psychology

‘There are certain things — as, a spider, a ghost, the income-tax, gout, an umbrella for three — that I hate, but the thing that I hate the most is a thing they call the Sea.’ –Lewis Carroll

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What if a pill can change your politics or religious reliefs? […] Psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in “magic mushrooms,” seems to be remarkably effective in treating a wide range of psychopathologies, but also causes a raft of unusual nonclinical changes not seen elsewhere in medicine. […]

Although its precise therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear, clinically relevant doses of psilocybin can induce powerful mystical experiences more commonly associated with extended periods of fasting, prayer or meditation. Arguably, then, it is unsurprising that it can generate long-lasting changes in patients: studies report increased prosociality and aesthetic appreciation, plus robust shifts in personality, values and attitudes to life, even leading some atheists to find God. What’s more, these experiences appear to be a feature, rather than a bug, of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with the intensity of the mystical experience correlating with the extent of clinical benefit.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

And the cloud that took the form (when the rest of Heaven was blue) of a demon in my view

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Faces provide not only cues to an individual’s identity, age, gender, and ethnicity but also insight into their mental states. The aim was to investigate the temporal aspects of processing of facial expressions of complex mental states for very short presentation times ranging from 12.5 to 100 ms. […]

Results show that participants are able to recognise very subtle differences between facial expressions; performance is better than chance, even for the shortest presentation time. Importantly, we show for the first time that observers can recognise these expressions based on information contained in the eye region only.

{ i-Perception | Continue reading }

‘To succeed in the world we do everything we can to appear successful already.’ –La Rochefoucauld

Self-promotion is common in everyday life. Yet, across 8 studies (N = 1,687) examining a broad range of personal and professional successes, we find that individuals often hide their successes from others and that such hiding has relational costs. […]

Whereas previous research highlights the negative consequences of sharing one’s accomplishments with others, we find that sharing is superior to hiding for maintaining one’s relationships.

{ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology | Continue reading }

When a liar gets caught in a lie, they don’t come clean. They build a bigger lie.

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signs of dishonesty decreased trust but only in those who had not previously built a good reputation as honest partners.

On the contrary, those who could establish a good reputation were trusted even when they were no longer trustworthy, suggesting that participants could not successfully track changes in trustworthiness of those with an established good reputation.

{ Journal of Experimental Psychology | Continue reading }

lithograph { Ellsworth Kelly, Blue Curve, 2013 }

‘darling, the crocodile species has existed for over 300 million years, and you became extinct last night.’ –Charles Bukowski

A number of studies – including our own – find a mid-life dip in well-being. […] The effects of the mid-life dip are comparable to major life events like losing a spouse, losing a job or getting cancer. They are clearly not inconsequential.

{ National Bureau of Economic Research | Continue reading }

My wife and I were happy for twenty five years, then we met

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Emerging findings suggest that decision-making competence may tap not only into fluid intelligence but also into motivation, emotion regulation, and experience (or crystallized intelligence). Although fluid intelligence tends to decline with age, older adults may be able to maintain decision-making competence by leveraging age-related improvements in these other skills.

{ SAGE | Continue reading }

photo { Stephen Shore. Image from “Transparencies, Small Camera Works 1971-1979 }

‘“I am a Microsoft Word man.” Says the human dressed like Microsoft Word.’ –David A Banks

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David Silver [the creator of AlphaZero] hasn’t answered my question about whether machines can set up their own goals. He talks about subgoals, but that’s not the same. That’s a certain gap in his definition of intelligence. We set up goals and look for ways to achieve them. A machine can only do the second part.

So far, we see very little evidence that machines can actually operate outside of these terms, which is clearly a sign of human intelligence. Let’s say you accumulated knowledge in one game. Can it transfer this knowledge to another game, which might be similar but not the same? Humans can. With computers, in most cases you have to start from scratch.

{ Gary Kasparov/Wired | Continue reading }

photo { Kelsey Bennett }

Stephanie says that she wants to know why she’s given half her life, to people she hates now

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Curiosity - the drive for information - is often perceived as a dangerous trait. This is exacerbated by the perception that when something is forbidden, curiosity towards it increases. […]

This research demonstrated the so-called “forbidden fruit effect”, in which unavailable options elicit curiosity – the desire to know more – even when people were completely aware that the forbidden option did not differ from other options in terms of expected outcome, uncertainty (hidden values), and visual salience.

{ OSF | Continue reading }

‘Call no man happy till he is dead.’ –Solon

Even though it may come naturally, griping isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Ruminating on negative feelings, and reinforcing them through constant discussion with other people, can lead to catastrophizing, which “is something that can contribute to depression” […]

This can happen because “the more you do something, the more entrenched that path becomes in your brain and the more you continue to do it” […]

Constantly complaining can be an easy way to frustrate our confidantes, but there is research that shows it can also be a useful tool in bonding and helping us process emotions like stress and frustration.

“In short: Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it” […] The trick to doing it right starts with understanding how the word “complaining” is often misused to describe a variety of behaviors, with some being more harmful or helpful than others. […] there are roughly three categories: venting, problem solving and ruminating, otherwise known as dwelling. […]

Life isn’t perfect. That’s why expressing negative feelings is not only normal, but also healthy, Dr. Kowalski said, adding that the unrealistic expectation that we should always be happy can make us feel worse. […] Inhibiting the disclosure of our dissatisfaction “can produce a negative effect,” she said, because it not only stops us from naming our problem but also prevents us from getting to the root of it.

That’s why “complaining is, ideally, totally solutions focused,” Ms. Gilbertson said. Though venting is not as focused on solving problems, “there are also really positive benefits,” Dr. Grice said, because it allows us “to get things out in the open and get our feelings heard so they don’t build up and cause stress.” […]

You want to avoid what Dr. Grice calls wearing “muddy glasses,” where no matter what’s going on you always find something to complain about. The same goes with rehashing a problem over and over again, whether with friends or in the echo chamber of the internet.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘so many ankles out on this freakishly warm day, so few of them lotioned’ –Doreen St. Félix

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He had diabetes, and he had signed up for a study to see if taking a “statin” – a kind of cholesterol-lowering drug – might help. So far, so normal.

But soon after he began the treatment, his wife began to notice a sinister transformation. A previously reasonable man, he became explosively angry and – out of nowhere – developed a tendency for road rage. During one memorable episode, he warned his family to keep away, lest he put them in hospital. […]

In 2018, a study uncovered the same effect in fish. Giving statins to Nile tilapia made them more confrontational and – crucially – altered the levels of serotonin in their brains. This suggests that the mechanism that links cholesterol and violence may have been around for millions of years.

Golomb remains convinced that lower cholesterol, and, by extension, statins, can cause behavioural changes in both men and women, though the strength of the effect varies drastically from person to person. […]

The world is in the midst of a crisis of over-medication, with the US alone buying up 49,000 tonnes of paracetamol every year – equivalent to about 298 paracetamol tablets per person. [..]

Mischkowski’s own research has uncovered a sinister side-effect of paracetamol. For a long time, scientists have known that the drug blunts physical pain by reducing activity in certain brain areas, such as the insular cortex, which plays an important role in our emotions. These areas are involved in our experience of social pain, too – and intriguingly, paracetamol can make us feel better after a rejection.

And recent research has revealed that this patch of cerebral real-estate is more crowded than anyone previously thought, because it turns out the brain’s pain centres also share their home with empathy. […] results revealed that paracetamol significantly reduces our ability to feel positive empathy – a result with implications for how the drug is shaping the social relationships of millions of people every day. […] Technically, paracetamol isn’t changing our personalities, because the effects only last a few hours and few of us take it continuously.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Logan White }

I’m in that black on black Porsche Panamera, in the back like “ooh wee”

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Using Music as Medicine – finding the optimum music listening ‘dosage’

There was a general agreement of dosage time across 3 of the 4 domains with 11 minutes being the most common amount of time it took for people to receive the therapeutic benefit from their self- selected music preferences. The only exception was the domain of happiness where the most common length of time for people to become happier after listening to their chosen music was reduced to 5 minutes, suggesting that happy music takes less time to take effect than other music. 


{ British Academy of Sound Therapy.com | PDF | More

photo { Sarah Illenberger }

As you spring so shall you neap

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Most of the research on happiness has documented that income, marriage, employment and health affect happiness. Very few studies examine whether happiness itself affect income, marriage, employment and health. […] Findings show that happier Indonesians in 2007 earned more money, were more likely to be married, were less likely to be divorced or unemployed, and were in better health when the survey was conducted again seven years later.

{ Applied Research in Quality of Life | Continue reading }

image { Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, Toilet Paper #1, June 2010 }