April 25, 2007

more Zimbardo . . .

Edge has another video of Philip Zimbardo. It's pretty good. He mostly talks about the Nazi killings and trials from a social psychological perspective and again refers to his "Stanford Prison Experiment."

How do seemingly "normal" people commit evil acts? What about the flip-side? How do normal people commit heroic acts? These are questions that interests Zimbardo.

Check it out!

April 21, 2007

MRI-enabled brain surgery

NewScientistTech has a cool post about a new device developed by researchers in Canada to help doctors perform risky surgeries.

"NeuroArm is the first surgical robot to be compatible with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), its makers claim. This will enable neurosurgeons to perform their riskiest work while patients lie within an MRI machine, giving a clear 3D picture of even the smallest nerves. However, doctors are still on hand to intervene if serious complications arise."
I'm not really sure if this is what it really looks like or not. I just typed "neuroarm" in google images, and this is what I got.

Regardless, it seems like a really cool idea, but man it's expensive . . . $24 million in development. Wow!

Almost human?

There's a really interesting article in the Science section of the NY Times. It's basically a summary of the work on chimpanzees and their similarities to humans, covering work from Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal among others.

"Chimps display a remarkable range of behavior and talent. They make and use simple tools, hunt in groups and engage in aggressive, violent acts. They are social creatures that appear to be capable of empathy, altruism, self-awareness, cooperation in problem solving and learning through example and experience. Chimps even outperform humans in some memory tasks."

Overall, it's a really cool article, so check it out if you can!

You just get me . . .

Now this looks interesting. I received this link through an email from the listserv for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. It's a social-networking site developed by social and personality psychologists as a tool for use by researchers interested in how well people can read each other's personalities.

"We know a ton about what people think of others, but hardly anything about whether they are right. In about a tenth of a second, people make up their minds whether others are likable and competent. But are they accurate? Not always. You can tell if someone is extraverted and disciplined quicker than if they are neurotic and competitive (Watson, 1989). Oddly, if you see someone's room or office, it helps you "get" them (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli & Morris, 2002). And when you finally get close to someone, you are more accurate than when you were strangers, but few couples are ever perfect. How about online? Can you really judge what someone is like from their profile? And how about the other way around? Does your profile really tell people who you are? Research on this is only beginning (see Vazire & Gosling, 2004). Help us fill in this huge gap in our knowledge by trying - really trying - to guess what others are like. And see if you can make the most truthful profile you can. On our site, that's what it's all about."
Basically, it's a little online experiment where participants take a personality test (based upon the 5-factor theory of personality) and then they have to guess how each other scored on the test. All questions are scored using a real psychological formula too. As far as the "social-networking" is concerned, you can choose how accurate a person must be in guessing your personality before they can contact you.

It seems like a cool idea. I guess we'll see how it takes off.

April 17, 2007

unbelievably awful

I'm sure that everyone knows already, so there's no need to post any press about it, but I feel that I do need to say something.

Yesterday's massacre at Virginia Tech. seems so unreal. It's like a very bad dream. Being a Virginia resident all my life, this isn't something that I would have ever expected. My heart goes out to VT and all the friends and families of lost loved ones. It was a horrible incident. Virginia Tech is a great school, and it shouldn't go down in the history books as the place where the deadliest school shooting occurred.

Mostly everyone that I know that has gone to VT has graduated, so obviously I can't put myself into the position of those whose loved ones are currently at the school. But, for what it's worth, I'm sorry and I have nothing but the best wishes for all those at Tech.

For those interested, there's a compilation of scienceblogger posts over at Cognitive Daily concerning the murderous rampage.

April 15, 2007

Today in the history of psychology . . .

One of my all-time favorite psychologists was born this day in 1922. This is, of course, the great Stanley Schachter. Schachter was a prolific social psychologist, who studied a wide range of topics. He investigated such issues as social influence, obesity, situational influences on emotion, and the psychological correlates of birth order. But what I'm most fond of, is his work on the need for affiliation.

Ever hear the phrase, "misery loves company," or even, "misery loves miserable company?" Well, this comes from Schachter's work on the affiliative tendency.

The need for affiliation seems to be a core motive that influences our day to day interactions, and yet not much was known about it. That is, until 1959 when Schachter published his book called, The Psychology of Affiliation. This work described several of his experimental studies conducted on the topic. Most interestingly, he found
that in distressful situations, people tend to seek out others who are under similar circumstances. In other words, an increase of anxiety brings about an increase in the affiliative tendency.

In a creative experiment, he manipulated anxiety in two groups of participants. One group was the high anxiety group, while the other was the low anxiety group. Using deception, he told both groups that the experiment was about the effects of electric shock. Essentially, the high anxiety condition was shown the electrical apparatus and was told that they would receive extremely painful shocks. The low anxiety condition was not shown the electrical apparatus and was told that they would receive shocks, but the shocks would not hurt and instead would be more like a tickle. Then both groups were told that they could either wait in a waiting room by themselves while the experimenters got everything ready, or they could go into another waiting room with other people who were also participating in the experiment. Schachter found that those who were in the high anxiety condition chose to sit with people who were in the same situation as them. They chose this significantly more often than those in the low anxiety condition. These results were important for the field of social psychology, because not much was known, at the time, about the conditions that affected the need for affiliation.

I, myself, have always had an interest in social psychology, but it was coming across Schacter's work on affiliation in general that eventually led to my interest in social rejection and ostracism. It's not really even the "tip of the iceberg," when considering all the other major contributions that he had on the field. This just happens to be my favorite work of his. I mean, I could really write all day about it . . . but I won't. Well, anyways, if you're interested in the topic, pick up the book!


April 14, 2007

new way to view brain folds

A new tool has been developed by researchers from MIT, the Massachusetts General hospital and Havard Medical School to help investigate how the folds in the cerebral cortex develop and decay over time.

"By applying computer graphics techniques to brain images collected using magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, they have created a set of tools for tracking and measuring these folds over time. Their resulting model of cortical development may serve as a biomarker, or biological indicator, for early diagnosis of neurological disorders such as autism."
A new article describing their computational model of brain development has been published in the April issue of Transactions on Medical Imaging, a journal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

This seems like a pretty cool technology. It'll give scientists a better view of normal brain development. This development can then be compared with the abnormal development caused by various disorders, like schizophrenia. In effect, giving us a better picture of what is going wrong in these patients.

The press release can be found here.

April 7, 2007

A new journal

I just noticed that a new psychology journal is out. It is an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal called, The Journal of Social, Evolutionary & Cultural Psychology. And you can find it here.

And here's the brief description that the editors give:

"The Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology is an online initiative designed to bridge sub-disciplines of psychology in order to gain holistic insights into human behavior, emotion, cognition, and motivation. The perspectives of social, evolutionary, and cultural psychology each provide unique advantages for psychological investigation. Social psychology emphasizes individual functioning within the group; cultural psychology emphasizes the role of one's social environment and emergent cultural practice; and evolutionary psychology emphasizes the adaptive function of particular behaviors at the level of the individual. With this journal, we are providing a space for scholars interested in combining variations of these levels in the study of human psychology."
So far, there's only one article up, from the editors Rosemarie Sokol and Sarah Strout. It's a brief editiorial explaining the purpose of the journal in greater detail along a historical and philosophical perspective. The editors intend the journal to be a new home for theoretical and empirical articles that incorporate the three psychological perspectives to varying degrees. It looks promising to me, so if you have an interest in social, evolutionary or cultural psychology, then you should check it out on occasion. More articles are due out in May!

are these considered April showers?

Yeah, so it's snowing . . . in April! It's kind of weird. It hasn't really snowed in Virginia all winter, and now it's coming down like crazy. Oh well.

School's going pretty good. I've just been grading papers all week (and I'll be grading more this weekend!). Plus I've been collecting data for my first-year research project. I'm freaking excited about that!

Well, besides that, nothing new has really come up in the past week.

Except . . .

Going along with the last post, another Zimbardo interview is up on New York Times. It is mostly about his Standord Prison Experiment and its similarities with the abuses of Abu Ghraib. There's also an accompanying article with the video here. They're pretty good. Check them out if you haven't already done so!