Archive for November, 2009
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 7, 2009
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 6, 2009
Below, we’ve posted titles and a brief quotation from some of our favorite non-Situationist situationist blogging during October 2009 (they are listed in alphabetical order by source).
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From 3 Quarks Daily: “Lard Lesson: Why Fat Lubricates Your Appetite”
“When you’ve spent the weekend splurging on greasy fast foods, your bathroom scale isn’t alone in reeling from the impact. Your brain does, too. New research shows just how saturated fat tricks us into eating more and elucidates the evolutionary basis for the propensity for poundage in developed nations. Our brain physiology, it seems, is glaringly out-of-date in the modern world.” Read more . . .
From Brain Blogger: “How Culture Shapes Our Mind and Brain”
“Most people would agree that culture can have a large effect on our daily lives — influencing what we may wear, say, or find humorous. But many people may be surprised to learn that culture may even effect how our brain responds to different stimuli. Indeed, until recently, most psychology and neuroscience researchers took for granted that their findings translated across individuals in various cultures. In the past decade, however, research has begun to unravel how cultural belief systems shape our thoughts and behaviors.” Read more . . .
From BPS Research Digest: “Young children’s moral understanding more sophisticated than previously thought”
“[…] In judging moral responsibility, we adults focus almost exclusively on intention rather than outcome. Stated starkly, the person who deliberately attempts to kill an innocent, but fails, is judged as more evil than the person who accidentally kills an innocent. Now researchers have a taken a fresh look at how these moral processes develop in children.” Read more . . .
From BPS Research Digest: “The speed of free will”
“Crudely speaking, our actions can be divided into those that are automatic and driven by the environment and those that are initiated volitionally, as an act of will. In an intriguing new study, Todd Horowitz and colleagues claim to have recorded the relatively sluggish time taken for free will to be enacted.” Read more . . .
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For previous installments of “Situationism on the Blogosphere,” click here.
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 4, 2009
Seed magazine recently provided a terrific summary of fascinating research on the situation of honesty (here). Here are some excerpts.
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In a famous set of experiments in the 1970s, children were observed trick-or-treating in the suburbs. Some were asked their names and addresses upon arriving at a door, while some were asked nothing. All were instructed to take just one piece of candy from the bowl, but as soon as the owner of the home retreated into the kitchen, the children who hadn’t provided their names and addresses shoveled the candy into their bags, sometimes taking everything in the bowl. Psychologists posited that anonymity made the children feel safe from the repercussions of their actions, an effect they call deindividuation.
Moral psychologists have since constructed myriad experiments to probe the workings of human morality, studying how we decide to cheat or to play by the rules, to lie or to tell the truth. And the results can be surprising, even disturbing. For instance, we have based our society on the assumption that deciding to lie or to tell the truth is within our conscious control. But Harvard’s Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxton say this assumption may be flawed and are probing whether honesty may instead be the result of controlling a desire to lie (a conscious process) or of not feeling the temptation to lie in the first place (an automatic process). “When we are honest, are we honest because we actively force ourselves to be? Or are we honest because it flows naturally?” Greene asks.
Greene and Paxton have just published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that attempts to get at the subconscious underpinnings of morality by recording subjects’ brain activity as they make a decision to lie.
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[Using fMRI to examine the brain’s activity during lying and telling the truth, researchers Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxon] found that honesty is an automatic process—but only for some people. Comparing scans from tests with and without the opportunity to cheat, the scientists found that for honest subjects, deciding to be honest took no extra brain activity. But for others, the dishonest group, both deciding to lie and deciding to tell the truth required extra activity in the areas of the brain associated with critical thinking and self-control.
Their findings—that honesty is automatic for some people—is part of a growing body of work that shows that many, if not most, of our daily actions are not under our conscious control. According to [Situationist Contributor] John Bargh, a Yale social psychologist who studies automaticity, even our higher mental processes are performed unconsciously in response to environmental cues.
“It could potentially be some of the most intriguing evidence for group selection,” Bargh speculates, adding that the results are reminiscent of the evolutionary idea that “cheaters” and “suckers” coexist in a specific ratio in the animal kingdom.
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To read the entire article, which is very interesting, click here. For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Trust,” “The Situation of Lying,” “The Facial Obviousness of Lying,” “Denial,” “Cheating Doesn’t Pay . . . So Why So Much of it?” “The Situation of Body Temperature,” “Social Psychology and the Unconscious: The Automaticity of Higher Processes,” “Unclean Hands,” “The Body Has a Mind of its Own,” “The Situation of Imitation and Mimickry,” and “The (Unconscious) Situation of our Consciousness – Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part IV.”
Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 1, 2009
From 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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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.