psychology

Holihowlsballs and bloody acres!

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Do a country’s inhabitants get happier as it gets richer? […]

In Britain, for example, happiness fell sharply during the two world wars. It began to rise again after 1945, peaked in 1950, and then fell gradually, including through the so-called Swinging Sixties, until it reached a nadir around 1980.

America’s national happiness, too, fell during the world wars. It also fell in the 1860s, during and after the country’s civil war. The lowest point of all came in 1975, at the end of a long decline during the Vietnam war, with the fall of Saigon and America’s humiliating defeat.

In Germany and Italy the first world war also caused dips in happiness. By contrast, during the second world war these countries both got happier as the war continued. […]

A one-year increase in longevity has the same effect on national happiness as a 4.3% increase in gdp. […]

it is warfare that causes the biggest drops in happiness. On average it takes a 30% increase in gdp to raise happiness by the amount that a year of war causes it to fall. The upshot appears to be that, while increasing national income is important to happiness, it is not as important as ensuring the population is healthy and avoiding conflict.

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

In recent years, the number of studies examining mind wandering has increased considerably, and research on the topic has spread widely across various domains of psychological research. Athough the term “mind wandering” has been used to refer to various cognitive states, researchers typically operationalize mind wandering in terms of “task-unrelated thought” (TUT).

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Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects or phenomena of great beauty.

Although psychologists have long debated whether Stendhal’s syndrome exists, the apparent effects on some individuals are severe enough to warrant medical attention.

Though there are numerous accounts of people fainting while taking in Florentine art, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979; when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed over a hundred similar cases among tourists in Florence.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘Insufficient sleep lowers lifespan, but it means you spend more hours awake per day… could outweigh dying sooner?’ –NeuroSkeptic

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Social media consumption plays an important role in everyday life and, thus, one would expect that this topic is reflected in dreams. […] Social media dreams were quite rare (two percent of all remembered dreams)

{ Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking | Continue reading }

Scientists disagree as to what extent dreams reflect subconscious desires, but new research [2009] reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that dreams do influence people’s decisions and attitudes.

{ American Psychological Association | Continue reading }

quote { NeuroSkeptic | more }

Touliang huanzhu is a 4-character Chinese language term referring to the clandestine use of cheap construction materials in place of higher-quality materials to cut costs. The resultant shoddy construction may be referred to as a tofu-dreg project.

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A standard response of both policy makers and private citizens to hardships—from natural disasters to mass shootings—is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Critics argue that such gestures are meaningless and may obstruct structural reforms intended to mitigate catastrophes. In this study, we elicit the value of receiving thoughts and prayers from strangers following adversity. We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }

photo { Guy Bourdin | Vogue France, May 1970 }

his buildings needed to be the biggest, the grandest, the tallest (in the pursuit of which he skipped floors in the numbering to make them seem higher)

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studies have shown that America has been getting more narcissistic since the Seventies […] one study found narcissistic traits to be rising as quickly as obesity, while yet another showed that almost one-third of high school students in America in 2005 said that they expected to eventually become famous.

{ Rolling Stone | Continue reading }

‘The formula of our happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal.’ –Nietzsche

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When faced with a personal problem people typically give better advice to others than to themselves. This has been termed ‘Solomon’s Paradox’, named after the biblical King Solomon who was wise for others, but not so when it came to making decisions that would have an impact on his own standing.

Suppose that instead of imagining a problem from the perspective of another you were actually able to have a conversation with yourself about it, but from the embodied perspective of another.

A previous study showed how it is possible to enact internal dialogue in virtual reality (VR) through participants alternately occupying two different virtual bodies – one representing themselves and the other Sigmund Freud. They could maintain a self-conversation by explaining their problem to the virtual Freud and then from the embodied perspective of Freud see and hear the explanation by their virtual doppelganger, and then give some advice. Alternating between the two bodies they could maintain a self-dialogue, as if between two different people.

Here we show that the process of alternating between their own and the Freud body is important for successful psychological outcomes. An experiment was carried out with 58 people, 29 in the body swapping Self-Conversation condition and 29 in a condition where they only spoke to a Scripted Freud character. The results showed that the Self-Conversation method results in a greater perception of change and help compared to the Scripted. We compare this method with the distancing paradigm where participants imagine resolving a problem from a first or third person perspective.

We consider the method as a possible strategy for self-counselling.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

synthetic polymer and silkscreen ink on canvas { Andy Warhol, Are You “Different?” (Positive), 1985 }

You’re up, you’ll get down. You’re never running from this town.

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We analyzed over one million posts from over 4,000 individuals on several social media platforms, using computational models based on reward reinforcement learning theory. Our results consistently show that human behavior on social media qualitatively and quantitatively conforms to the principles of reward learning.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

image { Dissecting Reinforcement Learning }

‘Nothing brings you peace but the triumph of principles.’ –Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Suppose you live in a deeply divided society: 60% of people strongly identify with Group A, and the other 40% strongly identify with Group B. While you plainly belong to Group A, you’re convinced this division is bad: It would be much better if everyone felt like they belonged to Group AB. You seek a cohesive society, where everyone feels like they’re on the same team.

What’s the best way to bring this cohesion about? Your all-too-human impulse is to loudly preach the value of cohesion. But on reflection, this is probably counter-productive. When members of Group B hear you, they’re going to take “cohesion” as a euphemism for “abandon your identity, and submit to the dominance of Group A. ”None too enticing. And when members of Group A notice Group B’s recalcitrance, they’re probably going to think, “We offer Group B the olive branch of cohesion, and they spit in our faces. Typical.” Instead of forging As and Bs into one people, preaching cohesion tears them further apart.

What’s the alternative? Simple. Instead of preaching cohesion, reach out to Group B. Unilaterally show them respect.Unilaterally show them friendliness. They’ll be distrustful at first, but cohesion can’t be built in a day. 

{ The Library of Economics and Liberty | Continue reading }

photo { Stephen Shore, Queens, New York, April 1972 }

The eye could not see from any point

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There’s been an explosion of interest in the use of psychedelics in psychiatry. […]

Psychedelics have mostly been investigated in small studies run by true believers. […] Some of the most exciting psychedelic findings have already failed to replicate […]

Ketamine is the best comparison for psychedelics. […] Like psychedelics, it got hyped as an exciting new innovation that was going to revolutionize everything in psychiatry (in this case, depression treatment). But it’s been in pretty common (albeit non-formulary) use for five years now, and nothing has been revolutionized. […]

Between 10% and 50% of Americans have tried psychedelics. If psychedelics did something shocking, we would already know about it. […]

Even if all of the above are wrong and psychedelics work very well, the FDA could kill them with a thousand paper cuts. Again, look at ketamine: the new FDA approval ensures people will be getting the slightly different esketamine, through a weird route of administration, while paying $600 a pop, in specialized clinics that will probably be hard to find. Given the price and inconvenience, insurance companies will probably restrict it to the most treatment-resistant patients, and it probably won’t help them (treatment-resistant patients tend to stay that way). Given the panic around psychedelics, I expect it to be similarly difficult to get them even if they are legal and technically FDA-approved. Depressed people will never be able to walk into a psychiatrist’s office and get LSD. They’ll walk into a psychiatrist’s office, try Prozac for three months, try Wellbutrin for three months, argue with their insurance for a while, eventually get permission to drive to a city an hour away that has a government-licensed LSD clinic, and get some weird form of LSD that might or might not work, using a procedure optimized to minimize hallucinations.

{ Slate Star Codex | Continue reading }

Flashbacks hit me right between the eyes

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Physical pain represents a common feature of Bondage and Discipline/Dominance and Submission/Sadism and Machochism (BDSM) activity. This article explores the literature accounting for how painful stimuli may be experienced as pleasurable among practitioners of BDSM, and contrasting this with how it is experienced as painful among non-BDSM individuals. […] The experience of pain in this context can bring about altered states of consciousness that may be similar to what occurs during mindfulness meditation.

{ The Journal of Sex Research | Continue reading }

We may recall that Socrates and Plato maintained that in a sense the good person is necessarily happy, whereas Aristotle, holding a more realistic and commonsensical view, acknowledged the possibility that even the most virtuous person can be unhappy due to various misfortunes, i.e., virtue fails to guarantee happiness

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According to the 2019 World Happiness Report, negative feelings are rising around the world—and the United States is particularly hard hit with an “epidemic of addictions.” Tellingly, the report also shows a widening happiness gap, with some people reporting much more well-being and others showing much less within each country. […]

Negative feelings—worry, sadness, and anger—have been rising around the world, up by 27 percent from 2010 to 2018. […]

“The U.S. is suffering an epidemic of addictions.” This includes an addiction to technology, which researcher Jean Twenge largely blames for the worrying mental health trends among U.S. adolescents. In her chapter of the report, she argues that screen time is displacing activities that are key to our happiness, like in-person social contact. Forty-five percent of adolescents are online “almost constantly,” and the average high school senior spends six hours a day texting, on social media or on the internet.

But we’re hooked on more than just technology. According to researcher Steve Sussman, around half of Americans suffer from at least one addiction. Some of the most prevalent are alcohol, food, and work—which each affect around 10 percent of adults—as well as drugs, gambling, exercise, shopping, and sex.

There’s another possible explanation for unhappiness, though: Governments are losing their way. […] According to survey results since 2005, people across the globe are more satisfied with life when their governments are more effective, enforce the rule of law, have better regulation, control corruption, and spend in certain ways—more on health care and less on military.

{ Yes | Continue reading }

is there a role for interoception in self-other distinction?

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In this study, we examine whether perceived loneliness is greater among the Baby Boomers—individuals born 1948–1965—relative to those born 1920–1947, and whether older adults have become lonelier over the past decade (2005–2016). […]

Overall, loneliness decreases with age through the early 70s, after which it increases. We find no evidence that loneliness is substantially higher among the Baby Boomers or that it has increased over the past decade.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

quote { Going at the heart of social cognition: is there a role for interoception in self-other distinction? }