Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Why does flat Earth belief still exist?

November 7th, 2018

Reality vs. belief about the shape of the Earth. Click for a full transcript.

There's no shortage of strange beliefs out there, and not all of them involve having a firm grip on reality. But it's truly bizarre to see one from the latter camp have a sudden surge in popularity and attention millenia after we knew it was wrong. But when it comes to the idea that the Earth is flat, centuries of accumulating evidence don't make much of a difference—its adherents have centuries of history of ignoring it, along with at least one not-nearly-as-famous-as-it-should-be instance of threatening a prominent scientist along the way.

That was Alfred Russell Wallace, one of the two co-developers of the theory of evolution.

This is our first try of a new video format where we look at controversies that, well, really shouldn't be controversial. While we may get back to Wallace and his theory, for the most part we're going to focus on cases where the motivation for the controversy is a bit less obvious. What drives people to believe in ideas that are blatantly, obviously divorced from reality? Or to reject ones that have a solid foundation of evidence?

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Posted in Behavioral science, Earth science, flat earth, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Study: Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind

November 2nd, 2018
A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods.

Enlarge / A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods. (credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

There's nothing worse than waiting to hear potentially upsetting news, whether it's a bad medical diagnosis or learning if you got into your top college choice. These kinds of stressful periods can produce intense anxiety. Playing Tetris might be the perfect coping mechanism, according to a new study in the journal Emotion.

There have been a number of scientific studies involving Tetris, one of the most popular computer games in the world, in which players flip falling colored blocks every which way in order to neatly stack them into rows. For instance, a 2009 study found that one's brain activity becomes more efficient the longer one plays Tetris. The more proficient a player becomes, the less glucose the brain consumes for energy to fuel cognition.

That same year, a research group at Oxford University reported that playing Tetris could reduce the impact of viewing traumatic scenes, perhaps because the game disrupts retention of painful memories. That makes it a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is such an effective distraction that it can help reduce cravings in dieters and addicts seeking to kick the habit. After prolonged play, images of the Tetris combinations will linger in the brain (the so-called "Tetris effect"), although this will happen with any repeated images or scenarios (solitaire, jigsaw puzzles, and so forth). It even inspired a new Playstation game, The Tetris Effect.

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Posted in cognition, Flow, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Psychology, science, Tetris | Comments (0)

Acting like a psychopath is great for male CEOs, not so much for women

October 26th, 2018
Think <em>Wall Street</em>'s Gordon Gecko, not Hannibal Lecter, when it comes to psychopathic tendencies among CEOs.

Enlarge / Think Wall Street's Gordon Gecko, not Hannibal Lecter, when it comes to psychopathic tendencies among CEOs. (credit: 20th Century Fox)

With all the corporate scandals of late, chances are you've heard the statement that one in five CEOs is a "psychopath." But a new study in the Journal of Applied Psychology concludes that figure may be overblown. Corporate leaders are only slightly more likely to have strong psychopathic tendencies than other groups—and CEOs that exhibit those tendencies are less likely to be viewed as effective leaders.

More significantly, there is a pronounced gender gap between how men and women are perceived when they exhibit psychopathic traits. It can give men a slight advantage when moving up through management ranks. But women are perceived much more negatively because those traits run counter to social gender norms, and thus women don't reap the same benefits in terms of career advancement.

The term "psychopath" often conjures up images of fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter or similar violent personas. It actually describes a cluster of personality traits: namely, bold aggressiveness, seeking to dominate others, a lack of empathy, and uninhibited impulsiveness. All of those traits must be present to warrant a diagnosis of clinical psychopathy. Think Gordon Gecko, the proudly unethical, frequently abusive trader in the 1987 film Wall Street, whose mantra was "Greed is good."

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Posted in corporate culture, Gaming & Culture, gender bias, Gordon Gecko, personality traits, Psychology, psychopathology, science | Comments (0)

Meta-analysis shows psychotherapy leads to long-term personality change

August 23rd, 2017

Enlarge / Even Lego clowns need therapy sometimes. (credit: Pascal / Flickr)

If you’ve ever wondered whether psychotherapy achieves meaningful, long-term change in a person’s life, wonder no more: combined evidence from multiple studies suggest that it does. A meta-analysis published recently in Psychological Bulletin reports that a variety of different therapeutic techniques results in positive changes to personality, especially when it comes to neuroticism, that last over a considerable period of time.

Personality is, as your intuition might tell you, relatively stable—people who start out gregarious and adventurous tend to stay gregarious and adventurous throughout their lives. Assessments of people’s personality traits taken at different times tend to agree pretty well with each other. But that doesn’t mean personality is static: personal growth, life experiences, and age all play their part, and people’s personalities do change somewhat throughout their lives—usually for the better.

An OCEAN of change

But it can be tricky to work out precisely what is being evaluated in measures of personality like the “Big Five” of Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (“OCEAN”). Any personality questionnaire will come up with metrics that capture both someone’s stable, long-term tendencies (their traits), as well as how they are feeling in a given moment or phase in their life (their state). So, it’s not enough to find that therapy brings about personality changes—it’s also necessary to figure out how deep those changes go.

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Posted in Behavioral science, Biology, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Un-bustable myths and stubborn minds: Pro-vaccine efforts backfire

August 11th, 2017

Enlarge / An example of a frightening image, in this case a child with measles, which may convince some that vaccines have frightening side effects. (credit: Greene, Charles Lyman)

Striking at a myth with facts may only shore it up, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that three main intervention strategies for combating anti-vaccine lies and falsehoods were ineffective at changing minds. But perhaps more concerning, they found that over-time exposure to the interventions strengthened participants’ belief in those lies and falsehoods, researchers recently reported in PLOS One. The researchers speculate that the mere repetition of a myth during the process of debunking may be enough to entrench the myth in a believer’s mind.

“People tend to mistake repetition for truth, a phenomenon known as the ‘illusory truth’ effect,” the authors, led by Sara Pluviano at the University of Edinburgh, note. And when those myths are built into a framework of beliefs and world views—a cognitive consistency perspective—it becomes even harder to knock them out.

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Posted in anti-vaccine, Psychology, science, vaccine | Comments (0)