“These images are identical, yet the tower on the right appears to lean more. Why?
Frederick Kingdom, Ali Yoonessi, and Elena Gheorghiu of McGill University discovered this effect in 2007. Normally parallel towers viewed from below appear to converge with distance; because that doesn’t happen here, the brain infers that the towers are diverging.”
The correct answer is $5.
If you got this right then according to a study by Harvard neuroscientist and philosopher Joshua Greene, you are more likely to be skeptical of religion. If you had said $10, then you are more inclined to believe in religion.
Although $0.10 comes easily to mind (it’s the intuitive answer), it takes some analytical thought to come up with the correct answer of $0.05. People who chose more intuitive answers on these questions were more likely to report stronger religious beliefs, even when the researchers controlled for IQ, education, political leanings, and other factors.
What’s even more interesting is that a new study by UBC’s Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan that would suggest that if you encourage analytical thinking, you can also encourage disbelief in religion.
To test this idea, the duo devised several ways to subconsciously put people in what they considered a more analytical mindset. In one experiment with 57 undergraduate students, some volunteers viewed artwork depicting a reflective thinking pose (such as Rodin’s The Thinker) while others viewed art depicting less intellectual pursuits (such as throwing a discus) before answering questionnaires about their faith. In another experiment with 93 undergraduates and a larger sample of 148 American adults recruited online, some subjects solved word puzzles that incorporated words such as “analyze,” “reason,” and “ponder,” while others completed similar puzzles with only words unrelated to thinking, such as “high” and “plane.” In all of these experiments, people who got the thinking-related cues reported weaker religious beliefs on the questionnaires taken afterward than did the control group.
“It has been observed at least since the time of Aristotle that people cannot tickle themselves, but the reason remains elusive.”
What we have here is a research paper (by CHRISTINE R. HARRIS and NICHOLAS CHRISTENFELD) that looks at a variety of hypotheses (namely two called the reflex and the interpersonal)on this phenomenon, and then attempts to discern the two by using a “tickling machine.” Here’s the rest of the abstract:
Two sorts of explanations have been suggested. The interpersonal explanation suggests that tickling is fundamentally interpersonal and thus requires another person as the source of the touch. The reflex explanation suggests that tickle simply requires an element of unpredictability or uncontrollability and is more like a reflex or some other stereotyped motor pattern. To test these explanations, we manipulated the perceived source of tickling. Thirty-five subjects were tickled twice–once by the experimenter, and once, they believed, by an automated machine. The reflex view predicts that our “tickle machine” should be as effective as a person in producing laughter, whereas the interpersonal view predicts significantly attenuated responses. Supporting the reflex view, subjects smiled, laughed, and wiggled just as often in response to the machine as to the experimenter. Self-reports of ticklishness were also virtually identical in the two conditions. Ticklish laughter evidently does not require that the stimulation be attributed to another person, as interpersonal accounts imply.
The entire paper is here (in pdf format) for you to take a look at, but I thought the Apparatus and Materials section in the Methodology was worth sharing additionally (i.e. how to build a tickling machine).
The tickle machine was designed to look and sound like a robotic hand that was capable of movement without the experimenter’s assistance. The hand was attached by a long flexible hose to an impressive array of equipment that could plausibly control its motion. This equipment, when turned on, produced a vibrating sound that could be that of a genuine robotic apparatus.
You know, I’d be real curious to see what the grant application looked like for this type of research…
Then you might get this…
From the always interesting Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
For the neuroscientist.
From Toothpaste for Dinner.
That would be exposure to Neil Young on the right. Curious to see what would happen if a plant was exposed to Justin Bieber… (This image might be fun for a botany or music/neuroscience related slide).
“If (David) Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”
Read more at the New Yorker.