Since the size, density, and even shape of a person’s skull is somewhat unique, its resonance will vary across individuals. Our current research was designed to explore whether this uniqueness in skull resonance might have a direct influence on the kinds of music a person prefers. […] this research suggests that the skull [shape and size] might influence the music that a person dislikes rather than the music a person likes. [Acoustical Society of America/Improbable]
In the middle of the 20th century, experimental psychologists began to notice a strange interaction between human vision and time. If they showed people flashes of light close together in time, subjects experienced the flashes as if they all occurred simultaneously. When they asked people to detect faint images, the speed of their subjects’ responses waxed and waned according to a mysterious but predictable rhythm. Taken together, the results pointed to one conclusion: that human vision operates within a particular time window – about 100 milliseconds, or one-tenth of a second. […] Pretty much anyone with a pair of eyes will tell you that vision feels smooth and unbroken. But is it truly as continuous as it feels, or might it occur in discrete chunks of time? [Garden of the Mind]
Analyzing data from 60 earlier studies, Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley, found that warmer temperatures and extremes in rainfall can substantially increase the risk of many types of conflict. For every standard deviation of change, levels of interpersonal violence, such as domestic violence or rape, rise by some 4 percent, while the frequency of intergroup conflict, from riots to civil wars, rise by 14 percent. Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by 2050, with even bigger increases in the tropics. [The Scientist]
Prisoners were immersed into tanks of ice water for hours at a time, often shivering to death, to discover how long German pilots downed by enemy fire could survive the frozen waters of the North Sea. The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments.
A new Florida State University study has found that adolescent boys who are hurt in just two physical fights suffer a loss in IQ that is roughly equivalent to missing an entire year of school. Girls experience a similar loss of IQ after only a single fighting-related injury.
In human psychology, overconfidence is typically taken to be the overestimation of one’s own capabilities. This, and other apparent cognitive biases such as optimism, are well-documented phenomena whose underlying neural mechanisms are becoming known. However, a convincing evolutionary explanation of such phenomena is lacking. Two recent high-profile publications have advanced proposals for evolutionary explanations of overconfidence. […] The first proposal, a model by Johnson and Fowler (J&F), […] considers a scenario in which individuals compare their estimated fighting ability against that of potential opponents when deciding whether to contest a resource, doing so only if they perceive themselves as more capable. By identifying conditions under which individuals should overestimate their fighting ability, J&F claim to show that overconfidence should evolve. The second is Trivers’ theory of self-deception. […] Among Trivers’ primary arguments for the evolution of cognitive bias are that selective pressure exists for animals to deceive each other and that deception is more effective, and less cognitively costly, when the deceiver believes the deception; in the context of animal conflict, the explanation of overconfidence would be that acting as if one’s abilities are greater than they really are can more effectively dissuade others from competition. […] We argue that recent proposals, focused on benefits from overestimating the probability of success in conflicts or practicing self-deception to better deceive others, are still lacking in crucial regards. Attention must be paid to the difference between cognitive and outcome biases; outcome biases are suboptimal, yet cognitive biases can be optimal. [Cell | PDF]
The prevailing view in psychology is that materialism is bad for our well-being. Research by Tim Kasser and others has revealed an association between holding materialist values and being more depressed and selfish, and having poorer relationships. Kasser has previously called for a revolution in Western culture, shifting us from a thing-centred to a person-centred society. Other research by Leaf Van Boven, Thomas Gilovich and colleagues has shown that the purchase of experiences leaves people happier than buying material products. In another study of theirs, materialistic people were liked less than people who appeared more interested in experiences. [The Psychologist | PDF]
Running late is often referred to as a time management issue, but try thinking of it as life span management and commitment integrity. It has impact on many areas of your life but especially on your relationships. Your ability to arrive and depart according to your commitments is one of the ways people ascertain if they can rely on you or if they will respect you. [Max Strom]
When asked to imagine going to a cinema, people preferentially select seats to the right. For aircraft, contrary to expectation, occupancy rate was higher for left.
Sex pheromones are chemical compounds released by an animal that attract animals of the same species but opposite sex. They are often so specific that other species can’t smell them at all, which makes them useful as a secret communication line for just that species. But this specificity raises an intriguing question: When a new species evolves and uses a new pheromone signaling system, what comes first: the ability to make the pheromone or the ability to perceive it? […] Any individuals that make a new and different scent would then be perceived by the receivers as being the wrong species and they won’t attract any mates. If you don’t attract mates, you can’t pass on your new genes for your new scent. This produces a strong pressure to make a scent that is as similar as the scent produced by everyone else as possible (this is called stabilizing selection). With this intense pressure to be like everyone else, how did the incredible diversity of species-specific pheromones come to be? [Nature]
One interesting model system for thinking about the consequences of neural delays is the giraffe. Adults giraffes stand 5-6m tall, so the feet are a long way from the brain. Anything that happens to the feet as they walk (say, tripping on a tree root) will potentially not be registered fast enough for the brain to issue a response. Why don’t giraffes fall over often enough that people? Faster neurons? Cautious gait?
Why world hunger won’t be solved with the test-tube burger. About 12.5% of the world’s population is considered “hungry,” but many development economists say we already grow enough food to feed them all.
“Tell me what kinds of toxins are in your body, and I’ll tell you how much you’re worth,” could be the new motto of doctors everywhere. In a finding that surprised even the researchers conducting the study, it turns out that both rich and poor Americans are walking toxic waste dumps for chemicals like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and bisphenol A, which could be a cause of infertility. And while a buildup of environmental toxins in the body afflicts rich and poor alike, the type of toxin varies by wealth. People who can afford sushi and other sources of aquatic lean protein appear to be paying the price with a buildup of heavy metals in their bodies, found Jessica Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Exeter. [Quartz]
In two experiments we showed that exposure to an incidental black and white visual contrast leads people to think in a “black and white” manner, as indicated by more extreme moral judgments. [ScienceDirect]
I purchased this product and sent it back immediately. The moment I took it out of the wrapping, I knew there was a problem, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I did put my finger on it. It felt a bit weird and when I started picking at it some of the paint flaked off. Cheap materials. Anyhow, I may not be a member of the cognoscenti, but I have several Thomas “the Painter of Light” Kinkade paintings, so I know art. First of all, shouldn’t the lines be straight? It’s way too blurry and it hurts my eyes just to look at it. You know what also hurts my eyes? That little girls face. It looks like she has rosacea or something. And why is the girl so sad?!? Thomas Kinkade paintings are happy and joyful. This painting is just a bummer. Save yourself a lot of disappointment and $1,448,500 and just get yourself a nice Kinkade lithograph. You’ll be glad that you did. [Customer Review/Amazon]
In a predictable world, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon would have been regarded as a regrettable aberration and quickly forgotten. What makes one brilliant iconoclast wildly successful, and another ignored?
An open source project to combat “stylometry”, the study of attributing authorship to documents based only on the linguistic style they exhibit, is proving that it is possible to change writing style so as to evade detection. Artificial Intelligence techniques are routinely used to detect plagiarism and recently were employed to reveal that Harry Potter author J K Rowling is indeed the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling published under the byline of Robert Galbraith. Now software is tackling the opposite problem–anonymizing writing style to protect the identity of the originator. [I Programmer]
How much do you like courgettes? According to one Facebook page devoted to them, hundreds of people find them delightful enough to click the “like” button – even with dozens of other pages about courgettes to choose from. There’s just one problem: the liking was fake, done by a team of low-paid workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose boss demanded just $15 per thousand “likes” at his “click farm”. […] That particular Facebook page on courgettes was set up by the programme makers to demonstrate how click farms can give web properties spurious popularity. […] Sir Billi, a British cartoon film voiced by Sir Sean Connery, has more than 65,000 Facebook likes – more than some Hollywood films. Although it has so far only been released in South Korea, Facebook data suggests the city of Dhaka is the source of the third-largest number of likes. (The Egyptian capital, Cairo, is presently the source of the highest number.) [The Guardian]
With such technology, the bureau can remotely activate the microphones in phones running Android to record conversations, one former U.S. official said. It can do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said.
Cell phone ownership (i.e., cellular subscribers/population) has grown sharply since 1988, average use per subscriber has risen from 140 to 740 minutes a month since 1993, and surveys indicate that as many as 81 percent of cellular owners use their phones while driving—yet aggregate crash rates have fallen substantially over this period. [PDF]
Goldman’s Top Disruptive Themes: E-cigarettes, Cancer Immunotherapy, LED Lighting, Natural Gas Engines,3D Printing, Big Data…