Archive for the ‘ Perception ’ Category

Jobs of Affective Scientists are safe, for now

The Fox TV show Lie to Me is based loosely on the work of Dr. Paul Ekman. Actually, to say it is loosely based on Ekman’s work is probably an overstatement. Ekman is a psychologist known for his research on emotions, namely the universality of basic emotions (i.e. happy, sad, fear, anger, disgust, surprise).

In contrast, the main character of the show is a entrepreneur-scientist who solves crimes based on emotional clues of witnesses and suspects. Paul Ekman actually has a weekly blog about the show, and he says that “most of what you see is based on scientific evidence,” but admits that the show takes poetic license.

Now get this, research is being done on a TV show based on research! How Meta! The executive summary of the research reported here is that the jobs of affective scientists are safe.

Lie to Me appears to increase skepticism at the cost of accuracy,” reports a research team led by Timothy Levine, a professor of communication at Michigan State University. Its study, published in the journalCommunication Research, finds watching the drama increases suspicion of others even as it reduces one’s ability to detect deception.

-Posted by Tyler

Rubber Robot Mouths for the Hearing Impaired

A team of researchers  is attempting to create an apparatus that not only learns how to articulate human speech, but also teaches hearing impaired individuals how to better articulate such speech (see original article) and even sing!

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It does this by using neural networks to adaptively learn how to vocalize using the constructed robot mouth. Then, the hearing impaired can use visual feedback to ascertain whether or not their utterances match the targets, or ideal utterances.

You can actually watch a video of the “creepy” little robot here. Apparently, it took a little bit of mocking in Popular Science to come to the forefront of my attention.

Nevertheless, it promises to be a useful tool for the hearing impaired who desire to not be speech impaired as well.

-Posted by Ashley

Photic Sneezers

I am a photic sneezer and so is my mother, 1 in 4 people are like us because they sneeze when exposed to bright light. Langer, Beeli, and Jancke (2010) published what they say is the first scientific examination of photic sneezers in the open-access peer-reviewed journal, Public Library of Science (PLoS).

The authors used electroencephalogram (EEG) to compare photic sneezers’ brain activity to a control group. They found

“enhanced excitability of the visual cortex (mainly in the cuneus) to visual stimuli in ‘photic sneezers’ compared with control subjects,” and “a stronger prickling sensation in the nose of photic sneezers was found to be associated with activation in the insula and stronger activation in the secondary somatosensory cortex.”

A photic sneeze has been assumed to be a reflex, however with this new evidence showing cortical activation, this type of sneezing cannot be categorized as a ‘classical reflex,’ or one that originates in the brain stem or spinal cord.

-Posted by Tyler

H1N1 Flu Vaccine: Supply & Demand

After the newest strain of the flu (H1N1) was reported and the first death was a child the public was confused and scared (calling the microbe “swine” flu probably didn’t help). Schools in New York City were being closed by the Mayor and the Governor at press conferences. People everywhere were infected and everyone was vulnerable because no one had immunity. In June, 2009, the World Health Organization declared the flu a pandemic. Models predicted millions would die. People didn’t know whether there was enough time to manufacture vaccines and demand was HIGH. Hysteria abounded.

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Texting While Driving Worse Than Talking While Driving- Why?

Obviously it is hazardous to use a cell phone while driving. This is not new.

With the new popularity of texting, however, more studies are coming out on the topic of texting. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society reported that researchers found that people tend to switch attention between texting and driving, while they tend to divide attention while talking on a cell phone and driving. So, while talking, some attention is still reserved for the important task of driving, whereas no attention may be reserved for driving when one is texting.

See original article here (link).

Some other interesting findings: in a report by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash (link) and more than 25% of teens have reported texting and driving (link).

-Posted by Ashley

It’s About Time

Two new mentions of psychological science in the news, both about time.

In the first, when people are asked think about the future or the past the tend to either lean forward or backward respectively (link to New York Times article, link to short article in Psych. Science). This new study is couched in the area of research known as embodied cognition (or grounded cognition). Researchers at Texas A&M University have also found that when participants lie back reclined they tend to have a broader attentional focus, and sitting forward leads to narrower attentional focus (as measured by the Navon Letter task).

The second mention is an interview with Baylor professor, David Eagleman, about his research on time and the subjective feeling that time flies as we age (link, complete with audio! and a video with Homer Simpson!). Prof. Eagleman argues that the present isn’t any “faster” than the past, its just that the past, and novel experiences in general, are encoded more richly and thus “reading them back gives you a feeling that they must have taken forever.”

-Posted by Tyler