Sunday, January 31, 2010

Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner

This weekend was supremely miserable/generally antisocial, largely due to over 600 pages of dense textbook readings and preparation for exams and a presentation this week.

In an effort to preserve my sanity as I read, I collected passages from Psychology (Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner, 2009) that made me pause, laugh or cringe. Here are a few highlights:

- Phrenology made for a nice parlor game and gave young people a good excuse for touching each other, but in the end it amounted to a series of strong claims based on weak evidence.

- The rivalry between these two schools of medicine didn't last long, however, because the [Ancient Greeks] who chose to see dogmatists tended to die, which wasn't very good for repeat business.

- If a pig flew over the White House, it wouldn't matter whether other pigs could do the same trick. The fact that just one pig flew just one time would challenge our most cherished assumptions about animal physiology, aerodynamics, and national security.

- How long will a person life if she eats a pound of bacon every day? Probably not as long as she would have lived if she'd instead eaten a pound of spinach every day.

- If the participant was changed in any way (e.g., made to feel sad), the psychologist must attempt to undo that change (e.g., ask the person to do a task that will make them happy) and restore the participant to the state he or she was in before the study.

- But ours is a world of people like us - people who are sometimes brilliant, typically competent, and occasionally dimmer than broccoli.

- Although this resolution to a hundred years of disagreement is not particularly exciting, it has the compensatory benefit of being true.

- The word for "intelligence" in Zimbabwe, ngware, means to be wise in social relationships.

- As soon as one of these sperm manages to penetrate the coating, the egg quickly releases a chemical that seals the coating and keeps all the remaining sperm from entering. (Think of them as silver medalists.)

- The vast majority of adolescents do dabble in misbehavior but don't actually major in it.

- The physical transformations that take place during adulthood can be characterized succinctly: Things quickly get worse slowly.

- Research suggests that one of the best ways to increase one's share of happiness in life is simply to get older. The machinery may not work as well, but the passengers seem to enjoy the ride more.

- Does this photo of Sister Rosa Elena nailing Sister Amanda de Jesús with a snowball change your stereotype, or are you tempted to subtype them instead?

- Research shows that stereotyping effects can be reduced (and sometimes eliminated) by a variety of factors ranging from educational programs to damage to the prefrontal cortex. Education is probably the better social policy.