“Knowledgeable individuals protect the wisdom of crowds” (Ed Young)

Andrew King from the Royal Veterinary College found that it falls apart, but only in certain circumstances. At his university open day, he asked 82 people to guess the number of sweets in a jar. If they made their guesses without any extra information, the wisdom of the crowd prevailed. The crowd’s median guess was 751.* The actual number of sweets was… 752.

This collective accuracy collapsed if King told different groups of volunteers about what their peers had guessed. If they knew about the previous guess, a random earlier guess or the average of all the earlier guesses, they overestimated the number of sweets. Their median guesses ranged from 882 to 1109. King likens this effect to real-world situations where people collectively drive the prices of items above their value and create economic bubbles. It’s what happened to create the recent US/British housing market crash or, more historically, the tulip mania of 17th century Holland.

Jan Lorenz recently found the same thing. Swiss college students can form a wise crowd when answering questions independently, but once they could find out what their peers had guessed, their answers became more inaccurate. In his summary of the study, Jonah Lehrer wrote, “The range of guesses dramatically narrowed; people were mindlessly imitating each other. Instead of canceling out their errors, they ended up magnifying their biases, which is why each round led to worse guesses.”

Is the crowd doomed to groupthink? Not quite. King found that he could steer them back towards a wiser guess by giving them the current best guess. When this happened, the median returned to a respectable 795. So the crowd loses its wisdom when it gets random pieces of information about what its members think, but it regains its wisdom if it finds out what the most successful individual said.”

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/09/13/knowledgeable-individuals-protect-the-wisdom-of-crowds/

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Study: Word sounds contain clues for language learners

“This summer, Christiansen organized a symposium at a conference in Montreal where evidence showed that some systematic sound-to-meaning correspondences do exist. For instance, toddlers consistently matched rounded vowels, such as “koko,” to rounded shapes and non-rounded vowels, such as “kiki,” to jagged shapes.

“Such systematic relationships between sound and meaning make it easier to figure out what the rough meaning of a word is,” said Christiansen. “So, from a learning perspective, it’s paradoxical that most words have an arbitrary sound-to-meaning relationship.”

A study published by Christiansen and two colleagues in the August : General provides new insight into this paradox. They uncovered a trade-off between arbitrariness and “systematicity” within the sound of words.”

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-09-word-clues-language-learners.html

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The Power of Negative Thinking (Study; SA)

“Can our expectations for the future change how we remember the past? According to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, they can—we remember unpleasant experiences more negatively if we expect to endure them again.

Researchers at New York University and Carnegie Mellon University conducted seven experiments to determine how people’s expectations shape their memories. In one test, they exposed 30 students to the noise of a vacuum cleaner for 40 seconds. Afterward, half were told they would have to hear the noise again, whereas the rest were told the study was over. Everyone was then asked to rate how irritated they were by the noise. Students who expected to hear it again consistently found it more irritating. Other tests involving stimuli that bored and annoyed subjects all yielded the same results.

Jeff Galak, a Carnegie Mellon behavioral sci­entist who worked on the study, suggests that we remember hardships as worse than they actually were so that when we face those experiences again, they will be less painful than we expect. Galak thinks that by understanding this “bracing” strategy individuals can learn to overcome it and stop fearing exaggerated pain. He acknowledges that doing so may backfire, however—it is possible, he says, that by bracing for the worst, we actually suffer less.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-power-of-negative-thinking

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Smoking experience modulates the cortical integration of vision and haptics (Study)

“Abstract. Human neuroplasticity of multisensory integration has been studied mainly in the context of natural or artificial training situations in healthy subjects. However, regular smokers also offer the opportunity to assess the impact of intensive daily multisensory interactions with smoking-related objects on the neural correlates of crossmodal object processing.
The present functional magnetic resonance imaging study revealed that smokers show a comparable visuo-haptic integration pattern for both smoking paraphernalia and control objects in the left lateral occipital complex, a region playing a crucial role in crossmodal object recognition. Moreover, the degree of nicotine dependence correlated positively with the magnitude of visuo-haptic integration in the left lateral occipital complex (LOC) for smoking-associated but not for control objects. In contrast, in the left LOC non-smokers displayed a visuo-haptic integration pattern for control objects, but not for smoking paraphernalia.

This suggests that prolonged smoking-related multisensory experiences in smokers facilitate the merging of visual and haptic inputs in the lateral occipital complex for the respective stimuli. Studying clinical populations who engage in compulsive activities may represent an ecologically valid approach to investigating the neuroplasticity of multisensory integration.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811911008184

 

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Chinese-English bilinguals are ‘automatic’ translators (Study)

Interesting experiment set up:
English word pairs were shown to the participants.
“The first word flashed on the computer screen so quickly (for just 59 milliseconds) that the person didn’t realise they had seen it. The second word appeared for longer; the person was supposed to hit a key indicating whether it was a real English word as quickly as possible. This was simply a test to see how quickly they were processing the word.
[…]
Although everything in the test was in English, in some cases, the two words actually had a connection – but only if you know how they’re written in Chinese. So, for example, the first word might be ‘thing’ which is written 东西 in Chinese, and the second might be ‘west’ which is written 西 in Chinese. The character for ‘west’ appears in the word ‘thing’ but these two words are totally unrelated in English.

Zhang found that, when two words shared characters in Chinese, participants processed the second word faster – even though they had no conscious knowledge of having seen the first word in the pair. Even though these students are fluent in English, their brains still automatically translate what they see into Chinese. This suggests that knowledge of a first language automatically influences the processing of a second language, even when they are very different, unrelated languages.”

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-chinese-english-bilinguals-automatic.html

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Conformity does not equal cooperation (Study)

“The study, published in the August issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, shows that people who do not conform are most likely to work together for the greater good, while conforming to social norms can actually make people less likely to co-operate – a finding which surprised the researchers and could have implication.”

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-conformity-equal-cooperation.html

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Neuropsychoanalysis in the Scanner, Part 2 – Siegel and discussion

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Vittorio Gallese, Part 1:From Mirror Neurons to Embodied Simulation-Neuropsychoanalysis Lecture Series

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For my eyes only: Gaze control, enmeshment, and relationship quality (Study)

“Perceived closeness that preserves the distinctness of each partner enhances intimate relationship quality, whereas pseudocloseness or enmeshment—reflecting an inability to distinguish one’s own thoughts and emotions from a partner’s—may have more negative outcomes (R. J. Green & P. D. Werner, 1996).
Two studies investigated whether a dispositional inability to differentiate self from other is manifested at the attentional level as reduced capacity to inhibit following the gaze of another (A. Frischen, A. P. Bayliss, & S. P. Tipper, 2007).

Among healthy elderly spouses in Study 1, superior gaze control predicted superior sociocognitive functioning, and those with poorer gaze control abilities were perceived by the partner as constricting the perceiving partner’s autonomy, which in turn predicted lower relationship satisfaction among the latter. Moreover, these links were mediated by enmeshment, as indicated by the percentage of “we”-focused versus “I”- or partner-focused thoughts and emotions in the partners’ independent accounts of the same relationship events.

Extending these findings in a sample of Parkinson’s disease patients and their spouses, Study 2 revealed a biphasic effect of self–other differentiation on relationship dynamics: In the early stages of the disease, increased couple focus promoted superior relationship quality, whereas lack of self–other differentiation predicted poorer relationship quality later. Thus, dispositional variations in fundamental social-perceptual processes predict both close relationship dynamics and long-term relationship quality.”

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/100/6/

Petrican, Raluca; Burris, Christopher T.; Bielak, Tania; Schimmack, Ulrich; Moscovitch, Morris.
For my eyes only: Gaze control, enmeshment, and relationship quality.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011  Volume 100, Issue 6 (Jun).
Pages 1111-1123
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Spurious? Name similarity effects (implicit egotism) in marriage, job, and moving decisions (Study)

“Three articles published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology have shown that a disproportionate share of people choose spouses, places to live, and occupations with names similar to their own. These findings, interpreted as evidence of implicit egotism, are included in most modern social psychology textbooks and many university courses.

The current article successfully replicates the original findings but shows that they are most likely caused by a combination of cohort, geographic, and ethnic confounds as well as reverse causality. ”

http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=browsePA.volumes&jcode=psp

Simonsohn, Uri.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
2011  Volume 101, Issue 1 (Jul).

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