Tag Archives: Psychology

Critical Thinking

Fun stuff.

Critical Thinking – YouTube.

The burden of proof

Makers of supernatural claims have an inescapable burden of proof.


Via The burden of proof – YouTube.

Brain Games Don’t Improve Memory or Cognition

Benjamin Radfordby Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

We’ve all seen the ads, banners, commercials and books hyping the benefits of “brain training,” offering games and puzzles that promise to keep your brain in tip-top shape as you age. Diseases such as dementia are terrifying, and millions of people do their best to stave it off though online games, crossword puzzles and so on.

brain game Mental-Fitness_225pxAs a recent Scientific American column noted, “cognitive training — better known as ‘brain training’ — is one of the hottest new trends in self improvement. Lumosity, which offers web-based tasks designed to improve cognitive abilities such as memory and attention, boasts 50 million subscribers and advertises on National Public Radio. Cogmed claims to be ‘a computer-based solution for attention problems caused by poor working memory,’ and BrainHQ will help you ‘make the most of your unique brain.’” It all sounds very impressive and scientific.

While it’s important to stay both mentally and physically active in our later years, there’s little evidence that most of the commercially-sold brain enhancement methods or pills do any good. In fact the scientific community pours cold water on these fanciful myths.

In late October the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development gathered many of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists to examine these brain games and programs. It then issued a statement that read in part:

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The psychology of conspiracy belief

A Professor of psychology from Victoria University sheds some light on the conspiracy theories surrounding illuminati.

By matt stewart via Stuff.co.nz

paranoia 737_201pxYou don’t have to be mad to create conspiracy theories, but it certainly helps, new research suggests.

Just believing in them indicates you are more likely to be paranoid or mentally ill, a Victoria University study shows.

Widely held conspiracy theories range from harmless ones, such as the belief that the Moon landings were faked, to more dangerous delusions such as the one in Nigeria that polio vaccines were a Western plot to sterilise people. That led to vaccination crews being murdered and thousands dying from disease.

Clinical psychologist Darshani Kumareswaran is delving in to the psychology of conspiracy belief, and has found some believers are likely to endorse far-fetched plots in an effort to make sense of chaotic situations beyond their control.

Kumareswaran, who graduated from Victoria with a PhD in psychology this week, wanted to find out what made people more likely to believe in, or come up with, conspiracy theories – and whether the process was linked to mental illness.

Avid conspiracy theorists can put themselves under intense psychological strain with their tendency towards paranoid thinking and delusional beliefs, causing mental strain even when a conspiracy theory turns out to be a verified plot.

paranoid illuminati_250pxShe also looked behind the common public image of the conspiracy theorist as a crackpot.

Despite evidence of verified conspiracies, such as the Watergate scandal, the public viewed conspiracy theorists in as negative a light as they did convicted criminals, she said.

“For the label to be so negatively rated by the public is quite a powerful finding.”

Study participants were asked to recall a situation in which they had no control, describe it in detail, and write it down. They were then put in a “psychological space” in which they felt powerlessness and were given 24 pictures that looked like snowy television screens.

Half featured obscured objects such as a chair or tent, the other half nothing.

Those who scored highly on a form of psychopathology known as schizotypy were more likely to see an object in the images where there was none, indicating they were more likely to make connections between unrelated things.

“I also found that someone who creates conspiracy theories is more likely to have some form of psychopathology, or mental illness such as  .  .  .

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21st century exorcisms: Examining the psychology of possession

james-randi-69Via James Randi Education Foundation – JREF

A video has surfaced of a reported exorcism as it was taking place last February behind the closed doors of a Roman Catholic church in Vranov nad Dyji, Czech Republic.  A 26 year old visitor heard screams and filmed through the keyhole of the door. Not much is visible; there is plenty of screaming and obscenity (in another language) but nothing supernatural happens from this perspective. The drama that unfolded is what we would expect an exorcism to look like from our familiarity with sensational news reports. Pope FrancisOnly in the movies, in fiction, are there visions of horror that break the bounds of physics or human capabilities. In reality, exorcisms at their most basic, are an interaction between the victim in some disturbed state and the people who are enacting the ritual. Some might say the ritual enables the victim, encouraging the expression of possession. For some afflicted people, they may benefit psychologically from the process.

The Czech priest confronted over the released video says they were asking for God’s help to protect the anonymous person in the church. He is quoted as remarking, “Of course it helps.” Does it really help, or is this reinforcement of an antiquated belief system harmful? Therein lies a tricky question for religious officials, psychologists, and the skeptically-minded about the value of exorcism. Most rationalists would not condone an exorcism, likely feeling that the potential for harm that could occur is unethical or the endorsement of belief in demons is nonsense.  What once was a given fact – evil spirits can possess people, and had been usurped by modern medicinal practice, has recently been re-embraced by the Catholic Church and endorsed through rejuvenation of the exorcism ritual.

On November 11, 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved an English translation of the Rite of Exorcism that was published by the Vatican in 1999.  The vote was 179 “yes” to 5 “no.” Pope Francis recognized 250 priests across 30 countries who are members of the International Association of Exorcists which many observers saw as a surprising step backwards in time for the church. exorcism_225pxThe church sees exorcism as something of a last resort and repeatedly notes that the cases are carefully evaluated by medical professionals to address medical or psychological problems. Who does these evaluations? Are the psychiatric evaluators Christian? What are their criteria for concluding that, yes, this person can not be helped by Western medicine and must be treated spiritually?

Curiously, as noted in this Catholic news agency piece, exorcism is “not magic.  It is the Church imploring God to come to the aid of the person afflicted.” This can be interpreted in a secular way –  if the troubled person believes that they can be helped with this ritual, then perhaps they really are helped. It is plausible that many cases of deliverance or exorcism have been successful because people have “named” their troubles and outwardly cast them away, like the devil, to be gone and leave them free. Professor Christopher French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit of the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London has studied the psychology of possession. He also thinks that, under certain circumstances, people can benefit from exorcism.

“As I believe that “possession” is a purely psychological phenomenon, any psychosomatic symptoms might be cured by any form of treatment that the victim believes in. Also, adoption of the “possessed” role sometimes allows people to let off steam without being held responsible for their actions.”

Dr. French is clear that exorcism will not directly help anyone who has an underlying neurological condition, although, he says, “If the condition was aggravated by stress and the ritual reduced the stress, it might produce temporary relief.” This is not to make light of the several downsides to exorcism. There have been several cases of families who subjected “possessed’ elders, women, the handicapped, and children to abuse. In some cases, this has resulted in death.

Yet, the popular belief in exorcism is growing.

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Psychology: The truth about the paranormal

In the 21st Century, why do so many people still believe in the paranormal? David Robson discovers that there’s good reason we hold superstitions – and a few surprising benefits.

David RobsonBy David Robson via BBC Future

Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House when he is said to have had an uncanny experience. Having had a long bath with a Scotch and cigar, he reportedly walked into the adjoining bedroom – only to be met by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.lincoln ghost_300px Unflappable, even while completely naked, Churchill apparently announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.

His supposed contact with the supernatural puts Churchill in illustrious company. Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums, while Alan Turing believed in telepathy. Three men who were all known for their razor-sharp thinking, yet couldn’t stop themselves from believing in the impossible. You may well join them. According to recent surveys, as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal, in some form, while nearly one in five claim to have actually seen a ghost.

visions_200pxIntrigued by these persistent beliefs, psychologists have started to look at why some of us can’t shake off old superstitions and folk-lore. Their findings may suggest some hidden virtues to believing in the paranormal. At the very least, it should cause you to question whether you hold more insidious beliefs about the world.

Some paranormal experiences are easily explainable, based on faulty activity in the brain. Reports of poltergeists invisibly moving objects seem to be consistent with damage to certain regions of the right hemisphere that are responsible for visual processing; certain forms of epilepsy, meanwhile, can cause the spooky feeling that a presence is stalking you close by – perhaps underlying accounts of faceless “shadow people” lurking in the surroundings.

Out-of-body experiences, meanwhile, are now accepted neurological phenomena, while certain visual illusions could confound the healthy brain and create mythical beings. For example, one young Italian psychologist looked in the mirror one morning to find a grizzled old man staring back at him. His later experiments confirmed  .  .  .

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Gang Stalking YouTube Videos: The Most Serious Conspiracy Theory

paranoia 737_167pxBy Andrew Whalen via iDigitalTimes

Gang stalking is a highly coordinated operation, usually by a counterintelligence entity, to intimidate dissenters through a mob of watchers, harassers, prank callers, hackers, and irritants. To be gang stalked is to suspect everyone, to feel eyes fall upon you and not be sure whether it’s just another person in the grocery aisle or an agent paid to induce that exact feeling of uncertainty in your heart. And while gang stalking can be coordinated by anyone, from a personal enemy to the Mafia, the coordination tactics enabled by modern communication technologies and sheer computing power is most available to large corporations and governmental entities.

Gang stalking is also nonsense.

Gang Stalking Youtube Video – Window Into Delusion

Watch this Youtube video and you’ll immediately understand why:

The transparent paranoia in this Youtube video is evident to all but the gang stalking initiate.

Gang stalking, as experienced by most of its victims, is delusional. It’s the most serious conspiracy theory not because it reflects reality, but because gang stalking is the bridge between conspiracy theorizing as a hobby, and conspiracy theorizing as an all-consuming mental illness.

Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories

paranoid illuminati_250pxPeople who believe that H1N1 Swine Flu was created by the miltary, that 9/11 was a Mossad operation, that world leaders worship owl demons at a summer retreat, or believe any of the endless permutations of conspiracy theory, are likely not mentally ill. My preferred theory is that they’re just incredibly dumb, but the current research into conspiracy theory ideation doesn’t really back that up either. Rather, conspiracy theorists are sane people, of normal intelligence, who have become trapped in a self-reinforcing belief system. It’s a convenient trick: anyone who can offer up evidence against the conspiracy theory is an agent of the conspiracy theory–a shill–sent to deceive you.

There are many motivations for believing in a conspiracy theory.

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Spooky Coincidences?

I love anything having to do with the brain and how our brains perceive and interpret the world. If you’re like me, I think you’ll love this one.

Enjoy :)

MIB


By Vsauce via YouTube

From the YouTube video description:

5 Things I’ve noticed about… Truthers

The LockeBy The Locke via The Soap Box

Truther, a term that came from the 9/11 Truth movement, but has become more than just an ironic and demeaning term for 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

conspiracies05A Truther can be someone believes in conspiracy theories other than the 9/11 conspiracy theories.

With this in mind I’ve taken a look at these people, and while I’ve noticed alot of traits about them, I’ve narrowed it down to about five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about Truthers:

5. It’s a broad and encompassing term.

For most people when they hear the word “Truther” they think of someone whom is apart of the 9/11 Truth movement, or just someone whom believes the myth that the US government, or Israel, or the Illuminati committed the 9/11 attacks.T2_911_Bridge_300px While this is true, “Truther” has become a more broad term and could include not just a member of the 9/11 Truth movement, but any conspiracy theory.

What a Truther really is is a type of conspiracy theorist that both claims they want to know the truth about a conspiracy theory, and then claims they already know what the truth is, but in reality it’s anything but the truth.

Think of this type of person as someone whom asks you where the nearest large body of water is and you tell them that there is a pond 100 feet behind them, but they don’t believe you and then tell you that nearest large body of water is two miles away, despite the fact that the pond is clearly behind them, and all they would have to do is turn around to see it. Even if they do turn around they’ll just insist that it’s not really a large body of water.

That’s another thing about Truthers…

4. They keep “Moving the Goalposts“.

moving-the-goal-posts_dilbert_9498For anyone who has had a “conversation” with a Truther type of conspiracy theorist you probably already know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t I’ll explain.

Truthers, when confronted with evidence and/or logical arguments that contradicts or disproves their conspiracy theories, will often claim that what is being presented to them is not enough evidence to disprove what they are claiming isn’t true, or that the evidence that you are presenting to them isn’t true, and in either case they will claim to need more.

When a skeptic gets into an argument with a Truther and they start doing this a person like myself will usually determine that either the Truther is too dumb to realize what they are doing, or too deluded to realize what they are doing, or are in serious denial and are trying to hold on to what they believe or want to believe is real, but somewhere in their minds they know they’re wrong.

Besides just “Moving the Goalposts” another tactic that Truthers like to use is…

3. They call everyone that disagrees with them a shill.

Truthers are under the assumption that they are right, and that everyone else who does not agree with is wrong. For those that continue to insist that the Truther is wrong then the Truther just seems to naturally assume the skeptic is either a sheep that has not “woken up” to “the truth” (their truth mind you) or someone who is being paid to say what they are saying.

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Derren Brown – Messiah

Intro by Mason I. Bilderberg

Derren Brown_300_250pxI’m not one to sit and watch lengthy videos on my laptop. So when i suggest you watch a 49 minute video, you can trust me – it’s worth watching.

Have you ever heard of Derren Brown? I’ve been following Derren Brown for over a decade, i’ve read many of his books and i think i’ve seen all of his performances. I’m never disappointed.

Here is how WikiPedia describes him:

Derren Brown (born 27 February 1971)[3] is a British illusionist, mentalist, trickster, hypnotist, painter, writer, and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television specials, stage productions, and British television series such as Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat. Since the first broadcast of his show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, Brown has become increasingly well known for his mind-reading act. He has written books for magicians as well as the general public.

Though his performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities and frequently denounces those who do.

From Derren Brown’s webpage (2012):

Dubbed a ‘psychological illusionist’ by the Press, Derren Brown is a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behaviour, as well as performing mind-bending feats of mentalism.

In a nutshell, while repeatedly reminding us he doesn’t have any kind of magical abilities, Derren Brown mimics with perfection all those who DO claim to have magical abilities.

In this video, Derren takes on the following roles:

  • A psychic that can see what you’re drawing when you’re in a different room,
  • The ability to convert people to Christianity with just a touch,
  • A new age entrepreneur with a machine that can record and play back your dreams,
  • An alien abductee who was left with the ability to sense your medical history and
  • A psychic medium that communicates with the dead.

He is so convincing in these roles that he gets endorsements for his “special powers” from the “experts” who witnessed his performances.

I believe he will convince you too!

Enjoy! :)

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

More:

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Left Brained, Right Brained, or Hare Brained?

Pop psychology tells us we’re all either left brain dominant or right brain dominant. Really?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Perhaps the most pervasive popular belief that people associate with neuroscience is the idea that we all tend to be either left-brained or right-brained, based on traits like creativity or analytical ability. It’s well known that certain brain functions are localized in various parts of the brain, so it would seem to make sense that some of our individual strengths and weaknesses can be quantified based on brain hemisphere dominance. left_right_brain_250pxQuite a few companies even sell products intended to analyze your brain sidedness, promising a variety of personal development benefits. But is this belief — so widely held — good science, terrible science, or some mixture of the two?

Once in college, I took an Honors Colloquium class that was supposed to expose us to a wide variety of ideas and experiences. It was taught by three professors who were presented to us as being the smartest, most well-rounded guys on campus. One of our exercises was to take a test that was supposed to reveal our brain sidedness. The questions were similar to what you might get in a personality test, asking about whether you prefer math or art, privacy or crowds, planning ahead or working on the fly. Some days later we each received our results: a two-axis radar chart, showing a skewed diamond with its left and right corners representing the levels to which we depended on our left brain or right brain, and the top and bottom corners showing the degree to which we depended on our anterior or posterior parts of our brain. It was explained to us that these results could be used to help us self-assess our aptitudes at various skills. Would we be good at sales, leadership, or education? What areas of ourselves could we work on to improve ourselves? What kind of value could we add to an organization with our particular brain map?

Left brain or right brain?

Left brain or right brain?

Most students had crazily shaped radar charts that showed a strong dependence on one brain area or the other. The horizontal axis had a range of zero to 120 on both sides. We all thought that anyone who had a chart exceeding 100 on either side must be extraordinarily talented according to the popularly believed norms: if you were over 100 on the left you were a math or analytical genius; if you were over 100 on the right you were the next Mozart or Rembrandt. I was very proud that mine was the only one that was symmetrical, 94 on both sides; but after later reflection, I recalled that many of the questions had to do with the classes we were taking. At the time my idea was to double major in computer science and film directing, so I’d given a lot of answers that indicated I was both analytical and creative. I hadn’t had much experience in scientific skepticism at that point, but if I had, I might well have realized that the test was grossly unscientific and relied completely on self-reported answers that might have changed from one day to the next, depending on mood, terminology, context, and many other variables.

Looking at the same test now, I realize that was only the tip of the iceberg. Brain sidedness as a predictor of either preferences or aptitudes is unscientific for a very good reason: it’s virtually entirely wrong.

Let’s go back to that popular public assumption that the left brain is analytic and the right brain is creative, upon which so many of the questions in my Honors Colloquium test focused, and upon which the whole class based the entirety of their analyses of their test results. The natural inference is that people whose left brains are dominant must be good at analytical skills, and people whose right brains are dominant must be good at creative skills. The reverse would also be true: If you are a mathematician or engineer, we might deduce that you are left-brained; and if you’re an artist or poet, that you’re right-brained.

Where did this idea come from?

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Hypnosis: Altered States – Crash Course Psychology #10

Via CrashCourse @ YouTube

You may think you know all about hypnosis from the movies. Zoolander, The Manchurian Candidate, etc… but there’s a whole lot more going on. In this episode of Crash Course Psychology, Hank tells us about some of the many altered states of consciousness, including hypnosis.

The Age of Unreason

Story H/T: @ Skeptic Wars


The Internet was meant to usher in a new enlightenment, instead it is became the breeding ground of ideas increasingly at odds with reality.

By Jamie Stanton via Medium

a

Shapeshifting human-reptilian alien
hybrid or a video glitch?

The Reptilian’s cloaking field breaks down and begins to phase shift, its inhuman visage briefly visible through a haze of holographic error. Slowed down and set to music, it is an eerie, emotive, and strangely beautiful sight. Our alien slavemasters the Annunaki are getting sloppy, not even caring if their true forms are visible to us any more. Wake up, sheeple, wake up and see what is before your eyes!

Or, at least this is what some followers of David Icke and other reptilian “researchers” seem to think. According to this video, which at time of writing has over 155,000 views, it appears that some of his disciples are so seduced by the strange worldview that they see trans-dimentional shapeshifters where others see video glitches or interference errors. A new face for an ancient malevolence, hitherto visualised mentally in dragon statues or crumby drawings of lizard-men. YouTuber MKirkbll comments “Finally! A legitimate shapeshifting video! I so badly wanted to believe. Now I can. Thank you.” Like an X-Files era cliche, MKirkbll here “wants to believe”. And he is so desperate to believe in something, he is willing to believe in anything, as long as it all fits together to tell an understandable story and gives him a sense of belonging.

Icke - Remember what you are_250pxIt is easy to look at such nonsense and laugh, but the existence of such beliefs tell us something much deeper about human psychology and our need to make sense of the world. Since the earliest times humans have together woven complex and colourful mythologies to explain the the world around them, and today is no different. During our evolution, our brains’ storytelling ability acted as a form of data compression to keep track of what information it deemed useful, tying sensory prompts to emotional and behavioural responses. The consequence of using language and stories to keep track of environmental information was the gradual development of a narrative Self. Through studying psychology, we also know how identity construction within a social environment leads to emergent group behaviours that in turn tell us how group narratives are formed.

Some of those lessons are particularly relevant to the online realm, where a breezy brand of digital utopianism has led to a belief that the free flow of information will lead to an end of ignorance and the triumph of reason. Instead, we see the rise of bizarre new ideologies and ideas spreading virally across the web, ushering in not a New Enlightenment, but an Age of Unreason.

Emergent Hierarchies

Group Psychology has been extensively studied over the last half century with theories supported by strong experimental evidence and predictive ability. Leon Festinger’s famous 1956 study of a flying saucer cult documented the moments in which the group’s ideology evolved in light of a failed doomsday prophecy. bethurum_225pxCult leader Marian Keech had told her followers the world would end at midnight while they, the chosen few, would be swooped away to safety in the comfort of a spacecraft. However as armageddon failed to materialise, minutes ticked awkwardly by and the cult members began to wonder what was going to happen next. Eventually Keech concocted an absurd excuse to explain why the world had not ended; our prayer averted the apocalypse!

The study, which was a precursor to his theory of Cognitive Dissonance, is famous for predicting which members of the group would drift away and which would rationalise away the failure and turn in into something to strengthen rather than weaken their beliefs. But also interesting is that Festinger reported that  .  .  .

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Also See: David Icke: Methods Of A Madman

15 Phreaky Phobias

Are phobias really irrational, or does the brain have a better reason for creating them?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

scared-1_200pxWhat makes a phobia? It’s perfectly rational to prefer not to perch dangerously on the edge of a perilous cliff, and it’s only common sense to avoid the bite of a snake. But some of us take it a step further: experiencing acute symptoms of anxiety when exposed to certain threats, even when we’re actually safe. We can be on a perfectly safe railed walkway that’s high in the air, or the snake can be behind glass, but we still get the full physiological reaction. Fight or flight kicks in; anxiety, increased metabolism. Adrenalin and dopamine. Peripheral vision turns to tunnel vision and the mind becomes clear and focused on escaping the object of your phobia.

Trauma from past events is the main cause of most phobias, but some researchers also believe heredity may play a role (the eternal nature vs. nurture debate). The nurture component triggers a conditioned response to a stimulus. Here are phifteen phreaky phobias and what we know of them:

1. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders

Fear_of_spiders_by_hackamore_200pxWhy is it that even a tiny toddler with no previous spider experience will recoil in terror from a tiny cute little animal that can’t possibly pose any threat? Some have speculated that arachnophobia is an evolutionary adaptation; individuals who lacked the fear were spider-venomed to death more often enough that their genes eventually became expressed less often. Others have pointed out that the actual threat from spiders has never been substantial enough to produce such an effect.

Whatever the cause, arachnophobia is somewhat infamous as the poster child for exposure therapy, the most successful way to treat phobias through desensitization. What arachnophobe would not want to someday be thickly encrusted with Giant Huntsman spiders?

2. Pediophobia: Fear of Dolls

A theory to explain why this phobia exists has to do with the “uncanny valley” — that gap between our comfort with the images of real people, and our comfort with fictional characters sufficiently different from humans. In between, where things like corpses, prosthetic hands, wax figures, and lifelike animated humans are, they’re almost-but-not-quite human and it creeps us out. A picture or drawing of a doll may seem harmless enough, but when a real doll is there in front of you in three dimensions and with physical synthetic eyes and hair and clothes, its evident realism drops it squarely into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is probably also largely responsible for:

3. Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns

clown pennywise 838_225pxIn addition to their uncanniness — appearing essentially as malformed humans — clowns are correlated with behavior that is equally uncanny. Whether they’re hitting each other over the head with giant cartoon hammers or (perhaps even creepier) quietly handing you a balloon or a flower with an overly loving grin, they behave almost-but-not-quite like people: too different, and yet too similar, for comfort.

4. Emetophobia: Fear of Vomiting

Some people just don’t do vomit: really, really don’t do vomit. They can’t think about it, watch it, or even imagine doing it themselves. The leading theory is that emetophobia is a reaction to a traumatic incident as a child, where vomiting may have been especially painful, humiliating, or associated with a strong memory such as a severe illness. As is the case with all phobias, a quick drive of the porcelain bus today wouldn’t be all that bad; but the sufferer has been conditioned to be severely anxious at the very idea.

when_birds_attack_08_225px5. Ornithophobia: Fear of Birds

In many cases we can never pinpoint what event in a sufferer’s life may have triggered their fear of birds, but the effect can be quite dramatic. Birds are everywhere outside; they can fly, they can come at us unexpectedly from any angle. This uncertainty and feeling of imminent attack is sufficient to trigger a state of acute stress response, the formal term for the fight or flight response. It triggers all the metabolic and biochemical reactions, making a life with too many outdoor excursions truly too stressful for an ornithophobe to manage.

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Project ARTICHOKE: The Manchurian Candidate

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

Could drugs and psychological torture turn an average person into an unwilling assassin? It sounds like the stuff of sci-fi — so why do some people believe the CIA tried to do it in real life? Tune in to learn more about Project ARTICHOKE.

Perceiving is Believing – Crash Course Psychology #7

If it has to do with the brain and its inner workings, then count me IN! I love anything brain related.

I suggest watching full screen.

Enjoy!

MIB


By CrashCourse via YouTube

Can You Solve This?

I found this to be a great lesson in critical thinking. Check it out :)

MIB


Via Can You Solve This? – YouTube

How do you investigate hypotheses? Do you seek to confirm your theory – looking for white swans? Or do you try to find black swans? I was startled at how hard it was for people to investigate number sets that didn’t follow their hypotheses, even when their method wasn’t getting them anywhere.

This video was inspired by The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and filmed by my mum. Thanks mum!

Conspiracy theories: the truth (or is it…?)

matrix-red-pill-or-blue-pill_600px
By Emma Higginbotham Cambridge News

Everyone loves a juicy conspiracy theory. Were the moon landings faked? Was Di’s death really an accident? Was there a second gunman on the grassy knoll? Are the royal family actually lizards?

Oh come on, don’t pretend none of these have crossed your mind.

David Runciman

David Runciman

They’ve all crossed David Runciman’s mind. Yes, even that one. Why? Because the politics professor is deep into a five-year project to work out where, when, how and why conspiracy theories fester – and looking in particular at the link between conspiracy and democracy.

“These days when people have conspiracy theories, they tend to think their government is behind it,” explains David. “A classic modern example is 9/11. There are conspiracy theorists who believe that either the American government knew it was going to happen and didn’t tell anyone, or organised it as an excuse to have war in Iraq; they say it’s about oil – all this kind of stuff.” Yet 100 years ago, people were perhaps more likely to blame, say, secret organisations or the banks if anything went wrong, “so we’re interested in trying to understand why people now think that government is the villain.

“We think it’s got something to do with frustrations with democracy: people thinking ‘Why isn’t the world working out the way we want it to? Government must be to blame!’”

NWO02Some even go a step further, claiming that there’s a ‘New World Order’: an international government run by the mysterious Bilderberg Group. “People believe that about 100 financiers and government representatives meet in secret, and decide what’s going to happen in the future,” he explains. “There’s a guy in America – a wealthy guy, who’s funding political candidates – who believes that the financial crash of 2008 was engineered in order to get Obama into the White House. They think that they’re manipulating the whole world.”

But why would anyone believe that? “Some people would say ‘Because they’re crazy, they’re paranoid, deluded’. But it’s not just that; it’s partly because they want an explanation for why things keep going wrong.

“There’s this thing: ‘Is history a cock-up or is it a conspiracy?’ And the real explanation is probably it’s a cock-up. Why have we been living through a financial crisis? Probably because people messed up! But conspiracy theorists don’t think that’s a good enough explanation. They think somebody must be behind it.”

And, adds David, there may occasionally be method in their madness: “It’s easy to say conspiracy theorists are people who have lost out in some way, but it’s so widespread! We’re looking at it through history, and it’s not just the ‘losers’, there are lots of different kinds of people who believe in these conspiracies. We want to know why.”

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The best Videos of the Week for 2013

by via The Soap Box

Last year I started putting up on this page one video per week.

Now I’ve had a lot of videos on here that were just great, and today I’ve decided to have a look back at what I consider to be the five best videos of the week for 2013:

5. Alex Jones As Alien Lizard Explains Obamacare

Probably every skeptic around the world knows who Alex Jones. While many skeptic bloggers have at least written up a couple of articles to either discredit him and/or show what kind of a fool he is, still by far the best person to discredit Alex Jones and to make him look like a fool… is Alex Jones.

This clip from Right Wing Watch’s Youtube page clearly shows why that’s true:

4. Debunking 9/11 conspiracy theorists part 6 of 7 – The psychology behind a 9/11 truther

From late 2012 to early 2013 Myles Power created a seven part series that is in my opinion one of the best 9/11 conspiracy theory debunking videos that I have ever seen, and the sixth video in the series, which explains the psychology and mindset of a 9/11 Truther, and infact most conspiracy theorists, could have itself been a stand alone video apart from the series.

MORE . . .

I’m Being Cyber Stalked, Wiretapped and Followed

Via Dr. Phil.com

For the past four years, Matt, 51, claims that he has been stalked, wiretapped and hacked by thousands of people affiliated with a group that he calls "The Organization." Matt says that he believes his stalkers are "cyber geeks" who have nothing better to do with their time and money than toy with people's lives. Hear the evidence Matt says he has collected — and what a private investigator, hired by Dr. Phil, uncovers. Plus, Matt admits to past drug use involving methamphetamines but says that he's been clean for six months. He agrees to both a drug test and a mental evaluation to prove that his claims are valid – what will the results show?

10 Tips for Telling Fact From Fiction

by via HowStuffWorks

[ . . . ]

10: Beware of Cognitive Bias

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Our brains are designed to make sense of the onslaught of sensory stimulation and information that they get from the world by filtering and organizing. We have a tendency to focus on certain details and ignore others, to avoid being overwhelmed. And we habitually organize information into patterns, based on things we’ve seen or learned about before. That leads us to process what we hear, read or see in a way that reinforces what we think we already know. That phenomenon is called cognitive bias (source: Science Daily).

To make matters worse, some theorize that we also engage in selective exposure — that is, we pick sources of information that tell us what we want to hear. Ohio State researchers, for example, found that when college students spent a few minutes reading news articles online, they selected ones that supported their already-held views 58 percent of the time (source: Hsu).

 The famous 1934 photograph of the Loch Ness monster. Just before his death in 1994, Chris Spurling confessed that he and some other men had staged the picture. Keystone/Getty Images

The Loch Ness monster
Keystone/Getty Images

So, we’re vulnerable to information that fits what we want to believe — even if it’s of dubious authenticity. That’s probably why the infamous photograph of the Loch Ness monster, taken in 1934 (source: Nickell), was so convincing for many people. The silhouette resembled a long-necked dinosaur, which was something they had seen pictures of in natural history textbooks. And the idea that ancient creatures might have survived extinction already had surfaced in fiction such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel “The Lost World,” so it wasn’t too much of a leap conceptually. It wasn’t until 1994 that researchers got an elderly man who had been part of the hoax to reveal that the monster in the photo actually was a foot-high model, fashioned from a toy submarine (source: Associated Press).

9: Pay Attention to the Unspoken Message

Used-Car-Salesman_250pxIf you’ve ever sold used cars or peddled vacuum sweepers door-to-door, you probably know this from experience: Researchers have found that an attractive physical appearance and positive nonverbal cues, like eye contact, smiling and a pleasant tone of voice, may have as much or more of an influence upon us than the actual words that the person is saying. In fact, someone who is skilled at nonverbal messaging can actually foster what communication experts call a halo effect. That is, if we think that a person looks good, we assume that he or she is intelligent or capable as well. That’s a big help in fostering credibility (source: Eadie). But just as a salesperson can learn to project a convincing demeanor, a swindler or a dishonest politician can practice the same tricks.

However, other nonverbal cues provide useful information for evaluating whether someone is telling the truth or a lie. Researchers who’ve studied the questioning of criminal suspects, for example, note that even highly motivated, skillful liars have a tendency to “leak” nonverbal clues to their deception in the course of a long interview, because of the difficulty of managing facial expressions, physical carriage, and tone of voice over time. The trick is to watch for those tiny flaws in the subject’s demeanor to emerge.

When making an untrue statement, for example, a person may flash a “microexpression”– a frown, perhaps, or a grimace — that reflects his or her true emotions, but clashes with what the person is saying. Since some of this microexpressions may happen as quickly as the blink of an eye, the easiest way to detect them is by replaying a video. But it is possible to do it in a real-time conversation as well. U.S. Coast Guard investigators trained in spotting such leakage, for example, have been able to spot such clues about 80 percent of the time (source: Matsumoto, et al.).

8: Watch for the Big Lie

 Master of the Big Lie, Adolf Hitler is welcomed by supporters at Nuremberg. Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Master of the Big Lie, Adolf Hitler is welcomed by supporters at Nuremberg.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Throughout history, purveyors of falsehoods seldom have bothered with piddling minor fibs. Instead, they generally have opted for what propaganda experts call the “Big Lie” — that is, a blatant, outrageous falsehood about some important issue, and one that’s usually designed to inflame listeners’ emotions and provoke them to whatever action the liar has in mind. The Big Lie is most often associated with Adolf Hitler, who advised in his book “Mein Kampf” that the “primitive simplicity” of ordinary people makes them vulnerable to massive deceptions. “It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and would not believe that others would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously,” the Nazi dictator wrote.

Ironically, even as he explained the method of the Big Lie, he used it to promote an especially brazen untruth — that Jews and Communists somehow had deceived the German people into thinking that their nation’s loss in World War I was caused by reckless, incompetent military leaders. The Nazi dictator was onto something, though perhaps even his own twisted mind didn’t grasp it: Some of the most effective Big Lies are accusations of someone else being a liar (source: Hitler).

Hitler, of course, didn’t invent the Big Lie, and a liar doesn’t necessarily have to be a bloodthirsty dictator to pull it off. But the best way to protect yourself against the Big Lie is to be an educated, well-informed person who’s got a broad base of knowledge and context. Sadly, we live in a culture where fewer and fewer people seem to have that background. In a 2011, Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. citizenship test; more than a third scored a failing grade — 60 percent or lower — to questions such as “How many justices are on the Supreme Court?” and “Who did the U.S. fight in World War II?” That’s kind of scary (source: Quigley).

MORE – – –

Pareidolia controls your brain!!!!

Introduction by Mason i. Bilderberg (MIB)

How many times have you heard a paranormal investigator claim to see faces and images of the deceased in everything from a cinnabon swirl to a waft of smoke rising from a candle? Are they seeing the deceased? No. What they’re experiencing is a nearly uncontrollable urge by our brains to seek out and identify patterns. Especially human faces. This phenomenon has a name . . . Pareidolia:

Pareidolia

«A psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records when played in reverse.» – Wikipedia

«. . . a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct.

«Under ordinary circumstances, pareidolia provides a psychological explanation for many delusions based upon sense perception.» – The Skeptic’s Dictionary

pareidolia 727_250px

How powerless are we to our own brains? Look at the image to the right and try to NOT see a very happy thermostat. Bet you can’t!!!

See? Our brains are hardwired to seek out and find faces.

Just HOW hardwired are we to see faces where none exist? Look at the following montage of photos and try to NOT see faces. Prepare to lose control of your mind to the power of pareidolia!!!! Bwahaha!!!!!!

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)


By animator and artist Aiden Glenn of Pizza and Pixels

See more images like this.

Penn & Teller: Bulls**t: Hypnosis

By Penn&TellerBullshit via YouTube

Penn & Teller examines the various promises made by professional hypnosis, and seeks to refute the idea of “mind over body”.

The Salinas Crop Circle

TheTruthIsNotThere_04_600px
Introduction by Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Calling all woomasters, please tell us, what does it mean?

Calling all woomasters, please tell us, what does it all mean?

You might remember the crop circle that suddenly appeared 11 miles southeast of Salinas, California on or about December 28, 2013. As usual, every UFOlogist and woomaster went nuts speculating on the deeper meaning of this symbol – especially as it might pertain to the new year and some kind of cataclysmic event or some kind of awakening. (Woomeisters always predict doom and gloom or some kind of awakening. It’s in their handbook.)

According to one “expert”, the Salinas Crop Circle:

«… contains three coded messages according to renowned crop circle researcher, Dr Horace Drew. According to Dr Drew, a retired molecular biologist who worked at Caltech and Australia’s CSIRO, one of the coded messages was to be vigilant about an upcoming astronomical event. The next message referred to a date in the near future when an astronomical event is to occur by July 8, 2014. The third and most startling message was that comet ISON was a space transportation system. Taken in their entirety, the three messages appear to be encouraging people to watch the skies for an upcoming astronomical event featuring remnants of ISON that will in fact be an extraterrestrial event of some kind.» (source)

You have to love it when an appeal to authority (a retired molecular biologist who worked at Caltech and Australia’s CSIRO) goes horribly wrong.

Another crop researcher Paul Jacobs, who began investigating the Salinas crop circle:

«No one in the area has made claim to it and the locals had no knowledge of it or its construction. I estimate it would have taken three men working in daylight conditions doing 9-hour shifts for nearly 9 days to complete this pattern. My gut feeling is we have an important event on our hands here.» (source)

Even KSBW Action News 8 wasted airtime deciphering this “mystery”:

So, is the truth out there? If so, where is it?

Well Fox Mulder, the truth is not out there. The truth is right here, on earth … the crop circle was created by the aliens at Nvidia.

«In case you’re not a gamer and don’t know what Nvidia is, the company is headquartered in Santa Clara and pioneers visual computing — the art and science of computer graphics. The crop circle was drawn in the shape of Nvidia’s 192-core super chip, called Tegra K1, and the artists said it was challenging to create.

«Nvidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang made his confession Sunday night in Las Vegas at International CES, the technology industry’s annual gadget show. While news of the crop circles spread as far as Mongolia in central Asia, Huang credited KSBW reporter Michelle Imperato with “cracking the code.”» (source)

Nvidia CEO Jen Hsun Huang discussing the Salinas Crop Circle:

There you have it. Enjoy the following article :)

MIB


steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

I can’t resist this excellent example of the human capacity for ad-hoc reasoning and pattern recognition. The Salinas Crop Circle was discovered in late December, and instantly became famous in the crop circle world. It is an example of a complex design, that begs to be interpreted.

IMG_4798_250pxCrop circle believers – those who think the designs that are often found drawn in various crops around the world (curiously following cultural lines) are the product of aliens trying to communicate in their abstruse way with humans, like to find meaning in the crop circles. This becomes an exercise in pattern recognition, as they are often trying to find meaning where none exists.

Here is one example. The author, assuming the crop circle is an alien communication, comes up with an elaborate interpretation. He believes it refers to comet ISON, which recently burned up on its journey around the sun. This itself is a good example of “retrodicting.” I would be more impressed if a crop circle predicted something yet to be discovered.

The author interprets that middle square section with dots as braille and comes up with the number 192. It turns out, this is a correct interpretation (more below). He writes:

Its first inner code shows a brief message in Braille saying “192-192-2-192-1-192-192”. This may be a symbolic reference to the British search engine “192.com” (see http://www.192.com). Its implication might be that “the blind will see, and those who search will find”

He tells us 192 is a mystical number that comes up frequently in crop circles.  He also interprets some damage to the crops as a comet, the circles around the outer edge as either planets or at marketing the numbers on a clock, and:

crop circles cause_250pxIts third intermediate code involves a series of alphabetic characters in Morse code. They seem to read: “E-T B I-S-O-N S-T-S One interpretation of this cryptic message might be: “E T B(e)” or “extra-terrestrials exist”. Then “I-S-O-N (comet)” is an “S-T-S (space transportation system)” like for the NASA space shuttles.

What is interesting is how compelling it seems to us when we can find patterns, especially complex ones. We tend to react as if the fact that we can find a pattern means that it is real. We inherently lack an intuitive understanding of the power of data mining. In other words – we fail to appreciate the possible number of patterns that we can see when we use open-ended criteria. There are countless possible patterns, and the fact that we hit upon one or more means nothing – except that we are good at finding patterns and connections.

The Reveal

This is one of those uncommon cases where we have a definitive answer in the end, which is what makes it such a powerful example. The crop circle was actually commissioned by NVIDIA as a promotional stunt for their new mobile graphics chip. Here is a video of the making of the crop circle:

True believers might try to deny this evidence by saying it occurred after the fact as a distraction, but that is simply not possible. There would not have been time to fake this video, and to come up with an alternate interpretation of the design that so clearly matches NVIDIA’s new chip.

For example, the 192 in braille is accurate, but the 192 refers to the number of processors in the chip. There is a reason why 192 might crop up frequently in the context of computers – because it is 64 x 3, and 64 is a multiple of 8. Because of how computers are built, you will notice that from kilobytes to terabytes, hard drives, flash drives, RAM, etc. all come in such multiples – 64, 128, 256, 512, etc.

alien603_250pxIt’s interesting that crop circle believers have come to believe that the gray aliens like to communicate in braille. Apparently, so do human crop circle artists.

Watch the video for the full explanation of the meaning in  the crop circle. And then see how clever people can be in coming up with alternate interpretations. I guess this is a post-modern approach to crop circles as a narrative form.

On that point – also pay attention to the words of the crop circle artists interviewed in the NVIDIA video. They say, essentially, that part of their art form is creating the crop circles in the context of mystery. It is a collaboration with the crop circle believers, who provide the “other worldly” context and interpretation of their art.

Another artist also says that complex mathematical designs, the ones that look as if they have really complex relationships, are actually the easiest to lay out and create.

This always reminds me of my personal encounter with a crop circle believer who challenged me by saying, “how can they create perfect circles? That’s impossible.” I then introduced her to the concept of a compass, the crop circle equivalent of which is a stake and a rope.

Simple techniques can create mathematical perfection and complexity. That is sort-of the nature of math and geometry, which is all about relationships. These relationships create countless patterns, and believers can plumb the depths of those patterns to their endless satisfaction.


[END]

The psychology of conspiracy theories

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…

By Dr Jovan Byford via OpenLearn – Open University

A detail of a mural in Denver International Airport, subject of much conspiracy theorist interest. A plea for peace, or a plan for future martial law?

A detail of a mural in Denver International Airport, subject of much conspiracy theorist interest. A plea for peace, or a plan for future martial law?

There is a curious relationship between psychology and the study of conspiracy theories. Historians, philosophers, sociologists and political scientists often present conspiracy theories as being of an essentially psychological nature.

Many such writers describe belief in conspiracies as manifestations of ‘paranoia’, ‘anxiety’, ‘fantasy’, ‘hysteria’ and ‘projection’, or as fulfilling a profound psychological need for certainty in the precarious (post-)modern age. In everyday discourse too, ‘conspiracy theorists’ are often labelled ‘lunatics’, ‘kooks’ or ‘paranoiacs’, implying that they suffer from some intrinsic psychological deficiency or dysfunction.

Yet, surprisingly, little psychological research has been conducted on this topic. In fact, it is only since the 1990s that social psychologists have turned their attention to the conspiracy theory phenomenon and scrutinised its psychological roots in a systematic way.

Investigating the conspiracy theorist

Much psychology research has focused on identifying factors which predispose certain individuals to endorse conspiracy theories. Given that not everyone believes in conspiracy theories, psychological studies have sought to uncover what distinguishes believers from non-believers, and in so doing create a “psychological profile” of conspiracist individuals.

conspiracy to do list_200px_200pxResearchers have explored the relevance of more general demographic factors like gender, socio-economic status, educational level or ethnic background and so on, but also things like disenchantment with political authority, sense of powerlessness, political cynicism, authoritarianism or alienation from society.

They have also looked at personality factors and aspects of cognitive functioning (resistance to disconfirming evidence, tendency to circular thinking, attributional styles, etc.) to see whether conspiracism is underpinned by some intrinsic perceptual or reasoning deficit which leads people to misunderstand or misinterpret causal relations in the world.

Overall, this quest for the psychological profile of conspiracy theorists has yielded modest results. Conspiracy theorists have been shown to be quite similar to sceptics in terms of cognitive functioning or personality. In fact, the only consistent finding is that believers tend to be disenchanted with authority and cynical about the mainstream of politics.

But this is hardly surprising: these are the central motifs of any conspiracy theory!

Look again…

clicktivism_250pxOne possible reason why the psychology of conspiracy theories produced so few meaningful results is that researchers have been approaching this phenomenon in the wrong way. They have tended to see conspiracy theories first and foremost as individual beliefs, thereby reducing them to events that are going on inside a person’s mind (information processing biases, personality characteristics, etc.).

But conspiracy theories are not just a set of individual attitudes.

Did you hear about…?

Anyone who has had the opportunity to engage with conspiracy theories will realise that they are, in fact, a dynamic set of stories and shared assumptions about the world which persist and evolve over time. As such, they are continuously exchanged, debated, evaluated and modified as people try to make sense of the world and events around them.

MORE . . .

The psychology of spiritualism: science and seances

The idea of summoning the spirits took thrilling hold of the Victorian imagination – and has its adherents now. But the psychology behind spiritualism is more intriguing

By via The Observer

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

As the evenings get darker and the first hint of winter hangs in the air, the western world enters the season of the dead. It begins with Halloween, continues with All Saints’ and All Souls’ days, runs through Bonfire Night – the evening where the English burn effigies of historical terrorists – and ends with Remembrance Day. And through it all, Britain’s mediums enjoy one of their busiest times of the year.

People who claim to contact the spirit world provoke extreme reactions. For some, mediums offer comfort and mystery in a dull world. For others they are fraudsters or unwitting fakes, exploiting the vulnerable and bereaved. But to a small group of psychologists, the rituals of the seance and the medium are opening up insights into the mind, shedding light on the power of suggestion and even questioning the nature of free will.

Humanity has been attempting to commune with the dead since ancient times. As far back as Leviticus, the Old Testament God actively forbade people to seek out mediums. Interest peaked in the 19th century, a time when religion and rationality were clashing like never before. In an era of unprecedented scientific discovery, some churchgoers began to seek evidence for their beliefs.

Katy and Maggie Fox

Katy and Maggie Fox

Salvation came from two American sisters, 11-year-old Kate and 14-year-old Margaret Fox. On 31 March 1848, the girls announced they were going to contact the spirit world. To the astonishment of their parents they got a reply. That night, the Fox sisters chatted to a ghost haunting their New York State home, using a code of one tap for yes, two gaps for no. Word spread and soon the girls were demonstrating their skills to 400 locals in the town hall.

Within months a new religion had emerged – spiritualism – a mixture of liberal, nonconformist values and fireside chats with dead people. Spiritualism attracted some of the great thinkers of the day – including biologist Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who spent his latter years promoting spiritualism in between knocking out Sherlock Holmes stories. Even the admission of the Fox sisters in 1888 that they had faked it all failed to crush the movement. Today spiritualism thrives in more than 350 churches in Britain.

The tricks and techniques used by mediums have been exposed many times by people such as James Randi, Derren Brown and Jon Dennis, creator of the Bad Pyschics website.

Last week I spent 40 minutes with a telephone spiritualist who passed on messages from four dead people. Like all mediums, she was skilled at cold reading – the use of probable guesses and picking up of cues to steer her in the right direction. If she hit a dud – the suggestion that she was in the presence of a 40-year-old uncle of mine – she quickly widened it out. psychic 856_250pxThe 40-year-old became an older person who felt young at heart. And then someone who was more of an uncle figure. She was also skilled at the Barnum effect – the use of statements that tend to be true for everyone.

Among dozens of guesses and misses, there was just one hit – the correct name of a dead relative. Their relation to me was utterly wrong, as were details of their health. But the name was right and, even though it was a common name among that person’s generation, it was a briefly chilling moment.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and magician, says my response to this lucky guess is typical. People tend to remember the correct details in a seance but overlook statements or events that provide no evidence of paranormal powers.

Wiseman’s work has also shown that we are all extremely susceptible to the power of suggestion.

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If the Government is shut down, then who is paying the shills?

by via The Soap Box

government-shutdown-hero_200pxIt’s been a week now since the part of the federal government shut down due to lack of funding because Congress can not agree on a budget.

Since much of the government has been shut down due to funding there is a question I have for conspiracy theorists: Who is paying the shills?

Now according to many conspiracy theorists shills are apparently anyone who goes around the internet spreads what they consider to be “dis-information” to discredit their conspiracy theories (which for some reason is often times backed up with facts and logic).

Basically, skeptics and debunkers (those people claim to be volunteering their time to debunk conspiracy theories on the internet, but according to many conspiracy theorists, are being paid by the government to spread dis-information, and who’s only “evidence” they have to prove that they are shills is simply that they disagree with the conspiracy theorist).

So if the government is shut down, then why do shills like myself (according to conspiracy theorists) still have their sites up, and are still posting blog articles debunking conspiracy theories?

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Billions and Billions of Planets and Stars, Twelve Personalities

By Kyle Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

astrology_854_300pxYou are not special, the stars and planets decided that at your birth. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake, as Tyler Durden might say. In fact, all your complexities and quirks, your desires and passions, everything you have done or will do fits neatly into what looks like a twelve-slice pie chart laden with calligraphy. A snowflake you are not if astrology were true.

Despite what your mother may have told you, if astrology were true there would be at least hundreds of thousands of people who share in your uniqueness. Indeed, if astrologers could determine your personality and future from your hour and date of birth, there would be 8,760 different combinations available. With 7.1 billion people on the planet this means around 810,000 people would each receive your exact horoscope, your wisdom from the wandering planets above, your future. Human psychology may be broken up into general personality traits, but astrology breaks up human life into less possible variations than the combinations of a 2x2x2 Rubik’s Cube.

If astrology were true, society would fracture. Over time we would learn what days of the year gave rise to what kinds of people. Like parents who want their children to become professional hockey players, mothers would calculate conception and birthing times in order to give their son or daughter a particular star sign. Pharmaceutical companies would make a killing developing the drugs that allowed mothers to delay and control births more effectively. Being born into a specific astrological sign would create grand social rifts. Different schools would spring up as they did for different religions in twentieth century Ireland. Potential mates would need not only good looks but also descendants who shared the same sign. Libras and Aries would be the modern Capulets and Montagues.

Studies would be undertaken to establish the psychology determined by stars and planets. The zodiac would replace Myers Briggs. Modern descriptions of psychopathy would include “being a Gemini” as a defining symptom. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual cites Mercury as much as it does brain chemistry in a world where astrology is true.

Political parties would also incorporate star signs. Candidates run on the basis of how compatible they are with Cancers and Leos—perhaps key demographics. The Speaker of the House would need to be in the astrological 10th House. And when faraway stars eventually shift enough to change star signs, revolutions follow. A new type of human would enter the mix every few centuries. The status quo would be forever challenged by the whims of gravity.

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Mind Control – Brainwashing

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Mind control is the successful control of the thoughts and actions of another without his or her consent. Generally, the term implies that the victim has given up some basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes, and has been made to accept contrasting ideas. ‘Brainwashing’ is often used loosely to refer to being persuaded by propaganda.

conceptions & misconceptions of mind control

HypnotizeAnimatedThere are many misconceptions about mind control. Some people consider mind control to include the efforts of parents to raise their children according to social, cultural, moral and personal standards. Some think it is mind control to use behavior modification techniques to change one’s own behavior, whether by self-discipline and autosuggestion or through workshops and clinics. Others think that advertising and sexual seduction are examples of mind control. Still others consider it mind control to give debilitating drugs to a woman in order to take advantage of her while she is drugged. Some consider it mind control when the military or prison officers use techniques that belittle or dehumanize recruits or inmates in their attempt to break down individuals and make them more compliant. Some might consider it mind control for coaches or drill instructors to threaten, belittle, physically punish, or physically fatigue by excessive physical exercises their subjects in the effort to break down their egos and build team spirit or group identification.

mindcontrol 858_200pxSome of the tactics of some recruiters for religious, spiritual, or New Age human potential groups are called mind control tactics. Many believe that a terrorist kidnap victim who converts to or becomes sympathetic to her kidnapper’s ideology is a victim of mind control (the so-called Stockholm syndrome). Similarly, a woman who stays with an abusive man is often seen as a victim of mind control. Many consider subliminal messaging in Muzak, in advertising, or on self-help tapes to be a form of mind control. Many also believe that it is mind control to use laser weapons, isotropic radiators, infrasound, non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse generators, or high-power microwave emitters to confuse or debilitate people. Many consider the “brainwashing” tactics (torture, sensory deprivation, etc.) of the Chinese during the Korean War and the alleged creation of zombies in Voodoo as attempts at mind control.

Finally, no one would doubt that it would be a clear case of mind control to be able to hypnotize or electronically program a person so that he or she would carry out your commands without being aware that you are controlling his or her behavior.

[ . . . ]

the government and mind-control

mind control 857_200pxThere also seems to be a growing belief that the U.S. government, through its military branches or agencies such as the CIA, is using a number of horrible devices aimed at disrupting the brain. Laser weapons, isotropic radiators, infrasound, non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse generators, and high-power microwave emitters have been mentioned. It is known that government agencies have experimented on humans in mind control studies with and without the knowledge of their subjects (Scheflin 1978). The claims of those who believe they have been unwilling victims of “mind control” experiments should not be dismissed as impossible or even as improbable. Given past practice and the amoral nature of our military and intelligence agencies, such experiments are not implausible. However, these experimental weapons, which are aimed at disrupting brain processes, should not be considered mind control weapons. To confuse, disorient or otherwise debilitate a person through chemicals or electronically is not to control that person. To make a person lose control of himself is not the same as gaining control over him. It is a near certainty that our government is not capable of controlling anyone’s mind, though it is clear that many people in many governments lust after such power.

ElectroshockIn any case, some of the claims made by those who believe they are being controlled by these electronic weapons do not seem plausible. For example, the belief that radio waves or microwaves can be used to cause a person to hear voices transmitted to him seems unlikely. We know that radio waves and waves of all kinds of frequencies are constantly going through our bodies. The reason we have to turn on the radio or TV to hear the sounds or see the pictures being transmitted through the air is that those devices have receivers which “translate” the waves into forms we can hear and see. What we know about hearing and vision makes it very unlikely that simply sending a signal to the brain that can be “translated” into sounds or pictures would cause a person to hear or see anything. Someday it may be possible to stimulate electronically or chemically a specific network of neurons to cause specific sounds or sights of the experimenter’s choosing to emerge in a person’s consciousness. But this is not possible today. Even if it were possible, it would not necessarily follow that a person would obey a command to assassinate the president just because he heard a voice telling him to do so. Hearing voices is one thing. Feeling compelled to obey them is quite another. Not everyone has the faith of Abraham.

paranoid02There seem to be a number of parallels between those who think they have been abducted by aliens and those who believe their minds are being controlled by CIA implants. So far, however, the “mind-controlled group” has not been able to find their John Mack, the Harvard psychiatrist who claims that the best explanation for alien abduction claims is that they are based on alien abduction experiences, not fantasies or delusions. A common complaint from the mind-controlled is that they can’t get therapists to take them seriously. That is, they say they can only find therapists who want to treat them for their delusions, not help them prove they’re being controlled by their government. Thus, it is not likely that the “mind-controlled CIA zombies” will be accused of having delusions planted in them by therapists, as alien abductees have, since they claim they cannot get therapists to take their delusions seriously. In fact, many of them are convinced that their treatment as deluded persons is part of a conspiracy to cover up the mind control experiments done on them. Some even believe that False Memory Syndrome is part of the conspiracy. They claim that the idea of false memories is a plot to keep people from taking seriously the claims of those who are now remembering that they were victims of mind control experiments at some time in the past. It is hard to believe that they cannot find a wide array of incompetent New Age therapists willing to take their claims seriously, if not willing to claim they have been victims of such experiments themselves.

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Why people believe in conspiracy theories

By Alex Seitz-Wald via Salon.com

xfiles-620x412_300pxWe’ve written before about the historical and social aspects of conspiracy theories, but wanted to learn more about the psychology of people who believe, for instance, that the Boston Marathon bombing was a government “false flag” operation. Psychological forces like motivated reasoning have long been associated with conspiracy thinking, but scientists are learning more every year. For instance, a British study published last year found that people who believe one conspiracy theory are prone to believe many, even ones that are completely contradictory.

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Western Australia, published a paper late last month in the journal Psychological Science that has received widespread praise for looking at the thinking behind conspiracy theories about science and climate change. We asked him to explain the psychology of conspiracy theories. This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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First of all, why do people believe conspiracy theories?

There are number of factors, but probably one of the most important ones in this instance is that, paradoxically, it gives people a sense of control. People hate randomness, they dread the sort of random occurrences that can destroy their lives, so as a mechanism against that dread, it turns out that it’s much easier to believe in a conspiracy. Then you have someone to blame, it’s not just randomness.

What are the psychological forces at play in conspiracy thinking?

Conspiracies 901_250pxBasically what’s happening in any conspiracy theory is that people have a need or a motivation to believe in this theory, and it’s psychologically different from evidence-based thinking. A conspiracy theory is immune to evidence, and that can pretty well serve as the definition of one. If you reject evidence, or reinterpret the evidence to be confirmation of your theory, or you ignore mountains of evidence to focus on just one thing, you’re probably a conspiracy theorist. We call that a self-sealing nature of reasoning.

Another common trait is the need to constantly expand the conspiracy as new evidence comes to light. For instance, with the so-called Climategate scandal, there were something like nine different investigations, all of which have exonerated the scientists involved. But the response from the people who held this notion was to say that all of those investigations were a whitewash. So it started with the scientists being corrupt and now not only is it them, but it’s also all the major scientific organizations of the world that investigated them and the governments of the U.S. and the U.K., etc., etc. And that’s typical — instead of accepting the evidence, you actually turn it around and say that it’s actually evidence to support the conspiracy because it just means it’s even broader than it was originally thought to be.

Are there certain types of people who are more prone to believing in conspiracy theories than others? Does it match any kind of political lines?

I don’t think there is a systematic association between political views and the propensity to believe in conspiracy theories. There are some studies that suggest people on the political left are inclined to it, and there are some that suggest people on the right are. But it’s always a weak association.

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All About Graphology

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Can handwriting analysis really tell us about the personality and aptitudes of the writer?

Read podcast transcript below or listen here

handwriting2Today we’re going to take pen in hand and write a short passage, and then have the handwriting analyzed by an expert. Is it true that useful information about our personalities or lives can be divined through a study of our handwriting? Can the strength of our loops, the spaces between words, and the crossed Ts and dotted Is actually reveal our intentions or thoughts? Some refer to it as a science and make important business, life, or legal decisions based upon it; others regard it as a pseudoscience and dismiss its utility. Let’s see what the light of science will reveal when we shine it upon graphology.

The first thing to understand is that there are three basic types of handwriting analysis, and it’s crucial to be clear on which one we’re talking about today. The first is used in the medical profession, usually in neurology, to help diagnose conditions like Parkinson’s disease in which motor function is affected and fine skills like handwriting will degrade. This is perfectly legitimate as an aid to diagnosis in some cases. The second type is forensic document analysis, also known as graphonomy, which seeks to establish the authenticity of documents or autographs. This can include not only chemical analysis of the paper and ink, but often comes down to comparing certain metrics of the handwriting between a known sample and a test sample to see if they were written by the same person. silly-beliefs_300pxIt’s important to note that a graphonomer would never make a conclusion about the personality of the writer; as that is purely the realm of the third type of handwriting analysis: graphology. Graphology is the practice of determining personality traits, skills, aptitudes, or even fortunes, through the study of an individual’s handwriting.

Skeptical evaluation of graphology has historically found that it is in the same classification as astrology or palm reading. It’s generally described as purely unscientific, little differentiated from a psychic reading, and that any correct statements depend on lucky guesses or the reading of other cues from the subject, such as the content of the writing or the appearance and behavior of the subject, if they are present during the analysis. In short, the science-based assessment of graphology is overwhelmingly negative.

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Understanding Coincidence

By Kyle Hill via randi.org

Many people have a legitimate fear of numbers, equations, and probability. This “math anxiety” keeps much of the lay public from ever willfully learning about mathematics; indeed, ignorance in this regard is often touted. Commonly used phrases like “I’m not a numbers person” and “I hate math” betray that fact that a good portion of society does not understand math and consciously avoids it.

Comprehending this deficit and doing something about it should be taken up within our school system; we should engage students with math early, often, and more rigorously.

23 peopleBut mathematical illiteracy plays a role in perpetuating not just equation ignorance, but pseudoscience. Not understanding just how much of your life is governed by randomness generates many a fallacious belief about the way that the world works. It should be clearly understood that randomness creates coincidence. That is to say, if there were no coincidences in life, we could speculate that some outside force is controlling the events in our lives. However, with true randomness comes the expectation that coincidences will happen: there will be cancer clusters, your friend will call you just when you were thinking about them, and last night’s dream will have somehow “predicted” the events of the following day. It is with the last example, predictive dreams, which I would like to press on with. With a short lesson in randomness and probability, we can see that so-called predictive dreams (and any other event “too amazing to be a coincidence”) are nothing more than random happenings. You don’t have ESP, it’s not fate, and it’s not magic.

“I Dreamt This Would Happen!”

The purpose of this example is to show that many pseudoscientific ideas about the way the universe works are driven by a misunderstanding of randomness and probability. While predictive dreams are harmless, I would suspect that this belief characterizes the kind of thinking that underlies pseudosciences like astrology, ESP, and parapsychology.

coincidence invented

Let’s overcome our math anxiety with a dreaded word problem. Let’s stipulate that the chance of a dream to some extent matching the events of the following day is 1 in 10,000. This means that out of 10,000 dreams, the vast majority, 9,999, will not match any future events. Let’s also assume that having a non-matching dream one night will not affect the dream of the next night, so each night is independent from one another. So given these stipulations, the odds of having a dream that does not match any real life event is 9,999/10,000. When people speak about predictive dreams, it is not as though they have them every night. If this were happening, we might consider it to be more than coincidence. However, anyone who has experienced this phenomenon (myself included) will probably tell you that they do not hit a homerun every night. It is this fact, that an amazingly serendipitous event only happens once in a while, that alludes to chance as the rational explanation.

Remembering the odds above, the chance of having a dream that does not match any real life event for two nights in a row will follow the multiplication principle of probabilities, meaning that the probability is (9,999/10,000)*(9,999/10,000). Likewise, the probability that you will have a dream that does not predict anything for three nights in a row is (9,999/10,000)*(9,999/10,000)*(9,999/10,000). Following this principle, the chance that you will have successive dreams that do not match reality can be expressed as (9,999/10,000)N, where N is the number of nights. As I said above, I don’t think that anyone would say that these predictions are a common occurrence, so let’s consider a time period of one year. The probability that you will have successive dreams every night for a year that do not predict anything would be (9,999/10,0009)365, with N equal to the number of days in a year. This results in a 96.4 percent chance that people who dream every night of a year with not have any predictive dreams. 57 peopleThis of course means that over a period of one year, 3.6% of people who dream every night will have at least one dream that matches reality in some way. Consider that for a moment. Even though coincidences like these can drive people to believe in fate, precognition, ESP, etc., using our definition here we can say that these probabilities in large population would produce literally millions of predictive dreams each year! Even if we relax our standards and make a predictive dream a one-in-a-million event, it would still produce thousands upon thousands of predictive dreams each year by chance alone.

It’s not magic, it’s not fate, it’s not a spiritual connection with someone else; if there’s a likelihood that something will happen, however small, it is explained by chance alone that it is bound to happen to some people at some time. Look at what happened with the supposedly prophetic Nostradamus. He threw out a claim that had to do with two towers coming down and . . .

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The Three Categories of Alternative Medicine

Via The Soap Box

alternative_759_400pxAlternative medicine is a really big business, and is practiced around the world (in some places more than others).

In some place in the world it might be practiced because the people there either can’t afford modern medicine, or more likely they either just can’t get access to modern medicine, or they feel they have no need for modern medicine because they have been taught that their local folk medicine works. In other places in the world it could be just simply that they don’t trust pharmaceutical companies.

So back at the subject at hand, alternative medicine can be basically categorized into three different types:

Ineffective

While many people might say that no forms of alternative medicine work, there are in fact a few that do work to some extent, they just don’t do to the extent that many of the practitioners of that alternative medicine claims, and that there are more effective (and sometimes cheaper) conventional medical practices that can be done.

Examples of this would be acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, and even vitamin supplements can be categorized into this group, and that is if these things done correctly, otherwise some of these things could be not effective at all, or even dangerous.

It should also be noted that this is the smallest category for alternative medicines as most alternative medical practices are like the next two categories.

Non-effective

This is the largest of the three alternative medicine categories as simply put, almost all alternative medical practices just do not work at all, and is mainly based off of anecdotal evidence, rather than real, scientific evidence.

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Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories: Mind Control

via The Soap Box

HypnotizeAnimatedEver feel like someone else is controlling your mind?

Well, that simply could be the result of stress. Or maybe you have some psychological issues. Or maybe someone else really is controlling your mind…

Yes, there really are some people out there that really do believe that their minds are being controlled by someone else, and I’m not just talking about “brain washing” either (which is very real) but actual mind control, in which someone’s mind is being directly controlled by an outside source (as oppose to brain washing, being more of an indirect control of another person’s mind, and can be broken using therapy, or just an individual’s own will power).

While there are multiple things in the world that people who claim to be victims of mind control (Target Individuals  or T.I. for short, as they tend to call themselves) claim that certain shadowy groups are using to execute this mind control, the two most common forms are telepathy, and radio waves.

Now the telepathy one is easy to explain: It doesn’t exist.

There have been multiple studies to see whether or not telepathy is real, and all of those studies have shown that, despite being popular for comic books and science fiction novels, it is not real, and that we cannot control other people’s thoughts and actions simply with our own minds.While several governments have actually tried to use people who claimed to telepathic (or train people to become telepathic) for the use of espionage purposes (which includes the US government), most of the time these programs are abandoned simply because these programs produce no results, and become they are a big waste of time and money.

mindcontrol_640px_200pxAs for the claim that radio waves (in particular, extreme low frequency radio waves) can control a person’s mind, this one also seems very highly unlikely that this would work as well (even if it could be proven to work in the first place).

For one thing, we are constantly being bombarded by radio waves from multiple sources (including natural sources), and they don’t affect us one bit, most especially our minds. Also, all studies into ELF waves have shown that (despite popular belief by T.I.s, and other conspiracy theorists) they do not affect the human minds, otherwise it would be affecting all of us all the time because many things around us give off ELF waves (one of the most common being power lines).

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The Straight Dope: Do tinfoil helmets provide adequate protection against mind control rays?

By Cecil Adams via The Straight Dope

Dear Cecil:

Some people believe that wearing a tinfoil helmet will protect them from mind control rays (or other forms of secret coercion). But if their intent is to create a “Faraday cage” to protect the brain from intrusive electromagnetic rays, wouldn’t it be more effective to use something a little more solid — say, an infantry helmet? And even then, wouldn’t it have to be grounded to work? Admittedly, looking for logical consistency in a conspiracy theory isn’t the wisest thing in the world, but usually they have a semblance of internal coherence.

tin-foil-hat03_200pxA lot of people probably think helmets to ward off mind control rays were invented by some smart-ass having a little fun with the feebs. Uh-uh. Check out the detailed instructions for creating your own helmet (using metal window-screen mesh) at http://multistalkervictims.org/mcf/starshld.htm (Archived here – PDF).

“What I did was make a hood like you see on a hooded sweatshirt,” inventor Leia Jessira Starfire writes, “and to make this thing look ‘natural’ you can actually attach this hood to a sweatshirt so that you don’t stand out like a sore thumb and look like a dork. The more odd we look the easier it is for others to justify their claims that we are just a bunch of loonies making this all up. Even if we do have miles of evidence and X-ray proof.  I also put a drawstring under this as well to cinch the back down because this is the important area where most transmitter/receivers seem to be.” One more thing: “Duct tape — very important.

ALEXJONESFOIL_250pxMs. Starfire says the shield works. “For me this has been such a relief. As for the telepaths, I have learned to recognize them and ignore them and without their transmitters to force me to acknowledge them and force me to open up to them I can keep all the voices out because of the [radio frequency] shield hood!!!”

See, scoffers? It works. Every bit as effective as homeopathic pills. Still, you have to wonder whether this is truly a cost-effective solution. As Straight Dope Science Advisory Board stalwart Jill notes, “I just ignore the telepaths. The worst thing you can do is block them and piss them off. When it gets to be too much, I put my fingers in my ears and sing, ‘FLINTSTONES, MEET THE FLINTSTONES.'”

Moreover, from an engineering standpoint, the Starfire shield frankly bites. What these people need is professional help.

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Can you figure this photo out?

If you know me, you know i love things that toy with the brain. Time for some toying with the brain :)

via Richard Wiseman

Can you figure out what is going on?

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Click the image to enlarge

Attribution Biases

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

head clouds_250pxHuman behavior can be understood as issuing from “internal” factors or personal characteristics–such as motives, intentions, or personality traits–and from “external” factors–such as the physical or social environment and other factors deemed out of one’s personal control. Self-serving creatures that we are, we tend to attribute our own successes to our intelligence, knowledge, skill, perseverance, and other positive personal traits. Our failures are blamed on bad luck, sabotage by others, a lost lucky charm, and other such things. These attribution biases are referred to as the dispositional attribution bias and the situational attribution bias. They are applied in reverse when we try to explain the actions of others. Others succeed because they’re lucky or have connections and they fail because they’re stupid, wicked, or lazy.

We may tend to attribute the behaviors of others to their intentions because it is cognitively easier to do so. We often have no idea about the situational factors that might influence another person or cause them to do what they do. We can usually easily imagine, however, a personal motive or personality trait that could account for most human actions. We usually have little difficulty in seeing when situational factors are at play in affecting our own behavior. In fact, people tend to over-emphasize the role of the situation in their own behaviors and under-emphasize the role of their own personal motives or personality traits. Social psychologists refer to this tendency as the actor-observer bias.
brains gears_600px
One lesson here is that we should be careful when interpreting the behavior of others. What might appear to be laziness, dishonesty, or stupidity might be better explained by situational factors of which we are ignorant. Another lesson is that we might be giving ourselves more credit for our actions than we deserve. The situation may have driven us more than we admit. Maybe we “just did what anybody would do in that situation” or maybe we were just lucky. We may want to follow the classical Greek maxim “know thyself,” but modern neuroscience has awakened us to the fact that much of our thinking goes on at the unconscious level and we often don’t know what is really motivating us to do what we do or think what we think.

Something similar to the self-serving attribution of positive traits to explain our own behavior and negative traits to explain the behavior of others occurs with regard to beliefs.

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The Halo Effect

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

halo_effect 1126The halo effect refers to a bias whereby the perception of a positive trait in a person or product positively influences further judgments about traits of that person or products by the same manufacturer. One of the more common halo effects is the judgment that a good looking person is intelligent and amiable.

There is also a reverse halo effect whereby perception of a negative or undesirable trait in individuals, brands, or other things influences further negative judgments about the traits of that individual, brand, etc. If a person “looks evil” or “looks guilty” you may judge anything he says or does with suspicion; eventually you may feel confident that you have confirmed your first impression with solid evidence when, in fact, your evidence is completely tainted and conditioned by your first impression. The hope that the halo effect will influence a judge or jury is one reason some criminal lawyers might like their clients to be clean-shaven and dressed neatly when they appear at trial.

The phrase was coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920 to describe the way commanding officers rated their soldiers. He found that officers usually judged their men as being either good or bad “right across the board. There was little mixing of traits; few people were said to be good in one respect but bad in another.”* The old saying that first impressions make lasting impressions is at the heart of the halo effect. If a soldier made a good (or bad) first impression on his commanding officer, that impression would influence the officer’s judgment of future behavior. It is  very unlikely that given a group of soldiers every one of them would be totally good or totally bad at everything, but the evaluations seemed to indicate that this was the case. More likely, however, the earlier perceptions either positively or negatively affected those later perceptions and judgments.

The halo effect seems to ride on the coattails of confirmation bias: once we’ve made a judgment about positive or negative traits, that judgment influences future perceptions so that they confirm our initial judgment.

Some researchers have found evidence that student evaluations of their college instructors are formed and remain stable after only a few minutes or hours in class.  If a student evaluated a teacher highly early on in the course, he or she was likely to rank the teacher highly at the end of the course. Unfortunately, for those teachers who made bad first impressions on the students, their performance over the course of the term would be largely irrelevant to how they would be perceived by their students.

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The Science Of Lucid Dreaming

via LifesLittleMysteries.com

A lucid dream occurs when the dreamer is aware of the events happening during the dream. Studies suggest that a person can learn to lucid dream by some simple steps outlined in this video. Lucid dreams are strongly associated with REM sleep. REM sleep is more abundant just before being awake. Other ways to practice are to keep a dream journal or practice reality checks like turning on a light switch.

Eyewitness to the Paranormal: The Experimental Psychology of the ‘Unexplained’

via CSI | The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Research in experimental psychology has shown that many paranormal sightings fall directly within the realm of eyewitness memory. Experiments reveal that such “sightings” derive from the psychology of the observers rather than from supernatural sources. Experiments show these proclivities.

If many sources on cable TV and the Internet are to be believed, the world is currently under attack by a variety of supernatural forces, apparently acting in concert.

Such reports are ubiquitous. Aliens appear at night on deserted country roads. The ghosts of hoary and defunct Scottish peers turn up on castle battlements, demanding retribution for ancient defeats at the hands of the Sassenach. Bigfoot, all eight or nine feet of him, runs past a given cabin on his way to some cryptozoological tryst—and all of it winds up on television.

What, exactly, is going on?

There is a difficulty in explaining many of these paranormal “sightings.” At first, one might expect that the witnesses to these phenomena would be residents of the wilder shores of psychological instability; however, many of the people who report these things are sober, educated, reasonable individuals. Many are ac­tively adverse to publicity, and an ap­preciable fraction of them passes polygraph tests. In short, many of these witnesses—in fact, probably the majority of them—are neither lying nor mentally ill. They have normal nervous systems, and they are convinced that they have experienced something extraordinary.

Logically, therefore, there are only two viable explanations for the events these people claim to experience. Either Bigfoot, the ghosts, and the Gray aliens actually exist, or the individual witnesses to these exotic beings have actually observed and misinterpreted relatively prosaic phenomena. If the latter is the case, then these misinterpretations are very literally eyewitness errors and, as such, are governed by the same psychological principles that operate in eyewitness processes in the forensic world.

Eyewitness Memory and the ‘Paranormal’

On average, most of us think of eyewitness memory in relatively narrow terms, such as criminal identification via police lineups. In fact, the eyewitness field has much broader significance both in the criminal justice system and beyond. Every human phenomenon involving reportage—from recall of childhood memories in psychotherapy to the observation of a planetary transit—coalesces around some kind of account of some variety of human experience. This means that the processes involved in eyewitness cognition per se are continually operating, albeit at a relatively subtle level, through the entire fabric of human existence.

Unfortunately, eyewitness memories are frequently wrong. In my own work I have found that people, including and perhaps especially jurors, tend to think of the human nervous system as some kind of digital recorder, faithfully reproducing what we’ve actually seen when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Eighty years ago (Bartlett 1932) it was demonstrated that human memories become reconfigured—changed in terms of gist, brevity, and personal belief. Our memories lose detail; they become shorter; and what we think we’ve seen frequently replaces what we’ve actually seen. These aspects of human memory have been reconfirmed by modern studies (e.g., Ahlberg and Sharps 2002) and have been shown as far back as the 1970s to be directly important for eyewitness memory; for example, Loftus (1975) showed that witnesses will typically “remember,” and confidently re­port, the color of a barn in a given scene as red even when there is no barn in the scene to be observed. This illustrates the effect of personal belief on an individual’s memory. People generally expect barns to be red; therefore, when Loftus asked experimental witnesses for the color of the barn they had seen, their imaginations obligingly provided the most typical color even though no actual barn had been presented to them.

Our recent experimental research has underscored this effect (Sharps et al. 2009; see also Sharps 2010). In studies of witness errors derived from a violent crime scene, the most prevalent error
(an average of nearly two errors of this type per witness) was a mistake in the physique or clothing of a gun-wielding perpetrator. However, the second most prevalent error (an average of 1.25 errors of this type per witness) was one of “inference, extrapolation, or imagination”: in other words, the average witness simply made up, out of whole cloth, one and one-quarter nonexistent “facts” about a given violent crime.

‘Seeing’ the Supernatural

Human memory, therefore, is malleable: what you see is not necessarily what you get. This concept has obvious relevance to sightings of the “unexplained.” It is clearly possible for a human being …

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Headache-Inducing Spiral Illusion Explained

Four Circles Illusion

By Natalie Wolchover via LifesLittleMysteries.com

Warning: This optical illusion might give you a headache. At a glance, the swirls of tilted black-and-white squares create the perception of a spiral. Look more closely and you realize that the squares don’t form a coil at all; they trace out four perfectly round, concentric circles. The cognitive dissonance between your overall impression of spiraling and your recognition of individual circles … well, it hurts.

This “intertwining illusion” sends the brain conflicting cues.
CREDIT: Pinna & Gregory, 2002

The illusion — called the “intertwining illusion” — has been a hit on social media recently, and it also happens to be the subject of study by researchers around the world. Because optical illusions harness the shift between what the eyes see and what the brain perceives, teasing out how that shift happens enables scientists to understand the inner workings of the human visual system.

When confronted with an optical illusion, or any other scene, “the visual system is interested in inferring what regions of an image are part of the same object or were made by the same process,” explained Alvin Raj, a researcher in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who uses spiral illusions to study peripheral vision mechanisms.

But in this case, the visual system receives conflicting cues: Some say “circle,” and some say “spiral.” At the periphery of your vision, the spiral cues win.

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Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology TodayImagine that everything we think we understand about how the world works is, in fact, an elaborate hoax. Democracy is a sham designed to fool us into believing we are in control. That a small group of unknown, unaccountable elites is actually pulling the strings and pretty much deciding the course of history; everything from the world economy and the conduct of nations to the media and pop culture is under their complete control. Anyone who says otherwise has either been fooled by the conspiracy or is an agent of disinformation.

Does this seem plausible to you? Our latest test is designed to assess your belief in conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are now a firm feature of popular culture – the recent furore around Wiki-leaks provided compelling evidence for this. But the popularity of conspiracy theorising dates back to the shocking assassination of American President J.F.K. in broad daylight and in front of dozens of onlookers on November 22nd, 1963. Immediately, many people claimed that there was more than one gunman, and conspiracy theories arose implicating everyone from the CIA to the communists. More recently, films like Oliver Stone’s JFK and T.V. shows like The X-Files brought conspiratorial themes further into the mainstream. The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 have become perhaps the most widely debated events of the current generation. Many people doubt the ‘official’ story, believing instead that the events were the result of a conspiracy.

So, what has psychological research told us about belief in conspiracy theories? Not much. Indeed, so far only a handful of studies have looked at the personality of conspiracy theory believers. This research has found that believers tend to be lacking in trust and higher in levels of anomie – the feeling that things are generally getting worse – when compared to people with low levels of conspiracy beliefs. However, these findings show correlation, not causation. On the one hand, it may indicate that people’s conspiratorial beliefs are a result of their underlying lack of trust; people who see conspiracies behind everything are simply be projecting their own jaded view of the world onto events. Alternatively, lack of trust may follow from the perception of a conspiracy, reflecting a rational response to the reality of living in a world of conspiracy.

Read More: Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology Today.

Researching a Non-Issue | Bright Mind (NLP – lying eyes)

How Incompetent Trainers Have Allowed Facts to Be Misrepresented

via Bright Mind Blog

Some time back I went to a training presented on detecting deception (and a few other related topics).  The trainer was a retired police officer who taught several different approaches and perspectives, including one strategy that I, myself, had come up with some years ago (independently) based on one of Sun Tsu‘s principles.  However, mid-way through, when talking about ways to recognize deception, he told a room full of 60+ counselors, correction officers, and managers, that NLP teaches that if people look up and to their right, they’re lying.

I have to admit, I got really agitated, because he was wrong in OH! so many ways! I thrashed around in my chair and at the next break, went up to speak with him, but he made it clear he wasn’t interested in having his facts (which were wrong on multiple levels) corrected.  I had people coming up to me afterwards for clarification because they knew something was wrong with what he was saying, and I had to explain over and over what was going on.

He’s not alone in this.  The movie The Negotiator from 1998, while dramatic as all get out, oversimplified the concept of eye accessing painfully and reinforced a popular myth about NLP and detecting lies, one that has become so pervasive that researchers in the UK felt it needful to debunk that myth with actual research.  And I have to say, I do not blame them, not really.  They’re wrong in that NLP does NOT claim a person who looks up and to the right is lying, but ignorant people who don’t really know NLP DO claim that NLP claims a person who looks up and right is lying.  Sadly, there are more people that are ignorant of this than there should be.

The premise is this: people move their eyes as they speak or think because they are accessing different parts of their brain.  A person who is is right handed will usually look up and to his left if he’s remembering a picture (note that I said usually–there are several categories of exception) and will frequently look up and to his right if he’s doing something with the pictures in his mind other than remembering them whole.  He might be looking only at a cut-out in his mind’s eye, or he might be imagining cartoon characters, but he is somehow tweaking the pictures in his mind.  Usually.  Thus, when that fellow looks up and left, we say he’s accessing Visual Remembered and when he looks up and right we say he is accessing Visual Creative.

Here’s where people who were eager for an easy way to detect lies went and messed the whole thing up.

Keep reading: Researching a Non-Issue | Bright Mind.

This Is Not Yellow

I call this kind of information “Brain Works.” All about how the brain works. I think (i HOPE) you’ll enjoy … :)

This Is Not Yellow – YouTube.

Thank you!

I’d like to take this moment to thank everybody for their continued support of iLLumiNuTTi.com. Since we first opened our doors in April we have had a fantastic growth in the number of visitors. Thank you! Keep telling your friends about us and don’t forget to “Like” us on FaceBook and we’ll continue to bring you the weird, wacky and fun stuff!

Have fun and feel free to comment your ideas and suggestions. :)

Mason I. Bilderberg

Conscious Continuity: Ourselves, Others and Oddities

by via Mysterious Universe

Have you ever seen someone you thought you knew, maybe from a short distance, and you thought for certain that you were seeing a friend? The hair, the height, the way they walked, and even the clothes they wore… all these things seemed to match the person you thought you were seeing… until that is, you get close enough to realize that it was actually somebody else who merely looked like the friend or acquaintance y0u thought you’d seen.

This kind of phenomenon has lent itself to a variety of interpretations of what might be called doppleganger phenomenon, as well as philosophical notions of what exactly consciousness is, and how we use it to relate to others around us. Often, it seems that there is something fundamentally deeper about the nature of the human experience, and that rather than just being physical bodies moving around and interacting with one another on a day-to-day basis, there indeed might be more to the proverbial pie than just the aroma we’re able to catch from time to time… especially when it comes to strange phenomena.

For instance, from a rather personal perspective, I’ve often likened various past loves that have come and gone to being repeated manifestations of a single sort of greater feminine archetype I’ve encountered, rather than merely being individuals I’ve known over the years. Sometimes, I’ve even encountered strange sorts of synchronicity and other manifestations of a curious nature in this regard: one girl I had known, for instance, took to calling me by a nickname which a previous girlfriend had used for me, with no prior knowledge of that nickname being appended to me in the past. Granted, I’m not literally suggesting that every girl I’ve dated over the years has been the same woman in some surreal, cosmic sense. However, I think that in terms of Jungian psychology, there are from time to time various “manifestations” of things that are familiar to us, shades of which might occasionally pour through the fabric of physical existence between people we know, revealing themselves in startling ways.

I bring up Carl Jung here since it was he who first supposed that all people might be interconnected by a greater “collective subconsciousness”, as he called it.

Keep Reading: Conscious Continuity: Ourselves, Others and Oddities | Mysterious Universe.

Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synesthesia

“There are many different forms,” says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist known for his ability to garner important insights into the nature of perception and consciousness through idiosyncratic methods. “Essentially, any cross-blending of the senses that you can think of, my colleagues and I have found a case somewhere.”

Seeing Sound, Tasting Color: Synesthesia – YouTube.
See Also: Synesthesia – The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking: inattentional blindness

Inattentional blindness is an inability to perceive something that is within one’s direct perceptual field because one is attending to something else. The term was coined by psychologists Arien Mack and Irvin Rock, who identified the phenomenon while studying the relationship of attention to perception. They were able to show that, under a number of different conditions, if subjects were not attending to a visual stimulus but were attending to something else in the visual field, a significant percentage of the subjects were “blind” to something that was right before their eyes.

Because this inability to perceive, this sighted blindness, seemed to be caused by the fact that subjects were not attending to the stimulus but instead were attending to something else … we labeled this phenomenon inattentional blindness (IB).*

Mack and Rock go on to argue that, in their view, “there is no conscious perception without attention.” We might add that visual perception does not work like a video or any other kind of recorder. Objects or movements may occur in the visual field that are not attended to and may not be consciously or unconsciously perceived. Things can change in the visual field without our being aware of the changes. Perception, like memory, is a constructive process, and it seems that the brain builds its representations from a few salient details, often determined by our purposes or desires. Thus, two people may witness the same events but see and remember quite different things, even if both are good observers paying close attention to what is going on.

Read More: Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking: inattentional blindness.

Curses! 4 Tales of Sinister Forces

Whether they are supernatural or not, curses can have powerful, devastating effects

ARE CURSES REAL? Or are they just the stuff of superstition? You might have heard stories and legends of Gypsy curses and witches’ curses (you’ll find more of those below), but do they have real supernatural power?

A curse is an expression of or wish for misfortune, harm, evil, or doom by a person for another. Curses are not taken seriously by most educated people in the western world, yet they might retain their power and influence over those who believe in them. Belief could be the key to a curse’s power. If a person believes – even on a subconscious or psychological level – that he or she has been cursed, then its effects can be just as powerful as if it is supernatural in nature.

Consider the following reports of curses and their sometimes devastating effects, and judge for yourself whether they are produced by dark, sinister, external forces, or are brought about from the minds of those who have been cursed.

Keep reading: Curses! 4 Tales of Sinister Forces.

Notion That Liars Glance to the Right Debunked

Conventional wisdom has it that when people talk, the direction of their eye movements reveals whether or not they’re lying. A glance up and to the left supposedly means a person is telling the truth, whereas a glance to the upper right signals deceit. However, new research thoroughly debunks these notions. As it turns out, you can’t smell a liar by where he looks.

Researchers in the United Kingdom investigated the alleged correlation between eye direction and lying after realizing it was being taught in behavioral training courses, seminars and on the Web without the support of a shred of scientific evidence. The idea has its roots in a largely discredited 1970s theory called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a set of techniques intended to help people master social interactions.

Keep Reading: Notion That Liars Glance to the Right Debunked | LifesLittleMysteries.com.
Related: The eyes don’t have it: New research into lying and eye movements.

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