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Can I Touch Your Face?

November 23rd, 2014 3 comments

Stepbrothers: click the image

Imagine feeling around in your kitchen’s miscellaneous junk drawer in the dark—among rubber bands, lighters, pencil sharpeners, and notepads—for a ballpoint pen. Not a pencil, and certainly not a highlighter. But that specific shape of pen. You know what a pen feels like, having felt them and seen them many times before, so the dark gives you no issue and you pull out exactly what you are looking for.

Our bodies have many ways of interacting with surroundings and objects. All senses powerfully work together to interpret what an object is based on its size, weight, texture, color, even smell. Sometimes these senses are isolated, so we rely on solely on sight or exclusively on touch, seemingly very different methods we employ. Having great visual interpretation, as if you have a keen eye for painting styles, seems to not necessarily make you better at identifying a sculptor’s work by touching and feeling the art. (Make sure to wait until the docent has their back turned!) But much like training your body to run faster can help you swim better, training one sense could improve another.

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Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater. Or So You think.

 Ever met someone you just don’t trust? Maybe it’s something about their face. Maybe you heard something about them from a friend that made you wince in disgust. Research shows that this distrust tends to be a stubborn figment in our imaginations—even when we learn that our reasoning for distrusting someone is unfounded, we have a hard time accepting that the person in question is trust-worthy. A group of cognitive psychologists from Japan wondered why this is the case. Their question: why is it that we’re so good at remembering people who are “cheaters?” Given that we’re social animals cooperatively working to make this thing called society work, is it possible that we’re hard-wired to explicitly identify others who take nefarious advantage of our cooperation? Perhaps evolution is at play, and we need this ability to continue to make society viable (Suzuki, Honma, and Suga, 2013). They wondered just that and decided to study this question with a series of experiments testing the durability of stigma participants held in their study.

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Who’s That Chick? How You Identify and Recognize the Hotties Around You

April 30th, 2014 5 comments

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It happens to everyone: you’re walking around campus when all of a sudden you see “Hottie Number One” or “Hot Girl Number Three,” or “Hot Dude From Dana.” We are students on a small campus; therefore, we start to recognize people after just a few weeks of being here. But why do we recognize some people more than others? Based upon personal interactions, people from all aspects of the sexuality spectrum seem to say that they run into “Hottie Number One” more often than they do other people. Perhaps even more interesting is that people seem to recognize potentially compatible hotties – straight people tend notice straight hotties whereas gay people tend to notice gay hotties. What makes us recognize the hotties better than we do other people? And how do we manage to focus on potentially compatible hotties? What about the hotties with non-compatible sexual orientations?

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The Colors of the Alphabet

April 27th, 2013 6 comments

Imagine that you could taste sounds.  If you were lucky, your name would be delicious—every time someone said it you might taste that one fruit smoothie you love or a fresh-baked cookie.  Each word would be like sampling a new flavor, for better or worse.  This is a form of synesthesia, a condition in which one sense activates a separate sense.  Color-grapheme synesthesia seems more believable to most people.  Due to this condition, about 5% of the world’s population sees numbers and letters as inherently colored, even if they are printed in black.  This can actually improve performance on some tasks, such as a visual search.  The left half of the picture below shows the vision of a normal individual; the right half shows that of an individual with synesthesia.  As you can see, it is much easier to find the 2’s for an individual with synesthesia.

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