Critical Thinking about Psychology Lecture Two Don’t Believe Your Eyes Administration Room change Wednesday 9am seminar is in W0.01 Seminars start next week! Last time… We talked about how common beliefs about behaviour can be wrong How much of the findings of psychological research are counter-intuitive Illusion of explanatory depth. This week we will go on to discuss other reasons why people’s conceptions about behaviour are wrong Seeing patterns where none exist Lack of self-knowledge We lack self-knowledge Often the reasons for our behaviour are not accessible to us Nisbett and Ross (1977) asked participants to judge the quality of different pairs of tights all of the tights were in fact identical the order in which the tights were presented varied Results participants always chose the last pair presented However, they always generated plausible explanations “this pair was a better quality” or “a nicer colour” None stated that they had chosen them because they were the last pair Modelling Behaviour children and neonates model the behaviour of similar things occur with smiling, nodding in conversations, mirroring body postures, etc. adults Provine (1986) 55% of participants yawned within 5 minutes of watching a yawn video contagious yawning Why do we engage in such modelling behaviour? Chartrand and Bargh (1999) Participants interacted with confederates during an experiment Confederate 1: shook foot Confederate 2: rubbed face Participant responses matched confederate behaviour Dabbs (1969) Confederates who mimicked them were rated as having good ideas and being well-informed If we act like other people then they will like us more! Seeing patterns where none exist Often we can be fooled into thinking that a relationship exists between two variables when in fact none exists E.g. lunar effects This tendency underpins many curious examples from pseudoscience and parapsychology The Face on Mars! Viking 1 in 1976 took the following image of an apparent face on Mars Perhaps, built by martians and indicating an ancient civilisation? Perhaps by the same people who built the ancient airstrips in Peru? Or by those who made crop circles in Wiltshire? Ancient Astronauts! Crop Circles Kermit the Frog on Mars? The Face on Mars revisited Photos from later missions sadly revealed that the face was just a bunch of hills. Pareidolia/Apophenia These terms can be used interchangeably to describe the tendency for us to see patterns in random data It is particularly pronounced when we try to make sense of obscure, out of focus or partial images. It highlights the use of “top-down” processing in cognition We are using our knowledge of the world to try to make sense of ambiguous data What is this? At first we just see random dots Then a picture of a dog emerges Clearly being able to make sense of imperfect information is beneficial But it sometimes leads to error… Religious artefacts Images of mother Theresa in cinnamon buns Mother Theresa A cinnamon bun Hearing voices We also make errors with ambiguous sounds. In this next section we will examine some related phenomena Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) backward masking of hidden messages in rock music Electronic Voice Phenomena When people die they become spirits – sources of energy They interact with electronic recording equipment to leave messages… Hidden Messages In the 1970s there was much consternation that satanic messages were hidden in popular music These messages only became apparent when they were played backwards http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking.htm Interpreting ambiguous sounds Our language systems are highly developed at making sense of ambiguous sounds. For example, Warren (1970) examined the phoneme restoration. Replaced a phoneme with a cough in the following sentences It was found that the (cough)eel was on the axle It was found that the (cough)eel was on the orange It was found that the (cough)eel was on the fishing-rod It was found that the (cough)eel was on the table We make sense of ambiguous sounds using our prior knowledge. So what have we learned today? Explaining human behaviour isn’t always straightforward We don’t always have insights into our behaviour We often see patterns which do not actually exist In order to draw sensible conclusions about the nature of behaviour we need to think critically about psychology. It’s my second week here and I really want to do some background reading… Alcock, J.E. Electronic Voice Phenomena: Voices of the Dead? Skeptical Enquirer Available online at: http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/evp.html Stafford, T. (2007). Isn’t it all just obvious? The Psychologist, 20,2,94- 95. Wilson, Timothy D. (2002). Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press. Chapter 5.