Effortless Incitement

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A key feature of the blog will be writing about recent peer-reviewed research in a variety of fields.

Doctor Spurt
24 posts

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  • July 11, 2014
  • 05:24 AM

Reward Prediction Error Signals are Meta-Representational

by Doctor Spurt / David Spurrett in Effortless Incitement

Critical discussion of Nicholas Shea's (2014) paper with the same title. (Trying import because embedded citation didn't get picked up after 48 hours.)... Read more »

  • February 12, 2009
  • 01:23 AM

Dead or Alive? Knowledge about a Sibling’s Death Varies by Genetic Relatedness in a Modern Society

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin! This piece is a modest contribution to a large scale blog love-in that I mentioned in an earlier posting. It's about a recent study by Thomas Pollet and Daniel Nettle driven by a simple hypothesis about genetic relatedness, and how this might make a difference to what people know about other people. Specifically, it was hypothesised that individuals would be more likely to know whether a related sibling was alive or no. Here's the abstract:Using a large sample of........ Read more »

  • February 5, 2009
  • 01:36 AM

Construal Level and Procrastination

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Here's a study that's got a bit of attention, including at The Economist, at intellectual vanities and at Psychology Today. The paper found that the degree to which a task was construed abstractly made a difference to the level of procrastination: more abstract meant more procrastination.You can currently get the paper at website the first author (Sean M. McCrea) here.This is the full abstract:According to construal-level theory, events that are distant in time tend to be represented more abstra........ Read more »

Sean M. McCrea, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope, & Steven J. Sherman. (2008) Construal Level and Procrastination. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1308-1314. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02240.x  

  • January 15, 2009
  • 04:03 PM

Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

We like thinking that some things about us are achievements rather than endowments. This goes especially for things that we think we can justify or rationalise, including some of our beliefs and preferences. When we can give a plausible reason for something we believe, it's easy enough to suppose that we really *do* believe it for those reasons.As several previous posts on this blog, and a giant pile of research from various fields, shows, it isn't that simple. There are all kinds of ways that o........ Read more »

D. R. Oxley, K. B. Smith, J. R. Alford, M. V. Hibbing, J. L. Miller, M. Scalora, P. K. Hatemi, & J. R. Hibbing. (2008) Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits. Science, 321(5896), 1667-1670. DOI: 10.1126/science.1157627  

  • January 12, 2009
  • 06:05 PM

Testosterone shifts the balance between sensitivity for punishment and reward in healthy young women

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Ah, men. We just keep on finding out ways that we're crazy, on average, as compared to women. I've got a little pile of papers on male idiocy, and I'm going to try to write up a couple of them. This one is first for a bunch of reasons, among them:(1) The journal it is in has a very cool name: Psychoneuroendocrinology. I really would like a paper in that on my CV.(2) It reports a pretty cool experiment.(3) I'd already read it.In a nutshell, this team found that administration of testosterone made........ Read more »

J van Honk, Dennis J.L.G. Schuttera, Erno J. Hermansa, Peter Putmana, Adriaan Tuitena, Hans Koppeschaar. (2004) Testosterone shifts the balance between sensitivity for punishment and reward in healthy young women. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29(7), 937-943. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2003.08.007  

  • January 4, 2009
  • 06:20 AM

Creating Social Connection Through Inferential Reproduction

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Most of us sometimes anthropomorphise things around us. We do this in various ways - talking to them, seeing similarities between them and proper agents, treating them as though they had beliefs or feelings. We also sometimes impute intentional explanations to non-intentional phenomena, such as the rain -- or the supernatural being -- that 'knew' there was a picnic on the go.Most of us are also sometimes lonely. Do loneliness and anthropomorphising have anything to do with each other? The author........ Read more »

  • January 4, 2009
  • 06:09 AM

The Interactive Effect of Cultural Symbols and Human Values on Taste Evaluation

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

I've previously reported on a few studies showing some of the ways that taste evaluation isn't a simple response to the physical properties of what is tasted. Actually, now that I check I've only blagged about one so far: We've seen how the same wine (at least when delivered as sips that aren't being paid for) is preferred when it is thought to cost more. But there will be more on this topic, because I enjoy running interference at my wine tasting group.This paper reports an attempt to find out ........ Read more »

Michael W. Allen, Richa Gupta, & Arnaud Monnier. (2008) The Interactive Effect of Cultural Symbols and Human Values on Taste Evaluation. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(2), 294-308. DOI: 10.1086/590319  

  • January 2, 2009
  • 06:49 AM

Reversal of cocaine addiction by environmental enrichment

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Addiction is one of those topics where there's a lot of morally hysterical yelling that generates plenty of heat but no illumination. It's also an area where we're making rapid and interesting scientific progress. One battle that was -- to my mind -- won a long time ago involved getting addiction taken seriously as in key respects a behaviour like any other. That doesn't mean addictive behaviour isn't odd in some respects, but rather that like any other behaviour it is sensitive to opportunity c........ Read more »

M. Solinas, C. Chauvet, N. Thiriet, R. El Rawas, & M. Jaber. (2008) From the Cover: Reversal of cocaine addiction by environmental enrichment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(44), 17145-17150. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806889105  

  • January 2, 2009
  • 06:32 AM

Exposure to Scientific Theories Affects Women’s Math Performance

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Hosting the December 2008 Praxis Carnival got me thinking again (partly courtesy of submissions by PodBlack Cat and Dr Isis) about the representation of women in science. When a seasonal clean out of one of the many folders filled with PDFs that I "really ought to read some time" turned up this paper, I figured to blag it.It's not controversial that in many sciences, including mathematics, women are under-represented compared to the ratios in the population at large. There's a lot of discussion ........ Read more »

  • January 2, 2009
  • 06:13 AM

BPSDB - Therapy as an alchemical process

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Here's some supremely nebulous tosh, among other things illustrating that peer-review on its own can easily be an empty charade. It's by no means clear what is being asserted here, and it's even less clear what reasons are being given. Here, to start with, is the abstract:In psychology, we can look at human beings either in their thing-like aspects or in their person-like aspects. One of the best places in which human beings can be studied as persons is in the arena of psychotherapy. Unfortunate........ Read more »

John Rowan. (2001) Therapy as an alchemical process. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 6(3), 273-288. DOI: 10.1080/14698490120112129  

  • December 24, 2008
  • 06:13 AM

Cold and Lonely

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Here's a lovely little bit of social psychology. It shows that some of our common metaphors correlate with a genuine association in experience, in this case between social exclusion and physical coldness. If you don't have a subscription, you can currently get a preprint of the paper here. Among other mentions of this research in the media, is this piece in the New York Times.This is the abstract:Metaphors such as icy stare depict social exclusion using cold-related concepts; they are not to be ........ Read more »

Chen-Bo Zhong, & Geoffrey J. Leonardelli. (2008) Cold and Lonely: Does Social Exclusion Literally Feel Cold?. Psychological Science, 19(9), 838-842. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02165.x  

  • September 3, 2008
  • 08:08 AM

Ecocultural basis of cognition: Farmers and fishermen are more holistic than herders

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Here's a fascinating paper that got some attention when first published a few months ago, although mostly in short blog pieces that quote the abstract in full and assert "this is cool". Here's an attempt to be more detailed. The paper finds that relatively specific differences in life circumstances are associated with differences in cognitive processing styles. I say that the differences in life circumstances were specific because the research subjects were from the same national, geographic, et........ Read more »

A. K. Uskul, S. Kitayama, & R. E. Nisbett. (2008) Ecocultural basis of cognition: Farmers and fishermen are more holistic than herders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(25), 8552-8556. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803874105  

  • August 23, 2008
  • 07:53 AM

Associations between iris characteristics and personality in adulthood

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

There's a body of data, some of it contested, relating eye colour, or eye colour at some ages, with personality traits. Among other things its been reported that there are associations between dark eyes and traits like extroversion (Gentry et al, 1965), and that among kindergarten children below certain ages blue-eyed children were disproportionately likely to be extremely withdrawn (Rubin and Both 1989). Apparently researchers in the area came to agree that eye colour had very little to do with........ Read more »

  • August 21, 2008
  • 02:23 AM

The spontaneous expression of pride and shame: Evidence for biologically innate nonverbal displays

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

The picture on the left shows two different judo competitors, just after winning a bout. One of them is sighted, the other congenitally blind. Can you tell which is which?It took longer than it should for the case that facial expressions of emotion are largely human universals to be made (in fact wider than human, and conserved across many species). Paul Ekman is a leading figure here, and his introduction to one of the many editions of Darwin's The expression of the emotions in man and animals ........ Read more »

  • August 14, 2008
  • 02:36 AM

Stress reduction through consolation in chimpanzees

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Consolation behaviour is interesting in various ways. Why do some individuals spend effort going and doing consoling things to some others? Why, for that matter, don't they sometimes? Why does it sometimes help? When doesn't it?One promising arena for shedding some light on these questions is observation of the smarter non-human social primates. (There are plenty of open avenues of enquiry here - one of my earlier posts on this blog relates to the effect of social support on perception of geogra........ Read more »

O Fraser, D Stahl, & F Aureli. (2008) Stress reduction through consolation in chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(25), 8557-8562. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0804141105  

  • August 11, 2008
  • 02:54 AM

Chimpanzees use self distraction to cope with impulsivity

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

This is an interesting and important paper about a strategy for dealing with impulsivity that has not previously been documented in non-humans. Here's the abstract:It is unknown whether animals, like humans, can employ behavioural strategies to cope with impulsivity. To examine this question, we tested whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) would use self-distraction as a coping strategy in a situation in which they had to continually inhibit responses to accumulating candies in order to ear........ Read more »

  • August 6, 2008
  • 02:58 AM

An analysis of the forces required to drag sheep over various surfaces

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

I'll be honest, I'm mostly blagging this piece from Applied Ergonomics (Volume 33, Number 6, November 2002) because it has such a terrific title. It's the title that got the paper an Ig Nobel (see this story in WIRED) a while ago, suggesting that the Ig Nobel processes at least sometimes don't get beyond the title.The motivation for the study was related to occupational health. Sheep shearing involves some dragging work, and the shearers are prone to back injuries plausibly r........ Read more »

  • August 3, 2008
  • 06:07 AM

Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines Mediates trans-Infection of HIV-1 from Red Blood Cells to Target Cells and Affects HIV-AIDS Susceptibility

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

So there's a genetic variation common in Africans, which both confers malaria resistance and facilitates HIV infection. I am totally not an expert in this area, but this is really important research, so I struggled through it in order to write it up. HIV/AIDS prevalence is disproportionately high in Africa, and we need to know why to try to figure out what to do about it. (For some prevalence data see here and here and especially the CIA world factbook rank order page here.) I've left ........ Read more »

  • July 29, 2008
  • 04:10 AM

Washing Away Your Sins: Threatened Morality and Physical Cleansing

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

Here’s some more cool social psychology, this time from a few years ago (2006). We’re all used to literary and other artistic associations between bad acts and physical dirtiness. In suitable formulaic television and film you can tell the ‘good’ from ‘bad’ characters almost instantly. The association is found in the figures of speech in a variety of languages. It’s an interesting question how cognitively deep the association is, and whether the pattern w........ Read more »

  • July 16, 2008
  • 06:12 AM

Neural encoding of the concept of nest in the mouse brain

by Doctor Spurt in Effortless Incitement

We're finding out cool stuff about the Hippocampus all the time. This paper, by Lin and colleagues, in PNAS last year, is a fine example. As it says on the box, they find evidence of interestingly selective responses - responses relating to nests - in the mouse brain. Thanks to Michael over at Ionian Enchantment for drawing my attention to this paper.The neurons in question were in the hippocampus. This brain region is known to be important for a variety of memory related, but also decision........ Read more »

L Lin, G Chen, H Kuang, D Wang, & J Tsien. (2007) Neural encoding of the concept of nest in the mouse brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(14), 6066-6071. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0701106104  

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