you weren't previously familiar with, or some obscure underground subculture ... Boing Boing is full of opportunities for the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon to kick in — and then, suddenly, that new-to-you thing seems to be everywhere? That's what we're talking about. Scientists call it the frequency illusion and Pacific Standard magazine helpfully explains how it works. — Maggie
[Video Link] Here's the trailer for David McRaney's upcoming book about the psychology of self-delusion, You Are Now Less Dumb. It's the follow-up to David's delightful 2011 book, You Are Not So Smart. (David is a guest on the Gweek 106 podcast, which will run August 7.)
My newest column for The New York Times Magazine is about the risks associated with boredom on long-distance space journeys, like the one astronauts might someday take to Mars. It's hard to imagine being bored in that scenario, but many experts think boredom is one of the key issues we need to address in order to make a mission like that succeed.
That's because, unlike on the ISS, astronauts traveling to Mars won't have constant contact with mission control or their families. They won't have virtual visits from celebrities to look forward to, and they'll be lacking the mesmerizing views of their home planet that keep current astronauts remarkably entertained. Particularly after the halfway point in a journey, and on the way home from Mars, researchers worry that the mundane reality of life on a spaceship could push some astronauts into a state of chronic boredom — a situation that's associated with symptoms of depression and attention deficit disorders. Neither of which you really want to experience in a place where small mistakes or overlooked responsibilities could lead to catastrophe.
So how will we deal with boredom in space? There are several cool strategies that didn't make it into the final New York Times piece and I thought you all might be particularly interested in one proposed by Sheryl Bishop, who studies human performance in extreme environments at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She thinks games will have an important role to play in keeping astronauts sharp and alert on long missions.