psychology

If not reason, then the devil

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New research shows that, for most of us, the last experience we’ve had can be the defining one when it comes to taking a decision, coming at the expense of other experiences we’ve accumulated further back in time. […]

People’s natural inclination towards a ‘happy ending’ means that we often ascribe greater value to experiences than they are worth, say researchers, meaning that we end up overvaluing experiences with a final uptick over those that taper at the last minute, despite being of equal or even lesser overall value, and making our next moves on that basis.

Writing in the journal, they use the analogy of a three-course dinner: it has mediocre starter, a fine main, and an excellent dessert. This will be viewed much more favourably – and have much more weight in any future decision – than the inverse: an excellent starter and ending with a mediocre dessert, despite the fact that overall both experiences share equal value.

{ ScienceBlog | Continue reading }

Build a fort / Set that on fire

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There is no question that biases exist in self-perceptions of personality. To what extent do people have insight into their positive and negative self-biases? In two samples (total N = 130), people with positive biases (i.e., self-perceptions that are more positive than a reputation-based criterion measure) accurately described themselves as positively biased, and people with negative biases accurately described themselves as negatively biased. Furthermore, people were able to distinguish which traits they were more or less biased about. These findings suggest that people may know more about themselves than they initially admit.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin }

art { Jean-Michel Basquiat, untitled, 1982 }

‘La discrétion est le plus habile des calculs.’ —Balzac

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For the student of negotiation, Breaking Bad is an absolute treasure trove, producing an incredibly complex and varied array of bargaining parties and negotiated transactions, episode after episode. What’s so fascinating about these transactions is that they draw on familiar, foundational negotiation concepts in the service of less familiar, usually illicit ends. Put another way, when we watch Walter White negotiate, we watch a mega-criminal anti-hero implement the same “value-neutral” strategies that we teach lawyers and businesspeople. […]

This article examines five negotiations, one from each season, each featuring Walter White. The close readings provided show how the five negotiations demonstrate and/or disrupt foundational negotiation concepts or skills.

{ New Mexico Law Review | PDF | More: New Mexico Law Review, Special Edition dedicated to Breaking Bad }

‘Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.’ –Lao Tze

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Researchers in France wanted to know if non-reflective thinkers (those who trust their initial intuition) would be more likely than reflective thinkers (those who use analytic reasoning to question their initial intuition) to believe an unusual or uncanny experience was the result of some supernatural explanation such as astrology or extra-sensory perception. They conducted three separate experiments to see if participants who appeared to have their minds read “through telepathy” by a fellow participant would see the experience differently based on whether they were reflective or non-reflective in their personal style.

Of course, you have likely already guessed that the “fellow participant” was not a participant at all but rather what researchers call a “confederate” who was able to “read” the actual participant’s mind and identify the cards the participant chose at random. (In truth, the experimenter could see the cards chosen and the confederate was cued about which card it was by the language the experimenter used to tell the confederate to focus on the “image” of the card the participant was “telepathically sending” to the confederate.) So the participant (either a reflective or a non-reflective thinker) was incredibly able to telepathically send the images of the cards to the confederate. And guess what? When asked how they explained their heightened ability to telepathically communicate, the reflective and non-reflective thinkers had varying explanations.

The reflective (analytical) thinkers thought it was a fluke and the non-reflective thinkers thought they were fabulous telepathic communicators. […] We showed that a single uncanny experience may be enough for non-reflective thinkers to seriously consider the possibility of supernatural causation. This makes them especially vulnerable to scammers who attempt to leverage paranormal beliefs into profits. A common trick, for example, consists of pretending to detect a paranormal ability in an individual, only to offer him or her an expensive training aimed at developing this potential. Individuals with a predominantly non-reflective cognitive style should be well warned against their own reaction to such and other encounters with the supernatural.

{ The Jury Room | Continue reading }

‘The road up and the road down is one and the same.’ –Heraclitus

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Two pennies can be considered the same — both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs. Analogical ability — the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas — is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.

While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. In a new Northwestern University study, researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples.

“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said lead author Alissa Ferry, who conducted the research at Northwestern.

{ Lunatic Laboratories | Continue reading }

There is nothing new under the sun

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Most real decisions, unlike those of economics texts, have a status quo alternative—that is, doing nothing or maintaining one’s current or previous decision. A series of decision-making experiments shows that individuals disproportionately stick with the status quo.

{ Journal of Risk and Uncertainty | PDF }

unrelated { Would you Pay for Transparently Useless Advice? }

(The mirage of the lake of Kinnereth with blurred cattle cropping in silver haze is projected on the wall.)

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An ambitious effort to replicate 100 research findings in psychology ended last week — and the data look worrying. Results posted online on 24 April, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, suggest that key findings from only 39 of the published studies could be reproduced. […]

The results should convince everyone that psychology has a replicability problem, says Hal Pashler, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, and an author of one of the papers whose findings were successfully repeated.  “A lot of working scientists assume that if it’s published, it’s right,” he says.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

‘Ooh, I love U in me.’ –Prince

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The current research investigates how people make sexual decisions when romantic partners’ sexual desires conflict, situations we refer to as sexual interdependence dilemmas.

Across an experimental study, a retrospective recall study, and a 21-day daily experience study, we found that people who were motivated to meet their partner’s sexual needs—those high in sexual communal strength—were more willing to engage in sex with their romantic partner, even when their own desire was low, and as a result, both partners reported enhanced relationship and sexual satisfaction.

The benefits of sexual communal strength were due to communally oriented people’s increased desire to promote their partner’s interests and decreased desire to pursue their own interests.

This is the first set of studies to investigate how people make decisions in sexual interdependence dilemmas and show that communally motivated individuals navigate these situations in a way that is beneficial for relationships.

{ Society for Personality and Social Psychology/SAGE }

related { Science says lasting relationships come down to 2 basic traits: kindness and generosity }

I’m gonna die. #rip Cause of death: “OUT OF XANAX”

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People prescribe optimism when they believe it has the opportunity to improve the chance of success—unfortunately, people may be overly optimistic about just how much optimism can do.

{ APA/PsycNET | Continue reading }

art { Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, 1609-1610 }

‘Sooner or later, each desire must encounter its lassitude: its truth…’ –Cioran

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Narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth, and contribute to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism, however, are not well understood.

Here, we report, to our knowledge, the first prospective longitudinal evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. We compared two perspectives: social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation) and psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth).

We timed the study in late childhood (ages 7–12), when individual differences in narcissism first emerge.

In four 6-mo waves, 565 children and their parents reported child narcissism, child self-esteem, parental overvaluation, and parental warmth. Four-wave cross-lagged panel models were conducted.

Results support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory: Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation, not by lack of parental warmth. Thus, children seem to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”).

Attesting to the specificity of this finding, self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth, not by parental overvaluation.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

When love absorbs. War! War! The tympanum.

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The ability to express empathy — the capacity to share and feel another’s emotions — is limited by the stress of being around strangers, according to a new study.

{ ScienceDaily | Continue reading }

related { People in the study were more likely to disclose something personal about themselves after laughing together, although they didn’t realize it. }

‘Humility is pain arising from a person’s contemplation of their own impotence.’ —Spinoza

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Over a decade ago, psychologist Barry Schwartz published what might be the ultimate psychological life-hacking tome, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. […]

If you ever aren’t sure if you attended the very best party or bought the very best computer, just settle for “good enough.” People who do this are called “satisficers,” and they’re consistently happier, he’s found, than are “maximizers,” people who feel that they must choose the very best possible option. Maximizers earn more, Schwartz has found, but they’re also less satisfied with their jobs. In fact, they’re more likely to be clinically depressed in general.

The reason this happens, as Schwartz explained in a paper with his Swarthmore colleague Andrew Ward, is that as life circumstances improve, expectations rise. People begin comparing their experiences to peers who are doing better, or to past experiences they’ve personally had that were better. […]

Schwartz’ solution […] just settle for something that’s acceptable—even if you know there’s likely something better out there.

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

photo { Jeff Mermelstein, New York City, c. 1993-1997 }