Never Say Die: Why We Can't Imagine Death. Why do we wonder where our mind goes when the body is dead? Shouldn’t it be obvious that the mind is dead, too? Examining self-consciousness and mortality.
Of Jock Straps and Conspiracy Theories. A new study looks at how lacking control increases the tendency for magical thinking and illusory pattern perception. [Via]
Psychology Group Changes Policy on Interrogations. The American Psychological Association has adopted a measure prohibiting its members from participating in interrogations of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons where detainees have been tortured (previously). [Via Paper Chase]
A Short Course In Behavioral Economics, an "Edge Master Class" from Richard Thaler and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. [more inside]
Who you are is what you listen to: Prof. Adrian North of Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University recently published results of what the Beeb calls "the largest study of its kind" linking music listening habits to personality characteristics. His breakthrough conclusions? Heavy metal listeners, contrary to public perception, are not a "suicidally depressed" or a "danger to themselves and society in general. But they are quite delicate things." [more inside]
More good stuff for people who like visual ("optical") illusions (previously): A nice Scientific American article, a particularly creepy illusion, and a link to the "Best visual illusion of the year" contest. Given that the eye/mind/brain is so easy to trick, a person might wonder what's really out there in the world.
Cleaning hotel rooms is a strenuous business. However, when Alia Crum and Ellen Langer talked to 84 maids, most were under the impression that they did not get enough exercise. Furthermore, when they were measured for tests such as BMI and blood pressure, their results were typical of couch potatoes. The researchers let half the group in on the knowledge that they were getting more than enough of a daily workout and kept the rest in the dark. After a month results showed the former group were healthier on every single one of the objective health measurements tested - despite claiming to have been doing no more exercise or to have changed their diet. The study raises the possibility that mindset alone can influence our metabolism. Christopher Shea in the New York Times and Ben Goldacre in The Guardian have articles discussing the original paper.
David Brooks, Social Psychologist, Mark Liberman at Language Log looks at the science behind David Brook's latest column in which he claims there is a fundamental differences between the thought processes of individuals in Asian "collectivist" societies and Western "individualist" ones. (via)
A New State of Mind. "New research is linking dopamine to complex social phenomena and changing neuroscience in the process."
Science Hack is a unique search engine for science videos focusing on Physics, Chemistry, and Space. For example, things to do with sulfur hexafluoride. Still growing, the editors are presently indexing other scientific fields of study including Geology, Psychology, Robotics and Computers. Ever wonder why things go bang?
Battlemind: Armor for Your Mind is a U.S. Army website designed to help, in part, families deal with deployment, including a series of cartoons and videos intended for children whose parents may be sent to or be returning from warzones. Part of the Army's Behavioral Health program, these give intriguing insight into military culture. [more inside]
According to Ilechukwu, an epidemic of penis theft swept Nigeria between 1975 and 1977. Then there seemed to be a lull until 1990, when the stealing resurged. “Men could be seen in the streets of Lagos holding on to their genitalia either openly or discreetly with their hand in their pockets,” Ilechukwu wrote. “Women were also seen holding on to their breasts directly or discreetly, by crossing the hands across the chest. . . . Vigilance and anticipatory aggression were thought to be good prophylaxes. This led to further breakdown of law and order.” In a typical incident, someone would suddenly yell: Thief! My genitals are gone! Then a culprit would be identified, apprehended, and, often, killed.
Sexual Healing. "Sad stories and otherwise freaky tales from Florida's last sexual surrogate." A longish article, and fascinating.
The Milgram Experiment Today? "Students commonly assume that, even if Milgram’s famous experiment sheds important light on the power of situation today, were his experiment precisely reproduced today, it would not generate comparable results. To oversimplify the argument behind that claim: The power of white lab coats just ain’t what it used to be. Of course, that assertion has been difficult to challenge given that the option of replicating the Milgram experiment has been presumptively unavailable — indeed, it has been the paradigmatic example of why psychology experiments must be reviewed by institutional review boards ('IRBs'). Who would even attempt to challenge that presumption? The answer: Jerry Burger, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University. With some slight modifications, Burger manage to obtain permission to replicate Milgram’s experiment — and the results may surprise you." [Via MindHacks]
Suppose you have a problem with your thinking, your mood, or your relationships. Come in, sit down, and let the internet help. Meet MoodGym and its newer sister site, e-couch. [more inside]
In 1961 Albert Bandura published a study titled "Transmission of Aggression through Imitation of Aggresive Models," better known as the Bobo Doll Experiment, in which young children were shown video of a woman beating up on an inflatable Bobo doll in various ways, the video of the woman and the results is quite interesting/shocking and sums up the general experiment quite nicely if you don't want to do too much reading.
FaceStat, a new startup from crowdsourcing consultants at Delores Labs bills itself as "market research for the individual." You upload a photo of yourself, and "within a couple hours, you will have detailed statistics about how people feel about the picture you provide." Oh, and it's powered by creepers like you, using Amazon's Mechanical Turk (previously posted about here). [more inside]
Of forty participants in Milgram's first experiment on obedience to authority, fifteen refused to continue at some point. An insight into the thoughts of one man who refused to obey Milgram's immoral orders.
Blue, green and grey must have a calming effect. Elsewhere, discussions can be...ignited. Flame Warriors. via
Are you batshitinsane? Viruses and/or bacteria may be the cause.
The Monty Hall Problem has struck again, and this time it’s not merely embarrassing mathematicians. If the calculations of a Yale economist are correct, there’s a sneaky logical fallacy in some of the most famous experiments in psychology." The NY Times' John Tierney reports on new research into cognitive dissonance as examined through the famous Monty Hall Problem. [A previous MetaFilter thread about the Monty Hall Problem: Let's Make A Deal!]
In 1975 a young divorced mother named "Gloria" volunteers, in an attempt to find some answers to the problems in her life, to be videotaped being a client to three rather new psychotherapies: Person-Centered Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and Gestalt Therapy. Not only is she filmed participating in each therapy, she receiving the therapies from the respective founders of each therapy, Carl Rogers (Part 1, sadly it's cut short), Fritz Perls (Part 2), and Albert Ellis (Part 3). They all take the time before each therapy to explain their methods and there beliefs and how the therapy will go.
Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis. Psychology Professor Benny Shannon speculates that Moses may have been tripping when he saw God on Mount Sinai. [Via Mind Hacks.]
Encephalon: Briefing the Next US President on 24 Neuroscience and Psychology Issues. Encephalon, the neuroscience blog carnival has returned after a brief hiatus and is being hosted at Sharp Brains. [Via Mind Hacks, which will host the next edition.]
Are you a Type A personality or Type B personality? There are lots of tests online to find out. Type A and B personality descriptions always remind me of the supposed left brain / right brain differences, but according to the Wiki, the differences between right and left brain are not so simple.
Citing the organization's "sharp shift in values and direction," Ken Pope, prominent member of the American Psychological Association (and a former chair of its Ethics Committee), resigned his membership on February 6. He's the latest of a growing number of professional psychologists who have quit APA in protest of its position on the use of psychologists in government interrogations in the "War on Terror."
Ayahuasca: A Strange Brew. "Can a psychotropic jungle potion cure the existential angst of the McMansion set?" Previously.
"There's no Brad Pitt of smell," Herz says. "Body odor is an external manifestation of the immune system, and the smells we think are attractive come from the people who are most genetically compatible with us." [more inside]
Saddam's Confessions - Given Saddam Hussein's central place in the American Consciousness over the last couple decades and particularly in recent years, I found 60 minutes' interview with FBI interrogator George Piro pretty fascinating.
The Origin of Emotions by Mark Devon “I began thinking about emotions while studying evolutionary theory at Harvard University. Learning that adaptations do not evolve unless they help survival, I reasoned that each emotion must have a purpose that helped survival. If I could identify an emotion’s trigger, I could also identify its purpose." [more inside]
In Praise Of Melancholy. We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia. Does an overemphasis on the pursuit of happiness cause us to miss an essential part of a full life? Via.
"A few years ago a psychologist and a philosopher got into an argument over whether we can accurately describe our thoughts. "Yes," said the psychologist; with training and the help of my special technique, we can accurately describe our thoughts. The philosopher doubted it. To resolve their argument, they recruited a young woman who agreed tell them her thoughts, so that they could argue over whether she was credible." Eric Schwitzgebel and Russ Hurlbert debate the transparency of inner experience. See also Schwitzgebel's extremely interesting blog.
The Moral Instinct. "Evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses. Do we know what to do with them?" [Via The Mahablog.]
237 reasons why humans have sex (PDF). The research paper referenced in David Buss' contribution to The Edge. NYT comment and analysis.
Questioning the banality of evil. "There is a widespread consensus amongst psychologists that tyranny triumphs either because ordinary people blindly follow orders or else because they mindlessly conform to powerful roles. However, recent evidence concerning historical events challenges these views. In particular, studies of the Nazi regime reveal that its functionaries engaged actively and creatively with their tasks. Re-examination of classic social psychological studies points to the same dynamics at work. This article summarises these developments and lays out the case for an updated social psychology of tyranny that explains both the influence of tyrannical leaders and the active contributions of their followers." [Via Mind Hacks.]
Make me a Muslim. The recently aired three episodes show takes a glamour model who wants to experience being completely hidden under a dress ,a skin therapist looking for meaning of life, a taxi driver that strongly feels islam is threatening UK lifestyle, a school teacher who wants to learn, an interracial interreligion couple and a flaming gay hairdresser tired of shallow party life. Take this colourful bunch and have two imams, a preacher and a converted woman lead them through an "islamic lifestyle" experience. You can watch the results here , I guess at least for a while.
A good chuckle about surviving the hellidays: Dysfunctional Family Holidays, the music l an interactive karaoke with several songs l What exactly is a dysfunctional family? l What are the roles for the kids? [more inside]
Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to seven introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University:Astronomy, English, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies: a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video, syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets. [more inside]
Are you an asshole ? Of course you are not ...but what if you look, walk, and quack like an ....asshole ? You may be seen as one ! Fear not, for this King of All AssHoles that goes by the name of Bob Sutton wrote a test for you. He also wrote a book and he dares teach at Stanford and even has spare time to run a blog. What a royal ass !>
Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department.
Does Denial Make The World Go 'Round? "In the modern vernacular, to say someone is 'in denial' is to deliver a savage combination punch: one shot to the belly for the cheating or drinking or bad behavior, and another slap to the head for the cowardly self-deception of pretending it's not a problem. Yet recent studies from fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology suggest that the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships. The psychological tricks that people use to ignore a festering problem in their own households are the same ones that they need to live with everyday human dishonesty and betrayal, their own and others'. And it is these highly evolved abilities, research suggests, that provide the foundation for that most disarming of all human invitations, forgiveness."