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How The Mind Really Works: 10 Counterintuitive Psychology Studies

Feb 29, 2012 - Tags:

Some critics say psychology is just common sense, that it only confirms things we already know about ourselves.

Ironically this can be difficult to argue with because once people get some new information they tend to think it was obvious all along.

One way of battling this is to think about all the unexpected, surprising and plain weird findings that have popped out of psychology studies over the years. So here are ten of my favourite.

1. Cognitive dissonance

This is perhaps one of the weirdest and most unsettling findings in psychology. Cognitive dissonance is the idea that we find it hard to hold two contradictory beliefs, so we unconsciously adjust one to make it fit with the other.

In the classic study students found a boring task more interesting if they were paid less to take part. Our unconscious reasons like this: if I didn't do it for money, then I must have done it because it was interesting. As if by magic, a boring task becomes more interesting because otherwise I can't explain my behaviour.

The reason it's unsettling is that our minds are probably performing these sorts of rationalisations all the time, without our conscious knowledge. So how do we know what we really think?

2. Hallucinations are common

Hallucinations are like waking dreams and we tend to think of them as markers of serious mental illness.

Source : PSYBlog : Read the whole stoy here.

Teller Reveals His Secrets; How magicians manipulate the human mind

Feb 28, 2012 - Tags:

In the last half decade, magic—normally deemed entertainment fit only for children and tourists in Las Vegas—has become shockingly respectable in the scientific world. Even I—not exactly renowned as a public speaker—have been invited to address conferences on neuroscience and perception. I asked a scientist friend (whose identity I must protect) why the sudden interest. He replied that those who fund science research find magicians “sexier than lab rats.”

I’m all for helping science. But after I share what I know, my neuroscientist friends thank me by showing me eye-tracking and MRI equipment, and promising that someday such machinery will help make me a better magician.

I have my doubts. Neuroscientists are novices at deception. Magicians have done controlled testing in human perception for thousands of years.

I remember an experiment I did at the age of 11. My test subjects were Cub Scouts. My hypothesis (that nobody would see me sneak a fishbowl under a shawl) proved false and the Scouts pelted me with hard candy. If I could have avoided those welts by visiting an MRI lab, I surely would have.

Source : Smithsonian.com : Read the whole story here.

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