psychology

‘I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.’ –Kant

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[P]eople who are depressed display some surprising advantages in their thinking skills. Depressed people:

1. process information more deeply.
2. are more accurate at complex tasks.
3. make better judgements on detail-oriented information.
4. make more accurate cost-benefit analyses.

The researchers developed a new questionnaire which measures ‘analytical rumination’, a mental process which is thought to be an ancient defence mechanism and the root of depression.

Analytical rumination is where people turn problems over in their heads to the exclusion of all else, trying to look for a solution.

They first examine the problem’s cause, then the things that need solving, any possible solutions plus the costs and benefits of each solution.

The symptoms of depression, which often include lethargy, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration and disinterest in other people or the external world, may actually be ways of saving energy while a person is focusing on the problem.

{ PsyBlog | Continue reading }

‘Truth is always strange—stranger than fiction.’ –Lord Byron

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We all resist changing our beliefs about the world, but what happens when some of those beliefs are based on misinformation? Is there a right way to correct someone when they believe something that’s wrong? […]

The first thing their review turned up is the importance of “backfire effects” — when telling people that they are wrong only strengthens their belief. […]

If you try and debunk a myth, you may end up reinforcing that belief, strengthening the misinformation in people’s mind without making the correct information take hold.

What you must do, they argue, is to start with the plausible alternative (that obviously you believe is correct). If you must mention a myth, you should mention this second, and only after clearly warning people that you’re about to discuss something that isn’t true.

{ Tom Stafford/BBC | Continue reading }

‘We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.’ –La Rochefoucauld

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Flattery—the art of offering pleasing compliments—is one of the oldest and most commonly used of persuasion methods. Research in this area provides a reason for the popularity of this tactic. Put simply, flattery works. Various studies have shown that the target of the flattery evaluates the flatterer positively because human beings have a basic desire to believe in good things about themselves.

What happens, however, in situations in which the flattery is “bogus”—that is, when the recipient knows that the flatterer is offering an insincere compliment, presumably driven by an ulterior motive? Instances of insincere flattery abound in the marketing context, such as the salesperson who offers prospective customers profuse compliments on how an expensive outfit makes them look. […]

In cases such as these, in which the prospective consumer is aware of a clear ulterior motive underlying the compliment, both research and intuition suggest that recipients will discount the flattering comments and correct their otherwise favorable reactions. Though in partial agreement with this premise, the current investigation proposes that despite such correction, a positive impact of flattery may still be observed. […]

The authors show that even when flattery by marketing agents is accompanied by an obvious ulterior motive that leads targets to discount the proffered compliments, the initial favorable reaction (the implicit attitude) continues to coexist with the dis- counted evaluation (the explicit attitude). Furthermore, the implicit attitude has more influential consequences than the explicit attitude, highlighting the possible subtle impact of flattery even when a person has consciously corrected for it.

{ Journal of Marketing Research | PDF }

Just boob it

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In a series of 7 experiments we demonstrate that women perceive men to be more attractive and sexually desirable when seen on a red background and in red clothing. […] The influence of red appears to be specific to women’s romantic attraction to men: Red did not influence men’s perceptions of other men, nor did it influence women’s perceptions of men’s overall likability, agreeableness, or extraversion.

{ APA PsycNet | Continue reading }

‘Ce sceptre de Vénus, que tu vois sous tes yeux, Eugénie, est le premier agent des plaisirs en amour: on le nomme membre par excellence ; il n’est pas une seule partie du corps humain dans lequel il ne s’introduise.’ –Sade

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Based on a survey of heterosexual female college students in committed relationships, how often women experienced orgasm as a result of sexual intercourse was related to their partner’s family income, his self-confidence, and how attractive he was. […]

We also identified an ensemble of partner psychological traits (motivation, intelligence, focus, and determination) that predicted how often women initiated sexual intercourse. Their partner’s sense of humor not only predicted his self-confidence and family income, but it also predicted women’s propensity to initiate sex, how often they had sex, and it enhanced their orgasm frequency in comparison with other partners.

{ Evolution Psychology | PDF }

photo { William Eggleston }

related { Guy Ends Up In Hospital After Getting Girlfriend’s Strap-On Stuck Up His Bum }

The biggest bias of all is thinking you’re unbiased

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{ Why Women Buy Magazines that Promote Impossible Body Images }

photo { Guy Sargent }

‘Then they plunged a great needle into my butt and BAM! out I went for two whole days. When I woke up, wow! Rats all over the floor, wailing and screaming. We ate potatoes with spoons.’ –Edie Sedgwick

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Why do we dream? It’s still a scientific mystery. The “Threat Simulation Theory” proposes that we dream as a way to simulate real-life threats and prepare ourselves for dealing with them. “This simulation in an almost-real experiential world would train the brain to perceive dangers and rapidly face them within the safe condition of sleeping,” write the authors of a new paper that’s put the theory to the test. […]

The researchers contacted thousands of first-year students at the end of the day that they sat a very important exam. […] over 700 of the students agreed to participate and they completed a questionnaire about their dreams and sleep quality the previous evening, and any dreams they’d had about the exam over the course of the university term. […] The more exam dreams a student reported having during the term, the higher their grade tended to be.

{ BPS | Continue reading }

collage { Eugenia Loli }

The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

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In the mirror we see our physical selves as we truly are, even though the image might not live up to what we want, or what we once were. But we recognize the image as “self.” In rare instances, however, this reality breaks down. […]

How can the recognition of self in a mirror break down?

There are at least seven main routes to dissolution or distortion of self-image:

1. psychotic disorders
2. dementia
3. right parietal-ish or otherwise right posterior cortical strokes and lesions
4. the ‘strange-face in the mirror’ illusion
5. hypnosis
6. dissociative disorders (e.g., depersonalization, dissociative identity disorder
7. body image issues (e.g., anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder)

{ The Neurocritic | Continue reading }

The strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion […] a never-before-described visual illusion where your own reflection in the mirror seems to become distorted and shifts identity. […] To trigger the illusion you need to stare at your own reflection in a dimly lit room. […] The participant just has to gaze at his or her reflected face within the mirror and usually “after less than a minute, the observer began to perceive the strange-face illusion.”

{ Mind Hacks | Continue reading }

Whether we’ve ever been in love?

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People can make remarkably accurate judgments about others in a variety of situations after just a brief exposure to their behavior. Ambady and Rosenthal (1992) referred to this brief observation as a “thin slice.” For example, students could accurately predict personality traits of an instructor after watching a 30-s video clip […] a 2-s look at a picture of a face was enough to accurately determine a violent or nonviolent past. Other research has demonstrated the predictive accuracy of short observations regarding social status, psychopathy, and socioeconomic status. […]

The data indicate that this ability to predict outcomes from brief observations is more intuitive than deliberatively cognitive, leading scholars to believe that the ability to accurately predict is “hard-wired and occur[s] relatively automatically.” […]

The viability of using brief observations of behavior (thin slicing) to identify infidelity in romantic relationships was examined. […] In Study 1, raters were able to accurately identify people who were cheating on their romantic dating partner after viewing a short 3- to 4-min video of the couple interacting.

{ Personal Relationships | Continue reading }

related { Thin-Slicing Divorce: Thirty Seconds 
of Information Predict Changes in Psychological Adjustment Over 90 Days | PDF }

Teach not thy lips such scorn

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Selecting an appropriate mate is arguably one of the most important decisions that any sexually reproducing animal must make in order to ensure the successful propagation of their genes. […]

It has been proposed that kissing, a near-ubiquitous custom among human cultures, may play a significant role in the process of human mate assessment and relationship maintenance. Kissing might aid mate appraisal in humans by facilitating olfactory assessment of various cues for genetic compatibility, health, genetic fitness, or even menstrual cycle phase and fertility. […]

Recent research into kissing behavior among college students has found interesting differences between men and women in their perceptions of the importance of kissing during various courtship and mating situations. Using self-report measures, it was found that men generally placed less emphasis on kissing than women, and that women placed greater value on kissing during both the early stages of courtship, potentially as a mate assessment device, and in the later stages of a long-term relationship, possibly to maintain and monitor the pair-bonds that underlie such relationships. […]

The aim of the present experiment was to determine whether romantic kissing-related information can affect the process of human mate assessment. It was hypothesized that participants led to believe that a potential mating partner is a “good kisser,” a manifest cue potentially signaling a mate’s underlying genetic quality/suitability, will find them more attractive, will be more willing to pursue further courtship (i.e., a date) with them, will be more interested in pursuing non-committal sex with them, and be more willing to consider pursuing a long-term relationship with them. It was further hypothesized that alleged kissing abilities will have a greater influence on female partner preferences than on male partner preferences, as they have been found to be the more selective sex when it comes to utilizing signals of mate fitness. […]

The primary finding of this study is that purported kissing abilities can influence a potential mate’s attractiveness and general desirability, particularly for women in casual sex situations. […] Although the findings presented here corroborate the notion that kissing serves a functional role in mating situations, we can still only speculate at this point as to the mechanisms by which kissing might carry out these functions. It is likely that kissing works to affect initial mate assessment by bringing two individuals into close proximity so as to facilitate some kind of olfactory/gustatory assessment, since olfaction in most mammals, as well as in humans, can play an important role in assessing potential mates. In established relationships, on the other hand, the contact and physiological arousal initiated by continued romantic kissing is likely to also affect feelings of attachment between individuals over time, influencing the release of neuropeptides (including oxytocin and vasopressin), dopamine, and opioids, which have all been variously associated with human pair-bonding.

{ Evolutionary Psychology | PDF }

watercolor on paper { Brad Phillips }

‘A bad beginning makes a bad ending.’ –Euripides

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In social psychology, revenge is defined as a behavioural reaction toward perceived injustice that aims at re-establishing a (personal) sense of justice by “getting even” and giving wrongdoers what they deserve. The question I will address in this presentation is, what exactly does “getting even” mean? By addressing this question, I will adopt a “social functionalist” perspective on revenge: This perspective highlights the notion that revenge is a goal-driven response that has certain functional aspects, both on the intrapersonal and on the interpersonal level.

The “social functionalist” perspective implies that revenge is not the mindless, animalistic impulse that legal scholars and some philosophers sometimes tend to see in it. Revenge has oftentimes been contrasted with law-based retribution by arguing that revenge was irrational, savage, unlimited, unprincipled, and disproportionate, and that the “emotionality” inherent in vengeful reactions overshadowed any rational response.

Psychologically, the idea that emotions are irrational is neither useful nor correct. On the contrary, emotions are functional, adaptive, and ecologically rational in that they direct the organism’s attention to important aspects of a situation, and they prepare the organism to respond to problems that arise in social interactions. For example, empirical studies show that anger involves a shift of blood away from the internal organs towards the hands and arms, and it increases one’s sensitivity toward potential injustices and the moral implications of other people’s actions. Of course, anger can also trigger disproportionate retaliatory behaviours, but this does not mean it is inherently “irrational.”

Most behavioural systems that the human organism is equipped with are “irrational” in that they may be incompatible with logical, deductive reasoning and a stringent cost-benefit analysis of gains, risks, and losses, but they are nevertheless functional in that they enable us to deal with complex problems and to make useful decisions under uncertainty.

Revenge belongs to the human behavioural system just as communication, competition, or helping does; and just as these systems, it has important societal and individual functions.

{ Individual and social functions of revenge | PDF }

This article investigates whether acts of displaced revenge, that is, revenge targeted at a different person than the original transgressor, can be satisfying for the avenger. We assume that displaced revenge can lead to justice-related satisfaction when the group to which the original transgressor and the displaced target belong is highly entitative.

Two experimental online studies show that displaced revenge leads to less regret or more satisfaction when the transgressor and the displaced target belong to a group that is perceived as highly entitative.

Study 3 shows that avengers experience more satisfaction when members of the transgressor group were manipulated to be both strongly interconnected and similar in their appearance.

Results of an internal meta-analysis furthermore corroborate the notion that displaced revenge leads to more satisfaction when the transgressor group is highly entitative.

Taken together, our findings suggest that even displaced revenge can achieve a sense of justice in the eyes of avengers.

{ ScienceDirect | Continue reading }

‘If I accede to Parmenides there is nothing left but the One; if I accede to Zeno, not even the One is left.’ –Seneca the Younger

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Memories may be passed down through generations in DNA in a process that may be the underlying cause of phobias.

{ Telegraph | Continue reading }

photo { Guy Sargent }