I See Psychology… Everywhere

Familiar Smells and Sleep Aid Memory

We’d have to read the article to get the extent of statistical reliability from the results, but this sounds interesting:

The next day, the rose-scented sleepers remembered the locations of those cards better than people who didn’t get a whiff — they answered correctly 97 percent of the time compared with 86 percent.

We know that extensive and broad associations aid with memory, so are these smells serving as an additional memory cue?


9 March 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

Face Recognition from Minimal Pixelation

The superb blog Cognitive Daily reports on a great study showing our ability to recognize faces from as few as 6 pixels across. This is pretty astounding stuff, and it demonstrates the incredible power of the mind to make sense of what may at first glance appear to be random stimuli. Yet another victory for Gestalt theorists!

via BoingBoing

6 March 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

The Neuroscience of the Gestalt–More Face Science

face1902.jpgThe Times has a nice piece on the science of face recognition. They do a nice job discussing the neuroscience behind the tendency to see faces in things. (if you’re interested, see my earlier post on a similar topic.)

Researchers know that we’re predisposed to recognize facial patterns for some obvious reasons, but those faces can become so convincing that many of us interpret them as a miracle. We often see what we want to see, but more often, we see what our brain thinks we should see–it’s working overtime to make sense of meaningless patterns.

It’s a good read, and I think articles like this can go a long way to help people think critically. It’s not that it means people have to abandon their religious beliefs or faith, but they also need to know what the science says might explain such phenomena. Might even be liberating!

13 February 2007 Posted by | Cognitive, Evolutionary Psychology, Physiological, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

The Science of Beer Goggles

All the fun research takes place in Scotland! Seems researchers there have explored the neuroscience of the effect that alcohol has on the perception of attractiveness in other people. Here’s the formula:

β =

(An)2 x d(S + 1)

√L x (Vo)2

      • An is the number of servings of alcohol

      • S is the smokiness of the area on a scale of 0 – 10

      • L is the lighting level of the area, measured in candelas per square meter, in which 150 is normal room lightning

      • Vo is Snellen visual acuity, in which 6/6 is normal and 6/12 is the lower limit at which someone is able to drive

      • d is the distance between the observer and the observed, measured in meters

The formula works out a “beer goggle” score ranging from 1 to 100+. When β = 1, the observer is perceiving the same degree of beauty he or she would perceive in a sober state. At 100+, everybody in the room is a perfect 10.

h/t Billy, who asks how this works if you’re too drunk to do the math!

9 February 2007 Posted by | Physiological, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

Brain Stimulation Creates Creepy Sensation

Interesting report on specific brain stimulation producing the sensation of being watched or followed.  Here’s an excerpt from the news release of the finding, reported in Nature:

When they electrically stimulated the left temporoparietal junction in her brain, which is linked to self-other distinction and self-processing, she thought someone was standing behind her.

If they repeated the stimulus while she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had an unpleasant sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her.

I wasn’t really familiar with the temporoparietal junction being associated with self-other distinctions, but there you go.  I’m curious to know what purpose this might serve evolutionarily, and why we may sometimes be accurate in those perceptions.  As they say, you’re not really paranoid if they really ARE out to get you.

21 September 2006 Posted by | Physiological, Sensation & Perception | 1 Comment

Autistic Stephen Wiltshire

This is the website of British autistic Stephen Wiltshire, who’s been called the “Living Camera” for his ability to draw huge landscapes upon viewing, entirely from memory. His site provides some insight into autism, and his work is incredible!

Here‘s a video of his construction, via Neatorama.

31 August 2006 Posted by | Clinical, Sensation & Perception | Leave a comment

Psyc of Religion or Confirmation Bias?

Neatorama has a nice roundup of recent religious “sightings.” Through chocolate, wood, and reptile skin, we either find revelations or selective perception–seeing what we expect (or want) to see. Enjoy.


31 August 2006 Posted by | Cognitive, Research, Sensation & Perception | 1 Comment