The Situationist

Archive for the ‘Illusions’ Category

The Illusion of Health

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 15, 2011

From Time:

If a box of chocolate cookies had an “organic” label, would you feel less guilty about eating them? Would you think they were more nutritious, or tastier?

Economists who study social psychology refer to something called the “halo effect,” a bias in judgment that causes you to assume that one positive attribute comes packaged with a bunch of others. For example, you might perceive your attractive coworker as being more capable as well.

According to a new study by Jenny Wan-chen Lee, a graduate student at Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the halo effect extends to food too: if people are told a food is “organic,” they’re also biased to believe it’s more nutritious and better tasting.

Lee’s study involved 144 people, recruited at a local mall for a taste test: Lee presented shoppers with chocolate sandwich cookies, plain yogurt and potato chips, each in two varieties — “conventional” or “organic.” In reality, there was no difference between the food pairs; everything was organic.

Participants used a nine-point scale to rate various attributes of each food, including overall taste and estimated fat, fiber and calorie content. Tasters also estimated the price of each food.

Uniformly, the participants reported preferring the taste of the foods labeled “organic,” and believed them to be lower in fat, higher in fiber and lower in calories than the conventional alternatives. They also judged the organic foods to be higher in price.

Even in the cases of the cookies and chips — which wouldn’t be considered healthy under any circumstance — most participants believed that the organic versions were more nutritious.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Food and Drug Law, Illusions, Marketing | 1 Comment »

Memory Biases as Source of Prejudice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 13, 2011

From Miller-McCune:

A recent poll finding nearly half of Mississippi Republicans disapprove of interracial marriage is a disturbing reminder of the continuing prejudice faced by minority groups in 21st-century America. Why is such bias seemingly immune to eradication, and why does it seem to be more prevalentamong social conservatives?

A fascinating new study from Italy suggests at least part of the answer can be traced to the way we process information and form political attitudes. Psychologists Luigi Castelli and Luciana Carraro of the University of Padua present evidence that our perception of minority groups is often distorted due to inaccurate recall of information.

This phenomenon, they add, is more pronounced among social conservatives.

Presented with a series of facts about members of two groups, “Conservatives developed more negative impressions towards the minority group,” which were reinforced by ”consistent memory biases,” they report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Strikingly, the researchers found this effect without making reference to race, religion or sexual orientation. All it needs to be activated, it seems, is the presence of a larger group and a smaller one.

In their first experiment, 234 students read a series of 39 sentences, each of which described an action of some sort. The person engaging in this behavior was identified as either a member of Group A or Group B.

Twenty-seven of the sentences described positive behavior (Jim gives up his seat on the bus to an elderly woman), while 12 described negative behavior (James often tells many lies).

Twenty-six of the sentences referred to someone from Group A, while only 13 referred to a member of Group B. The ratio between positive and negative behavior was the same for each group: 18 positive and 8 negative for Group A, 9 positive and 4 negative for Group B.

After reading the sentences, participants evaluated the two groups, rating the applicability of such adjectives as “intelligent,” “sociable” and “lazy.” They were then provided with all the sentences and asked to estimate how many of the described actions were performed by members of each group, and how many of each group’s actions were negative.

Finally, the students’ level of social conservativism was measured by having them give their views on five hot-button topics, including immigration and gay marriage.

The researchers found “an illusory association between Group B and negative behaviors.” Specifically, “the perceived proportion of negative behaviors” was significantly higher for Group B, although in fact the two groups were identical in this regard.

“Increased levels of social conservativism were associated with more negative evaluations of Group B as compared to Group A,” the researchers add. “The illusory correlation between Group B and negativity was accentuated among conservatives.”

The researchers then performed the experiment a second time, with one change: The proportions were reversed, . . .

More.

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Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Ideology, Illusions, Social Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Chris Chabris and the Invisible Gorilla

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 7, 2011

Tom Vanderbilt Reviews The Invisible Gorilla:

“Do you remember when you first saw–or more likely, didn’t see–the gorilla? For me it was one afternoon a number of years ago when I clicked open one of those noxious-but-irresistible forwarded emails (“You Won’t Believe Your Eyes!”). The task was simple–count the number of passes in a tight cluster of basketball players–but the ensuing result was astonishing: As I dutifully (and correctly) tracked the number of passes made, a guy in a gorilla suit had strolled into the center, beat his chest, and sauntered off. But I never saw the gorilla. And I was hardly alone.

The video, which went on to become a global viral sensation, brought “inattentional blindness”–a once comparatively obscure interest of cognitive psychologists–into striking relief. Here was a dramatic reminder that looking is not necessarily seeing, that “paying” attention to one thing might come at the cost of missing another altogether. No one was more taken with the experience than the authors of the original study, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, as they recount in their new–and, dare I say, eye-opening–book, The Invisible Gorilla. “The fact that people miss things is important,” they write, “but what impressed us even more was the surprise people showed when they realized what they had missed.”

The Invisible Gorilla uses that ersatz primate as a departure point (and overarching metaphor) for exploring the myriad of other illusions, perceptual or otherwise, that we encounter in everyday life–and our often complete lack of awareness as we do so. These “gorillas” are lurking everywhere–from the (often false) memories we think we have to the futures we think we can anticipate to the cause-and-effect chains we feel must exist. Writing with authority, clarity, and a healthy dose of skepticism, Simons and Chabris explore why these illusions persist–and, indeed, seem to multiply in the modern world–and how we might work to avoid them. Alas, there are no easy solutions–doing crosswords to stave off cognitive decline in one’s dotage may simply make you better at doing crosswords. But looking for those “gorillas in our midst” is as rewarding as actually finding them. “

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The Invisible Gorilla website is here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts (including several containing of the illusions excerpted out of the, see

Posted in Book, Choice Myth, Illusions, Video | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Terror Babies

Posted by Adam Benforado on August 17, 2010

Over the past few days, allegations of a frightening new terrorist plot have emerged.  Indeed, at the end of last week, Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle and Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert appeared on different editions of “Anderson Cooper 360” to sound the alarm that the Obama administration has been ignoring a critical threat to the United States.

What is this ominous menace?  Iranian nuclear missile silos?  North Korea transporting dirty bomb material into the United States?  The Chinese government developing technology to disable the U.S. power grid over the Internet?

Nope.  The answer is “terror babies.”

According to Riddle and Gohmert, terrorist organizations are sending pregnant women into our country so that the children that they bear will have American citizenship and, thus, be able to come and go into the United States as they receive terrorist training overseas.

If that seems fairly far-fetched and unnecessary, given that al Qaeda and other groups have no problem recruiting foreign terrorists willing to carry out attacks on America and Americans in the present, you would be correct.  As became clear during the interviews, neither Riddle nor Gohmert have any evidence whatsoever that this threat exists.

So if the claim is utterly baseless—as a former FBI agent explained to Anderson Cooper—why would Riddle and Gohmert be asserting it on national television and, in Gohmert’s case, on the floor of the House?

My guess is that these “scare stories,” in Cooper’s words, are linked to recent efforts to repeal the 14th Amendment, a move championed by the likes of former Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo—and current Republican leaders, John McCain, Jeff Sessions, and John Boehner, among others.

With anti-immigrant sentiment riding high and certain to be an issue in the fall elections, the notion of getting rid of birthright citizenship by overturning the Amendment has been gaining significant steam, with various politicians sounding the alarm.  As Sessions explained to Politico.com, “I’m not sure exactly what the drafters of the [14th] Amendment had in mind, but I doubt it was that somebody could fly in from Brazil and have a child and fly back home with that child, and that child is forever an American citizen.”  In an effort to properly frame the discussion, many supporters of repeal have employed the term “anchor babies” to reflect the perception that illegal immigrants use the babies to try and anchor themselves to the United States.

However, those who want to prevent the children of illegal immigrants from gaining automatic citizenship simply by being born on U.S. soil have a little problem—quite literally.

The target of their attack on the Constitution is the most innocent and blameless of parties: tiny new born babies.  It seems extremely harsh—and downright un-American—to penalize a baby for the decision of her parents.  After all, the baby didn’t have any say at all over her parents’ immigration choices or citizenship status.  And, in fact, many people who would readily come down hard on adult illegal immigrants, balk at the idea of punishing newborns.

Thus, supporters of overturning the Amendment have desperately needed to change the way Americans feel about these children.  Getting people to think of them as inanimate objects—“anchors”—rather than innocent victims has not been strong enough.  Americans need to be encouraged to view immigrant babies negatively, just like their immigrant parents.

Enter the idea of “terror babies.”

The awful brilliance of the strategy is not only that it effectively casts immigrant babies as hated outgroup members, but that it requires no actual factual support.  Riddle, Gohmert, and others can simply make the inflammatory allegation and then sit back as media forces turn it into a debate, carefully making sure that they allow both sides to present their opinions and giving plenty of air time to the crazy claims.

In his ten minute spot with Cooper, Gohmert offered nothing that came close to evidence as Cooper repeatedly pressed him for the basis for his claims.  To anyone watching, this was not so much a debate, as one person asking reasonable questions in a calm tone of voice and another person ranting gibberish at the top of his lungs.  However, when the interview was finished, CNN labeled the video “Cooper, Gohmert debate ‘terror babies’” with a description that read “Rep. Louie Gohmert and CNN’s Anderson Cooper engage in a spirited debate over the lawmaker’s ‘terror babies’ claims.”

The description might as well have been “Gohmert coasts to victory in CNN appearance.”

The goal for the champions of repeal is not to win the argument—something that they surely cannot do—but to plant the seeds of fear in the minds of the public and to get us all familiar with that oddest of juxtapositions: terror babies.

It gives a whole new meaning to original sin.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Fear,” “The ‘Turban Effect’,” “The Bush Frame: Us vs. Them; Good vs. Evil; Intentions vs. Consequences,”  “Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” A Convenient Fiction,” “The Law and Situation of Military Propaganda,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part VI,” and “With God on Our Side . . ..”

Posted in Emotions, Entertainment, Illusions, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Attention and the Gorilla in the Room

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 2, 2010

Dan Simons has a new version of some well known illusions that he and Christopher Chabris helped to make famous.  Enjoy:

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To check out Simons and Chabris’s new book, “The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us” click here.

For  a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Change Blindness,” “Neuroscience and Illusion,” Brain Magic,” Magic is in the Mind,”The Situation of Illusion,” ‘The Grand Illusion’ — Believing We See the Situation,”Neuroscience and Illusion,” The Heat is On,” and The Situation of Climate Change,”

Posted in Illusions, Video | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Rebecca Saxe on Situationism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 10, 2010

From the National Science Foundation:

Rebecca Saxe (Carole Middleton Career Development Professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT) discusses the under-appreciated power of situation.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Zimbardo on Milgram and Obedience – Part II,” “Jon Hanson on Situationism and Dispositionism,” Hanson’s Chair Lecture on Situationism,” “‘Situation’ Trumps ‘Disposition’ – Part I,” and ““Situation” Trumps “Disposition”- Part II.”

Posted in Classic Experiments, Illusions, Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of an Airstrike

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 8, 2010

Benedict Carey wrote a great article, titled “Psychologists Explain Iraqi Airstrike Video” for the New York Times.  Here are some excerpts, with the addition of the videos to which the article refers.

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The sight of human beings, most of them unarmed, being gunned down from above is jarring enough.

But for many people who watched the video of a 2007 assault by an Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad, released Monday by WikiLeaks.org, the most disturbing detail was the cockpit chatter. The soldiers joked, chuckled and jeered as they shot people in the street, including a Reuters photographer and a driver, believing them to be insurgents.

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In recent days, many veterans have made the point that fighters cannot do their jobs without creating psychological distance from the enemy. One reason that the soldiers seemed as if they were playing a video game is that, in a morbid but necessary sense, they were.

“You don’t want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they’re able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don’t seem real,” said Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist and co-author of the forthcoming book “Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment.”

Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human, said Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of the book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” who is a former Army Ranger.

Combat training “is the only technique that will reliably influence the primitive, midbrain processing of a frightened human being” to take another life, the colonel writes. “Conditioning in flight simulators enables pilots to respond reflexively to emergency situations even when frightened.”

The men in the Apache helicopter in the video flew into an area that was being contested, during a broader conflict in which a number of helicopters had been shot down.

Several other factors are on display during the 38-minute video, said psychologists in and out of the military. . . .

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The fighters in the helicopter say over the radio that they are sure they see a “weapon,” even though the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, is carrying a camera.

“It’s tragic that this all begins with the apparent mistaking of a camera” for a weapon, said David A. Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University. “But it’s perfectly understandable with what we know now about context and vision. Take the same image and put it in a bathroom, and you swear it’s a hair dryer; put it in a workshop, and you swear it’s a power drill.”

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After the helicopter guns down a group of men, the video shows a van stopping to pick up one of the wounded. The soldiers in the helicopter suspect it to be hostile and, after getting clearance from base, fire again. Two children in the van are wounded, and one of the soldiers remarks, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”

Here again, psychologists say, when people are intensely focused on observing some specific feature of the landscape, they may not even see what is obvious to another observer. The classic demonstration of this is a video in which people toss around a basketball; viewers told to count the number of passes rarely see a person in a gorilla suit who strolls into the picture, stops and faces the camera, and strolls out.

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The soldiers were looking for combatants; experts say it is not clear they would have seen children, even if they should have.

The video’s emotional impact on viewers is also partly rooted in the combination of intimacy and distance it gives them, some experts said. The viewer sees a wider tragedy unfolding, in hindsight, from the safety of a desk; the soldiers are reacting in real time, on high alert, exposed.

In recent studies, researchers have shown that such distance tempts people to script how they would act in the same place, and overestimate the force of their own professed moral principles.

“We don’t express our better angels as much as we’d like to think, especially when strong emotions are involved,” Dr. Dunning said. He added, “What another person does in that situation should stand as forewarning for what we would do ourselves.”

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Thanks to Situationist Fellow Goutam Jois for sending us this link.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see The Situation of Soldiers,” Our Soldiers, Their Children: The Lasting Impact of the War in Iraq,” “The Military Meets the Mind Sciences,” “The Situation of a “Volunteer” Army,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources of War – Part VII,” “Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors,” The Disturbing Mental Health Situation of Returning Soldiers,” From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part I,” “Looking for the Evil Actor,” Neuroscience and Illusion,”

Posted in Conflict, Emotions, Illusions, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Dan Wegner on “Psychological Studies of the Guilty Mind”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 27, 2010

From the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS) and the Project on Law and Mind Sciences (PLMS) at Harvard Law School, here is an remarkable presentation, titled “Psychological Studies of the Guilty Mind,” by Dan Wegner, one of the most thoughtful and influential social psychologists in the business.

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

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

The Situation of Political and Religious Beliefs?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 1, 2010

Science Daily summarized an intriguing (and, no doubt, soon-to-be-very-controversial study) finding that “Intelligent People Have Values Novel in Human Evolutionary History,” (such as liberalism and atheisim).  Here are some excerpts from that summary.

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More intelligent people are statistically significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history.  Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds.

The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values.  The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.”

“Evolutionarily novel” preferences and values are those that humans are not biologically designed to have and our ancestors probably did not possess.  In contrast, those that our ancestors had for millions of years are “evolutionarily familiar.”

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

An earlier study by Kanazawa found that more intelligent individuals were more nocturnal, waking up and staying up later than less intelligent individuals.  Because our ancestors lacked artificial light, they tended to wake up shortly before dawn and go to sleep shortly after dusk.  Being nocturnal is evolutionarily novel.

In the current study, Kanazawa argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.  So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) support Kanazawa’s hypothesis.  Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as “very liberal” have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence while those who identify themselves as “very conservative” have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, religion is a byproduct of humans’ tendency to perceive agency and intention as causes of events, to see “the hands of God” at work behind otherwise natural phenomena.  “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in God because they are paranoid,” says Kanazawa.  This innate bias toward paranoia served humans well when self-preservation and protection of their families and clans depended on extreme vigilance to all potential dangers.  “So, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in God, and they become atheists.”

Young adults who identify themselves as “not at all religious” have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as “very religious” have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

In addition, humans have always been mildly polygynous in evolutionary history.  Men in polygynous marriages were not expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate, whereas men in monogamous marriages were.  In sharp contrast, whether they are in a monogamous or polygynous marriage, women were always expected to be sexually exclusive to one mate.  So being sexually exclusive is evolutionarily novel for men, but not for women.  And the theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men, but general intelligence makes no difference for women’s value on sexual exclusivity.  Kanazawa’s analysis of Add Health data supports these sex-specific predictions as well.

One intriguing but theoretically predicted finding of the study is that more intelligent people are no more or no less likely to value such evolutionarily familiar entities as marriage, family, children, and friends.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Stone-Age Mind in an Information-Age Situation,” Seeing Faces,” “The Situation of Hair Color,”The Situation of Reason,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” “The Magnetism of Beautiful People,”The Situation of Revenge,” and “The Situation of Kissing.”

(The illustration above is by Situationist artist Marc Scheff.)

Posted in Ideology, Illusions, Life, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Oliver Sacks on His Situation and the Human Situation of Myth-making

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 14, 2010

From Big Think:

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see”The Interior Situation of Complex Human Feelings,” “Daniel Dennett on the Situation of our Brain,” Dan Dennett on our Interior Situation,” “The Situation of Reason,” The Situation of Confabulation,” “Social Psychology and the Unconscious: The Automaticity of Higher Processes,” “Jonathan Haidt on the Situation of Moral Reasoning,” “The Unconscious Situation of our Consciousness – Part IV,” and “Unconscious Situation of Choice.”

Posted in Education, Ideology, Illusions, Life, Morality, Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of False Confessions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 29, 2009

Ian Herbert, one of the very best translators of mind science research for popular audiences, has written an informative and disconcerting article, “The Psychology and Power of False Confessions” for the latest issue of The Observer.”  Here are some excerpts.

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We know that false confessions do happen on a fairly regular basis. Because of advances in DNA evidence, the Innocence Project has been able to exonerate more than 200 people who had been wrongly convicted, 49 of whom had confessed to the crime we now know they didn’t commit. In a survey of 1,000 college students, four percent of those who had been interrogated by police said they gave a false confession.

But Why?

Why do people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? . . . . In the November 2004 issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, APS Fellow Saul Kassin looked at the body of research and described how the police are able to interrogate suspects until they confess to a crime they didn’t commit.

Generally, it starts because people give up their Miranda rights. In fact, Richard A. Leo found that a majority of people give up the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. In fact, according to self-report data, innocent suspects gave up their rights more often than guilty suspects (most told Leo either that this was because they felt that they didn’t have anything to hide because they were innocent or that they thought it would make them look guilty).

Once a suspect starts talking, the police can use a variety of techniques to make the accused feel as though they are better off confessing than continuing to deny (these include promises of leniency and threats of harsher interrogation or sentences). If a suspect feels like a conviction is inevitable not matter what he or she says, confessing may seem like a good idea.

But, in some cases, the accused comes to believe that he or she actually did commit the crime. It’s been shown repeatedly that memory is quite malleable and unreliable. Elizabeth Loftus has repeatedly shown that the human brain can create memories out of thin air with some prompting. In a famous series of experiments, Loftus, APS Past President, was able to help people create memories for events that never happened in their lives simply through prompting. She helped them “remember” being lost in a shopping mall when they were children, and the longer the experiment went on, the more details they “remembered.” The longer police interrogate a suspect, emphatic about his guilt and peppering their interrogation with details of the crime, the more likely a suspect is to become convinced himself.

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Despite the evidence that false confessions are a regular occurrence, most jurors struggle with the concept . . . . Confessions are difficult to discount, even if they appear to be coerced. Years ago, Kassin noticed that cases with confessions have an unusually high conviction rate, and since then he has dedicated his life to studying why that happens and what can be done about it.

In a 1997 study, Kassin and colleague Katherine Neumann gave subjects case files with weak circumstantial evidence plus either a confession, an eyewitness account, a character witness, or no other evidence. Across the board, prospective jurors were more likely to vote guilty if a confession was included in the trial, even when they were told that the defendant was incoherent at the time of the confession and immediately recanted what he said.

Kassin and Neumann also did two simultaneous studies to further explore the power of confessions. In one, they had people watch a trial and turn a dial to rate the extent to which evidence convinced them the defendant was guilty or innocent. The other asked potential jurors after the trial which evidence was most powerful. In both the mid-trial and post-trial ratings, jurors saw the confession as the most incriminating. Other studies have shown that conviction rates rise even when jurors see confessions as coerced and even when they say that the confession played no role in their judgment. “I don’t honestly think juries stand a chance in cases involving confessions,” Kassin says. “They’re bound to convict.”

Kassin says he doesn’t blame jurors. He travels around the country lecturing on the psychology of false confessions and he says “the most common reaction I get from a lay audience is, ‘Well, I would never do that. I would never confess to something I didn’t do.’ And people apply that logic in the jury room. It’s just that basic belief that false confessions don’t occur.” What’s more, the evidence juries are given in conjunction with the false confessions is very damning, Kassin says. False confessions of guilt often include vivid details of how a crime was committed — and why. Confessions sometimes even come with an apology to the family. It’s no wonder jurors have trouble discounting them.

What confessions rarely include is an explanation of why the person confessed. In most states, police are not required to videotape the interrogations, just the confessions. So juries don’t get to see any potential police coercion and they don’t get to see the police planting those vivid details in the minds of the suspects.

And that may be just the tip of the iceberg. Kassin believes that confessions can have a dramatic impact on trials even if they never make it into a courtroom. They can influence potential eyewitnesses, for example, and taint other kinds of evidence.

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To read the entire article, including a section discussing Kassin’s fascinating research with psychologist Lisa Hasel testing the effect of confessions on eyewitnesses, click here.  To visit Ian Herbert’s superb blog, We’re Only Human, click here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see The Legal Situation of the Underclass,”The Situation of Criminality – Abstract,” The Painful Situation of Guilt,” A Situationist View of Criminal Prosecutors,” “Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,” The Justice Department, Milgram, & Torture,” “Why Torture? Because It Feels Good (at least to “Us”),” “The Situation of Solitary Confinement,” The Situation of Punishment (and Forgiveness),” “Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” “The Situation of Punishment,” “Why We Punish,” “The Situation of Death Row,” and “Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors.”

Posted in Choice Myth, Illusions, Law | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

The Spicy Situation of Food, Flavor, and Taste

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 27, 2009

With holiday feasts now behind us, we thought this might be a good time to post some portions of Linda Bartoshuk’s article, “Spicing Up Psychological Science,” from the September issue of The Observer.  Here are some excerpts.

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The anatomy of spice perception involves illusion. We seem to perceive spices both with the senses of taste and smell, but in reality, smell does most of the work. Consider cinnamon . . . . Even with our eyes closed, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls grabs our attention. Sniffing draws the cinnamon volatiles (chemicals that evaporate at low temperatures and make their way into our nostrils as vapors) up into our noses; the volatiles pass through a tiny opening at the top of the nasal cavity called the olfactory cleft. When odorants pass through the cleft, they gain access to the olfactory mucosa, the tissue that contains olfactory receptors. This process is technically called “orthonasal olfaction,” but we commonly call it “smell.”

But there is a second kind of olfaction. When we bite into a cinnamon roll and chew and swallow, the cinnamon volatiles are forced up behind the palate into the nose; because of the backward route by which the volatiles enter the nose, this process is called “retronasal olfaction.” The combination of taste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter) and retronasal olfaction is called “flavor.” Note that we do not use “flavor” as a verb to describe our perceptions of flavor in the same way we use “taste” as a verb to describe our perceptions of taste. To flavor food means to add flavor to food rather than to perceive the flavor of food. But this does not bother us because we use “taste” in everyday conversation to refer to our perceptions of flavor. One of the reasons that we do not notice this linguistic slip is because flavor is perceptually localized to the mouth. This trap caught even Aristotle. He listed olfactory sensations perceived from food in the mouth as tastes.

Why do we experience this illusion of localization? We are not sure, but we know that touch and taste both play roles. The brain knows the route by which an odorant gets to the olfactory receptors. Sniffing may provide the cue that says “orthonasal olfaction.” Oral touch and taste sensations may provide the cues that say “retronasal olfaction.”

In any case, olfactory information goes to different brain areas and is processed in different ways depending on which route was detected. For example, retronasal olfaction can be intensified by taste. Food companies make good use of this intensification. If you market a beverage like grape juice and you would like to intensify the grape flavor of the juice, just add sugar (another reason why we are bombarded with sweetened drinks). Incidentally, supertasters, those individuals with the most taste buds, perceive the most intense tastes, and because of the connection between taste and retronasal olfaction, supertasters also experience the most intense flavors . . . .

Current thinking is that the pleasure we experience from spices is learned. Cinnamon produces pleasure because it was previously paired with experiences our brains are programmed to view favorably (e.g., calories, sweetness of sugar). On the other hand, pair cinnamon with nausea and it will become unpleasant. One of the volatiles in cinnamon, eugenol, is also found in cloves. Cloves and cinnamon do not smell exactly the same, but their odors are similar. Oil of cloves is a natural analgesic and was used by dentists in an earlier era. I associate the odor of cloves with sickness associated with visits to my dentist; I do not share the enthusiasm of those lined up at Cinnabon for the overpowering scents of those calorie-rich rolls. Incidentally, the degree to which learning with one kind of olfaction generalizes to another is not yet clear. Love of cinnamon is learned through retronasal experience but clearly generalizes to cinnamon sniffed. On the other hand, some odors are pleasant with one kind of smell (e.g., cut grass is pleasant when sniffed) but not with the other (I can’t imagine a cut-grass flavor).

The person most responsible for explaining how we learn to love or hate flavors is Paul Rozin . . . .

. . . . Rozin described the “omnivore’s dilemma.” Somehow species like humans (and rats) that consume a large variety of different foods must take in important nutrients and avoid poisons. Rozin and his students have revealed how we do it (Rozin & Hormes, 2009). Our brains note the effects a given food has on us and make us like or dislike the sensory properties of those foods according to its notion of what is good or bad for us. For example, suppose we want to create a food item that will have great appeal. Begin with sources of calories (fat, carbohydrates), add sugar (for its hard-wired effect), and label the mixture with a salient odorant that will endow the item with a retronasal olfactory punch: I give you a brownie. On the other hand, let’s watch an undergraduate on his first alcohol binge get violently ill on screwdrivers. He will likely find screwdrivers distasteful the next day (and possibly for life). Further, the aversion may generalize to orange juice, orange candy, and a lot of other substances flavored with orange. The power of such conditioned aversions has even been used clinically to treat alcoholism . . . .

. . . [Consider one study designed] to explore the affective reactions to odorants in one and two-year olds . . . . The children, seated on their mother’s laps, were allowed to play with toys on a table in front of a picture with holes in it. While the child was engaged with a toy, an odorant was sprayed through one of the holes, and the child’s reaction was rated as pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant by observers in another room viewing the experiment through a one-way mirror. Two odorants were tested that are pleasant to most adults: amyl acetate (pears) and lavender. (To be honest, I don’t know how to describe lavender odor. It’s sold as a spice so there are samples in supermarkets. I suggest you try it.) Two odorants were tested that are unpleasant to most adults: dimethyl disulfide (garlic-like) and butyric acid (vomit-like). There were no significant differences in the reactions of the children to the four odorants. However, by age three, children begin to show preference reactions like those of adults (Engen, 1982; Schmidt & Beauchamp, 1988).  The lack of affect at two years along with the appearance of affect over time supports the learning of olfactory affect.

But another issue has yet to be considered: biological benefits of spices. Flavor volatiles in many of the plants we consume are derived from important nutrients; thus, those volatiles could serve as cues to the presence of those nutrients . . . . Further, the subset of plant volatiles that we call spices have been explicitly associated with health benefits. . . .

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The health benefits of spices suggest that we reconsider the possibility of hard-wired liking of at least some spices. For example, is it possible that during evolution some of our ancestors began using turmeric? If turmeric prolonged their lives could this have ultimately contributed to the proliferation of turmeric-likers?

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Harold McGee . . . is most famous for drawing back the curtain and revealing the chemistry behind what we do in our kitchens. . . . McGee [recently] reviewed efforts to find the origin of the burn of chili. He cited work suggesting that higher altitudes seems to produce chilis with greater burn, possibly because the climate at those altitudes may stress the plants, which might make the chilis more vulnerable to attack . . . . Since the burn appears to act as a deterrent to predators, the increase in burn may better repel those predators. This attention to the burn of chilis is a reminder that burn (produced by capsaicin) is a part of what we think of as spices, but it is not a retronasal olfactory sensation; rather, burn is mediated by the trigeminal nerve (which also mediates temperature and touch sensations).  Note that the oral burn that probably originated to repel predators can be transformed into a positive sensation in humans. Rozin recently commented that, “many innately negative stimuli . . . become highly desired and emerge as really important foods.”

How does this “hedonic reversal” occur? Some have argued that the biological benefits of chilis (e.g., antimicrobial properties, presence of vitamins A and C) somehow lead to our love of them. Whether or not this is so, children in cultures where chilis are an important part of the diet appear to learn the preference socially; that is, chili initially takes on positive value by association with intake by family and friends. Interestingly, it has proved difficult to induce animals to acquire a preference for chili. Rozin noted that some pets can acquire the preference through the social interaction of pet and owner, but attempts to condition preferences for chili in most animals have met with only modest success. However, one of Rozin’s students, Bennett Galef, was able to condition a mild preference for chili in naïve rats socially by exposing them to rats that had eaten the spice  . . . .

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To read the entire article or review its references, click here. To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Snacking,”The Situation of Eating – Part II,” The Situation of Eating,” “McDonalds tastes better than McDonalds, if it’s packaged right,” “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of Choice,” The Situation of our Food – Part I,” “The Situation of Our Food – Part II,”The Situation of Our Food – Part III,” and “The Situation of our Food – Part IV.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Illusions, Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Neuroscience and Illusion

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 7, 2009

Laura Sanders wrote an interesting article, titled “SPECIALIS REVELIO!  It’s not magic, it’s neuroscience,” in ScienceNews. Here are some excerpts.

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Skill in manipulating people’s perceptions has earned magicians a new group of spellbound fans: Scientists seeking to learn how the eyes and brain perceive — or don’t perceive — reality.

“The interest for magic has been there for a long time,” says Gustav Kuhn, a neuroscientist at Durham University in England and former performing magician. “What is new is that we have all these techniques to get a better idea of the inner workings of these principles.”

A recent brain imaging study by Kuhn and his colleagues revealed which regions of the brain are active when people watch a magician do something impossible, such as make a coin disappear. Another research group’s work on monkeys suggests that two separate kinds of brain cells are critical to visual attention. One group of cells enhances focus on what a person is paying attention to, and the other actively represses interest in everything else. A magician’s real trick, then, may lie in coaxing the suppressing brain cells so that a spectator ignores the performer’s actions precisely when and where required.

Using magic to understand attention and consciousness could have applications in education and medicine, including work on attention impairments.

Imaging the impossible

Kuhn and his collaborators performed brain scans while subjects watched videos of real magicians performing tricks, including coins that disappear and cigarettes that are torn and miraculously put back together.  Volunteers in a control group watched videos in which no magic happened (the cigarette remained torn), or in which something surprising, but not magical, took place (the magician used the cigarette to comb his hair). Including the surprise condition allows researchers to separate the effects of witnessing a magic trick from those of the unexpected.

In terms of brain activity patterns, watching a magic trick was clearly different from watching a surprising event. Researchers saw a “striking” level of activity solely in the left hemisphere only when participants watched a magic trick, Kuhn says. Such a clear hemisphere separation is unusual, he adds, and may represent the brain’s attempt to reconcile the conflict between what is witnessed and what is thought possible. The two brain regions activated in the left hemisphere — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex — are thought to be important for both detecting and resolving these types of conflicts.

Masters of suppression

Exactly how the brain attends to one thing and ignores another has been mysterious.  Jose-Manuel Alonso of the SUNY State College of Optometry in New York City thinks that the answer may lie in brain cells that actively suppress information deemed irrelevant by the brain. These cells are just as important, if not more so, than cells that enhance attention on a particular thing, says Alonso. “And that is a very new idea . . . . When you focus your attention very hard at a certain point to detect something, two things happen: Your attention to that thing increases, and your attention to everything else decreases.”

Alonso and his colleagues recently identified a select group of brain cells in monkeys that cause the brain to “freeze the world” by blocking out all irrelevant signals and allowing the brain to focus on one paramount task. Counter to what others had predicted, the team found that the brain cells that enhance attention are distinct from those that suppress attention. Published in the August 2008 Nature Neuroscience, the study showed that these brain cells can’t switch jobs depending on where the focus is — a finding Alonso calls “a total surprise.”

The work also shows that as a task gets more difficult, both the enhancement of essential information and suppression of nonessential information intensify. As a monkey tried to detect quicker, more subtle changes in the color of an object, both types of cells grew more active.

Alonso says magicians can “attract your attention with something very powerful, and create a huge suppression in regions to make you blind.” In the magic world, “the more interest [magicians] manage to draw, the stronger the suppression that they will get.”

Looking but not seeing

In the French Drop trick [see video below], a magician holds a coin in the left hand and pretends to pass the coin to the right hand, which remains empty. “What’s critical is that the magician looks at the empty hand. He pays riveted attention to the hand that is empty,” researcher Stephen Macknik says.

Several experiments have now shown that people can stare directly at something and not see it.  For a study published in Current Biology in 2006, Kuhn and his colleagues tracked where people gazed as they watched a magician throw a ball into the air several times. On the last throw, the magician only pretended to toss the ball. Still, spectators claimed to have seen the ball launch and then miraculously disappear in midair. But here’s the trick: In most cases, subjects kept their eyes on the magician’s face. Only when the ball was actually at the top part of the screen did participants look there. Yet the brain perceived the ball in the air, overriding the actual visual information.

Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his colleagues asked whether more perceptive people succumb less easily to inattentional blindness, which is when a person doesn’t perceive something because the mind, not the eyes, wanders. In a paper in the April Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, the researchers report that people who are very good at paying attention had no advantage in performing a visual task that required noticing something unexpected. Task difficulty was what mattered. Few participants could spot a more subtle change, while most could spot an easy one. The results suggest that magicians may be tapping in to some universal property of the human brain.

“We’re good at focusing attention,” says Simons. “It’s what the visual system was built to do.” Inattentional blindness, he says, is a by-product, a necessary consequence, of our visual system allowing us to focus intently on a scene.

Magical experiments

Martinez-Conde and Macknik plan to study the effects of laughter on attention. Magicians have the audience in stitches throughout a performance.  When the audience is laughing, the magician has the opportunity to act unnoticed.  Understanding how emotional states can affect perception and attention may lead to more effective ways to treat people who have attention problems.  “Scientifically, that can tell us a lot about the interaction between emotion and attention, of both the normally functioning brain and what happens in a diseased state,” says Martinez-Conde.

He expects that the study of consciousness and the mind will benefit enormously from teaming up with magicians. “We’re just at the beginning,” Macknik says. “It’s been very gratifying so far, but it’s only going to get better.”

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You can read the entire article here.  For some related Situationist posts, see “Brain Magic,” Magic is in the Mind,” and “The Situation of Illusion” or click here for a collection of posts on illusion.

Posted in Entertainment, Illusions, Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Beau Lotto on the Situation of Sight

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 6, 2009

From TedTalks: “Beau Lotto’s color games puzzle your vision, but they also spotlight what you can’t normally see: how your brain works.  This fun, first-hand look at your own versatile sense of sight reveals how evolution tints your perception of what’s really out there.”

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Visit lottolab.org for amazing illusions from Beau Lotto. For more Situationist posts see, “The Situation of Sight,”Brain Magic,” Magic is in the Mind,” and the “The Situation of Illusion” or click here for a collection of posts on illusion.

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

Barbara Ehrenreich on the Sources of and Problems with Dispositionism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 10, 2009

From GRITtv: “Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book looks at the downside of looking on the bright side, which she says has undermined America.”

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Barbara Ehrenreich – a Situationist,” The Motivated Situation of Inequality and Discrimination,” Thanksgiving as “System Justification”?,” “Cheering for the Underdog,” “Ayn Rand’s Dispositionism: The Situation of Ideas,” Deep Capture – Part X,” “Promoting Dispositionism through Entertainment – Part I, Part II, & Part III,”

Posted in Book, Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Ideology, Illusions, Life, Positive Psychology, System Legitimacy, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Dan Gilbert on Why the Brain Scares Itself

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 8, 2009

Dan Gilbert1For the Harvard Law Record, Harvard Law Students, Anush Emelianova and Gustavo Ribeiro, wrote a nice summary of Dan Gilbert‘s recent lecture at Harvard Law School.  His lecture, titled “Why Does the Brain Scare Itself?,” drew a  crowd of roughly 150 students and contributed to Gilbert’s reputation as an amazing and captivating speaker.    Here’s Emilianova and Ribeiro’s description.

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Why does the brain scare itself?  On Monday, October 19, Professor Dan Gilbert confronted this question in an event sponsored by first-year Section VI. Professor Gilbert, who wrote  the bestselling book Stumbling on Happiness, is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the Director of Harvard’s Hedonic Psychology Laboratory. He opened his remarks by stating that the power of the mind to automatically make predictions by simulating outcomes is the key feature that distinguishes humans from other animals.

Because the brain is made up of semi-independent systems, it can talk to itself or even “scare itself.”   But Prof. Gilbert believes that the limited mental capacities of humans impose limits on the accuracy of predictions about the emotional impact of future events. He demonstrated this by identifying four limitations of the brain’s ability to simulate the future: unrepresentativeness, essentialization, truncation, and presentism.

According to Prof. Gilbert, humans’ mental simulations are unrepresentatively based on the individual’s best or worst memories, failing to correspond to the average experience.  When the mind produces imaginary scenarios, the images tend to be essentialized, that is, distilled to a simplified image with the details cut out.  Remembered experiences also interfere with accurate prediction because they are truncated and fail to incorporate the ability to adapt to different situations over time.  Furthermore, Prof. Gilbert believes the human mind has a “presentist” bias, accepting in most circumstances the fiction that tomorrow will be exactly like today and that the feelings at the moment of making a decision will persist until the outcome of that decision arises. As an example, Professor Gilbert demonstrated a photograph of a 16-year-old who had tattooed Pac-Man on her head, suggesting that the excitement of the moment would eventually give way to regret.

Professor Gilbert does not believe humans have the capacity to systematically prevent errors in mental simulations.  “As I marinate you in the bloopers and foibles, the mistakes and biases of the human mind, you must be thinking, is there anything we can do about this? I’m happy to tell you the answer is no,” he said.

Despite the failure of predictions to account for dynamic circumstances, humans tend to adapt or rationalize outcomes to make themselves feel better.  Prof. Gilbert illustrated this tendency with the satisfied attitude of Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles.

Despite missing out on being part of one of the most successful bands ever, Best said in a 1994 interview that, “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.” Professor Gilbert argued that this was a striking example of rationalization.

Prof. Gilbert also indicated that there may be techniques available to minimize some types of cognitive error.  “Surrogation,” or asking others about their experience of a similar situation, can act as a more reliable guide than one’s own expectations. In fact, according to Prof. Gilbert, any random person’s actual experience of a given situation is likely to be much more predictive of our future enjoyment than our imaginary simulation of that same experience.

“Human beings are all basically the same.”

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The Project on Law and Mind Sciences will make the video of Gilbert’s talk available within the next few weeks.  To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Dan Gilbert To Speak at Harvard Law School,” “Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Our Decisions,” Dan Gilbert on the Situation of Psychology,”The Situation of Climate Change,” The Heat is On,”The Situation of Happiness,” and “Conversation with Dan Gilbert.”

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Emotions, Events, Illusions, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Asymmetric Introspection and Extrospection

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 5, 2009

Pronin Image - by Marc ScheffSituationist Contributor Emily Pronin recently wrote a very helpful primer on her work on the difference between “How We See Ourselves and How We See Others,” which she published in Science.  Here’s the abstract.

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People see themselves differently from how they see others. They are immersed in their own sensations, emotions, and cognitions at the same time that their experience of others is dominated by what can be observed externally. This basic asymmetry has broad consequences. It leads people to judge themselves and their own behavior differently from how they judge others and those others behavior. Often, those differences produce disagreement and conflict. Understanding the psychological basis of those differences may help mitigate some of their negative effects.

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In case you’re not already familiar with Pronin’s work, we recommend it highly.  You can download the above article (as well as a many of her other publications) on her website (here).

For some related Situationist posts, see “Emily Pronin on the Situation of Bias,” The Situation of Biased Perceptions,” I’m Objective, You’re Biased,” and “Naive Cynicism – Abstract.”

Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Illusions, Life, Naive Cynicism, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of the “Curveball”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 1, 2009

CurveballFrom U.S. News:

“Physically, there is no such thing as a breaking curveball,” said Zhong-Lin Lu, who holds the William M. Keck Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. “It’s mostly in the hitter’s mind.”

According to Lu, who helped to design a popular Web animation that illustrates the science behind what he calls the curveball illusion, the ball travels relatively straight toward the batter, curving somewhat but not nearly as much as claimed. What causes the perception of the break is a complex interplay between the fast spin of the ball, the contrast between the ball’s red seams and white background, and the batter’s flawed visual perception as the ball nears the plate.

Here’s how the curveball phenomenon seems to work, said Lu, a visual motion and perception specialist:

The ball leaves the pitcher’s arm at approximately 75 mph, slower than an average fastball. While it hurtles toward the batter, the ball spins obliquely at around 1,500 rpm (or 25 rotations per second). The ball reaches the plate in about 0.6 seconds.

Because of its unique spin, the ball appears to be moving faster than it really is, causing the batter to overestimate the speed. A slight curving trajectory forces the ball to move somewhat away from the hitter’s frontal view toward his side — or peripheral — vision just before he swings.

It’s during this final shifting of perception from frontal (also known as foveal) to peripheral view that causes the batter to perceive that the ball is dramatically dropping or moving abruptly to the left or right. In fact, the curveball is moving relatively straight, Lu said.

“The greater your eyes move away from the ball, the greater the curve,” he said.

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From EurekaAlert:

Zhong-Lin Lu, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at USC, along with USC alumni Emily Knight and Robert Ennis and Arthur Shapiro, associate professor of psychology at American University, developed a simple visual demo that suggests a curveball’s break is, at least in part, a trick of the eye.

Their demo, viewable at outstanding Illusion Sciences blog (here), won the Best Visual Illusion of the Year prize at the Vision Sciences meeting earlier this year.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Jim Rice and the Situation of Baseball Hall of Fame Voting,”  “Big Papi Magic,” “The Situation of a Baseball Pitch,” The Batting Situation,” and “The Unconscious Genius of Baseball Players.”   To review other Situationist posts containing of discussing illusions, click here.   Finally, to review a collection of similarly fascinating illusions by Arthur Shapiro, go to Illusion Sciences Blog.

Posted in Illusions, Situationist Sports, Video | 2 Comments »

Situationism in the News

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 17, 2009

situationism-in-the-news

Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quote from some of the Situationist news over the last several weeks.

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From Reuters India: “Brain science starting to impact varied fields”

“[…] More and more, though, images showing neurons firing in different areas of the brain are gaining attention from experts in fields as varied as law, marketing, education, criminology, philosophy and ethics.  They want to know how teachers can teach better, business sell more products or prisons boost their success rates in rehabilitating criminals.  And they think that the patterns and links which cognitive neuroscience is finding can help them.” Read more . . .

From Seed Magazine: “Optical illusions may seem to deceive, but they actually reveal truths about how our brains construct reality”

“Are you sitting in a swivel office chair as you read this article? Would you like to see a remarkable visual illusion? Just push yourself back from your desk and spin around four or five times from right to left with your eyes open. Then look back at this screen. You’ll probably notice that now the onscreen text appears to be moving from left to right.” Read more . . .

From The New York Time: “The Young and the Neuro”

“When you go to an academic conference you expect to see some geeks, gravitas and graying professors giving lectures.  But the people who showed up at the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society’s conference in Lower Manhattan last weekend were so damned young, hip and attractive.  The leading figures at this conference were in their 30s, and most of the work was done by people in their 20s.  When you spoke with them, you felt yourself near the beginning of something long and important.” Read more . . .

Posted in Abstracts, Illusions, Neuroscience | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Change Blindness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 27, 2009

From Wikipedia:

In visual perception, change blindness is the phenomenon that occurs when a person viewing a visual scene apparently fails to detect large changes in the scene. For change blindness to occur, the change in the scene typically has to coincide with some visual disruption such as a saccade (eye movement) or a brief obscuration of the observed scene or image. When looking at still images, a viewer can experience change blindness if part of the image changes.

For an intriguing example of change blindness, check out the video below depicting an experiment by Daniel J. Simons and Chris Chabris.

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For a sample of  related Situationist posts see “‘The Grand Illusion’ — Believing We See the Situation,”Neuroscience and Illusion,” “Brain Magic,” Magic is in the Mind,”The Situation of IllusionThe Heat is On,” and The Situation of Climate Change,” or click here for a collection of posts on illusion.

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

 
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