Psychology Is All Around

It\’s Not All In Your Head

Mouse Party

OK, I know it’s been a long time since I updated. I’m no longer teaching so there was less motivation to keep this blog up but I still come across the occasional fun psych-related link. Might as well archive them all here in case I ever decide to go back to academia.

Today mental_floss had an interesting link in their daily “Morning Cup o’ Links”. Mouse Party is an amusing animation created by the genetics department at the University of Utah. It shows the neurological effects of different drugs. Props to them for a fun and interesting presentation of usually somewhat dry information.

Mouse Party, via mental_floss blogs.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, States of Consciousness | 3 Comments

Im in ur blog, writin bout teh psychologiez

As my department’s resident crazy cat lady, it’s no surprise that I take great joy in lolcats. I had seen a few, but it was this LiveJournal post in February that opened my eyes to just how many kitty macros there were out there. I spent a good three days reading the 50 pages of comments that followed, which resulted in 1) wasting a lot of time, and 2) me laughing maniacally alone in my office.

Recently, good ol’ Boing Boing posted a link to Anil Dash’s blog post in which he mused about the phenomenon of “kitty pidgin”, or the language lolcats “speak”. Now, I’m not going to get into the psychology of linguistics, as I’m far from an expert in that subject. But it made me wonder about the psychological aspects of the popularity of lolcats. However, I’ve been beaten to the punch by several people. Since his original post, Anil has addressed the topic of closure in comics and subsequently, lolcats. Go read that and then come back here.

So I never thought about it before, but the “invisible object” type of lolcat is a great illustration of the Gestalt perception principle of closure. Our minds fill in the blanks such that we can easily imagine whatever the cat is supposed to be interacting with. And that’s pretty funny.

Now I have a viable excuse to scour I Can Has Cheezburger? every day. I’m just looking for good examples to show in class!

May 7, 2007 Posted by | Sensation and Perception | 1 Comment

Virginia Tech Tragedy

As many have been doing, I’ve been watching the news and keeping updated on yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech. It’s obviously a very terrible thing that happened, with a lot of unanswered questions. The shooter is now deceased as well, so we only have clues but no definitive answers about his motivations and state of mind. From what it appears, he was mentally ill, perhaps a little schizoid (not to be confused with schizophrenic).

Whatever the motivation, this horrible rampage has affected people far and wide, including me. I’m almost a little glad that our classes were canceled today due to the raining and flooding in New Jersey…Although logically I know the chances of anything bad happening while lecturing are quite small, yesterday made it quite salient just how open college campuses are. My thoughts are with all those people affected by what happened at VA Tech and I hope that we find some answers and peace soon.

April 17, 2007 Posted by | Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Motivation & Emotion, News, Personality | Leave a comment

Online Fandom

So I got to go see my favorite (living) musician last night–John Mayer. Anyone who knows me knows that I get stupid about John Mayer. Full out swooning and giddiness, but it’s not just that he’s a cute guy. Through the wonder of technology, I’ve been able to read his thoughts on various topics and get to know the man behind the music. I can also keep up with shows and setlists and watch videos of his performances. This wasn’t really possible just ten or fifteen years ago. The Internet has changed the ways that fans and the objects of their adoration connect.

In my research about the social effects of the Internet, I came across Nancy Baym’s writings and her blog, Online Fandom.  She explores technology and the experience of being a fan. Interesting stuff to read, and especially relevant with the advent of tools such as iTunes or Pandora online radio.

March 1, 2007 Posted by | Advertising, Music, Social Psychology | 2 Comments

Don’t Fuggedaboutit

From CNN: Math anxiety hinders one’s ability to do well on tests by occupying the working memory.

It’s no secret that the capacity of the working memory is limited (7 +/- 2, anyone?), but apparently it can be even further restricted when one is anxious, or at least in a math test-taking situation.

As someone with a history of choking on math tests throughout high school (thankfully, this didn’t seem to apply to statistics, the only math I had to take in college and grad school), I find this a great relief to have an explanation for what was going on. I knew the material, but it always happened that one or two questions in I’d suddenly not remember crucial equations or operations. Luckily, I was able to make up for my deficits by doing really well on homework. Except for trigonometry. To this day, I’d still like to have another go at that class.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Cognitive Psychology, Memory, News, Real life examples | Leave a comment

Suddenly I See

Wow, how cool!

Retinal implants to help partially restore vision to people blinded by disease are currently in clinical trials.

First we had the cochlear implant, which helps restore hearing, and now we have this. It’s really amazing, the technology available today.

BBC News, via Lifehacker.com.

February 16, 2007 Posted by | Neuroscience, Sensation and Perception | Leave a comment

Bad Example! No! No!

If I were the letter-writing sort, I would be firing off an angry letter to ABC and the writers of “Desperate Housewives” right this moment.

Unfortunately, I’m lazy. So I blog.

I missed Sunday’s episode of “Desperate Housewives” due to skating practice, so while I was in my office hours today I watched online. This was not long after a class lecture in which I addressed the issue of hypnosis and what it’s capable of. While assessing the class’ knowledge, I found that the majority believed that hypnosis can reliably enhance one’s memory of past events. I originally chalked this up to people not reading the textbook chapters like they’re supposed to before class. But after watching the new episode, I’m wondering just how many were influenced by seeing a near-impossible occurrence on the show.

Without giving away too many spoilers about the plot–HYPNOSIS WILL NOT RELIABLY HELP YOU REMEMBER PAST EVENTS. In fact, it can produce many errors. I hope that the writers of “Desperate Housewives” recognize this when they continue the storyline. No court would accept testimony based on recollections obtained through hypnosis. No way, no how.

So there’s still time for the writers to correct this egregious error, but I have to admit that I have little faith that they will actually do so. It just doesn’t make for good drama. Unfortunately, incorrect information does.

If Elizabeth Loftus were dead, she’d be spinning in her grave.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | Cognitive Psychology, Memory, States of Consciousness, Television | Leave a comment

Brain Cells Fire In Patterns

Did you happen to catch cognitive/evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker on “The Colbert Report” last Wednesday? If you didn’t, here’s a link to the page where you can find the video:

Colbert Report interviews 

I love that the first thing Stephen Colbert comments on is Dr. Pinker’s hair. Anyone else ever notice that prominent male research psychologists tend to have big hair? Maybe my noticing is just a bit of confirmation bias on my part.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Television | Leave a comment

Happy Meal?

I finally got around to seeing the movie “Super Size Me” last night. What an eye-opener. I don’t eat fast food too often, but I have to admit I really enjoy it when I do, even though I have full knowledge of how horrible it is for me.

One of the parts that really resonated with the social psychologist side of me was the discussion of how McDonald’s has conditioned the younger generation to associate happy times with their food. We usually think of classical conditioning in other types of advertising, such that purveyors of products attempt to associate the product with something good in order to persuade people to buy it. But McDonald’s really is the master of this technique. They play a lot on these associations in childhood and these things become so indoctrinated in our youth that we continue the associations well into adulthood.

I think back to my own childhood and how my brother and I had a McDonald’s playset–a full restaurant equipped with plastic food and figurines of Ronald McDonald et al. I went to several birthday parties in the red caboose attached to the McDonald’s in Boulder. I even got Happy Meals way after I should have graduated past them just so I could get the cool toys that were included with them (but, for the record, I did the same thing with Burger King in college when they were offering Pokemon toys in their kid’s meals). Eek! This indoctrination happened to me, and we hardly even went to McDonald’s when I was little.

So a lot of products try to make people think of their own childhoods and get a sense of nostalgia in order to sell more, but McDonald’s actually starts in early enough to become part of the nostalgia. Very clever. But that doesn’t make it right.

January 29, 2007 Posted by | Advertising, Learning, Motivation & Emotion, Movies, Social Psychology | Leave a comment

Akeelah and the Bee

Have you seen this movie? I got the opportunity to watch it while home on break. It’s definitely one of the best of 2006. Besides providing an engaging look at language and morphology, it also gives some insight to the cognitive processes involved in spelling.

My favorite example from this movie is of state-dependent learning. I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but there’s a scene at a bee where Akeelah is struggling to remember how to spell a word. To help jog her memory, she starts doing what she was doing when she learned the word, and it comes right back to her. F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C!!!

Go rent this movie today.

IMDb link to the movie page here. See the scene I’m talking about here, courtesy of YouTube.

January 19, 2007 Posted by | Cognitive Psychology, Learning, Memory, Motivation & Emotion, Movies | 4 Comments