Tag: psychology

Bottoms Up! How the Shape of Your Beer Glass May Make You Drink More

By Sophie Bushwick | September 4, 2012 9:30 am

beer glasses

The shape of your beer glass affects your grip, of course. But it also affects the way that the bubbles in the liquid behave. And now it turns out that beer glass shape can even influence how fast you down your alcoholic beverage.

To see how glass shape affected drinking speed, 160 self-described social drinkers watched a nature documentary while they consumed refreshments from glasses with either straight edges or curved ones. The glasses with curved edges were larger at the top than the bottom, so they held a greater volume in the top half. And researchers found that when drinking beer from these glasses, subjects finished 60 percent faster than drinkers who used straight-sided glasses.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

The Psychological Tricks That Say, "Stay Away From My Seat"

By Sophie Bushwick | August 4, 2012 10:00 am

“If I pretend to be crazy, nobody will sit next to me!”

Boarding a bus can be a battle. First you have to fight through a line of other passengers, then struggle through a too-tiny aisle, and when you finally collapse into an empty row, the hard part is only beginning. Now you have to defend your extra seat from a horde of sweaty strangers. To learn more about the various tactics that people use to save the next-door seat, one brave sociologist went undercover.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

Scientists Watch Cars at an Intersection, Make Grand Claims About Greed

By Veronique Greenwood | March 1, 2012 10:54 am

The intersection in question.

For two Fridays in June 2011, from 3 to 6 pm, two experimenters sat near an intersection in San Francisco and watched the cars. They arranged themselves so that drivers couldn’t see them, and every now and then, they recorded the make and physical appearance of a car and tried to guess the gender and age of the driver. As their chosen cars pulled up to the intersection, they kept track of which ones cut off others. Later, in another study, they positioned an experimenter at a crosswalk. They took note of which cars neglected to stop for the pedestrian.

No, this is not performance art—it’s science! Read More

Why We Love the Crap We Make, or The Grand Unifying Theory of Regretsy

By Veronique Greenwood | January 9, 2012 11:30 am

fuzzy flipflops
Handmade! And priceless!

Your grandma’s day-glo knitted sweaters are proof: People love the stuff they make, even when what they make is a disaster. It’s a weird little corner of human psychology studied by behavioral economist Michael Norton, who dubs it the IKEA phenomenon, having observed in his own studies that people love the IKEA boxes they assembled themselves more than the identical IKEA boxes assembled by some other dude, and that people consider their wretched origami animals valuable works of art while others call them “nearly worthless crumpled paper.” He speculates that it may be the pride of accomplishment that makes people behave this way, or some warped sense that anything that took more work to make is inherently better.

But anyone who’s wasted a perfectly good Saturday working on a BEKVÄM can tell you that it ain’t love or pride that keeps you from throwing that thing out the window—it’s the fear of having to do it all over again. No, forget IKEA: a better name for this quirk of the mind is the Regretsy phenomenon. Etsy is an online marketplace for people selling handmade objects; Regretsy is the blog that documents the spectacular delusions of the sellers of such objects as these sock-encrusted lampshades. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

Chocolate Science #539: Taking a Walk Makes You Eat Less Chocolate

By Veronique Greenwood | December 9, 2011 4:42 pm


It should come as no surprise that scientists have spent many hours contemplating new tortures for the chocolate-addicted. After all, how else will science know how much, say, boredom, will affect chocolate intake? Or stress? Or watching a psychologist unwrap a chocolate bar? These are the important things, people.

The latest edition of this research addresses a question close to many a cubicle drone’s heart: will exercise reduce the amount of chocolate you eat while at work? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

What Are We Saying When We Say "Cheese"?

By Joseph Castro | August 19, 2011 12:26 pm

spacing is importantIs this dog really smiling?

We beam when we’re cheerful, grin sheepishly when we’re guilty, smirk when we’re proud. It all seems so simple and obvious, but what do we really know about smiling?

In a new book called Lip Service: Smiles in Life, Death, Trust, Lies, Work, Memory, Sex, and Politics, Yale University experimental psychologist Marianne LaFrance investigates the subtleties of smiling, showing how the familiar expression reveals more than we realize. Wired has an amusing Q&A with the doctor herself:

Wired.com: Why can smiles mean such different things in different cultures?

LaFrance: We acquire ways of knowing who is us and who is them. There have been fascinating studies where Australians and Americans were shown a bunch of face shots of other Australians and Americans. Their task was to identify which nationality, Australian or American, the person was. Shown neutral expressions, accuracy was no better than chance. But shown smiles, they were very good at guessing a person’s nationality. Subtle difference in a person’s smile are detectable, even if we can’t describe why.

Now there are also vast cross-cultural differences in the rules for smiling. Who is it OK to smile at, who not? For how long? For example, often when New Englanders go to the South, they wonder why Southerners are smiling all the time. Sometimes they feel everyone is charming. Sometimes the difference is met with dismay.

Rarely do we think, “Isn’t it interesting that another culture has different smiling rules?” We view them as being a different type of person. Now, at home, judgments based on a person’s smiling habits might be warranted. But when you’re talking about cross-cultural boundaries, those judgments can be really off-base.

Read more at Wired.

Image courtesy of Sn. Ho / Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Lots of Debt Makes Young People Feel Like They're in Control

By Valerie Ross | June 8, 2011 1:27 pm

Money can’t buy happiness—but debt might just be able to rent you self-esteem, a new study suggests.

Being in the red seems to boost the self-confidence of people in their early-to-mid twenties, the researchers found. Using all sorts of data—financial, psychological, educational, you name it—collected every two years from 3,000 young adults as part of an enormous national survey, they were able to pick out this pattern: The more credit card debt and college loans young adults had, the higher their self-esteem and the more they felt in control of their lives.

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Scientists Describe Five Phases of Quarter-Life Crisis, Recommend the Experience

By Veronique Greenwood | May 5, 2011 4:40 pm

crisis time!

Are you in a rut? Is it time to take life into your own hands? Are you ready take a time out to find yourself, and start over?

Are you 25?

It may be your quarter-life crisis knocking, say psychologists studying the phenomenon of 25–35-year-olds having a come-to-Jesus about where they’re going in life after having barely left the starting gates. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

If the Catastrophic Weather Events Don't Get Us, the Irrationality Might

By Valerie Ross | April 8, 2011 12:24 pm

global warming
What global warming?

What the weather’s like affects some people’s beliefs about global climate change, a new study found: On hot days, they’re all over it, but on cold days, they’re not so sure.

This is not impressive, people. It’s called “global,” meaning not just what you personally felt when you walked out the door this morning. “Climate” also means something different from “weather”, and “change” could mean things will get warmer, colder, or just plain different. On unusually chilly days, these climatically labile folks are 0 for 3.

If only that was the worst of it. A string of studies have shown that people are comically bad at consistently thinking, well, anything when it comes to climate change. Even miniscule differences in what we’re up to at the moment or how we’re asked can have a big effect on what people think of climate change and what they’re willing to do to help. Here are five more ridiculously simple things that get people to change their minds:

What’s on TV. I’m sure you all remember the 2004 hit film The Day After Tomorrow, in which global warming throws Earth into a new ice age, all of a sudden, much to everyone’s surprise. After the movie came out, one study showed, people believed in global warming more, worried about it more, and felt it was more dangerous than they had a few weeks earlier. Where data fail, have Jake Gyllenhaal run through the streets of an ice-bound New York.

Wording of what’s happening. About 10% more people think weird things will happen to Earth’s climate when you call those weird things “climate change” than “global warming,” a study in March found—because the exact phrasing is what’s really important here, not the weird-climatic-things part.

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Prescription for an Aggressive Man: Look at More Meat

By Jennifer Welsh | November 11, 2010 3:08 pm

cooked-steakEven the sight of the reddest, rawest steak won’t get your blood boiling. Surprising new research has found that staring at pictures of meat actually makes people less aggressive.

The insight comes from McGill University undergraduate Frank Kachanoff. He wondered if the sight of food would incite men’s defensive desires, much like a dog aggressively protecting its food bowl, he explained in a press release:

“I was inspired by research on priming and aggression, that has shown that just looking at an object which is learned to be associated with aggression, such as a gun, can make someone more likely to behave aggressively. I wanted to know if we might respond aggressively to certain stimuli in our environment not because of learned associations, but because of an innate predisposition. I wanted to know if just looking at the meat would suffice to provoke an aggressive behavior.”

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