Ep 233: White Policemen and Young Black Men – What’s Really Going on?

In the US, we’ve experienced a number of recent incidences of white policemen shooting black men. What’s going on? Are these more examples of prejudice and discrimination or unprovoked attacks on police? How do we know what really happened? In this episode of The Psych Files we look at how key social psychological theories are on display in these incidences: false memories, attribution biases, blaming the victim and social identity theory.


the criminal justice system that, flawed as it is, still insists that indictments be based on facts instead of emotions, which are fed by long-simmering prejudices and all the cognitive biases and memory distortions that come packaged in the human mind. – Michael Shermer, What Really Happened in Ferguson?

Resources for this Episode

Ep 230: Questionable Research – With A Famous Psychologist Involved

Might you be able to rid yourself of an illness by “turning back the clock”? That is, by immersing yourself in a time in your life when you were not ill? We know that thinking about things in a positive way – which we sometimes call “reframing” can make us feel and act differently, and we know that the “placebo effect” is real, but how far can these ideas be taken Psychology has always struggled to separate itself from those who would “borrow” good ideas and take them too far or twist them in ways that promise people too much. We’re now more sensitive than ever about how psychological research is conducted and there are a lot of questions about a proposed new study by Ellen Langer that seems to be skirting some serious ethical issues in order to carry out a study with cancer patients – a study that could be done much less elaborately than is planned. Is this groundbreaking research, or as James Coyne suggests, quackery? We’ll find out what’s going on in this episode of The Psych Files. And by the way, what the heck is the nocebo effect? We find out.
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Ep 229: What Makes a Song Popular? How We Detect Melody

What makes some songs so popular? Guess what – psychologists actually know a lot of the answers. In this episode we’ll listen to excerpts from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, as well as Noisestorm’s Ignite, Adele’s Someone Like You, the Enterprise Theme from Star Trek, and even two pieces of music from the motion picture Koyaanisqatsi. We’ll especially deconstruct “Hallelujah” to figure out why it is such a popular song. Many thanks to musician extraordinaire – Steve Kessler.


Key Points

  • Humans are pattern seekers (see this episode on Gestalt Principles of Perception and we seek patterns in what we see and what we hear
  • The Mere Exposure effect: if you hear anything enough times (or meet anyone enough times), they “grow on you”, i.e., liking increases with familiarity)
  • We find repetition in music across cultures
  • One segment of a song serves as a cue to the next sebment, allowing us to know what’s coming next (we even come to predict what what song will come next if we listen to the same sequence of songs over and over again)
  • “Repetition invites us into music as participants” – watch the video below which summarizes Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis’ research
  • The Psychology of Music: The Role of Expectations and Minor Chords
  • One of my listeners, Hilary, told me about this YouTube clip which perfectly captures the idea of the Mere Exposure effect when it comes to songs:


Music Featured in this Episode




Ep 227: I Remember How I Felt (Or Do You)?

Do “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” or are we actually pretty happy most of the time? As it turns out humans are far more resilient than you think. Ever heard of the term “affective forecasting“? It’s something we do every day and very often we make mistakes doing it. In this episode you’ll learn more about positive psychology from the authors of a new book called Pollyanna’s Revenge. Another myth put to rest: “depressive realism” – the idea that there’s an advantage to being depressed – that depressed people are more realistic about the world than non-depressed people. That’s not so either and I think you’ll find a lot of interesting information in this episode about what affects your own level of happiness. Join me for a fascinating discussion about how we really react to the ups and downs of life.

Resources on Pollyanna’s Revenge and on Positive Psychology

Ep 226 (video): The Psychology of Dance Part 2 – Importance of Marking

Most performers “mark” when they’re tired during rehearsals. Are they “not giving it their all” or are they getting quite a benefit from doing this? You’d be surprised at how beneficial marking can be. I talked about the psychology of dance in a previous episode but in this one I review the research on “marking”, a practice which many performers do.

If you’re not familiar with marking, here’s a definition from the authors of a recent study on how marking benefits dancers: “Marking involves enacting the sequence of movements with curtailed size and energy by diminishing the size of steps, height of jumps and leaps, and extension of limbs. The dancer often does not leave the floor and may even substitute hand gestures for certain steps.”


Dancer
In this episode I use a very cool presentation tool called GinkoApp to walk you through a study which shows how effective marking can be in an overall learning and rehearsal strategy.

Dance and Psychology

  • The Cognitive Benefits of Movement Reduction: Evidence From Dance Marking. Edward C. Warburton, Margaret Wilson, Molly Lynch, and Shannon Cuykendall
  • Lead author Edward Warburton’s homepage
  • Going Through the Motions Improves Dance Performance

  • Cognitive Load (wikipedia): “…the more a person attempts to learn in a shorter amount of time, the more difficult it is to process that information in working memory.”
  • “Although dancers, teachers, and choreographers intuitively know that marking during some portions of the rehearsal process is beneficial, the accepted explanation is that it saves energy. Our results suggest that dancers have in fact evolved a strategy that benefits them cognitively by **relieving cognitive load** and **supporting more efficient encoding and consolidation…Far from being a necessary evil in the rehearsal process, marking could be strategically used by teachers and choreographers…” – Warburton et. al (2013).

  • Bläsing, B., Calvo-Merino, B., Cross, E. S., Jola, C., Honisch, J., & Stevens, C. J. (2012). Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance. Acta Psychologica, 139, 300–308.
  • Chaffin, R., Lisboa, T., Logan, T., & Begosh, K. T. (2010). Preparing for memorized cello performance: The role of performance cues. Psychology of Music, 38, 3–30.
  • Hanrahan, C., & Vergeer, I. (2001). Multiple uses of mental imagery by professional modern dancers. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 20, 231–255.
  • Noice, T., & Noice, H. (2002). Very long-term recall and recognition of well-learned material. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 259–272.
  • Nordin, S. M., & Cumming, J. (2005). Professional dancers describe their imagery: Where, when, what, why and how. The Sport Psychologist, 19, 395–416.
  • Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9, 625–636.