Triple-Decker Weekly, 32

A cute mistake that young children make is to think that they can hide themselves by covering or closing their eyes. Why do they make this error? A research team led by James Russell at the University of Cambridge has used a process of elimination to find out. […] The revelation that most young children think people can only see each other when their eyes meet raises some interesting question for future research. [BPS]

Recent research shows that women experience nonconscious shifts across different phases of the monthly ovulatory cycle. For example, women at peak fertility (near ovulation) are attracted to different kinds of men and show increased desire to attend social gatherings. Building on the evolutionary logic behind such effects, we examined how, why, and when hormonal fluctuations associated with ovulation influenced women’s product choices. In three experiments, we show that at peak fertility women nonconsciously choose products that enhance appearance (e.g., choosing sexy rather than more conservative clothing). This hormonally regulated effect appears to be driven by a desire to outdo attractive rival women. Consequently, minimizing the salience of attractive women who are potential rivals sup- presses the ovulatory effect on product choice. This research provides some of the first evidence of how, why, and when consumer behavior is influenced by hormonal factors. [Chicago Journal | PDF | via Improbable Research]

Why do some women pursue relationships with men who are attractive, dominant, and charming but who do not want to be in relationships—the prototypical sexy cad? Previous research shows that women have an increased desire for such men when they are ovulating, but it is unclear why ovulating women would think it is wise to pursue men who may be unfaithful and could desert them. […] Ovulating women perceive that sexy cads would be good fathers to their own children but not to the children of other women. [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology | PDF | via Improbable Research]

In both the lab and the field, female subjects tend to show greater confidence in their groups than in themselves, while male subjects show greater confidence in themselves than in their groups. [PDF | via OvercomingBias]

This article examines cognitive links between romantic love and creativity and between sexual desire and analytic thought based on construal level theory. It suggests that when in love, people typically focus on a long-term perspective, which should enhance holistic thinking and thereby creative thought, whereas when experiencing sexual encounters, they focus on the present and on concrete details enhancing analytic thinking. Because people automatically activate these processing styles when in love or when they experience sex, subtle or even unconscious reminders of love versus sex should suffice to change processing modes. Two studies explicitly or subtly reminded participants of situations of love or sex and found support for this hypothesis. [Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin/SAGE | PDF]

Men, not women, are better multitaskers.

Every several years, IQ tests test have to be “re-normed” so that the average remains 100. This means that a person who scored 100 a century ago would score 70 today; a person who tested as average a century ago would today be declared mentally retarded. […] Do rising IQ scores really mean we are getting smarter? […] Implicit in Flynn’s argument that we are becoming “more modern” is that IQ gains are due to environmental factors, not genetic ones. […] He invokes environmental factors, for example, to explain the shrinking male/female IQ gap and debunk notions of innate differences in intelligence between men and women. He uses similar reasoning to explain IQ differences between developed and developing countries. [TNR]

What’s the best way to make a good first impression? […] Be yourself.

A new study suggests that if you’re looking for employment, wearing red is a bad decision.

First impressions are powerful and are formed in all sorts of social settings, from job interviews and first dates to court rooms and classrooms. We regularly make snap judgments about others, deciding whether people are trustworthy, confident, extraverted, likable, and more. Although we have all heard the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” we do just that. And at the same time that we are judging others, we in turn communicate a great deal of information about ourselves – often unwittingly – that others use to size us up. [Scientific American]

We also inherit — through genes yet to be identified, of course — a trait known as developmental stability. This is essentially the accuracy with which the genetic blueprint is built. Developmental stability keeps the project on track. It reveals itself most obviously in physical symmetry. The two sides of our bodies and brains are constructed separately but from the same 23,000-gene blueprint. If you have high developmental stability, you’ll turn out highly symmetrical. Your feet will be the same shoe size, and the two sides of your face will be identical. If you’re less developmentally stable, you’ll have feet up to a half-size different and a face that’s like two faces fused together. [NY Times]

In the summer of 2008, police arrived at a caravan in the seaside town of Aberporth, west Wales, to arrest Brian Thomas for the murder of his wife. The night before, in a vivid nightmare, Thomas believed he was fighting off an intruder in the caravan – perhaps one of the kids who had been disturbing his sleep by revving motorbikes outside. Instead, he was gradually strangling his wife to death. When he awoke, he made a 999 call, telling the operator he was stunned and horrified by what had happened, and unaware of having committed murder. Crimes committed by sleeping individuals are mercifully rare. Yet they provide striking examples of the unnerving potential of the human unconscious. In turn, they illuminate how an emerging science of consciousness is poised to have a deep impact upon concepts of responsibility that are central to today’s legal system. After a short trial, the prosecution withdrew the case against Thomas. Expert witnesses agreed that he suffered from a sleep disorder known as pavor nocturnus, or night terrors, which affects around one per cent of adults and six per cent of children. […] It is commonplace to drive a car for long periods without paying much attention to steering or changing gear. According to Jonathan Schooler, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, ‘we are often startled by the discovery that our minds have wandered away from the situation at hand’. But if I am unconscious of my actions when I zone out, to what degree is it really ‘me’ doing the driving? This question takes on a more urgent note when the lives of others are at stake. […] The driver appeared in Worcester Crown Court on charges of causing death by reckless driving. For the defence, a psychologist described to the court that ‘driving without awareness’ might occur following long, monotonous periods at the wheel. The jury was sufficiently convinced of his lack of conscious control to acquit on the basis of automatism. […] If we accept automatism then we reduce the conscious individual to an unconscious machine. However, we should remember that all acts, whether consciously thought-out or reflexive and automatic, are the product of neural mechanisms. [aeon]

Same neurons at work in sleep and under anesthesia.

Can you turn a rat gay?

Why don’t apes have bigger brains? They can’t eat enough to afford them.

Over time, we have grown increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. Each decade economic losses from such disasters more than double as people continue to build homes, businesses, and other physical infrastructure in hazardous places. Yet public policy has thus far failed to address the unique problems posed by natural disasters. […] Drawing from philosophy, cognitive psychology, history, anthropology, and political science, this Article identifies and analyzes three categories of obstacles to disaster policy — symbolic obstacles, cognitive obstacles, and structural obstacles. The way we talk about natural disaster, the way we think about the risks of building in hazardous places, and structural aspects of American political institutions all favor development over restraint. Indeed, these forces have such strength that in most circumstances society automatically and thoughtlessly responds to natural disasters by beginning to rebuild as soon as a disaster has occurred. [SSRN]

Paul Ehrlich gave a talk at Stanford titled “Can a Collapse be Avoided”? Ehrlich is a biologist but his interests spread to Economics and Technology as well. The “collapse” of his talk is the catastrophe that, according to most climate scientists, is rapidly approaching. He listed eight major environmental problems and briefly discussed each. Some of them need no introduction (extinction of species, climate change, pollution) but others are no less catastrophic even though less advertised. For example, global toxification: we filled the planet with toxis substances, and therefore the odds that some of them interact/combine in some deadly chemical experiment never tried before are increasing exponentially every year. There is no known way to fix something like that. […] Another interesting point that is not widely recognized is that the next addition of one billion people to the population of the planet will have a much bigger impact on the planet than the previous one billion. The reason is that human civilizations already used up all the cheap, rich and ubiquitous resources. […] The bottom line of these arguments is that the collapse is not only coming, but the combination of the eight factors plus the internal combinations in each of them make it likely that it is coming even sooner than pessimists predict. [Piero Scaruffi]

Adrian Wooldridge has an excellent column on how the advent of driverless cars might impact the global automotive industry and the broader economy. […] “When people are no longer in control of their cars they will not need driver insurance—so goodbye to motor insurers and brokers. Traffic accidents now cause about 2m hospital visits a year in America alone, so autonomous vehicles will mean much less work for emergency rooms and orthopaedic wards. Roads will need fewer signs, signals, guard rails and other features designed for the human driver; their makers will lose business too. When commuters can work, rest or play while the car steers itself, longer commutes will become more bearable, the suburbs will spread even farther and house prices in the sticks will rise. When self-driving cars can ferry children to and from school, more mothers may be freed to re-enter the workforce. The popularity of the country pub, which has been undermined by strict drink-driving laws, may be revived. And so on.” [National Review ]

Russian Website Selling Hacked Servers.

Security holes enable attackers to switch off pacemakers, rewrite firmware from 30 feet away.

Hacker cracks 4 million hotel locks with ‘James Bond Dry Erase Marker.’

Experts warn about security flaws in airline boarding passes.

Disney Research has unveiled its new method of creating eerily perfect copies of human faces for use on robots.

Edgar Allan Poe: A Psychological Profile.

…scientific research with actual forensic examiners which [showed] that the *same* expert, examining the *same* evidence, can reach different conclusions when they are affected by bias. The problem was also demonstrated in fingerprinting and DNA, very robust forensic domains. […] Fingerprinting, DNA, CCTV images, firearms, shoe and tire marks, document examination, and so on. When there is no instrument that says ‘match’ or ‘no-match’ and it is in the ‘eye of the beholder’ to make the judgement, then subjectivity comes in, and is open to cognitive bias. Essentially, forensic areas in which there are no objective criteria: where it is the forensic expert who compares visual patterns and determines if they are ‘sufficiently similar’ or ‘sufficiently consistent’. For example, whether two fingerprints were made by the same finger, whether two bullets were fired from the same gun, whether two signatures were made by the same person. Such determinations are governed by a variety of cognitive processes. [Itiel Dror/Mind Hacks]

A new computer algorithm can analyze the footwear marks left at a crime scene according to clusters of footwear types, makes and tread patterns even if the imprint recorded by crime scene investigators is distorted or only a partial print. [EurekAlert]

Interviews with interrogators.

In the 1990s, Thomas Quick confessed to more than 30 murders, making him Sweden’s most notorious serial killer. Then, he changed his name and revealed his confessions were all faked. […] There were no DNA traces, no murder weapons, no eyewitnesses – nothing apart from his confessions, many of which had been given when he was under the influence of narcotic-strength drugs. [Guardian]

Brazil car washer turns up alive at own wake after his family mistakenly identified a murdered local man at the morgue as him.

More Biting Attacks in the News.

Could Bricks Made of Animal Blood Be the Future of Construction?

Moderate Drinking Decreases Number of New Brain Cells.

How can I mitigate the effect of heavy drinking on my liver? You can’t. Here’s why.

Why does the bowl of a spoon turn my reflection upside down?

How to eat a Triceratops.

The Telephone Directory as a Species of List Media.

Why are some consumers willing to pay more for less information?

Facebook users find themselves in the position of a superstar or a prophet, needing to utter profound statements and expecting the cheers of the crowd. As it becomes easier and easier for people to connect, this loop tragically kills conversations and exchanges them for the proclamations of ignorant judges who know nothing of the world but their own personal narratives and verdicts. [e-flux]

Facebook Patents Pokes-Per-Minute Limits.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office invalidates Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent asserted against Samsung.

Air Force plans for a flying saucer.

Guiltless Excuses is a mobile application that pragmatically deals with people’s inner guilt and helps them to maintain a balance between the personal and the public self. [Thanks Rob]

According to a songwriting blogger named Graham English, a typical pop song has anywhere from 100 to 300 words, with the Beatles at the low end of that scale and the verbose Bruce Springsteen at the high end. (Don McLean’s epic “American Pie,” for those who wonder, clocks in at 324 words.) […] [Rihanna’s “Diamonds,”] 67 words. Underwhelming. But at least it’s more complex than “Where Have You Been,” […] 40 distinct words. [Time]

Writing about the art market is painfully repetitive. […] People send you unbelievably stupid press releases. […] It implies that money is the most important thing about art. [Sarah Thornton]

How could I successfully kill a clone that is always thinking the exact same thing I am? […] Kill yourself. [Quora | more answers]

Tata Massage Face Slapping: To truly understand the technique you have to have firsthand experience, so CBS 5 brought along one of its interns, Allie, to take on the new service.

The World’s Shortest Freefall.

A small collection of items about dropped and bounced cats.