psychology

‘darling, the crocodile species has existed for over 300 million years, and you became extinct last night.’ –Charles Bukowski

A number of studies – including our own – find a mid-life dip in well-being. […] The effects of the mid-life dip are comparable to major life events like losing a spouse, losing a job or getting cancer. They are clearly not inconsequential.

{ National Bureau of Economic Research | Continue reading }

My wife and I were happy for twenty five years, then we met

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Emerging findings suggest that decision-making competence may tap not only into fluid intelligence but also into motivation, emotion regulation, and experience (or crystallized intelligence). Although fluid intelligence tends to decline with age, older adults may be able to maintain decision-making competence by leveraging age-related improvements in these other skills.

{ SAGE | Continue reading }

photo { Stephen Shore. Image from “Transparencies, Small Camera Works 1971-1979 }

‘“I am a Microsoft Word man.” Says the human dressed like Microsoft Word.’ –David A Banks

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David Silver [the creator of AlphaZero] hasn’t answered my question about whether machines can set up their own goals. He talks about subgoals, but that’s not the same. That’s a certain gap in his definition of intelligence. We set up goals and look for ways to achieve them. A machine can only do the second part.

So far, we see very little evidence that machines can actually operate outside of these terms, which is clearly a sign of human intelligence. Let’s say you accumulated knowledge in one game. Can it transfer this knowledge to another game, which might be similar but not the same? Humans can. With computers, in most cases you have to start from scratch.

{ Gary Kasparov/Wired | Continue reading }

photo { Kelsey Bennett }

Stephanie says that she wants to know why she’s given half her life, to people she hates now

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Curiosity - the drive for information - is often perceived as a dangerous trait. This is exacerbated by the perception that when something is forbidden, curiosity towards it increases. […]

This research demonstrated the so-called “forbidden fruit effect”, in which unavailable options elicit curiosity – the desire to know more – even when people were completely aware that the forbidden option did not differ from other options in terms of expected outcome, uncertainty (hidden values), and visual salience.

{ OSF | Continue reading }

‘Call no man happy till he is dead.’ –Solon

Even though it may come naturally, griping isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Ruminating on negative feelings, and reinforcing them through constant discussion with other people, can lead to catastrophizing, which “is something that can contribute to depression” […]

This can happen because “the more you do something, the more entrenched that path becomes in your brain and the more you continue to do it” […]

Constantly complaining can be an easy way to frustrate our confidantes, but there is research that shows it can also be a useful tool in bonding and helping us process emotions like stress and frustration.

“In short: Yes, it’s good to complain, yes, it’s bad to complain, and yes, there’s a right way to do it” […] The trick to doing it right starts with understanding how the word “complaining” is often misused to describe a variety of behaviors, with some being more harmful or helpful than others. […] there are roughly three categories: venting, problem solving and ruminating, otherwise known as dwelling. […]

Life isn’t perfect. That’s why expressing negative feelings is not only normal, but also healthy, Dr. Kowalski said, adding that the unrealistic expectation that we should always be happy can make us feel worse. […] Inhibiting the disclosure of our dissatisfaction “can produce a negative effect,” she said, because it not only stops us from naming our problem but also prevents us from getting to the root of it.

That’s why “complaining is, ideally, totally solutions focused,” Ms. Gilbertson said. Though venting is not as focused on solving problems, “there are also really positive benefits,” Dr. Grice said, because it allows us “to get things out in the open and get our feelings heard so they don’t build up and cause stress.” […]

You want to avoid what Dr. Grice calls wearing “muddy glasses,” where no matter what’s going on you always find something to complain about. The same goes with rehashing a problem over and over again, whether with friends or in the echo chamber of the internet.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘so many ankles out on this freakishly warm day, so few of them lotioned’ –Doreen St. Félix

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He had diabetes, and he had signed up for a study to see if taking a “statin” – a kind of cholesterol-lowering drug – might help. So far, so normal.

But soon after he began the treatment, his wife began to notice a sinister transformation. A previously reasonable man, he became explosively angry and – out of nowhere – developed a tendency for road rage. During one memorable episode, he warned his family to keep away, lest he put them in hospital. […]

In 2018, a study uncovered the same effect in fish. Giving statins to Nile tilapia made them more confrontational and – crucially – altered the levels of serotonin in their brains. This suggests that the mechanism that links cholesterol and violence may have been around for millions of years.

Golomb remains convinced that lower cholesterol, and, by extension, statins, can cause behavioural changes in both men and women, though the strength of the effect varies drastically from person to person. […]

The world is in the midst of a crisis of over-medication, with the US alone buying up 49,000 tonnes of paracetamol every year – equivalent to about 298 paracetamol tablets per person. [..]

Mischkowski’s own research has uncovered a sinister side-effect of paracetamol. For a long time, scientists have known that the drug blunts physical pain by reducing activity in certain brain areas, such as the insular cortex, which plays an important role in our emotions. These areas are involved in our experience of social pain, too – and intriguingly, paracetamol can make us feel better after a rejection.

And recent research has revealed that this patch of cerebral real-estate is more crowded than anyone previously thought, because it turns out the brain’s pain centres also share their home with empathy. […] results revealed that paracetamol significantly reduces our ability to feel positive empathy – a result with implications for how the drug is shaping the social relationships of millions of people every day. […] Technically, paracetamol isn’t changing our personalities, because the effects only last a few hours and few of us take it continuously.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Logan White }

I’m in that black on black Porsche Panamera, in the back like “ooh wee”

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Using Music as Medicine – finding the optimum music listening ‘dosage’

There was a general agreement of dosage time across 3 of the 4 domains with 11 minutes being the most common amount of time it took for people to receive the therapeutic benefit from their self- selected music preferences. The only exception was the domain of happiness where the most common length of time for people to become happier after listening to their chosen music was reduced to 5 minutes, suggesting that happy music takes less time to take effect than other music. 


{ British Academy of Sound Therapy.com | PDF | More

photo { Sarah Illenberger }

As you spring so shall you neap

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Most of the research on happiness has documented that income, marriage, employment and health affect happiness. Very few studies examine whether happiness itself affect income, marriage, employment and health. […] Findings show that happier Indonesians in 2007 earned more money, were more likely to be married, were less likely to be divorced or unemployed, and were in better health when the survey was conducted again seven years later.

{ Applied Research in Quality of Life | Continue reading }

image { Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, Toilet Paper #1, June 2010 }

And the dneepers of wet and the gangres of sin in it!

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Across four studies participants (N = 818) rated the profoundness of abstract art images accompanied with varying categories of titles, including: pseudo-profound bullshit titles (e.g., The Deaf Echo), mundane titles (e.g., Canvas 8), and no titles.

Randomly generated pseudo-profound bullshit titles increased the perceived profoundness of computer-generated abstract art, compared to when no titles were present (Study 1).

Mundane titles did not enhance the perception of profoundness, indicating that pseudo-profound bullshit titles specifically (as opposed to titles in general) enhance the perceived profoundness of abstract art (Study 2).

Furthermore, these effects generalize to artist-created abstract art (Study 3).

Finally, we report a large correlation between profoundness ratings for pseudo-profound bullshit and “International Art English” statements (Study 4), a mode and style of communication commonly employed by artists to discuss their work.

{ Judgment and Decision Making | Continue reading }

Why is he smiling in this moment — during a question and answer regarding such a serious subject? A smile, when it’s out of context, is always telling.

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According to a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, you can come off as more persuasive by speaking slightly louder than you normally do, and by varying the overall volume of your voice (i.e., speaking both more loudly and softly). […] it will make you appear more confident when you speak, which has a positive impact on your overall persuasiveness, according to the study.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Now looking at the screen, it feels like the future didn’t last long, so Find The Filter You Love The Most And Let It Kill You.’ –Fette Sans

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“The human eye is extraordinarily sensitive to light,” Dr. Woods said. Throw a few dozen photons its way, a few dozen quantum-sized packets of light, and the eye can readily track them. […]

N.I.S.T. disk number two was an example of advanced ultra-black technology: elaborately engineered arrays of tiny carbon cylinders, or nanotubes, designed to capture and muzzle any light they encounter. […] The N.I.S.T. ultra-black absorbs at least 99.99 percent of the light that stumbles into its nanotube forest. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in September the creation of a carbon nanotube coating that they claim captures better than 99.995 of the incident light. “The blackest black should be a constantly improving number,” said Brian Wardle, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and an author on the new report. “Folks will find other materials that are blacker than ours.” […]

Psychologists have gathered evidence that black is among the most metaphorically loaded of all colors, and that we absorb our often contradictory impressions about black at a young age. […] Participants were asked to link images with traits. Which boy was likeliest to cheat on the test? Which man was likely to be in charge at work? Which girl was the smartest in her class, which dog the scariest? Again and again, among both children and young adults, black pulled ahead of nearly every color but red. Black was the color of cheating, and black was the color of cleverness. A black tie was the mark of a boss, a black collar the sign of a pit bull. Black was the color of strength and of winning. Black was the color of rage. […]

Diemut Strebe, an artist in residence at M.I.T., collaborated with Dr. Wardle on a project that would merge carbon at its most absorptive configuration, in the form of carbon nanotubes, with carbon in its most reflective and refractive state, as a diamond. One of their biggest challenges: finding a jeweler willing to lend them a chunky diamond that would be plastered with what amounts to high-tech soot. “I tried many companies, Tiffany, others,” Ms. Strebe said. “I got many no’s.” Finally, L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in colored diamonds, agreed to hand over a $2 million, 16.78-carat yellow diamond, provided the process could be reverse-engineered and the carbon nanotube coating safely removed. The resulting blackened bling is on view at the New York Stock Exchange, which Ms. Strebe calls “the holy grail of valuation.”

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

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 }