Just World Belief and helping behaviors

31 03 2006

The always excellent Cognitive Daily showcases a phenomenon that we are studying this week in Chapter 12 (Social Psychology) – Just World Belief.

Cognitive Daily: Extreme volunteering: What a “just world” has to do with helping others:

Even at the average level of BJW, participants were significantly more likely to help the victim they believed was not responsible for the disease (since the disease was genetic), compared to a victim who brought it on herself (since she caught it through unprotected sex). As BJW increased, participants offered significantly more help to the victim not responsible for the disease, but their level of help for victims responsible for the condition stayed the same.

I provided a comment, adding to the soupy mix about BJW and other related traits and behaviors.

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Newsweek: Celebrating Sigmund Freud’s 150th Birthday

24 03 2006

It was the neo-Freudian, Carl Jung, who proposed the idea of syncronicity, and it is playing itself out with my General Psychology class. This week we’re studying Meyers’ Chapter 12, on personality. I just got done lecturing about Freud’s ideas of how our personality works: the Id, Ego, and Superego. Imagine my delight when I found a link to this Newsweek article in the excellent Mind Hacks:

Freud: At 150, He’s Still Captivating Us

The theoretician who explored a vast new realm of the mind, the unconscious: a roiling dungeon of painful memories clamoring to be heard and now and then escaping into awareness by way of dreams, slips of the tongue and mental illness. The philosopher who identified childhood experience, not racial destiny or family fate, as the crucible of character. The therapist who invented a specific form of treatment, psychoanalysis, which advanced the revolutionary notion that actual diagnosable disease can be cured by a method that dates to the dawn of humanity: talk. Not by prayer, sacrifice or exorcism; not by drugs, surgery or change of diet, but by recollection and reflection in the presence of a sympathetic professional. It is an idea wholly at odds with our technological temperament, yet the mountains of Prozac prescribed every year have failed to bury it. Not many patients still seek a cure on a psychoanalyst’s couch four days a week, but the vast proliferation of talk therapies—Jungian and Adlerian analyses, cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapy—testify to the enduring power of his idea.

I mostly downplay Freud’s ideas (mostly because of their resistance to testable hypotheses, but it is still important to know (and to celebrate) just how influential he was on the formation of our ideas of psychological therapy.

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Cognitive Daily: Unknown White Male

24 03 2006

I posted in this space a while back about the film Unknown White Male. Cognitive Daily has an article about the cognitive aspects of it. Read the comments, and the Washington Post article referenced in one of the comments.
Cognitive Daily: Unknown White Male:

A few nights ago, Greta and I watched the movie Unknown White Male, which purports to be a true case history of a 33-year-old man, Doug Bruce, who suddenly and inexplicably lost his entire episodic memory and much of his semantic memory. In fact, the movie demonstrates the inadequacy of such categories — what, for example, is the memory of the concept “ocean”? In one sense, it’s purely semantic: an ocean is a large body of salt water. But when Bruce visits the ocean for the first time following his amnesia, he is overwhelmed with a vast array of new sensations, from the sound and power of the surf, to the water filtering the soft sand through his feet. This particular ocean visit could become an episodic memory, but isn’t there a semantic aspect to the power of the surf? Bruce can’t remember whether or not he can swim, but when he dives into the water, he quickly realizes he can stroke effortlessly through the waves. Is all knowledge of swimming procedural, or are there finer points of such knowledge, such as “keep your elbows up” better characterized as semantic?

In my comment to Dave’s post, I suggest this may be a case of Dissociative Fugue. What do you think?

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Synesthesia and emotion, and its possible connection to mysticism

16 03 2006

The excellent Cognitive Daily covers the possible connections between synesthesia and emotion and mysticism. I also am interested in this phenomenon, and the ways in which mystical states may be initiated by, or part of what we call synesthesia. I know indigenous healers, and they say that they can “smell” certain energies, and can “see” energetic fields. That is awfully close to synesthesia.

When I teach sensation andperception, I always point out to my students how we have these limited sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc) that detect two things – energy and chemicals (eyes – electromagnietic energy; ears – mechanical energy [air compresssion]; touch – mechanical energy & heat energy; taste & smell – chemicals). Our perception allows us to create sensory experience and “reality.” Some people, who have more profound connections between sensory systems, may be able to perceive in extraordinary ways.

Cognitive Daily: When emotions make you see colors:

several other studies have shown a similar correspondence between color and emotion — people tend to associate lighter and more saturated colors like yellow, green, and red with positive emotions, and darker and less saturated colors with negative emotions. GW, he argues, may be merely experiencing an exaggerated version of this effect….

Synesthesia may also explain why so many folkloric traditions involve special people being able to see “auras” or other mystical features in others. These individuals might then be imbued by association with other “magical” abilities.

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