Article Description
Verbal Abuse of Children: What Can You Do About It? What can be done when parents, who are supposed to be nurturing their children, instead treat them destructively with raging and use them as pawns to fight their own battles? read more
Animals could help reveal why humans fall for optical illusions | Laura and Jennifer Kelley Understanding whether different species are prey to the same illusions could provide clues about how evolution shapes visual perceptionVisual illusions, such as the rabbit-duck (shown above) and café wall (shown below) are fascinating because they remind us of the discrepancy between perception and reality. But our knowledge of such illusions has been largely limited to studying humans.That is now changing. There is mounting evidence that other animals can fall prey to the same illusions. Understanding whether these illusions arise in different brains could help us understand how evolution shapes visual perception.For neuroscientists and psychologists, illusions not only reveal how visual scenes are interpreted and mentally reconstructed, they also highlight constraints in our perception. They can take hundreds of different forms and can affect our perception of size, motion, colour, brightness, 3D form and much more.Artists, architects and designers have used illusions for centuries to distort our perception. Some of the most common types of illusory percepts are those that affect the impression of size, length or distance. For example, Ancient Greek architects designed columns for buildings so that they tapered and narrowed towards the top, creating the impression of a taller building when viewed from the ground. This type of illusion is called forced perspective, commonly used in ornamental gardens and stage design to make scenes appear larger or smaller.As visual processing needs to be both rapid and generally accurate, the brain constantly uses shortcuts and makes assumptions about the world that can, in some cases, be misleading. For example, the brain uses assumptions and the visual information surrounding an object (such as light level and presence of shadows) to adjust the perception of colour accordingly.Known as colour constancy, this perceptual process can be illustrated by the illusion of the coloured tiles. Both squares with asterisks are of the same colour, but the square on top of the cube in direct light appears brown whereas the square on the side in shadow appears orange, because the brain adjusts colour perception based on light conditions.These illusions are the result of visual processes shaped by evolution. Using that process may have been once beneficial (or still is), but it also allows our brains to be tricked. If it happens to humans, then it might happen to other animals too. And, if animals are tricked by the same illusions, then perhaps revealing why a different evolutionary path leads to the same visual process might help us understand why evolution favours this development.The idea that animal colouration might appear illusory was raised more than 100 years ago by American artist and naturalist Abbott Thayer and his son Gerald. Thayer was aware of the "optical tricks" used by artists and he argued that animal colouration could similarly create special effects, allowing animals with gaudy colouration to apparently become invisible.In a recent review of animal illusions (and other sensory forms of manipulation), we found evidence in support of Thayer's original ideas. Although the evidence is only recently emerging, it seems, like humans, animals can perceive and create a range of visual illusions.Animals use visual signals (such as their colour patterns) for many purposes, including finding a mate and avoiding being eaten. Illusions can play a role in many of these scenarios.Great bowerbirds could be the ultimate illusory artists. For example, their males construct forced perspective illusions to make them more attractive to mates. Similar to Greek architects, this illusion may affect the female's perception of size.Animals may also change their perceived size by changing their social surroundings. Female fiddler crabs prefer to mate with large-clawed males. When a male has two smaller clawed males on either side of him he is more attractive to a female (because he looks relatively larger) than if he was surrounded by two larger clawed males.This effect is known as the Ebbinghaus illusion (see image), and suggests that males may easily manipulate their perceived attractiveness by surrounding themselves with less attractive rivals. However, there is not yet any evidence that male fiddler crabs actively move to court near smaller males.We still know very little about how non-human animals process visual information so the perceptual effects of many illusions remains untested. There is variation among species in terms of how illusions are perceived, highlighting that every species occupies its own unique perceptual world with different sets of rules and constraints. But the 19th Century physiologist Johannes Purkinje was onto something when he said:Deceptions of the senses are the truths of perception.In the past 50 years, scientists have become aware that the sensory abilities of animals can be radically different from our own. Visual illusions (and those in the non-visual senses) are a crucial tool for determining what perceptual assumptions animals make about the world around them."¢ This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
As military sex cases end, more calls for change Advocates for women said the results of two recent cases were more proof the military justice system needs an overhaul.
Is homework making your child sick? Children on both ends of the economic spectrum may face health risks, including depression and anxiety.
Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper | Dana Nuccitelli After threats of frivolous libel and defamation lawsuits, a journal will retract an academically sound paperGiven that fewer than 3 percent of peer-reviewed climate science papers conclude that the human influence on global warming is minimal, climate contrarians have obviously been unable to make a convincing scientific case. Thus in order to advance their agenda of delaying climate solutions and maintaining the status quo in the face of a 97 percent expert consensus suggesting that this is a high-risk path, contrarians have engaged in a variety of unconventional tactics.* Funding a campaign to deny the expert climate consensus.* Harassing climate scientists and universities with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests.* Engaging in personal, defamatory public attacks on climate scientists.* Flooding climate scientists with abusive emails.* Illegally hacking university servers and stealing their emails.* Illegally hacking climate science websites* Harassing journals to retract inconvenient research.That final tactic has evolved, from merely sending the journal publishers a petition signed by a bunch of contrarians, to sending journals letters threatening libel and defamation lawsuits. Although to date all editors involved have resisted such unwarranted intimidation, an online journal is on the verge of retracting a paper due to worries about lawsuits.NASA Faked the Moon LandingThe story begins with the publication of a paper titled NASA Faked the Moon Landing"”Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science. The paper was authored by Lewandwosky, Oberauer, and Gignac, and published in the journal Psychological Science in 2012. Using survey data from visitors to climate blogs, the paper found that conspiracy theorists are more likely to be skeptical of scientists' conclusions about vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change.This result was replicated in a follow-up study using a representative U.S. sample that obtained the same result linking conspiratorial thinking to climate denial.Suffice it to say climate contrarians didn't like the conclusions of this paper. Ironically, many contrarian bloggers and blog commenters came up with a variety of conspiracy theories about the Lewandowsky paper. As Lewandowsky and John Cook later wrote,"These range from "global climate activist operation" to "ringleader for conspiratorial activities by the green climate bloggers," to Stephan Lewandowsky receiving millions of dollars to run The Conversation."The contrarians had inadvertently provided fertile material for further research, which John Cook began to harvest, collecting all of the blog conspiracy theories about their conspiracy theory paper into a spreadsheet. That catalog became the basis for a follow-up paper.Recursive FuryLewandowsky, known for his creative publication titles, came up with another doozy for the follow-up paper: Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. The paper, authored by Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer, and Marriott, was published in the journal Frontiers on 18 March 2013. That study concluded,"...many of the [conspiratorial] hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12 [the NASA paper], some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere's response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future."Stepping back for a moment to take stock of the situation, it's really not surprising that climate contrarians as a group would tend to exhibit conspiratorial thinking. After all, 97 percent of climate experts and climate research contradicts their beliefs. When you're a non-expert who doesn't want to believe the conclusions of 97 percent of experts, how do you justify that position, psychologically? Writing those experts off as being part of a conspiracy is probably the easiest avenue to take.Frontiers Bails OutHowever, nobody likes being called a conspiracy theorist, and thus climate contrarians really didn't appreciate Recursive Fury. Very soon after its publication, the journal Frontiers was receiving letters from contrarians threatening libel lawsuits (Graham Readfearn has some details). In late March 2013, the journal decided to "provisionally remove the link to the article while these issues are investigated." The paper was in limbo for nearly a full year until Frontiers finally caved to these threats.In its investigation, the journal found no academic or ethical problems with Recursive Fury. However, the fear of being sued by contrarians for libel remained. Frontiers explains (emphasis added),"In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors."The University of Western Australia (UWA: Lewandowsky's university when Recursive Fury was published – he later moved to the University of Bristol) also investigated the matter and found no academic, ethical, or legal problems with the paper. In fact, UWA is so confident in the validity of the paper that they're hosting it on their own servers.After nearly a year of discussions between the journal, the paper authors, and lawyers on both sides, Frontiers made it clear that they were unwilling to take the risk of publishing the paper and being open to potential frivolous lawsuits. Peter Sinclair has a video of Lewandowsky discussing the contrarian academic censorship strategies.It's unfortunate that the Frontiers editors were unwilling to stand behind a study that they admitted was sound from an academic and ethical standpoint, especially since UWA concluded the paper would withstand a legal assault. This series of events should be a wake-up call to editors and publishers that they must remain resilient to organized campaigns by the blogosphere. Academics can no longer be confident that the Frontiers staff will stand behind them if they publish research in the journal and are subjected to similar frivolous attacks. Frontiers may very well be worse off having lost the confidence of the academic community than if they had called the bluffs of the contrarians threatening frivolous lawsuits.Fortunately, several journals and organizations have stood up against this type of contrarian bullying. The journal Environmental Research Letters easily withstood the campaign against our consensus paper, and the Australian Psychological Society has been very supportive of Lewandowsky and his team, as has the Association for Psychological Science. These groups offer a good example for journals to follow when subjected to organized bullying from contrarians trying to censor sound but inconvenient research.Climate changeClimate change scepticismPsychologyClimate changeDana © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Happiness is Contagious and Powerful on Social Media Study of over one billion status updates finds that positive emotions are more contagious than negative.→ Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick" Related articles:"Is the Internet Good/Bad For You?" and Other Dumb Questions Social Rejection Triggers Release of Natural Painkillers in the Brain 4 Dark Sides To The Pursuit of Happiness PsyBlog is on Twitter, Facebook...and now Google+ The Body Map of Emotions: Happiness Activates the Whole Body
Diffuse brain damage can occur with no signs of 'concussion' in rats, reports study A standard experimental model of concussion in rats causes substantial brain damage -"” but no behavioral changes comparable to those seen in patients with concussion, reports a study. The results highlight the "disconnect" between preclinical and clinical studies of concussion. The study also adds to concerns over the possible long-term effects of repeated, "subconcussive" brain trauma -- causing no concussion symptoms -- in humans.
Gene family linked to brain evolution implicated in severity of autism symptoms The same gene family that may have helped the human brain become larger and more complex than in any other animal also is linked to the severity of autism. The gene family is made up of over 270 copies of a segment of DNA called DUF1220. DUF1220 codes for a protein domain -- a specific functionally important segment within a protein. The more copies of a specific DUF1220 subtype a person with autism has, the more severe the symptoms, according to a new paper.
Homeless with TBI more likely to visit ER Homeless and vulnerably housed people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in their life are more likely to visit an emergency department, be arrested or incarcerated, or be victims of physical assault, new research has found. "Given the high costs of Emergency Department visits and the burden of crime on society, these findings have important public health and criminal justice implications," the researchers write.
Darwin, Dillard, and Dukkha Biologists and Buddhists alike know that the living world is gorgeous and wonderful - but that it is also filled with pain and suffering. And natural selection, sometimes brutal and always amoral, is behind both life's glory and its more
4 Benefits of Professional Supervision Are you in a leadership position in your profession? Where do you discuss your ideas, debrief from a stressful day, analyse challenges and increase your self-awareness? Are you uncertain of what to do next in your career? Professional supervision provides you the opportunity to manage your situation through critical reflection and self-discovery. Here are 4 […]
Bedside optical monitoring of cerebral blood flow shows promise for individualized care in stroke patients Using a device to noninvasively and continuously monitor cerebral blood flow (CBF) in acute stroke patients, researchers are now learning how head of bed (HOB) positioning affects blood flow reaching the brain following stroke. Most patients admitted to the hospital with an acute stroke are kept flat for at least 24 hours in an effort to increase CBF in vulnerable brain regions surrounding the damaged tissue.
Slowing down Alzheimer's: Researchers discover potential way A way to potentially halt the progression of dementia caused by accumulation of a protein known as tau has been discovered by researchers. Normally, tau protein is involved in microtubule formation, which acts as a brain cell's transportation system for carrying nutrients in and waste out. In the absence of tau protein, brain cells become dysfunctional and eventually die.
The scientific quest to prove bisexuality exists People are using science to show that someone can be truly attracted to both a man and a woman.
Justices may decide if vendors can snub gay weddings A photography case pits two constitutional rights against each other: freedom of speech and equal protection.
Mindfulness meditation may reduce drug user relapse New study suggests that meditation techniques may help prevent addiction relapses.
Tooth loss linked to depression, anxiety Tooth loss from caries and periodontal disease is an outcome from complex, chronic conditions. Several biopsychosocial factors are involved, including accessing care. Individuals reporting dental anxiety may avoid dental care; and individuals with depression may be negligent in self-care. In this study, researchers examined a potential association of tooth loss with depression and anxiety.
Mysterious Brain Region That is Vital to How You Decide Whether you're choosing between job offers or deciding which car or house to buy, this region is probably involved.→ Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick" Related articles:Beauty in Art and Mathematics Activates The Same Brain Region Unique Human Brain Area Identified that Separates Us From Monkeys Family Problems In Childhood Affect Brain Development Autism: Vital Link Found Between Vitamin D and Serotonin Production How New Ideas Change Your Brain Cells
Stem cell combination therapy improves traumatic brain injury outcomes A combination stem cell therapy utilizing umbilical cord cell and growth factor treatment improves traumatic brain injury outcomes in animal models and could offer hope for millions, including US war veterans with traumatic brain injuries, new research shows. The researchers concluded that additional studies of this combination therapy are warranted in order to better understand their modes of action.
Surgery after major stroke also improves survival odds in elderly patients Patients who are over the age of 60 and have suffered a major stroke due to blockage of the middle cerebral artery benefit from hemicraniectomy -- removal of part of the skull located above the affected brain tissue. These patients' chances of survival increase two-fold. However, patients who have been operated on often survive with severe disabilities, while patients who do not undergo the surgery generally die quickly.