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Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Social exclusion is linked to the pain regulation center of our brain.

In this study, students who received stimulation to the portion of the prefrontal cortex responsible for pain regulation didn’t seem bothered when they were deliberately excluded in a ball tossing game.

via Feelings Of Social Pain Eased By Brain Stimulation.

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Being Cruel: It’s Not Blind Obedience; There is Enthusiasm in the Act

We’ve relied on the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) and the Stanford Prison Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment) for explaining how and why ordinary people, like ourselves, can commit acts of extreme cruelty and harm. While they tell part of the story, it seems we may have overlooked other important pieces of human motivation inherent to committing cruel acts. 

A new study argues that “…tyranny does not result from blind conformity to rules and roles. Rather, it is a creative act of followership, resulting from identifying with authorities who represent vicious acts as virtuous. “Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe—typically under the influence of those in authority—that what they are doing is right,” Professor Haslam explained.”

via Human obedience: The myth of blind conformity.

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Conclusions

What can we do to encourage people to help more?

  1. Present them with a single, identifiable victim who they can help: people are more motivated to help if they can feel a personal connection with the victim.

  2. Appeal to their emotions: heightened emotional responses encourage altruistic behaviour.

  3. Instill a sense of responsibility to help, and an understanding that doing so is not futile.

via Blog: Why don’t people help others more? – part 1 | 80,000 Hours.

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Drinking as little as half a pint of beer per week during pregnancy can cut a baby’s intelligence by several IQ points.

via Moderate drink during pregnancy can lower baby’s IQ – health – 15 November 2012 – New Scientist.

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Scientists found a region in the brain responsible for “eye contact”.

Making direct eye contact with someone gives you that feeling of a special connection because it excites newly discovered “eye cells” in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes emotions and social interactions.

via Eye-contact detector found in the brain – life – 16 October 2012 – New Scientist.

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P
eople aren’t really stupid.

These people are not stupid. These people were well educated and intellectually groomed. Stupid isn’t the right word for these people.

These people were susceptible. Their individual and collective egos were reaching up towards an ideal which held them as superior beings.

I proffer that this type of egoic reaction is somewhat involuntary. Many are able to resist the enticement of superiority, or worship, of self-aggrandizement, but eventually all but the rarest of creatures gives way and wallows within the hope of it.

I think it is a security vulnerability in the software of the human brain. Just as we rush to prepare patches to shore up the vulnerabilities on our technological counterparts, so, too, could we rush to prepare a patch for this paradigm shifting vulnerability which has been repeatedly exploited throughout history by those who have a clear understanding of how it works.

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Looks like a fast therapeutic approach for chronic depression may be on the horizon. Ketamine provides fast and effective relief for chronically depressed patients. It works on an entirely differently type of transmitter than current antide

pressants. Research suggests it helps regenerate synaptic connections between brain cells which have been damaged by stress and depression.

From the article:
“The improvement in symptoms, which are evident just hours after ketamine is administered, lasts only a week to 10 days. In large doses, ketamine can cause short-term symptoms of psychosis and is abused as the party drug “Special K.”

YaleNews | Yale scientists explain how ketamine vanquishes depression within hours.

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Kahneman Says the Field of Psychology Known As Social Priming Needs to Get Its Act Together Quickly

Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman has issued a strongly worded call to one group of psychologists to restore the credibility of their field by creating a replication ring to check each others’ results.

via Psychology Receives Challenge to Clean Up Its Act: Scientific American.

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As leaders ascend to more powerful positions in their groups, they face ever-increasing demands. This has given rise to the common perception that leaders have higher stress levels than non-leaders. But if leaders also experience a heightened sense of control—a psychological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects—leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels. Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials, we found that, compared to non-leaders, leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower reports of anxiety (Study 1). In a second study, leaders holding more powerful positions exhibited lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than leaders holding less powerful positions, a relationship explained significantly by their greater sense of control. Altogether, these findings reveal a clear relationship between leadership and stress, with leadership level being inversely related to stress.

via Leadership Is Associated with Lower Levels of Stress – Article – Harvard Business School.

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Think your moral choices are clear, concise and firm? Read this and think again.

Choice Blindness is a phenomena occurring in the areas of taste, smell and aesthetic appeal. Now, moral choice has been shown to be just as malleable. So, what is choice blindness? and why does it matter?

A simple test was conducted by researchers at Lund University. They asked random people walking through a park if they would fill out a simple questionaire about their moral principles. The questions covered topics ranging from prosititution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Surveys were filled out by 160 people, but unknown to the participants, there was a trick to them (see video): While the second page of the survey was being completed, the statements on the first page of the survey were surreptitiously changed to the opposite moral position, while leaving the participants answers the same.

Then, the participants were asked to read three of the moral positions on page 1, including two which had been altered, and discuss their response to them. The results were surprising.

HALF of the participants did not detect the changes at all. 69% accepted at least one of the altered statements. An unimaginable 53% argued unequivocally for the reversed moral position.

This is “choice blindness”. It demonstrates how malleable and flexible people really are.

A psychologist adds, “These findings suggest that if I’m fooled into thinking that I endorse a view, I’ll do the work myself to come up with my own reasons [for endorsing it],” .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO_cDCoRACg&feature=player_embedded

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Marissa Mayer chose to major in what she describes as “symbolic systems”, which are a combination of these 4 disciplines: 

–philosophy (how do people reason?) 
–cognitive psychology (how do people learn?) 
–linguistics (how do people communicate?) and 
–computer science (can a computer do the same or assist people in doing these things?) 

That kind of thinking appears to set you up pretty well to be a product manager for a company that creates software to assist human minds in reaching a greater potential. (video 1.3hour) via http://www.quora.com/Stanford-University/What-is-it-about-the-Symbolic-Systems-program-at-Stanford-that-produces-such-amazing-alums#ans1399154

via An Evening with Marissa Mayer – YouTube.

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“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems—from God to atoms to evolution—they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

“When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”

via People merge supernatural and scientific beliefs when reasoning with the unknown, study shows.

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“These multi-session adult courses share the latest research on the neuroscience, psychology, and evolution of human behavior. With the help of expert guest speakers, online resources, documentary footage, and in-class projects, students will learn how to be critical consumers of scientific research and news reporting—all in a small, discussion-based setting”
http://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/adults/sackler-brain-bench

via Sackler Brain Bench.

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My summary:

Decisions made in private tend toward the selfish, while decisions made under the eyes of the group tend to be more beneficial for all. An interesting note is that the larger the group, the more likely the decision would be beneficent.

I have to wonder about this, and other studies supporting the same outcomes, with regards to the virtual community, or group, we have created via our social networking sites and groups. Although it is a recent phenomena, the use of software for data collection, mining and statistical analysis shouldn’t require much time.

Abstract

Are selfish impulses less likely to be pursued when decisions are publicly observable? Is the presence of peers a potential solution to social dilemmas? In this paper we report data on the self-control decisions of children aged 6 to 11 who participated in games that require one to resist a selfish impulse for several minutes in order to benefit others. In Public Condition children make decisions in public view of the group of other participants, while in Private Condition they have the possibility to decide privately. We find that children aged 9 and higher are better able to resist selfish impulses in public environments. Younger children, however, display no such effect. Further, we find self-control substantially impacted by group size. When decisions are public, self-control is better in larger groups, while in private condition the opposite holds.

via PLoS ONE: Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from Children’s Behavior.

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They found three things which lowered compulsive behavior in dogs: vitamin and mineral supplements, female neutering and maternal care length. Pretty interesting.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder observed both in humans and animals. Examples of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CD) include excessive tail chasing (TC), light/shadow chasing and flank sucking. We performed a questionnaire survey to investigate the characteristics of compulsive (TC) and its possible associations with environmental correlates and personality in a pet population of 368 dogs from four dog breeds. We observed an early onset of TC at 3–6 months of age and a large variation in TC frequency in all breeds, with an overrepresentation of milder cases. Almost half of the TC dogs showed lowered responsiveness during bouts and displayed also other types of compulsions more often than the controls. Interestingly, dogs that received dietary supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, expressed less TC compared to dogs that did not receive any supplements. Neutered females had less TC, suggesting an influence of ovarian hormones on TC. Tail chasers were shyer and had separated earlier from their mothers than the controls. Finally, our genetic study did not find an association between TC and CDH2, a locus previously associated with the canine flank sucking compulsion. In conclusion, the early-onset and the variable nature of the repetitive behaviour, which is affected by environmental factors such as micronutrients, neutering and maternal care, share several similar components between canine and human compulsions and supports canine TC as a model for human OCD.

via PLoS ONE: Environmental Effects on Compulsive Tail Chasing in Dogs.

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