Psychological asymmetry - why we feel lonley and odd

This new video from the School of Life present the concept of psychological asymmetry, and why we aren't as odd or special as we might think.

The solutions to psychological asymmetry lie in two places -- art and love art provides us with accurate portrayals of the inner lives of strangers, and with grace and compelling charm shows us how much they share in troubles and hopes we thought we might be alone in experiencing. And love gives us an occasional deeply precious sense of security to reveal who we really are to another person and the opportunity to learn about their reality from a position of extreme secure proximity. To overcome the effects of psychological asymmetry we must constantly trust, especially in the absence of any evidence, that everyone is likely to be far closer to what we are -- that is, far shyer more scared more worried and more incomplete than they are to resemble the personas they show to the world.

Read the rest

Trump and the psychology of doom and gloom

Even if people are content with their own lives, their "a collectively shared sense of doom and gloom about society" is a major influence on their "decisions about divisive societal issues, such as voting for extremist parties" and Trump, according to psychological research from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. From Scientific American:

Commentators have argued that people voted for Trump because of economic anxiety, negative attitudes toward immigration, religion and race, and “a class rebellion against educated elitists.” While many of these insights may contribute to an explanation, they do not reveal the whole story. For instance, the popular belief that Trump’s voters were mainly working class turns out to be inaccurate.

Instead, new psychological research suggests that it is not necessarily citizens’ personal (dis)content with their lives that matters as much as the perceived Zeitgeist of our time: a powerful shared feeling that society is taking a turn for the worse...

Recent research has found a way to capture, at least in part, the “spirit of the time.” We proposed that while Zeitgeist was originally a concept used by philosophers, it essentially describes a psychological experience. As such, in its broadest sense, the Zeitgeist can be defined as a collection of shared values, attitudes, norms, and ideas that exist within a society at a certain time. Measuring such a general phenomenon is difficult, but we found a way to capture the one aspect we were specifically interested in: our collectively shared awareness about the state of society, which currently is characterized by a sense of doom and gloom.

Read the rest

People buy products with faces to stop from feeling so lonely

People prefer products that have faces on the packaging, especially when they are lonely, according to a study published online this month in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

From University of Oregon:

This finding, published online this month in the European Journal of Social Psychology, is rooted in people’s fundamental need to belong and their desire to form and sustain relationships. When humans lack these social connections, they often attempt to fill the void in other ways, including through their purchasing habits.

“Previous research linked our need for social connection with consumer behavior and judgment, but very little was understood about the role that visuals play in social connection and brand likability,” [Prof. Dr. Ulrich] Orth explained. “Our study builds on prior research by demonstrating that seeing a face in a brand visual increases a consumer’s liking of the brand, especially if they feel lonely.”

To be effective, the face on the label does not need to be as obvious as the one smiling back at [University of Oregon professor Bettina] Cornwell from the bag of potato chips in the hotel gift shop. Consumers often imagine humanlike characteristics in nonhuman visuals, a process also known as anthropomorphism. Orth explains that loneliness can enhance people’s tendency to exhibit this kind of “wishful seeing” and is most apparent in the case of faces.

“A lack of interpersonal relationships motivates people to actively search for sources of connection,” Cornwell said. “Individuals who are lonely are more likely to find faces in visuals because they so greatly desire this social connection.”

Image: Kevin Harber/Flickr Read the rest

Great deal on book about cognitive biases: You Are Not So Smart -- $2 Kindle edition

If you like David McRaney's You Are Not So Smart podcast, which explores human psychology in all its quirkiness, I think you'll enjoy his book, You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself.

You believe you are a rational, logical being who sees the world as it really is, but journalist David McRaney is here to tell you that you're as deluded as the rest of us. But that's OK- delusions keep us sane. You Are Not So Smart is a celebration of self-delusion. It's like a psychology class, with all the boring parts taken out, and with no homework.

Based on the popular blog of the same name, You Are Not So Smart collects more than 46 of the lies we tell ourselves everyday, including:

Dunbar's Number - Humans evolved to live in bands of roughly 150 individuals, the brain cannot handle more than that number. If you have more than 150 Facebook friends, they are surely not all real friends.

Hindsight bias - When we learn something new, we reassure ourselves that we knew it all along.

Confirmation bias - Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions.

Brand loyalty - We reach for the same brand not because we trust its quality but because we want to reassure ourselves that we made a smart choice the last time we bought it.

Read the rest

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" 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)

Read the rest

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)

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

More posts