June 30, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationFalse Feelings of Truthiness
Eryn Newman: In my research at UC Irvine, I have collaborated with psychologists in New Zealand and Canada to discover the ways we can be tricked into thinking that something feels familiar, trustworthy, and true. In our studies, we have focused on how photos and names can have surprisingly powerful effects on our memories, beliefs, and evaluations of others. (The Washington Post)

More on the Facebook Emotional Contagion Study
Robinson Meyer: This study is different because, while other studies have observed Facebook user data, this one set out to manipulate it. The experiment is almost certainly legal. In the company’s current terms of service, Facebook users relinquish the use of their data for “data analysis, testing, [and] research.” Is it ethical, though? Since news of the study first emerged, I’ve seen and heard both privacy advocates and casual users express surprise at the audacity of the experiment. (The Atlantic)

Shared Expressions for Emotions
Human beings have dozens of universal expressions for emotions, and they deploy those expressions in recognizable ways across several cultures, new research finds. That number is far greater than the range of emotion previously thought to be similar around the world. (Tia Ghose, Live Science)

Contagious Imprisonment
To find out what makes imprisonment more transmissible among blacks than whites, Kristian Lum and her colleagues turned to the world of infectious disease, repurposing a computer simulation used in epidemiology to predict how an epidemic of imprisonment might develop. When a disease changes from just something that’s going around to a true epidemic, there’s usually a tipping point, Lum explains. For example, the sick people may come into close contact with others who are extremely vulnerable—the elderly, young children, or those who have never been exposed to the infection before. With incarceration, the researchers suspected one such tipping point might be the longer sentences typically given to black offenders. (Elizabeth Norton, Science)

Positive Language
When it comes to books, those in Russian and Chinese have the narrowest range of emotion, while books in English have the greatest. Even more emotionally wide-ranging than English books are Portuguese and Spanish tweets, and music lyrics in English. All these insights and more come from a big, new study of 10 diverse languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Indonesian, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese. In part, the researchers in charge of the project wanted to test whether human languages tend to be positive or negative. Languages are positive! they found. (Francie Diep, Popular Science)

June 25, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationIncreasing Self-Control Without Increasing Willpower
“We are able to help people make more foresighted choices, to show more self-control without expending more willpower, just by presenting choices in a different way,” Eran Magen told Live Science. “We can make better choices without having to take more effort to making those choices.” (Charles Q. Choi, Live Science)

Early Birds, Night Owls, and Ethics
Wray Herbert: Our sleep and waking habits may actually shape our character, influencing our very judgments of right and wrong. That idea comes from Christopher Barnes, of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, who with his colleagues has been studying the relationship between wakefulness and ethical judgment. (We’re Only Human, Association for Psychological Science)

A Charity’s Appeal
One study finds that requests featuring a single child are more effective than those with multiple faces. A second suggests that child had better not be too attractive. Both these results are somewhat counterintuitive. Photogenic kids are more likely to catch our eye, after all, and a group of kids implies greater need. But that doesn’t take into account some unconscious psychological drives the respective researchers have identified. They provide evidence that a single victim produces maximum empathy, and that we tend to believe beautiful people can fend for themselves—an unconscious assumption we even apply to minors. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Moving a Paralyzed Hand Using Thoughts and Technology
First they screwed the end of the gray cord into the metal silo rising out of Ian Burkhart’s skull. Later they laid his right forearm across two foam cylinders, and they wrapped it with thin strips that looked like film from an old home movie camera. They ran him through some practice drills, and then it was time for him to try. If he succeeded at this next task, it would be science fiction come true: His thoughts would bypass his broken spinal cord. With the help of an algorithm and some electrodes, he would move his once-dead limb again—a scientific first. (Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post)

Humanoid Robots “Working” at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo
The robots, created by a leading robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro, are designed to be as lifelike as possible, from their smooth silicon skin to their eloquent articulation. The purpose of the humanoids, which were unveiled at the start of a major new permanent exhibition showcasing cutting-edge robotics, was to encourage interaction between humans and robots and explore what differentiates the two. “Making androids is about exploring what it means to be human, examining the question of what is emotion, what is awareness, what is thinking,” Ishiguro told reporters. (Danielle Demetriou, The Telegraph)

June 24, 2014

© 2014 Microsoft CorporationThe Cutting-Edge of Empathy Research
Michael Kraus: At the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), Dacher Keltner (UC Berkeley), Nancy Eisenberg (Arizona State University), Inbal Bartal (University of Chicago), and Michael Kraus ([Me] University of Illinois) discussed some of the newest research on the topic of empathy. In particular, the symposium was focused on two areas of research on empathy: (1) describing the social factors that predict enhanced empathic responding in social interactions and across the life-course; and (2) highlighting the social and survival-related benefits of empathic processes and behaviors. (Character & Context, Society for Personality and Social Psychology)

Haters Gonna Be More Focused and Skilled?
In two studies, the researchers tracked participants over the course of a week and gave them a personality test to sift hater from liker (which I would like to think included questions like “How fierce do you think Beyoncé has been so far in 2014?”). Haters, they found, “tended to do fewer activities throughout the week than did likers,” which jibes with the idea that they get less enthusiastic about all that stuff out there in the world. This could have consequences for the career or skill trajectories of both groups. (Jesse Singal, Science of Us, New York Magazine)

Can Musical Sounds Change the Way We Think?
Daniel Yudkin and Yaacov Trope: Ponderous, resonant, unfamiliar tonalities—the proverbial “auditory forest”—cause people to construe things abstractly. By contrast, the rapid, consonant, familiar chords of the perfect fifth—the “auditory trees”—bring out the concrete mindset. (Mind Matters, Scientific American)

Time Capsule to Mars
Humans have yet to travel to Mars, but students from MIT and other universities announced Monday that they hope to put tens of millions of people from across the globe on the red planet within the next three years. How? By sending three small satellites, called CubeSats, to the surface with slivers of life from the year 2014 in the form of messages, photos, audio clips, and videos. (Yasmeen Abutaleb, The Boston Globe)

The Latest on the Higgs Boson
New data suggest that the particle discovered two years ago with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is indeed the Higgs boson—the key to physicists’ explanation of how all fundamental particles get their mass. (Adrian Cho, ScienceShots, Science)

June 23, 2014

Zilioli S, et al. Face of a fighter: Bizygomatic width as a cue of formidability.Facing a Fight
Men with faces that are wide relative to their length are more formidable fighters, on average. That’s according to a new paper that also finds that observers use the width of a man’s face to ascertain with accuracy his likely fighting ability. Samuele Zilioli and his collaborators believe their findings support the idea that humans have evolved specific “neurocognitive adaptations” for assessing the fighting prowess of potential opponents. (Christian Jarrett, BPS Research Digest)

Seeds of Peace
Eva Armour: We began in 1993 as an experiment. What if exceptional teenagers from conflict regions had the chance to meet face to face on neutral ground, engage in open and honest dialogue, and deepen their understanding of each other’s perspectives on the issues that divide them? What if they received continued support and leadership training when they returned home, so that their transformational experiences could continue and take root in the places where brave leadership is critical? What if they gained influence in their societies and could help bring about the political, social, and economic conditions needed for sustainable peace? (The Christian Science Monitor)

Fish Intelligence
The welfare of fish—which are vertebrates just like cows, pigs, and chickens, and possessing evolutionary lineages as long as those of Homo sapiens—has been barely discussed. As a result “the potential amount of cruelty we’re inflicting is mind-boggling,” says fish biologist Culum Brown, an assistant professor at Macquarie University in Australia. “People need to have a greater appreciation of how smart fish are,” he says. “Just because we’re ignorant is no excuse to treat another animal poorly. All the evidence suggests that they’re just as sophisticated as other vertebrates.” (Emily Gertz, Popular Science)

20 Things You Didn’t Know About Play
From dolphins to dogs, playing is nearly universal across mammal species. And play drives some of humanity’s greatest achievements. (Jonathon Keats, Discover)

Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence

What if flipping a light switch could jump-start your thinking? Or if giving a friend a sugary snack could make them “sweeter” company? These situations may sound bizarre, but some psychologists suspect that our physical experiences—what we see, smell, touch, taste, and hear—profoundly influence our mental states. In Sensation, psychologist Thalma Lobel explores the theory of embodied cognition, which posits that our body can direct our mind just as much as our mind directs our body. (Daisy Yuhas, Scientific American Mind)

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