Tag Archives | Psychology

Philip K. Dick was right: we are becoming androids

stephane (CC BY 2.0)

stephane (CC BY 2.0)

Via Jesse Walker at Boing Boing:

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Philip K. Dick novel that inspired the film Blade Runner, a bounty hunter pursues a group of androids who have been posing as human beings. He is eventually arrested and accused of being an android himself. The officers bring him to what turns out to be a counterfeit police station run entirely by androids, not all of whom are aware that they aren’t human.

“What do you do,” one of the robocops asks him, “roam around killing people and telling yourself they’re androids?”

It’s a complicated situation. But then, androids play a complicated role in Dick’s fiction. On the most obvious level, they represent the inhuman and the mechanical: People have empathy and will, while robots are rigid and soulless. It’s a familiar division in science fiction, though some storytellers prefer to put other monsters in the androids’ place.

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Anandamide: The Feel-Good Gene

Emperor Traianus Decius (Mary Harrsch).jpg If you’re lucky you have a genetic mutation that produces high levels of  anandamide, which Richard A. Friedman refers to as “the so-called bliss molecule and our own natural marijuana.” He describes the latest neuroscience research in the New York Times:

Chances are that everyone on this planet has experienced anxiety, that distinct sense of unease and foreboding.

Most of us probably assume that anxiety always has a psychological trigger.

Yet clinicians have long known that there are plenty of people who experience anxiety in the absence of any danger or stress and haven’t a clue why they feel distressed. Despite years of psychotherapy, many experience little or no relief. It’s as if they suffer from a mental state that has no psychological origin or meaning, a notion that would seem heretical to many therapists, particularly psychoanalysts.

Recent neuroscience research explains why, in part, this may be the case. For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people inherently less anxious, and more able to forget fearful and unpleasant experiences.

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Monkeys, Money, and The Primate Origins of Human Irrationality with Laurie Santos

Via You Are Not So Smart:

Our guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is psychologist Laurie Santos who heads the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at Yale University. In that lab, she and her colleagues are exploring the fact that when two species share a relative on the evolutionary family tree, not only do they share similar physical features, but they also share similar behaviors. Psychologists and other scientists have used animals to study humans for a very long time, but Santos and her colleagues have taken it a step further by choosing to focus on a closer relation, the capuchin monkey; that way they could investigate subtler, more complex aspects of human decision making – like cognitive biases.

One of her most fascinating lines of research has come from training monkeys how to use money. That by itself is worthy of a jaw drop or two.

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Fear is the Mind Killer

Fear-is-the-mind-killer-Dune

Via Don Hazen at AlterNet:

“Fear is the mind-killer” – Frank Herbert, Dune

People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. As numerous studies have shown, fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. For people who have suffered trauma, fear messages can sometimes trigger uncontrollable flight-or-fight responses with dangerous ramifications.

Yet over time, many interlocking aspects of our society have become increasingly sophisticated at communicating messages and information that produce fear responses. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid—very afraid.

In addition, television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life, as researchers have pointed out. And more recently, we have witnessed the massive militarization of local police departments with equipment, gear and attitudes that treat citizens as if they were terrorists, as recently evidenced by events in Ferguson, Missouri.

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Unemployment and Suicide

Porsche Brosseau (CC By 2.0)

Porsche Brosseau (CC By 2.0)

via PsyBlog:

One in five suicides around the world is caused by this and the figure is rising.

Unemployment is linked to 45,000 suicides around the world each year, a new study finds.

This represents around one in five of the total number of global suicides.

The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, gathered data from 63 countries between 2000 and 2011 (Nordt et al., 2015).

They found that the risk of suicide due to unemployment had risen between 20 and 30 per cent across all regions of the world.

Also, since the period included the start of the recession in 2008, they were able to look at its effect.

Dr. Carlos Nordt, who led the study, said:

“After the crisis year in 2008, the number of suicides increased short-term by 5,000 cases.

Therefore, suicides associated with unemployment totaled a nine-fold higher number of deaths than excess suicides attributed to the most recent economic crisis.”

It’s not just the unemployment itself that is linked to suicide, it’s the period leading up to it when employees can face an uncertain and stressful few months, or even longer.

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How to Survive a Slasher Film

If you’re at all interested in slasher films, I recommend checking out the mockumentary, “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.” It does an excellent job deconstructing slasher movie tropes and themes, while also being wholly entertaining (and funny).

Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D writes at Psychology Today:

Ever since John Carpenter’s horror classic film, Halloween first premiered in 1978, the slasher film has been a familiar staple for horror movie viewers. In the decades that followed, there have been an astonishing number of slasher films though they all tend to follow the same basic formula.

This includes scenes of graphic violence, usually featuring a (typically female) protagonist attempting to stay alive while a faceless evil stalked and killed all the other victims, often in bizarre and creative ways. Despite the gratuitous violence and  stereotypical cliches relating to sexism, slasher films have a strange popularity with movie audiences and have even made unlikely film stars out of relentless killers such as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees.

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The Psychology of Doing Nothing

This lecture explores decision avoidance in business. Why is costly inaction attractive? Why do individuals (and organisations) sometimes hesitate even though they know they probably have more to lose by not taking a risk? We also explore the other side of the coin: when is inaction the highest form of action?The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website.

h/t Reddit.

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How Time Tricks Our Minds

(Photo: darrentunnicliff/Flickr)

(Photo: darrentunnicliff/Flickr)

Rick Paulas via Pacific Standard:

“Time passes slowly up here in the mountains / We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains / Catch the wild fishes that float through the stream / Time passes slowly when you’re lost in a dream”  —Bob Dylan, “Time Passes Slowly”

No, Bob. It doesn’t.

Time doesn’t pass slowly or quickly, unless you happen to be near a black hole. (Even then, it’s more time relative to other people’s experience of time, not time itself.) Time just passes, same as always, one second at a time. But there are certain instances when, despite this knowledge, it just doesn’t feel that way. Back in school, those last 20 minutes before the bell rung just seemed … to … take … forever. Or when you’re at an amazing party, and it’s over before you know it.

Last week, I experienced a subtle time shift of my own.

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Warning: Thoughts Can Kill

To die, sometimes you need only believe you are ill, and as David Robson discovers at BBC Future, we can unwittingly ‘catch’ such fears, often with terrifying consequences:

Beware the scaremongers. Like a witch doctor’s spell, their words might be spreading modern plagues.

Vudu

We have long known that expectations of a malady can be as dangerous as a virus. In the same way that voodoo shamans could harm their victims through the power of suggestion, priming someone to think they are ill can often produce the actual symptoms of a disease. Vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and even death, could be triggered through belief alone. It’s called the “nocebo effect”.

But it is now becoming clear just how easily those dangerous beliefs can spread through gossip and hearsay – with potent effect. It may be the reason why certain houses seem cursed with illness, and why people living near wind turbines report puzzling outbreaks of dizziness, insomnia and vomiting.

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