The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Illusions’ Category

Daniel Simon’s Movie Perception Test

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 27, 2013

A movie perception test by Daniel Levin & Daniel Simons.

Review all the Situationist posts presenting or discussing illusions here.

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Dan Wegner

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 10, 2013

Dan Wegner

From Harvard Gazette:

Daniel M. Wegner, a pioneering social psychologist who helped to reveal the mysteries of human experience through his work on thought suppression, conscious will, and mind perception, died July 5 as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 65.

The John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Wegner redefined social psychology as the science of human experience. He was arguably most famous for his experiments on thought suppression, in which people were unable to keep from thinking of a white bear.

Wegner also broke ground in other areas of social psychology, including transactive memory (how memories are distributed across groups and relationship partners) and action identification (what people think they are doing). He had also explored the experience of conscious will, and most recently focused on mind perception (how people perceive human and nonhuman minds).

“Dan was, I believe, the most original thinker in modern psychology,” said Dan Gilbert, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, who knew Wegner for three decades. “Most of us work on problems that are important in our field, and we use theories others have invented to make progress. Dan didn’t make progress — Dan made new highways, new roads. He opened doors in walls that we didn’t know had doors in them, and he did this over and over.”

Gilbert said he was privileged to call Wegner one of his closest friends. The two met while they both worked in Texas — Gilbert at the University of Texas and Wegner at Trinity University.

“Being among the few social psychologists in Texas, we were introduced by a mutual friend, and it was love at first sight,” Gilbert said. “We’ve been true friends ever since.”  He added. “I’m heartbroken to lose my friend of 30 years, but I guess the only thing worse would have been not to have a friend of 30 years.”

While Wegner was known for his pioneering work on the mind, Gilbert said his intellectual curiosity seemed never to rest.

“The thing about Dan is he didn’t take the lab coat off,” Gilbert said. “For him, being a psychologist wasn’t a job, it was a way of being. He simply spent all his waking time thinking about the interesting aspects of the mind. It was 24/7 for him.”

That intellectual heft, however, never masked Wegner’s humor.

“Dan Wegner was the funniest human being I’ve ever known, and everybody else was a distant second,” Gilbert said. “To say someone was funny may sound frivolous, but I would make the claim that Dan understood something important, which is that humor is the place where intelligence and joy meet. Dan understood that … humor is where a brilliant mind tickles itself.”

That sense of humor, Gilbert said, often showed up in Wegner’s writing, and helped transform the way social psychology is described in many journals today.  “If you open a psychology journal now,” he said, “many, many people write in a Wegner-esque style.”

Even in his final days, Gilbert said, Wegner’s restless mind faced the challenge of his death with an inspirational degree of curiosity.

“It was a privilege to sit by his side as he took this journey to the end,” Gilbert said. “About a month ago, I asked him, ‘If you had to think of one word to describe this experience, what would it be?’ He looked at me, and he said ‘fascinating.’ He was a student of the human experience, and he was having an experience unlike most of us ever have. And rather than bemoaning it or crying about it, he took it as another fascinating thing to study and learn about and think about.”

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Wegner studied as an undergraduate and graduate student at Michigan State University, earning his Ph.D. in 1974. He was appointed an assistant professor and rose to full professor and chair of the psychology department at Trinity in San Antonio.

Wegner joined the faculty in the psychology department at the University of Virginia in 1990, where he was the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology before joining the Harvard faculty in 2000.

Wegner was the author of four academic books, an introductory psychology textbook, and nearly 150 journal articles and book chapters.

Wegner’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1996-1997 he was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and in 2011 was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He received many of the top honors in his field, including the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association, the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Donald T. Campbell Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Wegner is survived by his wife of 29 years, Toni Giuliano Wegner of Winchester, and his daughters, Kelsey Wegner Hurlburt of Dunkirk, Md., and Haley Wegner of Winchester. At Wegner’s request, his body was donated to the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Neurological Clinical Research Institute for ALS Research.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Winchester Unitarian Society, 478 Main St., Winchester, Mass. Wegner requested that his service be a celebration of life, and so would welcome Hawaiian shirts.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:

Compassionate Care ALS
P.O. Box 1052
West Falmouth, Mass. 02574

Winchester Unitarian Society
478 Main Street
Winchester, Mass. 01890

To review a collection of Situationist posts discussing Dan Wegner’s research, click here.

Posted in Illusions, Life, Social Psychology | 1 Comment »

The Situational Source of Illusions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 26, 2013

From National Geographic’s Brain Games:

Interactive experiments, illusions, and mind tricks reveal the inner workings of the ultimate supercomputer—the human brain.

Review many more Situationist posts containing illusions here.

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Jeremy Bailenson on Virtual Reality

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 9, 2013

From Pacific Standard (a brief excerpt from a long, worthwhile article about the work of Jeremy Bailenson):

A few years ago, a research psychologist at Stanford University named Jeremy Bailenson effectively proved the soundness of Anderson’s recruitment methods (pdf). A week before the 2004 presidential election, Bailenson asked a bunch of prospective voters to look at photographs of George W. Bush and John Kerry and then give their opinions of the candidates. What the voters didn’t know was that the photographs had been doctored: each voter’s own visage had been subtly morphed together with that of one of the candidates.

In this and two follow-up experiments, Bailenson found what Rudy Rucker, the novelist who wrote Software, would have predicted: voters were significantly more likely to support the candidate who had been made to look like them. What’s more, not a single voter detected that it was, in part, his or her own face staring back.

In another experiment (pdf), Bailenson outfitted college students with head-mounted virtual-reality displays and then sat them across a digital table from an artificial-intelligence agent—a computer program with a human face. The students then listened as the “agent” delivered a short persuasive speech. When the agent was programmed to mimic a student’s facial movements on a four-second delay—a tilt of the chin, a look to the left, a downward glance—the students found it more likeable and compelling. And like the prospective voters, the students showed no sign that they knew they were being mimicked. Nothing, it seems, is more persuasive than a mirror.

Read entire article here.

From Google Talks (Bailenson discusses his work and book with Jim Blasovich, Infinite Reality):

Summary from Google Talks:

The coming explosion of immersive digital technology, combined with recent progress in unlocking how the mind works, will soon revolutionize our lives in ways only science fiction has imagined. In Infinite Reality, Jeremy Bailenson (Stanford University) and Jim Blascovich (University of California, Santa Barbara)—two of virtual reality’s pioneering authorities whose pathbreaking research has mapped how our brain behaves in digital worlds—take us on a mind-bending journey through the virtual universe.

Infinite Reality explores what emerging computer technologies and their radical applications will mean for the future of human life and society. Along the way, Bailenson and Blascovich examine the timeless philosophical questions of the self and “reality” that arise through the digital experience; explain how virtual reality’s latest and future forms—including immersive video games and social-networking sites—will soon be seamlessly integrated into our lives; show the many surprising practical applications of virtual reality, from education and medicine to sex and warfare; and probe further-off possibilities like “total personality downloads” that would allow your great-great-grandchildren to have a conversation with “you” a century or more after your death.

Related Situationist posts:

Image from Pacific Standard.

Posted in Book, Illusions, Video | 1 Comment »

Visualizing How Our Brains Make Visual Meaning of Our World

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 26, 2012

From TEDTalks:

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. In this short talk from TEDU, he asks: How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?

Related Situationist posts:

Click here for a collection of posts on illusion.

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Illusion of Motion

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 17, 2012

 

Review more Situationist posts containing illusions here.

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Situationist Contributor Mahzarin Banaji Speaks at HLS

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 10, 2012

Dr. Mahzarin Banaji
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

Friday, October 12 at 5:00 pm
Wasserstein Hall, Room 2019
Harvard Law School
1585 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA

Followed by a public reception at 7:00 pm

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People*
Mahzarin R. Banaji , Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics  at Harvard University

Most human beings take seriously the idea that their behavior ought to be consistent with their stated beliefs and values. The last fifty years of research in psychology has challenged that possibility by revealing that our minds operate, much of the time, without conscious awareness. Professor Banaji will speak to the question of how well-intentioned people behave in ways that deviate from their own intentions, and how this state of affairs compromises our decisions in legal, medical, financial, and political contexts.

*Book to be published February 2013

This is the keynote address of our Cooper v. Aaron conference. Please RSVP here if you plan to attend this talk.

Posted in Illusions, Implicit Associations, Life, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Money-Based Happiness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 12, 2012

An excerpt from a recent, terrific New York Times piece by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton:

The notion that money can’t buy happiness has been around a long time — even before yoga came into vogue. But it turns out there is a measurable connection between income and happiness; not surprisingly, people with a comfortable living standard are happier than people living in poverty.

The catch is that additional income doesn’t buy us any additional happiness on a typical day once we reach that comfortable standard. The magic number that defines this “comfortable standard” varies across individuals and countries, but in the United States, it seems to fall somewhere around $75,000. Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.

Why, then, do so many of us bother to work so hard long after we have reached an income level sufficient to make most of us happy? One reason is that our ideas about the relationship between money and happiness are misguided. In research we conducted with a national sample of Americans, people thought that their life satisfaction would double if they made $55,000 instead of $25,000: more than twice as much money, twice as much happiness. But our data showed that people who earned $55,000 were just 9 percent more satisfied than those making $25,000. Nine percent beats zero percent, but it’s still kind of a letdown when you were expecting a 100 percent return.

Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck.

We usually think of having more money as allowing us to buy more and more of the stuff we like for ourselves, from bigger houses to fancier cars to better wine to more finely pixilated televisions. But these typical spending tendencies — buying more, and buying for ourselves — are ineffective at turning money into happiness. A decade of research has demonstrated that if you insist on spending money on yourself, you should shift from buying stuff (TVs and cars) to experiences (trips and special evenings out). Our own recent research shows that in addition to buying more experiences, you’re better served in many cases by simply buying less — and buying for others.

Read the entire article, including their discussion of value of “underindulgence.”

Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (Simon & Schuster), co-authored by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, is due out in the spring of 2013!

Pre-order it on Amazon here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Altruism, Book, Deep Capture, Distribution, Emotions, Illusions, Life, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Face Blindness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 8, 2012

From CBS News:

Imagine you couldn’t recognize people’s faces, and even your own family looked unfamiliar. Lesley Stahl reports on face blindness, a puzzling neurological disorder.

From CBS News:

This week on “60 Minutes” Lesley Stahl reports on people who are “face blind.” It’s a mysterious and sad condition that keeps sufferers from recognizing or identifying faces — even the faces of close family members, children, or spouses. Many “face blind” people don’t even know they have it.

If you suspect you might be “face blind,” in the above video, you’ll find a test that may provide an answer. We show you a series of pictures of famous people and ask you to figure out who they are.

If you have trouble identifying the faces in our test, we suggest that you check out www.faceblind.org/facetests/ where you can learn about face blindness and take other tests created by Professor Brad Duchaine and his colleagues at Dartmouth College.

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Posted in Evolutionary Psychology, Illusions, Neuroscience, Video | Leave a Comment »

Leaning Tower Illusion

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 27, 2012

From The Leaning Tower illusion: a new illusion of perspective Frederick A. A. Kingdom, Ali Yoonessi, Elena Gheorghiu Perception. 2007. 36(3):475-477:

Consider the photograph in [above image] of the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur. Both towers are physically vertical, but in the two-dimensional projection their corresponding outlines are not parallel but converge as the towers recede into the distance. Our knowledge of perspective however compensates for this and leads us to perceive the inclinations of the two towers veridically.

From The Leaning Tower illusion (cont’d):

Our knowledge of perspective however compensates for this and leads us to perceive the inclinations of the two towers veridically. It follows that if the corresponding outlines of a pair of physically identical, receding objects are parallel in the two-dimensional projection, the objects cannot be physically parallel but, instead, must be diverging as they recede from view. This is clearly what we perceive in [above image], where the right-hand tower has been replaced with a copy of the one on the left. Now the corresponding outlines are parallel, and the two towers appear to diverge . . . .

From The Leaning Tower illusion (cont’d)

The illusion is not restricted to towers photographed from below, but works well with other scenes, such as the tram lines in above image. What the illusion reveals is not a failure of perspective per se, but the tendency of the visual system to treat two side-by-side images as if part of the same scene. However hard we try, we seem unable to see the two photographs of the Leaning Tower in figure 1 as separate, albeit identical, images of the same object. Instead, our visual system regards the images as the `Twin Towers of Pisa’, whose two-dimensional projection leads to the `correct’ interpretation that one tower is leaning more than the other.

To view other Situationist posts involving illusions, click here.

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Elizabeth Loftus on False Memories

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 15, 2012

From Beyond Belief Conference in 2006 (includes discussion of the role of litigation in altering people’s memories):

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Posted in Illusions, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Carol Tavris Interview – Podcast

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 10, 2012

From (For Good Reason):

Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.

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Posted in Book, Ideology, Illusions, Marketing, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

The Situation of Optimism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 12, 2012

From

Neuroscientist Tali Sharot visits the RSA to explain the biological bias of optimism, and its effect on our lives and societies.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Illusions, Life, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Human Vision

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 18, 2012

Experimental psychologist Professor Bruce Hood illustrating how human vision works (from the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2011).

Related Situationist posts:

Click here for a collection of posts on illusion.

Posted in Illusions, Video | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Bystander Effect at Penn State

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 12, 2011

From Time:

The grand jury investigation that resulted in 40 counts of child abuse against Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, has raised profoundly unsettling psychological and moral questions about the actions — or lack thereof — of others involved in the case.

Head football coach Joe Paterno was fired by the university on Wednesday for his failure to intervene upon learning about the alleged long-running abuse. But many more questions center on Mike McQueary, who is still employed by Penn State; he witnessed child rape firsthand in 2002, when he was a graduate assistant coach, but did not alert the police.

How is it that a powerfully built ex-quarterback could watch the rape of a 10-year-old boy and do nothing to stop it? Why did he neglect to report what he saw to legal authorities for nearly a decade, even knowing that the perpetrator spent much of his time with at-risk youth? And why did the team and the university fail to act at every possible step?

McQueary, who is now a wide receivers coach at Penn State, did tell his superior, Paterno, about the attack he witnessed eight years ago, but he did not call the police or get help for the boy at the time. (Now reportedly the focus of death threats, McQueary won’t be coaching Saturday’s game against Nebraska.) McQueary isn’t the only alleged witness to do nothing: a Penn State janitor witnessed a separate assault on a child two years earlier, and similarly failed to contact police.

The rest of us would like to believe that no matter how small or scared we were, if we saw a child being raped, we’d step in and stop it, or at the very least call 911 immediately. But social psychology research on “bystander” behavior suggests that many of us might actually turn away.

* * *

. . . Mark Levine, a social psychologist at Lancaster University in the U.K., * * * says that group dynamics do influence our actions, but not exactly the way we think. His own research has shown that being with others doesn’t always — or even typically — reduce altruistic behavior. However, the type of group we’re in and the relationships we have with its members, and with outsiders, do tend to influence how likely or unlikely we may be to help.

When the actions of a group are public and visible, insiders who behave in an unacceptable way — doing things that “contravene the norms of the group,” Levine says — may actually be punished by the group more harshly than an outsider would be for the same behavior. “It’s seen as a threat to the reputation of the group,” says Levine.

In contrast, when the workings of a group are secretive and hidden — like those of a major college football team, for instance, or a political party or the Catholic priesthood — the tendency is toward protecting the group’s reputation by covering up. Levine suggests that greater transparency in organizations promotes better behavior in these situations.

“It’s the norms and the values of the group that are important,” Levine says, noting that this fact doesn’t reflect very well on Penn State. Indeed, the riot that broke out after the firing of revered coach Paterno — who appears to have covered up for his former colleague, Sandusky, or at least looked the other way, rather than reporting him to the police — suggests that group solidarity with the football team still takes priority over support for abused children at the school.

Another factor that may have prevented action by McQueary and others is denial. Social psychologist Stanley Cohen identified several forms of denial that may cause people to ignore atrocities. There’s the denial that commonly occurs in response to difficult situations like receiving a cancer diagnosis or becoming addicted to drugs: the simple repressing of information and refusal to admit that the problem exists or has occurred.

In McQueary’s case, however, there seems to have been another type of denial at play, which Cohen labeled “interpretative.” “You don’t deny that something happened, but try to transform the meaning of it,” says Levine, explaining that a witness might minimize the significance of a crime or try to see it as something other than it was.

McQueary may well have been psychologically unable to accept that a man like Sandusky, someone he admired, had actually committed the abhorrent crime he witnessed. Research suggests that when people are faced with situations that threaten their view of the world as relatively fair and decent, rather than revising their own perspective, they often create accounts that deny reality, blame the victim or otherwise rationalize the situation.

* * *

A third factor that influences the likelihood that people will intervene in violence is whether they feel their actions will be supported by others in the community around them. Levine studied the case of James Bulger, a 2-year-old who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by two older boys in 1990 in Liverpool. Many witnesses saw the boys with the bleeding toddler, but since the boys claimed to be the victim’s brothers, no one confronted them.

* * *

While it is not clear exactly how the norms or values of Penn State may have affected the lack of action by its leadership in response to such vile abuse, it is clear that something went very wrong. A pedophile should not have been allowed to operate with impunity, especially after having been caught in the act twice.

Understanding the psychology of these situations can help increase the chances that bystanders will step up when people need assistance, but it does not excuse the failures of those who do nothing.

More.

Posted in Education, Illusions, Morality, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Wacky, Wonderful McGurk Effect

Posted by Adam Benforado on September 25, 2011

When I was a law clerk working on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit several years back, a case came up involving the competency of blind jurors.  I wasn’t assigned to the case — and, as a result, don’t remember any of the details — but the general question of when someone’s disability ought to be grounds for excluding him or her as a judicial decision-maker continues to intrigue me.

Overall, I remain skeptical of attempts to disallow participation.  Part of my skepticism stems from psychological evidence suggesting that we naively believe that we see the world as it actually is and that those who do not, must necessarily have some dispositional flaw.  Dan Kahan, David Hoffman, and Donald Braman’s 2009 Harvard Law Review article on the impact of cultural cognition in interpreting the facts of a police chase video provides an excellent example of the dangers of when judges determine that there is only one reasonable view of a case (and that those who see things differently cannot participate in the judicial assessment process).  It turns out that we’re not always very good at judging others’ disqualifying biases (for a situationist critique of Kahan, Hoffman, and Braman’s article click here).

The second reason that I’m wary is that there is good evidence that having complete use of one’s facilities doesn’t necessarily improve perception of key information.  Research on lie detection suggests that people are often mislead by focusing on visual cues (like whether someone is averting his or her gaze).  Perhaps the best demonstration of how our eyes can lead us astray is the McGurk Effect (demonstrated in the brief video below).  What I love about the McGurk Effect is that even though I am fully aware of what is going on (i.e., that my eyes are leading me astray) and desperately try to control for it, I can’t.

Take a look for yourself!

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Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Happy

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 7, 2011

From TEDTalks:

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that well be miserable if we dont get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things dont go as planned.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Emotions, Illusions, Life, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology, Uncategorized, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Eyewitness Identification

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 31, 2011

Read the Innocence Project’s “Reevaluating Lineups” report on eyewitness misidentifications here (pdf).

From the BBC, here are some revealing clips from their series, Eyewitness.

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Posted in Illusions, Law, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Paul Bloom on the Situation of Pleasure

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 2, 2011

From TedTalks:

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Emotions, Illusions, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

On Money and Motivation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 30, 2011

This lively RSAnimate, adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA, examines some the ways that money doesn’t always buy motivation.

Related Situationist posts:

To review a collection of Situationist posts exploring the causes and consequences of happiness, click here.

Posted in Emotions, Ideology, Illusions, Life, Marketing, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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