Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Why incompetent people think they’re amazing

November 12, 2017

How good are you with money? What about reading people’s emotions? How healthy are you, compared to other people you know? Knowing how our skills stack up against others is useful in many ways. But psychological research suggests that we’re not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. In fact, we frequently overestimate our own abilities. David Dunning describes the Dunning-Kruger effect.


Winners of Best Illusion of 2016 Contest

July 2, 2016

I really like optical illusions. And the first and second place getter of Best Illusion of the Year Contest are no exceptions.

1st prize is – Motion Integration Unleashed: New Tricks for an Old Dog.

Little black and white dots that are stationary can give rise to dramatic global motion perceptions: a rotating square, oscillating chopsticks and rolling waves. Although the dots themselves are not changing position, the drifting motion within them causes the illusion that the entire configuration is moving!


They look like vertical cylinders, but their sections appear to be different; in one view they appear to be rectangles, while in the other view they appear to be circles. We cannot correct our interpretations although we logically know that they come from the same objects. Even if the object is rotated in front of a viewer, it is difficult to understand the true shape of the object, and thus the illusion does not disappear.

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

January 3, 2016

The search for happiness is an interesting one.

Fortunately, the longest ever study on happiness has a pretty simple answer for us …


How Can We Feel When Someone Is Staring At Us?

November 14, 2015

You know that feeling you get when you’re being stared at? Out of the corner of your eye, even outside your field of vision, you can just tell someone is checking you out, sizing you up, or trying to make eye contact with you. Sometimes it almost feels like ESP, this ability to detect another person stare, because it often comes at the fringes of our awareness.


But far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted just to detecting where others are looking. This “gaze detection” system is especially sensitive to whether someone’s looking directly at you (for example, whether someone’s staring at you or at the clock just over your shoulder). Studies that record the activity of single brain cells find that particular cells fire when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you (then different cells fire instead).

This specialized machinery in the brain reveals just how important your gaze is when communicating with others. Where you look conveys how you feel and what your intentions are, what you like and what you don’t like, and directs attention to meaningful things in the environment. Further, making direct eye contact is the most frequent and perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we exchange with others; it’s central to intimacy, intimidation, and social influence. Learn more here.

Four perfect circles – really!

July 12, 2015

I really like optical illusions.

And this picture of four perfectly round circles is no exception. Our mind does like to play tricks on us!

Four circles

Best Illusion of the Year for 2015 Announced

June 18, 2015

I really like optical illusions.

The illusion above is called Splitting Colors. You can read an explanation of it here. It was crowned the winner of the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest for 2015. Coming in second was Ambiguous Garage Roof.

Do we see reality as it is?

June 14, 2015

Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman is trying to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is … or as we need it to be?

The case for emotional hygiene

February 22, 2015

We’ll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don’t we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don’t have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.

How not to be ignorant about the world

September 24, 2014

How much do you know about the world? This video demonstrates that you have a high statistical chance of being quite wrong about what you think you know.

The neuroscience of restorative justice

September 2, 2014

Daniel Reisel studies the brains of criminal psychopaths (and mice). And he asks a big question: Instead of warehousing these criminals, shouldn’t we be using what we know about the brain to help them rehabilitate? Put another way: If the brain can grow new neural pathways after an injury … could we help the brain re-grow morality?