Friday Bites – 19/04/2013

Happy Friday guys and gals! With the start of the exam season coming up and revision becoming a drag we’ve thrown in a few links that’ll make you realise that some of the stuff you’re poring over actually has a few cool real life applications – enjoy!

Firstly, a difficult and sobering question – why don’t domestic offense victims just leave? And, perhaps more importantly, what drives men to abuse their partners? Second year psych students test your social psychology knowledge here, and also by exploring why all of us are capable of violence.

Sticking on the topic of sex differences, new findings have shed more light on why girls are frankly better young linguists than boys.

Clever Hans: the horse that can count, read, spell, and even give you the time! Or can he? Freshers, wise up for your upcoming Into to Learning exam!

Here’s another link to add to the increasingly mind-blowing movement that’s taking the fiction out of science fiction – not only can Harvard neuroscientist Gabriel Kreiman read your mind (find the study here), he’s now shown how you can accurately tell someone to stop doing something before they even started doing it. Soon he hopes to be able to reverse the decision you were about to make, before you even realise you made it. (Oh, on the note of decisions, research reported this week suggests that wrong decisions are down to bad info, not bad processing.) If Krieman’s mad neuro-skills weren’t enough though, brain scans can now decode your dreams (albeit with 60% accuracy) and we’ve found a video of the first real-time high-res visualisation of an entire brain. Crazy times!

Despite all of the cool things that are going on in the biological side of the psychology woods, however, it seems neuroscientists are getting a little ahead of themselves, with this piece adding to concern over the generally low statistical power used in such research. Bummer.

So alongside the known benefits of meditation – relaxation, greater wellbeing, etc – I bet you didn’t know you can also use meditation to change your core body temperature; score one for mind over matter!

Why do we cry? Darwin got it wrong (I suppose we can give the give the guy a break this once), but it seems that, sometimes, only after we realise we’re crying do we become sad. Matter over mind in this case then: 1-1 on the Bites tally.

Apparently, though, our brains can’t get enough of making us sad, but at least we now know how to directly put a stop to such mischief, with applications beyond depression.

Recently you may have seen news of a certain measles outbreak, which seems to boil down to a disastrous case of science gone wrong. Andrew Wakefield, the man responsible for drawing a nonexistent link between measles and autism, essentially put a lot of parents off giving their children the MMR vaccine, with the effects only now surfacing in regions that put his original work to press. Whilst Wakefield diverts responsibility to the government, one journalist understandably reflects on the things that shouldn’t be included in an Andrew Wakefield press release.

Also on autism, a book review reminds us that, although those with autism struggle to communicate with the rest of us, they have a special sensitivity for how each other feel – an ‘autdar’.

Another post from the same blog tells us of one’s mans struggle to release his late father’s work to the wider scientific community, online and for free…as it should be.

The chairman of the DSM-IV task force virulently discredits the DSM-5 in response to a misleading suggestion by the APA that it has official weighting and is required by clinicians who wish to be insured.

Away from the bureaucracy and controversy of squabbling academics, though, we find a lovely social experiment by Dove illustrating that women’s self-perceptions are more critical than how other people see them. This is just one of a few such social experiments that crop up from time to time – whoever said you needed to camp out at a fancy university with a PhD to do research? Certainly not these school kids anyway.

A guy called Zach Tratar has taken this idea a step further – he’s running an experiment on himself to push out the boundaries of his mind.

Synthesising training with novel drug treatment has reversed memory loss in sea snails, with prospects for applications to dementia in humans. On a slightly unrelated note, you’ll be amazed at how cool-looking sea slugs are (those of you who had a childhood will note a striking resemblance to pokemon, also). That was quite unrelated, wasn’t it? Perhaps the creator of pokemon stole nature’s idea of the whole sea-slug thing through cryptomnesia…maybe. At least it’s psychology related now.

On the psychology of communication, a blogger this week tells us of the sheer impact of body language on how others feel about us, and explores its effects on both others and ourselves. Another dispels a common myth that over 90% of communication is down to body language and instead proposes how to improve our verbal effectiveness in terms of conveying the right meaning.

Here’s a quick roster of some of psychology’s coolest current conceptualisations, which are almost as cool as the alliterative masterpiece you just witnessed.

And finally, as if you needed it, THE reason for contributing to PsyBites: how writing for us will make your dissertation a hit. Yup, really.

That’s it, have a lovely weekend everyone!

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