psychology

‘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? }

Wanna short synthetic credit volatility?

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Software from Amenity Analytics promises to automate this process by spotting when chief executive officers try to duck tough questions. The software, its makers say, can even pick up on the signs of potential deception that CIA and FBI interrogators look for—including stalling and the use of qualifiers—and can gauge the sentiment of what is said on calls and reported in public filings, issuing a positive or negative numeric score. The goal is to make it easier for investors to wade through information and quickly make trading decisions.

{ Bloomberg Businessweek | Continue reading }

previously { Former CIA Officer Will Teach You How to Spot a Lie }

photo { Laurie Simmons, Blonde/Pink Dress/Standing Corner, 2014 }

The ball is round, the game is long

Two alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain why grunting in tennis may impede opponents’ predictions, referred to as the distraction account (i.e., grunts capture attentional resources necessary for anticipation) and the multisensory integration account (i.e., auditory information from the grunt systematically influences ball trajectory prediction typically assumed to rely on visual information). […]

our findings provide strong support for the multisensory integration account by demonstrating that grunt intensity systematically influences judgments of ball trajectory.

{ PLoS One | Continue reading }

In order for a proposition to be true (or false) it must have a sense; a nonsensical proposition can be neither true nor false.

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a team of psychology researchers began to challenge his ideas using a technique called “paradoxical thinking.” The premise is simple: Instead of presenting evidence that contradicts someone’s deeply held views, a psychologist agrees with the participant, then takes their views further, stretching their arguments to absurdity. This causes the participant to pause, reconsider, and reframe their own beliefs.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

acrylic and oil stick on plywood { Jean-Michel Basquiat, Now’s the Time, 1985 }

Structural color in Junonia butterflies evolves by tuning scale lamina thickness

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We have scientifically studied magic tricks to explore the human mind. For example, we use cutting-edge eye-tracking technologies to investigate how magicians misdirect our attention, and this work informs us about why people fail to see things right in front of their eyes. […] Magic works because we are typically unaware of our mind’s limitations, and most magic techniques rely on exploiting these surprising cognitive biases and limitations. Magicians don’t simply manipulate what you perceive – they manipulate your false beliefs about how much you can perceive.

{ The Psychologist | Continue reading }

related { we report a series of studies investigating the “paranormal potential” of magic performances }

who’s that peeping in my window, wow, the Feds on me now

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Paranoia is the most common symptom of psychosis, but paranoid concerns occur throughout the general population. […]

We suggest that paranoia should not solely be viewed as a pathological symptom of a mental disorder but also as a part of a normally-functioning human psychology.

{ Nature Human Behaviour | Continue reading | PDF }

screenprint on Perspex { Bridget Riley, Untitled [Fragment 5/8], 1965 }