psychology

‘And above all, away with the body, this wretched idée fixe of the senses.’ –Nietzsche

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We present a new tool that provides a means to measure the psychological and cultural distance between two societies and create a distance scale with any population as the point of comparison. Since psychological data is dominated by samples drawn from the United States or other WEIRD nations, this tool provides a “WEIRD scale.” […]

Decades of psychological research designed to uncover truths about human psychology may have instead uncovered truths about a thin slice of our species – those who live in Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (WEIRD) nations. […]

Just how psychologically different are the nations of the world compared to each other and to the over-scrutinized United States? Many hard drives have been filled with the ways in which China and Japan differ from the United States and Canada, but just how psychologically distant is the culture of China from Japan, the United States from Canada, or Azerbaijan from Zambia? Here we introduce a robust method for quantifying this distance. […]

[We compared] the cultural differences between regions of the four largest populations—China, India, United States and European Union. These analyses reveal that the cultural differences between regions of the overscrutinized United States are considerably smaller than the European Union, China, or India. […]

The Far East has always held a certain exoticism, which may have driven a generation of cultural psychologists to document the many ways in which East Asian societies differ from the West. However, the most extensively researched East Asian nations aren’t anywhere near the extreme on the WEIRD scale and some are barely halfway. Moreover, there is considerable diversity within China, let alone between China, Japan, and Hong Kong. This diversity has been exploited by other researchers, for example, showing the role of agriculture on individualism and collectivism, but nowhere the levels performed within the United States, where we know state by state differences in psychological differences such as tightness-looseness. […]

Relatively little attention has been paid to the Middle East and Africa both by the World Values Survey and the psychological sciences. However, given the relative cultural distance to the United States and Africa’s large genetic, linguistic, and likely cultural variation, we have every reason to suspect the WEIRD scale will continue to stretch as we map out these psychological terra incognita. These regions, as well as other underrepresented regions, such as the South Pacific, may in fact hold a treasure trove of findings for the next wave of cultural psychologists.

{ SSRN | PDF }

How can you face your problem if your problem is your face

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From 1936-1972, approximately 50,000 lobotomies were performed in the US. The majority of these occurred during the “lobotomy boom” which occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Curiously, the lobotomy’s popularity coincided with a consensus within the medical community that it was ineffective. […]

Physician Walter Freeman performed approximately 10% of all US lobotomies during his medical career (El-Hai 2005). Although the procedure was widely used, it swiftly fell out of favor when the FDA approved the first antipsychotic drug in 1954. […]

In this paper, we propose the lobotomy’s popularity and longevity in the US was the result of the incentives generated by the institutional structure of mental health provision. Primarily, we note that funding for public mental hospitals and asylums were provided by state and federal governments on a very low per capita basis. This served to constrained revenues. Lobotomized patients were easier to manage (their brain damage often made them docile), and the procedure was comparatively cheaper than other treatment methods. These factors, in conjunction with little incentive to effectively treat patients provided by bureaucratic oversight, motivated physicians to perform cost and conflict minimizing treatment.


In contrast, physicians operating in private mental hospitals and asylums were funded by the patients, their caregivers, or through philanthropic donations. […] [L]obotomy was less used in private mental hospitals.

{ North Dakota State University Public Choice & Private Enterprise Research Paper Series | Continue reading }

acrylic, oil, oilstick and paper collage on three hinged wooden panels { Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait, 1981 }

“The Pleasure Principle” is an “independent woman” anthem about love gone wrong built around a dance beat

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Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a ‘high status’ (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a ‘neutral status’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. […]

Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1–10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition.

{ The British Psychological Society | PDF }

unrelated { Sweden plans to make sex toys safer because so many people get them stuck in their rectum }

‘This is the curse of our age, even the strangest aberrations are no cure for boredom.’ –Stendhal

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Because more and more young people are constantly presented with the opportunity to access information and connect to others via their smartphones, they report to be in a state of permanent alertness. In the current study, we define such a state as smartphone vigilance, an awareness that one can always get connected to others in combination with a permanent readiness to respond to incoming smartphone notifications. We hypothesized that constantly resisting the urge to interact with their phones draws on response inhibition, and hence interferes with students’ ability to inhibit prepotent responses in a concurrent task. […]

Results show that the mere visibility of a smartphone is sufficient to experience vigilance and distraction, and that this is enhanced when students receive notifications. Curiously enough, these strong experiences were unrelated to stop-signal task performance. These findings raise new questions about when and how smartphones can impact performance.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

Empty space itself has a negative energy density

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Procrastination is a familiar and widely discussed proclivity: postponing tasks that can be done earlier. Precrastination is a lesser known and explored tendency: completing tasks quickly just to get them done sooner.

Recent research suggests that precrastination may represent an important penchant that can be observed in both people and animals.

{ Learning & Behavior | Continue reading }

art { Vogue, June 1972 | Tom Wesselmann, Smoker #9, 1973 }

‘A fun thing to do at parties is stay home and masturbate.’ –Eden Dranger

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In April 2018, the servers of the popular video game “Fortnite” crashed for 24 hr. During this period, Pornhub (a popular pornographic website) analyzed trends in pornography access, finding that: (a) the percentage of gamers accessing Pornhub increased by 10% and (b) the searches of pornographic videos using the key term “Fortnite” increased by 60%.

{ Journal of Behavioral Addictions | Continue reading }

related { How Fortnite became the most important video game on the planet }

update { Online divorce service says ‘Fortnite addiction’ cited in 200 divorces }

pochoir, brush and india ink { Roy Lichtenstein, Hand Loading Gun, 1961 }

‘I am not young enough to know everything.’ –Oscar Wilde

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Knowing yourself requires knowing not just what you are like in general (trait self-knowledge), but also how your personality fluctuates from moment to moment (state self-knowledge). We examined this latter form of self-knowledge. […]

People had self-insight into their momentary extraversion, conscientiousness, and likely neuroticism, suggesting that people can accurately detect fluctuations in some aspects of their personality. However, the evidence for self-insight was weaker for agreeableness. This apparent self-ignorance may be partly responsible for interpersonal problems and for blind spots in trait self-knowledge.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXIX, 1983 }

‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ —Henry Miller

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We investigated the association between sexy-selfie prevalence and income inequality. […] Among 5,567 US cities and 1,622 US counties, areas with relatively more sexy selfies were more economically unequal. […] We investigated and confirmed that economically unequal (but not gender-oppressive) areas in the United States also had greater aggregate sales in goods and services related to female physical appearance enhancement (beauty salons and women’s clothing).

{ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | Continue reading }

“Selfies” (self-taken photos) are a common self-presentation strategy on social media. This study experimentally tested whether taking and posting selfies, with and without photo-retouching, elicits changes to mood and body image among young women. […] Women who took and posted selfies to social media reported feeling more anxious, less confident, and less physically attractive afterwards compared to those in the control group. Harmful effects of selfies were found even when participants could retake and retouch their selfies.

{ Body Image | Continue reading }

When young children during their early development for the first time get their head around the fact that the reflection in the mirror is them, they are struck with a terrifying realization: All at once it dawns on them that this is how they present themselves to the world – and that the world might be repulsed by the sight. Animals, it seems, are not able to make that discovery. […] Hearing a recording of one’s own voice for the first time produces a similarly uncanny sensation.

{ Rolf Degen | Continue reading }

‘In order to remain silent Da-sein must have something to say.’ –Heidegger

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The Cynical Genius Illusion

Competent individuals held contingent attitudes and endorsed cynicism only if it was warranted in a given sociocultural environment.

Less competent individuals embraced cynicism unconditionally, suggesting that — at low levels of competence — holding a cynical worldview might represent an adaptive default strategy to avoid the potential costs of falling prey to others’ cunning.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin | Continue reading }

photo { Susan Unterberg, Horse eyes #3, 1999 }

Boomed crashing chords

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In 2014, stories appeared in national and international media claiming that the condition of “selfitis” (the obsessive taking of selfies) was to be classed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and that the condition could be borderline, acute, or chronic. However, the stories were a hoax but this did not stop empirical research being carried out into the concept. The present study empirically explored the concept and collected data on the existence of selfitis with respect to the three alleged levels (borderline, acute, and chronic) and developed the Selfitis Behavior Scale (SBS).

{ International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction | Continue reading }

photo { Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Rome, Italy, 1977–1978 }

Why Not Sneeze Rrose Sélavy?

the intensity of the emotional response people experience when they act dishonestly is reduced every time they lie

{ NBC | Continue reading }

You gotta get up, you gotta get off, you gotta get down, girl

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In Study 2, we moved chairs together in Starbucks across the country so that they were partially blocking the aisle (n = 678).

People in northern China were more likely to move the chair out of the way, which is consistent with findings that people in individualistic cultures are more likely to try to control the environment. People in southern China were more likely to adjust the self to the environment by squeezing through the chairs. Even in China’s most modern cities, rice-wheat differences live on in everyday life.

{ Improbable | Continue reading }