psychology

Cause we’re the party people night and day

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The Devil looks you in the eyes and offers you a bet. Pick a number and if you successfully guess the total he’ll roll on two dice you get to keep your soul. If any other number comes up, you go to burn in eternal hellfire.

You call “7” and the Devil rolls the dice.

A two and a four, so the total is 6 — that’s bad news.

But let’s not dwell on the incandescent pain of your infinite and inescapable future, let’s think about your choice immediately before the dice were rolled.

Did you make a mistake? Was choosing “7” an error?

In one sense, obviously yes. You should have chosen 6.

But in another important sense you made the right choice. There are more combinations of dice outcomes that add to 7 than to any other number. The chances of winning if you bet 7 are higher than for any other single number.

The distinction is between a particular choice which happens to be wrong, and a choice strategy which is actually as good as you can do in the circumstances. If we replace the Devil’s Wager with the situations the world presents you, and your choice of number with your actions in response, then we have a handle on what psychologists mean when they talk about “cognitive error” or “bias”.

{ Mind Hacks | Continue reading }

‘The trust in life is gone: life itself has become a problem. Yet one should not jump to the conclusion that this necessarily makes one gloomy. Even love of life is still possible, only one loves differently.’ —Nietzsche

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Stressful, busy days have been linked with increases in angry and withdrawn marital behavior. The process by which stressors in one domain, such as work, affect an individual’s behavior in another domain, such as the marital relationship, is known as spillover.

{ Journal of Family Psychology | Continue reading }

‘We have psychologized like the insane, who aggravate their madness in struggling to understand it.’ —Beaudelaire

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According to film mythology, the Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov conducted an experiment in which he combined a close-up of an actor’s neutral face with three different emotional contexts: happiness, sadness, and hunger. The viewers of the three film sequences reportedly perceived the actor’s face as expressing an emotion congruent with the given context.

It is not clear, however, whether or not the so-called “Kuleshov effect” really exists. The original film footage is lost and recent attempts at replication have produced either conflicting or unreliable results.

The current paper describes an attempt to replicate Kuleshov’s original experiment using an improved experimental design. In a behavioral and eye tracking study, 36 participants were each presented with 24 film sequences of neutral faces across six emotional conditions. For each film sequence, the participants were asked to evaluate the emotion of the target person in terms of valence, arousal, and category. The participants’ eye movements were recorded throughout.

The results suggest that some sort of Kuleshov effect does in fact exist.

{ Perception | Continue reading }

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten

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[Researchers found that] when one is actively looking for an event with loose probabilistic and temporal expectancies on its occurrence, the awareness of otherwise unnoticed events improves.

This finding provides new insights on the attentional mechanisms behind the initial stages of serendipity.

{ Elsevier | Continue reading }

Excuse me but I need a mouth like yours

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Consuming alcohol, for example, really can make everyone else appear more physically attractive. […]

Also, playing hard-to-get almost never works. […]

Despite what many people think, opposites very rarely attract. In fact, decades of research has shown that attraction is most likely to be sparked when two people perceive themselves as being very similar to each other.

{ Quartz | Continue reading }

One world, ready or not

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Many situations in our lives require us to make relatively quick decisions as whether to approach or avoid a person or object, buy or pass on a product, or accept or reject an offer. These decisions are particularly difficult when there are both positive and negative aspects to the object. How do people go about navigating this conflict to come to a summary judgment? […]

We demonstrate […] that when positivity and negativity conflict, the valence that is based more on emotion is more likely to dominate.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin | Continue reading }

‘Tu as été rêvée (ouïe) dans mon rêve sans l’avoir voulu. Mais cela ne t’autorise pas à y rêver à ton tour pour me déposséder encore. Je ne connais pas les soins pour que tu ne souffres plus. Le son, la musique sont partout.’ —Jean Palomba

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Researchers at Brigham Young University and Colorado State University have found that the noise your food makes while you’re eating can have a significant effect on how much food you eat.

The “Crunch Effect,” as they call it, suggests you’re likely to eat less if you’re more conscious of the sound your food makes while you’re eating. Therefore, watching loud TV or listening to loud music while eating can mask eating sounds that keep you in check.

To be clear, the researchers are not talking about the sizzle of bacon, the crack of crème brulee or popcorn popping. The effect comes from the sound of mastication: chewing, chomping, crunching.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

The mirror up to nature. (He laughs.) Hu hu hu hu hu hu.

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Organization members who engage in “moral objection” by taking a principled stand against ethically questionable activities help to prevent such activities from persisting. Unfortunately, research suggests that they also may be perceived as less warm (i.e., pleasant, nice) than members who comply with ethically questionable procedures.

{ Journal of Applied Psychology | Continue reading }

Once more, on pain of death, all men depart

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The Sorrows of Young Werther was published in 1774, when Goethe (1749–1832) was just twenty-five years old. A product of true literary genius, it not only represents one of the greatest works of literature ever written, but it also offers keenly intuitive insight into one of the most terrible and mystifying emotional disorders that plague humankind.

Well before Sigmund Freud, and most probably destined to become an important source of Freud’s understanding of melancholic depression, Goethe was able to peer into the soul of those afflicted with what is now termed Major Depressive Disorder (and some forms of Bipolar Disorder) and see what is taking place within those who are suffering from it. It is impressive how clearly Goethe grasped the twin roles played in mel-ancholia of narcissistic object choice and extreme ambivalence toward a love object.

{ The Psychoanalytic Quarterly | PDF }

(The freckled face of Sweny, the druggist, appeals in the disc of the soapsun.)

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Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, and use during adolescence — when the brain is still developing — has been proposed as a cause of poorer neurocognitive outcome. Nonetheless, research on this topic is scarce and often shows conflicting results, with some studies showing detrimental effects of marijuana use on cognitive functioning and others showing no significant long-term effects.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the associations of marijuana use with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal studies of adolescent twins (n = 789 and n = 2,277). We used a quasiexperimental approach to adjust for participants’ family background characteristics and genetic propensities, helping us to assess the causal nature of any potential associations. Standardized measures of intelligence were administered at ages 9–12 y, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17–20 y. Marijuana use was self-reported at the time of each cognitive assessment as well as during the intervening period.

Marijuana users had lower test scores relative to nonusers and showed a significant decline in crystallized intelligence between preadolescence and late adolescence. However, there was no evidence of a dose–response relationship between frequency of use and intelligence quotient (IQ) change. Furthermore, marijuana-using twins failed to show significantly greater IQ decline relative to their abstinent siblings.

Evidence from these two samples suggests that observed declines in measured IQ may not be a direct result of marijuana exposure but rather attributable to familial factors that underlie both marijuana initiation and low intellectual attainment.

{ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences }

photo { Julia Margaret Cameron, Paul and Virginia, 1864 }

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is based on the theory that some depressions occur seasonally in response to reduced sunlight. SAD has attracted cultural and research attention for more than 30 years and influenced the DSM through inclusion of the seasonal variation modifier for the major depression diagnosis. This study was designed to determine if a seasonally related pattern of occurrence of major depression could be demonstrated in a population-based study. A cross-sectional U.S. survey of adults completed the Patient Health Questionnaire–8 Depression Scale. […] Depression was unrelated to latitude, season, or sunlight. Results do not support the validity of a seasonal modifier in major depression. The idea of seasonal depression may be strongly rooted in folk psychology, but it is not supported by objective data.

{ Clinical Psychological Science | Continue reading }

photo { Daido Moriyama }

Why did the cat go to Minnesota? To get a mini soda!

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After 2.5 millennia of philosophical deliberation and psychological experimentation, most scholars have concluded that humor arises from incongruity. We highlight 2 limitations of incongruity theories of humor.

First, incongruity is not consistently defined. The literature describes incongruity in at least 4 ways: surprise, juxtaposition, atypicality, and a violation.

Second, regardless of definition, incongruity alone does not adequately differentiate humorous from nonhumorous experiences.

We suggest revising incongruity theory by proposing that humor arises from a benign violation: something that threatens a person’s well-being, identity, or normative belief structure but that simultaneously seems okay.

Six studies, which use entertainment, consumer products, and social interaction as stimuli, reveal that the benign violation hypothesis better differentiates humorous from nonhumorous experiences than common conceptualizations of incongruity. A benign violation conceptualization of humor improves accuracy by reducing the likelihood that joyous, amazing, and tragic situations are inaccurately predicted to be humorous.

{ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology }

photo { William Klein }