Tag: psychology

Lies About Santa? They Could Be Good For Your Child

Christmas is a magical time of year, especially for children. Unfortunately, between elaborate Elf on the Shelf staging and fending off questions about Santa, parents are often left wondering how much of the magic depends on them.

Specifically, many parents worry about whether they should encourage their children’s belief in the physical reality of Santa, about the potential impact of lying to them and what to do when their children realize they’ve been duped.

Rest assured, parents, it’s not all up to you. In fact, the best approach involves supporting your kids while they figure it out on their own. They will, and it won’t be as bad as you expect.

Research in the field of developmental psychology suggests that such fantastical beliefs are not actually harmful, but are associated with a number of positive developmental outcomes — from exercising the “counterfactual reasoning skills” needed for human innovation to boosting emotional development.

Should you bust the myth?

Recognizing these challenging questions for what they are — cognitive development in action — may free some parents from the burden of belief.

If your goal is to extend your child’s belief in the physical reality of Santa, you can respond to the questions with plausible explanations or evidence.

This is where NORAD, the online tracker that shows Santa’s progress around the globe on Christmas Eve, can come in handy.

If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: “I don’t know, how do you think the sleigh flies?

Finally, if you think it’s time to usher your child into the common adult understanding of Santa as a beloved fantasy figure, you can provide different, disconfirming evidence and explanations.

My Santa myth was busted shortly after the discovery of Santa’s gift tags in my mother’s robe pocket.

Regardless of which strategy you choose, it is inevitable that eventually the evidence against Santa will become overwhelming and the belief will become unsustainable.

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YouTube’s Miniplayer Arrives To Keep You Watching While Browsing

In March, YouTube began testing two video multi-tasking desktop features that served the same function: to help you browse while watching.

It was clear then that a miniplayer was on the way. And seven months after the strictly limited A/B trials, YouTube is opting to bring picture-in-picture (PiP) playback to more users, according to 9to5 Google, which spotted it on Safari for Mac and Chrome OS while logged in and in Incognito mode

A new “Miniplayer” icon has been added at the bottom-right corner of video tools on YouTube.com. Clicking it will shrink and slot the video in that spot with its window displaying the title and publisher, while also marking playlists.

Hover over it and you’ll see a play button and the option to jump backwards and forwards in a playlist, with the seek bar inserted at the bottom of the video.

Fire up a playlist and a chevron in the bottom-right corner lets you view a list of what’s upcoming with the ability to jump around. There’s also extra controls for repeat and shuffle for music playlists.

Starting up the miniplayer will take you to your last visited page. Or, if you visit a video directly, PiP will take you to the YouTube home page.

Meanwhile, the close button in the upper-right corner will exit you out of the minimized window. Clicking on the window itself, however, will take take you to the full video page, while a right-click opens an options menu.

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Could You Kill A Robot Begging For Its Life?

When Sarah Connor growls out “You’re terminated” and crushes the relentless machine in The Terminator, we all cheer. But when the Terminator gives that thumbs up at the end of Judgment Day, after bonding with John Connor and saving his life, we shed a tear.

Even when they’re not scary or badass or sympathetic movie characters, we for some reason care about robots.

But it’s hard to say how exactly human-bot relationships compare to relationships between humans, which is why robotics professor Christoph Bartneck designed an experiment to test how we interact with “people” made from metal and plastic and circuitry.

Turns out, watching a robot beg for its life is seriously disturbing.

Bartneck’s study built on the moral quandary of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. “By pulling out HAL’s memory modules the computer slowly loses its intelligence and consciousness. Its speech becomes slow and it its arguments approach the style of children.

“At the end, HAL sings Harry Dacre’s “Daisy Bell” song with decreasing tempo, signifying its imminent death,” Bartneck writes.

“The question if Bowman committed murder, although in self-defense, or simply conducted a necessary maintenance act, is an essential topic in the field of robot ethics…Various factors might influence the decision on switching off a robot. The perception of life largely depends on the observation of intelligent behavior.”

The study seeks to grapple with the issues sci-fi has been asking for decades–are robots alive? What constitutes life? But it’s not really trying to answer those questions.

Instead, the study builds on previous research that was originally conducted with computers, which was, itself, based on a simple concept in human relationships: reciprocity.

The study he refers to, carried out by Stanford professor Clifford Nass in 1996, found that participants would help a computer that had been feeding them useful answers far more than a computer programmed to be all but worthless.


More interestingly, they’d actually help a computer they hadn’t interacted with more than the worthless computer. It’s the scientific version of a truth we know all too well: People get pissed at machines.

But what happens when that machine has human characteristics?

The iCat robots in Bartneck’s study, like Nass’, were split into helpful and unhelpful groups, and were further divided into agreeable and non-agreeable categories.

One would be helpful and warm, the other curt when talking. They also had faces, with 13 servos moving their eyes and mouths.

At the end of the experiment, participants were asked to shut down the robots, wiping their memories; as the participants turned a dial to shut off the robots, the robots’ speech slowed down and they asked to not be turned off.

Every participant turned the robot off, but the study confirmed the theory of reciprocity: “The robots [perceived] intelligence had a strong effect on the users’ hesitation to switch it off, in particular if the robot acted agreeable.

“Participants hesitated almost three times as long to switch off an intelligent and agreeable robot (34.5 seconds) compared to an unintelligent and non agreeable robot (11.8 seconds).

“This does confirm the Media Equation’s prediction that the social rule of Manus Manum Lavet (One hand washes the other) does not only apply to computers, but also to robots.

“However, our results do not only confirm this rule, but also it suggests that intelligent robots are perceived to be more alive.

The Manus Manum Lavet rule can only apply if the switching off is perceived as having negative consequences for the robot. Switching off a robot can only be considered a negative event if the robot is to some degree alive.”

Watching the robot’s face shut down and hearing its voice slow and slur is disturbing, but we could easily imagine scientists designing a study with a more complex bot being downright horrifying. Don’t do it, Japan.

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Study Shows Around 40 Percent Of Us May Have A Fictional Recollection As Our “First” Memory

It’s easy enough to explain why we remember things: multiple regions of the brain — particularly the hippocampus — are devoted to the job.

It’s easy to understand why we forget stuff too: there’s only so much any busy brain can handle. What’s trickier is what happens in between: when we clearly remember things that simply never happened.

The phenomenon of false memories is common to everybody — the party you’re certain you attended in high school, say, when you were actually home with the flu, but so many people have told you about it over the years that it’s made its way into your own memory cache.

False memories can sometimes be a mere curiosity, but other times they have real implications. Innocent people have gone to jail when well-intentioned eyewitnesses testify to events that actually unfolded an entirely different way.

What’s long been a puzzle to memory scientists is whether some people may be more susceptible to false memories than others — and, by extension, whether some people with exceptionally good memories may be immune to them.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences answers both questions with a decisive no. False memories afflict everyone — even people with the best memories of all.

To conduct the study, a team led by psychologist Lawrence Patihis of the University of California, Irvine, recruited a sample group of people all of approximately the same age and divided them into two subgroups: those with ordinary memory and those with what is known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM).

You’ve met people like that before, and they can be downright eerie.

They’re the ones who can tell you the exact date on which particular events happened — whether in their own lives or in the news — as well as all manner of minute additional details surrounding the event that most people would forget the second they happened.

To screen for HSAM, the researchers had all the subjects take a quiz that asked such questions as “[On what date] did an Iraqi journalist hurl two shoes at President Bush?” or “What public event occurred on Oct. 11, 2002?

Those who excelled on that part of the screening would move to a second stage, in which they were given random, computer-generated dates and asked to say the day of the week on which it fell, and to recall both a personal experience that occurred that day and a public event that could be verified with a search engine.

It was a Monday,” said one person asked about Oct. 19, 1987. “That was the day of the big stock-market crash and the cellist Jacqueline du Pré died that day.”

That’s some pretty specific recall. Ultimately, 20 subjects qualified for the HSAM group and another 38 went into the ordinary-memory category.

Both groups were then tested for their ability to resist developing false memories during a series of exercises designed to implant them.

In one, for example, the investigators spoke with the subjects about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and mentioned in passing the footage that had been captured of United Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania — footage, of course, that does not exist.

In both groups — HSAM subjects and those with normal memories — about 1 in 5 people “remembered” seeing this footage when asked about it later.

It just seemed like something was falling out of the sky,” said one of the HSAM participants. “I was just, you know, kind of stunned by watching it, you know, go down.”

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The Psychology Of Roller Coasters Thrills

Where else in the world can you scream at the top of your lungs and throw your arms in the air?” Frank Farley asks.

If you did that in most other places, they’d take you to your parents and probably put you through a psychological evaluation.” Farley is a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The freedom to act wildly is one reason why millions of people flock to amusement parks every year.

Roller coasters are a major part of this attraction, and the people who run the parks keep looking for ways to make coasters taller, faster, and scarier.

The new Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, for example, rises 420 feet into the air and travels at speeds up to 120 miles per hour.

It’s the tallest and fastest coaster in the world. And there’s no shortage of people willing and eager to ride it.

Coaster appeal

For many people, there’s only one good reason to go to an amusement park: the roller coaster. Other people, however, would rather hide behind the closest candy stand than go near a coaster.

What separates these two types of people—those who seek thrills and those who prefer the quiet life?

Roller coasters often appeal to kids whose lives are stressful, structured, or controlled, Farley says.

“The summers of yore where kids could be kids and float down a river in an inner tube are over,” he says. “Roller coasters are a way of breaking out of the humdrum and expectations of everyday life. You can let it all go and scream and shout or do whatever you want.”

Attendance at amusement parks shows that many adults feel the same way.

Compared with skateboarding, extreme mountain biking, and other adventure sports, riding roller coasters is safe. Parents usually don’t mind when kids go on coasters.

Roller coasters also have a way of bringing people together. Riders share the thrill and adventure of surviving what feels like an extreme experience.

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Why ‘Intelligence’ Is A Stupid Concept

Have you ever thought that you’re not intelligent enough to do something? That you’re not as smart as another person so you can’t succeed like they have?

Research is showing us that our attitude towards intelligence is an important factor in being able to achieve our goals.

One of the greatest myths is that the most successful people are the most intelligent.

I believe this is one of the most damaging myths people have.

It’s a myth that many people fall back on when they encounter a failure of some sort — i.e. that this failure is evidence that we aren’t the smartest person in the room.

For some reason we forget that the stereotypical image of an ‘intelligent person’ — perhaps a physicist or a surgeon, are in reality defined by pushing past constant failures as they slave away trying to solve a problem.

These people choose to learn from their failures until they find the solution they were seeking for.

Perhaps an argument can be made that true intelligence requires a particular attitude toward failure — namely that failure is a useful opportunity to pause, reflect, learn and re-tackle a problem.

One of my biggest issues with the modern day education system is the arbitrary delineation it creates between ‘intelligent’ and ‘non-intelligent’ students.

From an early age, we’re told that the students who perform the best are the ones who are ‘naturally gifted’ — that they are simply born more intelligent than the rest of us.

In reality, top performers either put in more work (i.e. hours of study) or have more efficient ways of studying (i.e. are more productive).

A 2013 study of 3,520 students found that the two biggest factors in achieving long-term academic success were motivation and study strategies — not ‘intelligence’.

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According To Psychologist, Love At First Sight Doesn’t Actually Exist

We’ve all seen that movie moment when two strangers meet and feel an instant romantic connection.

In fact, “love at first sight” has been a mainstay of literature for thousands of years, and people in real life often claim to experience a similar spark.

But is that feeling actually love? Not quite, according to the authors of a new study.

In the study, researchers investigated whether people feel love at first sight — LAFS — or whether they believe retroactively that they felt that way, once they’ve already formed an attachment to a romantic partner.

The scientists also questioned whether what people call: “love” at a first encounter is truly representative of the complex emotions that make up love — or just a powerful physical attraction.

Prior studies have shown that being in love activates certain brain regions, and the location of the activity can vary depending on what type of love the person is feeling, such as emotional, maternal or passionate love.

Intense, passionate love activates the same networks in the brain as addiction does, and more long-term love sparked responses in brain regions associated with attachment and reward.

Researchers have also previously reported that as many as 1 in 3 people in Western countries claim to have experienced LAFS.

And that the feeling is associated with more passion and stronger bonds within the relationship, the scientists wrote in the new study.

But there was little evidence indicating if LAFS occurred when people thought it did — at the moment of their first meeting ― or if they merely remembered it happening that way through the lens of their current romantic feelings, the study authors explained.

The scientists collected data from about 500 encounters between nearly 400 participants, mostly heterosexual Dutch and German students in their mid-20s.

Using three stages of data collection — an online survey, a laboratory study and three dating events lasting up to 90 minutes each.

The researchers gathered information from their subjects about meeting prospective romantic partners.

They noted whether participants said that they felt something akin to LAFS upon a first meeting, and how physically attractive they ranked the person who inspired those feelings.

To define what qualified as “love,” subjects submitted self-analysis of several key components: “eros”,”intimacy,” “passion” and “commitment.”

During the tests, 32 different individuals reported experiencing LAFS a total of 49 times — and that observation wasn’t typically accompanied with high ratings for love components such as intimacy and commitment.

However, reports of LAFS did correspond with a potential partner scoring higher as physically attractive, the researchers discovered.

About 60 percent of the study participants were women, but men were more likely to report feeling LAFS “on the spot,” the study authors reported.

And in every case, their experience of LAFS was unreciprocated, suggesting that mutual, instantaneous LAFS “might generally be rare,” according to the study.

The authors determined that LAFS was, in fact, merely “a strong initial attraction” that people identified as love, either at the moment they felt it, or in retrospect.

And though some study subjects who were already involved with someone reported that they fell in love at first glance, it’s hard to say for sure if that happened the way they remembered.

Answering this question would require further investigation into romantic relationships, to see how those initial, powerful feelings of instantaneous love play out over time, the scientists wrote.

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Why Do People Believe In Weird Things?

Psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have all come forward with theories to explain, as Michael Shermer expressed it as the title of a book, “why people believe weird things.”

Shermer, a leading non-believer of the supernatural, takes the traditional skeptical view grounded in psychology.

Filled with uncertainty, life can often be frightening, leading many to gravitate to what he considered “pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time.

Belief in an afterlife or some kind of “grand design” is comforting and assuring, providing order to the universe.

Mythologies, religions, and the occult all have roots in the pre-scientific age, Shermer pointed out, these kinds of beliefs forged before reason and rationalism dominated intellectual discourse.

The faith in some kind of god or spiritual plane of existence laid the foundation for today’s popularity of ESP, UFOs, and ghosts, he argued, any phenomena outside the rigid boundaries of science an alluring and perhaps irresistible proposition.

Anthropologists also have good reasons “why we believe.” Evolution has conditioned us to believe things are alive when we are not quite sure, some suggest, it being a far better survival strategy to assume that that big brown formation over yonder is a hungry bear than just a rock.

Thinking that the thing that just went bump in the night is a ghost instead of rusty pipes could thus very well be instinctual, one more reason it should not be surprising that the supernatural is often accepted as truth.

Control too, or more accurately the lack of it, is responsible for much of our supernatural ways, anthropologists argue.

“In the absence of perceived control, people become susceptible to detecting patterns in an effort to regain some sense of organization,” wrote Bruce Hood, a fancy way of saying that the mind actively looks for explanations.

Anxiety or economic distress make people that much more interested in feeling a sense of control, this perfectly in synch with the consistent spike in paranormalism experienced during tough times or social/political turmoil.

Perceptually, the world is chronically ambiguous and requires an interpretation,” summed up Stewart Guthrie, professor emeritus of anthropology at Fordham University and author of Faces in the Clouds, this accounting for everything from the Virgin-Mary-in-the-burrito phenomenon to the “peak experience” Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell reported while in space in 1971.

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A New Study Suggests Gaming Addiction Isn’t A Real Disorder

There are those that take their gaming time too far, to the extent that it negatively impacts their lives, their careers, and their relationships with friends and family.

But according to a new study from Cardiff University, gaming addiction might not be a real condition – at least, not as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes it.

There are currently nine criteria for “internet gaming disorder,” an area of interest for the American Psychiatric Association that has not yet properly been classified as a mental disorder.

The study reports that almost nobody fits the five of nine criteria necessary for diagnosis.

Of more than 2,000 regular online game players surveyed, only nine met the criteria for the disorder. When the participants were questioned again six months later, none still met the requirements for diagnosis.

The study suggests that rather than game addiction itself being a problem, those who struggle with too much game time are instead filling a hole caused by sources of unhappiness in other areas of their life.

Symptoms of gaming disorder had been reduced in participants who had found greater satisfaction in other areas of their life.

It seems none of this is to say that spending too much time in-game, but rather that gaming addiction serves as a symptom of more general unhappiness.

Nonetheless, psychological organizations and game developers alike have taken steps to mitigate gaming’s role in those problems.

The British National Health Service began treating game addiction in 2015 alongside porn and online shopping habits, Valve even began adding healthy gaming timers in Dota 2 last year.

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Experts Explain Why People Are Disgusted By Mayonnaise

Barack Obama doesn’t care for it. Jimmy Fallon despises it. And chances are you have a friend in your life who can’t stand the stuff, or you yourself won’t countenance it.

We’re talking about mayonnaise, the simple egg-and-oil condiment that fires up complicated feelings in people.

It’s clear that mayonnaise has its share of haters, but as people who actually eat the stuff, we wanted to find out why.

We reached out to two experts on the topic of disgust to shine some light: William Ian Miller, professor of law at the University of Michigan and author of the 1997 book The Anatomy of Disgust, and Rachel Herz, an adjunct assistant professor at Brown University and author of 2012′s That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.

Mayonnaise wiggles, jiggles and moves.

t’s possible some people find mayonnaise off-putting because it’s just a bit too… excitable.

Its texture is what makes it most repulsive,” Herz said. “It has the ability to wobble and does not sit inert, even though it is not animate

The inert taking on qualities of an animate object can create feelings of disgust. Its moving implies a living thing, and living things can contaminate you.

One of the main functions that disgust serves for us is to help us avoid contamination.

If something moves when you don’t expect it to, or in a way you don’t expect it to, your mind can generate a feeling of aversion as a way to protect you from whatever this weird thing is.

Even if you’re eating mayonnaise in a sandwich, where you won’t see it move, your mind might still associate mayo with unnatural behavior, which can render it inedible to you.

Mayonnaise reminds people of bodily fluids.

I suppose people are disgusted with mayo because it has the consistency of pus,” Miller said. “Some things are more likely to generate disgust than others, and bodily fluids and rot are two of those things.

Semen, pus, fat: Mayonnaise doesn’t not resemble these substances, and that might not be what you want to be thinking of at mealtime. Some people are disgusted by bodily fluids subconsciously as a result of the fear of contamination.

Mayonnaise is the wrong temperature.

As a general rule of thumb, Miller said, “unless [a substance is] ice cold or in flames… the potential for disgust is greater.

Vanilla ice cream, for example, is white and viscous, like mayonnaise. But it doesn’t provoke the same reaction, because it’s frozen.

Anything that’s close to room temperature is also close to the temperature of the human body, Miller explained. Sure, mayonnaise isn’t served at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but it isn’t served frozen or fried, either.

Anything non-human that reminds people of human life has the potential to induce disgust ― that’s why the uncanny valley is a thing. “Is there anything more revolting than the science of human life?” Miller said.

A hate for mayonnaise is learned.

There’s often a cultural component to disgust, which can help explain why mayo is regarded dubiously in some countries (like the U.S.) and beloved in others (like Belgium).

Our response to disgust is actually learned,” Herz said.

There’s no innate understanding that mayo is like a bodily fluid or that we should have an aversion to bodily fluids, but once we do have that association, it does really elicit a real emotion of disgust.

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