Psychology

Gamification is a topic I have mentioned not too long ago (see this post). Recently I attended a Boston CHI presentation by Chris Cartter called "The Socialization and Gamification of Health Behavior Change Apps."

Gamification

One thing that Cartter said that sounds right, and may resonate with some of my readers, is that games are fuzzy, not perfect sequential processes. And that is what health behavior changes are more like.

So gamification in this area might actually result in better methods than old fashioned x-step procedures.

Who do you think will win the Republican presidential nomination? Obsession with this question possesses the entire United States. Today a brief search on Google for “GOP primary prediction” returned close to 40 million results. Over the past few months, the news media has been a continuous spin cycle of talking heads, pontificating pundits, bleating politicians, and outraged citizens, all converging on the topic of who will eventually be crowned the Republican candidate for the American presidency. The amount of effort expended on this process is staggering—even though many people felt that the probable outcome was more or less obvious from the start.
It's not correlation/causation (though less and less is, since science has learned that causation is now teaching us less and less about how to actually fix things) but some in the social fields are claiming there are biological truths to stereotypes about the left and right, like that progressives are self-indulgent and clueless on national issues while conservatives are fear-mongers with a fetish for exaggerated dangers.
This December the National Transportation Safety Board of the U.S. recommended a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. According to NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, "This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It's becoming epidemic.” For some, the NTSB recommendation is a sign of the forces of light winning the day, and for others, proof of the impending apocalypse. Regardless of your emotional reaction to the issue, the subject cuts right to the heart of questions about the attention capacity of the human brain.

Prejudice is just bigotry that arises from flawed ideology, right?  Not so, say the authors of a new paper.

They contend prejudice stems from a deeper psychological need and it is associated with a particular way of thinking. People who aren't comfortable with ambiguity and want to make quick and firm decisions are also prone to making generalizations about others. People who are prejudiced feel a much stronger need to make quick and firm judgments and decisions in order to reduce ambiguity.

And, they argue, it's virtually impossible to change this basic way that people think.

If a crime occurs, asking the criminal what happened is unlikely to give you the most accurate picture of events.  This is why police interview the victim first.    So an evolutionary psychologist outlining how great evolutionary psychology is has to be taken with a grain of salt; no one becomes a professor in a field and then decides it is a lot of woo.
A recent article suggests that our fear of snakes is largely genetic because of its apparently uniform nature across all strata of people and that it was likely caused due to predation of our ancestors.

As evidence of this, the author interviewed 120 of the Agta Negrito people, a hunter-gatherer group in the Phillipines, and noted that 16 of the individuals had been attacked by giant pythons, while two had been attacked twice.  In addition, individuals reported six cases of fatal snake attacks over a 39 year period (1934 - 1973).  While it's not clear from the article, the snakes may not necessarily have fared much better, since they were also predated upon by humans. 
Xmas time is here again. Unlike many people I have no particular aversion to the holiday season. I don’t have too many emotional scars from Christmases past. Getting presents was always fun, I liked the lights on our tree, even stringing popcorn, and these days I try to keep awkward gatherings to a minimum. For me it breaks up the endless round of quotidian drudgery in a relatively pleasant way. But this year I can’t help viewing the whole spectacle through the eyes of human evolution and psychology. No matter how you might feel about the holiday season personally, it’s interesting to think about what may be behind all the crazy traditions: a little bit of the science behind the season. 
A recent article titled "Our Brains Can't Evolve Any Further" drew my attention which ultimately lead me to the paper "Why Aren’t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements" (Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig; University of Basel).

Fortunately, this offered some interesting insights into the assumptions and conditions surrounding human intellect and its evolutionary implications.  
What does chessboxing have to do with science? Let me tell you a little story...
It all started last November with this tweet:




There was a Twitter conversation about politics, and I suggested the candidates decide a winner over a chessboxing match. I had heard about chessboxing a few years prior, but didn't give it much thought, other than marvel at how difficult and unlikely a combo sport it was.