Category Archives: Psychology
Humans have the ability to recognise and perceive more than one million different colours. Our eyes are organs that capture light bouncing off objects and project an (upside-down) image onto the retina. These images are then sent to the brain, which is then able to interpret objects, shapes, and colours.
The brain does all the hard work when it comes to seeing things, but the eyes themselves determine colours for us. The fact we can see any colour at all is due to cells in our retinas called cone cells. There are three different types of “cone” at the back of our eyeballs, each able to distinguish 100 shades. All we need to do is open our eyes, and the three types of cone automatically work together to form combinations of shades, deliver these messages to the brain via the optic nerve, and we see colours.
One million is an incredible amount of colours that the eyes can distinguish, purely by shade-detecting cells converting scattered light into electromagnetic impulses. However, neuroscientists at Newcastle University believe that there may be women living amonst us who naturally have “super-human” vision, able to see a hundred times more colours than men.
Why should this be? Well, colour blindness is a consequence of mutations in genes that determine cone cells. Since many of these genes occur in the X chromosome, it means that colour blindness is much more common among males than females. However, a side-effect of this could be that a small percentage of women may actually be born with four colour cones instead of three. This would give their eyes the potential to see one hundred million colours instead of just one millon.
Scientists in the US say that computer games actually have the opposite effect, with research suggesting that gaming improves creativity, decision-making and perception. Computer games can in fact improve a number of skills ranging from hand-eye coordination to night-time driving ability.
Statistics from the research show that people who play action-based videogames are able to make accurate decisions 25% faster than others. It also found that female gamers were more able to mentally manipulate 3D objects.
Obviously, computer games are dangerous if played in excess: sitting around in front of the screen all day will gradually contribute to obesity, laziness, and sqaure eyes. Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of computer games in recent years has been the view that violent games are a bad influence, especially to children, as it makes us all far more aggressive and bloodthirsty. However, the researchers do not share that view. “There has been a lot of attention wasted in figuring out whether these things turn us into killing machines. Not enough attention has been paid to the unique and interesting features that videogames have outside of the violence,” said computational analyst Joshua Lewis at the University of California in San Diego, who studied 2,000 computer game players.
Full story: Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263273943183932.html
Music is non-verbal communication, and allows people to express emotions in ways that words cannot. It therefore has the power to help people physically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s the basic premise of music therapy. It has its critics and its skeptics, but music therapy is used by the NHS to help children who struggle to communicate.
Now, latest research in Finland suggests that the very same therapy can help adults improve their levels of depression and anxiety. In a study of 79 people, all patients with depression received the standard practice of counselling and appropriate medication, while 33 patients received twenty additional sessions with a trained music therapist.
After three months, patients receiving music therapy showed a greater improvement in scores of anxiety and depression than the other set of patients. Although there was no statistical improvement after six months, it still supports the short-term effectiveness of music therapy to treat depression, when combined with conventional therapy.
The University of Jyväskylä’s Professor Christian Gold said: “Our trial has shown that music therapy, when added to standard care, helps people to improve their levels of depression and anxiety.”
Full story: BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14345808
The way the internet affects human memory has been quantified in a new study – and the findings suggest that it is changing the way our brains remember information.
The scientists behind this research say the internet has become a “transactive memory” for us. In other words, we treat the internet like an external memory – a storage place or a memory bank that exists outside of our heads.
In experiments carried out at Columbia University, participants’ ability to recall answers to quiz questions was poor when told the answers would later be available on a computer.
A stream of facts was presented to a group of participants – half were told the facts would be stored in computer files, while the other half were told the facts would be erased completely. When tested on their ability to recall the facts, those who knew the information would be erased had a far better recall than those who filed the information away.
However, the group who had the information stored away on a computer were remarkably good at remembering the folders in which they had stored the information.
Columbia University’s Dr Betsy Sparrow concluded: “This suggests that for the things we can find online, we tend keep it online as far as memory is concerned – we keep it externally stored.”
We are a generation that is becoming increasingly reliant on computers to think for us, find facts for us, and remember information for us. Will this over-reliance on the internet eventually make us lazy and stupid? Dr. Sparrow reassures us: “I don’t think [the internet] is making us stupid – we’re just changing the way that we’re remembering things.”
Full story: BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14145045
If you are an urban pigeon, the idea of hovering near a person for food is a bit of a gamble. For every person sitting on a park bench who will happily flick the crumbs of their lunch towards you, there will always be others who will angrily stamp their feet and scare you away.
Well, latest research suggests that it is not a gamble at all. According to researchers in France, pigeons have the ability to tell the difference between generous humans and unkind ones.
The team carried out two tests in an urban park. One person would feed the pigeons, while another would chase the birds away. “In both experiments”, the researchers noted, “the pigeons learned quickly to discriminate between the feeders.”
“The pigeons avoided the hostile feeder even when the two feeders exchanged their coats, suggesting that [the birds] used stable individual characteristics to differentiate between the experimenter feeders. Thus, pigeons are able to learn quickly from their interactions from human feeders and use knowledge to maximise the profitability of the urban environment,” they said.
Conclusion: Be nice to pigeons. They will remember who you are and forever hold a grudge against you otherwise.
Full story: BBC Nature News http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/13863523