July 31, 2013

How Americans See the Growth of the Nonreligious
A survey conducted March 21 to April 8 asked Americans whether having “more people who are not religious” is a good thing, a bad thing, or doesn’t matter for American society. Many more say it is bad than good (48 percent versus 11 percent). But about four in ten (39 percent) say it does not make much difference. Even among adults who do not identify with any religion, only about a quarter (24 percent) say the trend is good, while nearly as many say it is bad (19 percent); a majority (55 percent) of the unaffiliated say it does not make much difference for society. (Bruce Drake, Fact Tank, Pew Research Center)

Personality Changes and Life Satisfaction
Despite the long-held belief that personality traits are set in stone, numerous studies have found evidence to the contrary. Now research reveals that a changing character can influence life satisfaction even more than economic upheaval. (Tori Rodriguez, Scientific American Mind)

Individual Ants Can Make Better Decisions Than Colonies When the Choice Is Easy
Our society often touts teamwork, but when faced with an easy task, groups may actually perform worse than individuals—at least when the group is made up of Temnothorax rugatulus ants. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that T. rugatulus ant colonies could consider two competing nesting sites and make a good collective decision about which was the better option if the difference between the two was small. When the difference between the nests was obvious, however, the “group advantage” disappeared and colonies were more likely to choose the inferior site. (Melissa Pandika, Los Angeles Times)

More on How Real Prisoners Behave in the “Prisoners’ Dilemma”
Tania Lombrozo: A close look at the original paper reveals that the differences between prisoners and students are pretty tenuous. (13.7: Cosmos and Culture, NPR)

The Strange-Face Illusion and Visual Fading
Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik: Giovanni Caputo asked 50 subjects to gaze at their reflected faces in a mirror for a 10-minute session. After less than a minute, most observers began to perceive the “strange-face illusion.” The participants’ descriptions included huge deformations of their own faces; seeing the faces of alive or deceased parents; archetypal faces such as an old woman, child, or the portrait of an ancestor; animal faces such as a cat, pig, or lion; and even fantastical and monstrous beings. All 50 participants reported feelings of “otherness” when confronted with a face that seemed suddenly unfamiliar. Some felt powerful emotions. (Scientific American Mind)

Category: Field Notes

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