Archive for the ‘ psychology ’ Category

Facebook undertakes pointless experiment, manipulates 689,000 users.

The Guardian today reported on Facebook’s scandalous manipulation of hundreds of thousands of users’ emotions as part of an experiment. Needless to say, there has been an uproar – and rightly so. Just the lack of informed consent – or is that in the small print somewhere? – makes the flesh crawl.

It would be interesting to know how they measured the emotions they manipulated – entirely by the ‘how are you feeling’ function of a status update or by something more subtle? Will the results eventually be published? Will those people so manipulated be, after the fact, informed of their participation.

Another salient point, I think, is that this kind of experiment is entirely unnecessary – countless prior experiments into emotional contagion have been undertaken and, while certainly not in this medium or on this scale, the results are, predictably, the same.


Video: ‘The art of corporate mind control’… Paranoid?

Some of you may have seen this video before. It presents what could easily be described as a paranoid* view of the world we live in today. Let me know what you think. Is this how it is? Partly? Or is this all preposterous nonsense?

* some might say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Just a thought.

Choose life, choose a nap, choose sleeping for eight hours a night

Over the last 3 months, studies have shown what students, children and cats have known all along – napping is good.

Proper, full-blown, all night sleeping, as we all know, is good too. A story in The Guardian today reports on studies from the University of Warwick and the Federico II University medical school in Naples which show that consistently having less than six hours sleep a night significantly increases a person’s chance of premature death (as does having consistently more than nine hours per night). Why both? Because, according to the University of Warwick’s Professor Francesco Cappuccio, while a lack of sleep can lead to ill-health, excessive sleep is often an indicator of existing ill-health. As noted in the study, earlier research has linked health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes to lack of sleep.

But it’s the naps that are the real inner victory for students, children and cats. Another study, by the University of California Berkeley, reported in February (by The Independent and The Telegraph among others) shows that afternoon naps boost brain power and memory. The reason being that napping after lunch allows the hippocampus to properly file all the information it’s been fed over the day so far. Professor Walker of the University of California Berkeley explains thus:

It’s as though the e-mail inbox in your hippocampus is full and, until you sleep and clear out those fact e-mails, you’re not going to receive any more mail. It’s just going to bounce until you sleep and move it into another folder.

So the point? Sleep well, live well, live long.

Have a nice nap:):-

Does language make humans different from other animals? [short version]

Up for consideration this time is the extent to which language makes the human species distinct from other species of animal.  It is worth noting that animal communication is most frequently referred to as such: communication. Most research has used the terms animal communication and human language, which suggests from the outset of researching this question a previously established difference between species’ modes of communicative interaction. But are our forms of communication actually all that different from those of other animals? The main difference seems to be regarding the use in language of speech and ‘conventional symbols,’ which surely, albeit perhaps under different guises, is necessary for the exchanges in any communication.

Aitchison (1983) specified that four [of ten] criteria were particular to the human species: displacement, semanticity, structure dependence and creativity. These four criteria, in summary, indicate that humans are capable of talking about things, people and instances, true or false, outside of the here-and-now spatial and temporal environment by using a formalized, abstract set of words, symbols and intonations each of which can have many different meanings when used within different contexts and between different individuals.

As our closest relations, a lot of research into animal language has been using apes. One of the more noted of these studies was conducted by Savage-Rumbaugh who taught a Bonobo chimpanzee, ‘Kanzi’, to use a form of sign language.

The aspect that is arguably the defining feature of human communication is the quality of its semanticity/meaning, but perhaps it is the plethora of social contexts within which we use language that truly distinguishes human and animal communication,  for example, ‘what shall I wear to my interview?’ This sentence alone contains sociological features that would not occur in animal worlds i.e. clothing and employment.

So human language’s complexity does seem to be the distinguishing factor between human and non-human animals. However it is worth bearing mind that the precursor to this distinguisher was and is in fact perhaps routed not in the cognitive capacities of our species, but in the anatomical speech restrictions, as selected [or not] for through the course of evolution, of other species and therefore it is not just language, per se, that is the crux of this distinction. If amount of communication material available to different species were measured against their communicative levels and all results standardized, perhaps the actual distinction between human and non-human animals would be less apparently extreme.

The full version of this post can be found here.

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