Psychology

Most people believe the individual is the best judge of his or her own personality. But a Washington University Psychologist says that we are not the know-it-alls that we think we are.

Simine Vazire, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of psychology, says that the individual is more accurate in assessing one's own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity, and even strangers are equally adept as our friends and ourselves at spotting the extrovert in us all.
People have a strong tendency to give nonhuman entities human characteristics (known as anthropomorphism), and researchers from Harvard and the University of Chicago say they now understand the psychology that underlies this behavior. The research appears in Current Directions In Psychological Science.

Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people.
In 2008, Sam Harris posted an online survey seeking the opinions of Christians and atheists on a wide variety of topics. The real aim was to design the survey for their subsequent laboratory research with properly phrased questions that would either polarize the two camps or show common ground. However, the raw data does show a few interesting things.
According to a new study in Social Psychology Quarterly, the higher your IQ the more likely you are to be a liberal and an atheist. The author says this is because more intelligent people exhibit social values and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history--mainly, liberalism and atheism.

The study advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years."
Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland have found that the reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does. This activity pattern holds true even if the brain being looked at is in the rich person's head, rather than the poor person's.

The significance? The human brain is a big believer in equality, the scientists say. Their results are detailed in a new study appearing in Nature.
What makes Hollywood blockbusters? Scientists writing in Psychological Science may have the answer. Using the sophisticated tools of modern perception research to deconstruct 70 years of film, shot by shot, the Cornell researchers say that successful movies follow a particular mathematical pattern.

The team of psychologists measured the duration of every shot in every scene of 150 of the most popular films released from 1935 to 2005. The films represented five major genres—action, adventure, animation, comedy and drama. Using a complex mathematical formula, they translated these sequences of shot lengths into "waves" for each film.
Patients diagnosed with clinical depression may respond better to medical treatment as a result of belief in a personal God, say researchers at Rush University Medical Center writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression at inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care facilities in Chicago participated in the study. The patients were surveyed shortly after admission for treatment and eight weeks later, using the Beck Depression Inventory, the Beck Hopelessness Scale, and the Religious Well-Being Scale – all standard instruments in the social sciences for assessing intensity, severity and depth of disease and feelings of hopelessness and spiritual satisfaction.
New research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that a biphasic sleep schedule, sleeping several times a day, not only refreshes the mind, but can also make us smarter.

Conversely, the more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish our minds become, according to the findings. The results support previous data from the same research team that pulling an all-nighter – a common practice at college during midterms and finals –- decreases the ability to cram in new facts by nearly 40 percent, due to a shutdown of brain regions during sleep deprivation. 

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.
If the folks behind the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) were crafty, they would have latched on to the upcoming movie, "The Crazies," for some free publicity.1 Although that's probably not quite the image they want to convey, so maybe it was a shrewd non-move after all. Well played, American Psychiatric Association.
My recent love of watching TV online while attempting to get some of my more mindless tasks done led me to discover a "48 Hours: Mystery" episode called "American Girl: Italian Murder" on Amanda Knox, the American study abroad student who was tried and convicted for the murder of Meredith Kercher.