Clever Canines Commute to Get Food

I know the new syllabus doesn't have much on behaviorism, but for those of you who are familiar with the now archaic perspective I have some news that actually makes behaviorism interesting.

There are dogs in Moscow that take the underground from the suburbs into the city to beg and search for food. They leave in the morning and return at night. The dogs apparently work together to make sure they get off at the right tube stop. Sometimes they fall asleep and get off at the wrong stop - just like humans.

The dogs have even developed methods to manipulatively steal food from people. For example, they sneak up behind an ignorant shawarma eater, bark loudly to startle the human so they drop their food, and enjoy their tasty snack. That is pretty damn clever and shows that dogs do have the ability to solve novel problems.

Morality is Innate, Kinda

At least while we're young, we have a preference for kindness and goodness.  In Paul Bloom's study he had infants watch several puppet shows.  One performance showed a puppet helping a puppet in need while another show had a puppet being a nuisance to the puppet in need.  After the shows, the infants are presented with a choice: grab and play with the helpful puppet or the unhelpful puppet.  Does this mean that infants are innately good or just that they prefer toys that are helpful rather than annoying?  Maybe annoyance avoidance is innate ;).

You can check out this short video showing the actual experiment.  The experiment is genius even if the conclusions are questionable. 

Group Work and Intelligence

Who likes group work?  Teachers usually force it upon us.  Ever wondered what factors affect group performance?  Here is one answer: not intelligence according to research published in the prestigious journal Science. The researchers discovered that the social sensitivity of individuals in the group was more important than the intelligence of its members.  In short, empathy is probably a vital component of effective group optimization.  So try and be in groups with people who display empathy, better yet tell your teachers about the study so everybody can (try to) enjoy group work.

GTA Causes Reckless Driving

A team of Belgian researchers conducted a study involving a questionnaire and video game usage.  They found that adolescents who played a lot of games like GTA had more reckless attitudes towards driving - though did not display any nonchalance for drunk-driving.  In the team's defense, they did wait 2 years prior to the participants getting driver licenses.  Still, one must wonder that if 'reckless attitudes to both speeding and risky driving were significantly linked with having played driving games at the age of 16 and 17' how many of these actually lead to accidents?  Does the team plan on controlling for confounding variables such as personality type and tendency for risk-taking?

As with most preliminary studies, this one should be taken with a grain of salt.  Perhaps a virtual reality game that does not have music that puts you in the mood to run over pedestrians - which deducts points if you do commit vehicular homicide - after playing some GTA would be a good start.  This could be integrated with a personality questionnaire and statistics for the number of accidents or even near accidents that participants experience.>

Seductive Male Dance Moves

Ever wondered why some men get all the ladies in dance clubs while others struggle to attract any attention.  Recent research using participants viewing dancing avatars reveals that a dynamic dance repertoire is considered more magnetic than a repetitive dance routine.

What's wrong with this study?  The avatars are faceless with, at best, a poor representation of the male body type.  A huge confounding variable is the attractiveness of the dancer which is not considered because faces are not even included in the study.  How muscular, broad-shouldered and symmetrical the faces and bodies of actual humans are remain absent making the study of little importance in the real world. At best the study can conclude that that digital beings find avatars more attractive when their dance moves vary.  This does not, however, diminish the pioneering quality of this study.  Further research into actual male attractiveness and his dance moves is necessary to further explain the effect of male dancing style on pick-ups in the club.

Exam Tips

I found a great resource that explains the psyche of examiners.  I'm not sure which education type they were created for but they apply to all examination types.

Nearly One Million Children in US Misdiagnosed with ADHD

Back in the day, kids with ADHD were labeled as the hyper kids - the ones with tons of energy on the playground.  Nowadays of course, they have a 'disorder'.  This study found that almost 1 million children are potentially misdiagnosed because they are the youngest and most immature in the kindergarten class. This suggests a serious flaw in classification criteria like the DSM-IV which could have adverse consequences for victims of misdiagnosis.

Kids at a young age are interpreting the world, trying to make sense of it and developing their schemas so it is natural for them to want to take in as much of their environmental stimuli as possible - thus concentrating less time on one specific task or stimulus.  ADHD drugs are stimulants which if taken in spite of a misdiagnosis will have developmental effects on the neurology of the child's brain - and not necessarily a positive one, more likely is a negative rewiring of the child's brain.

Mass Updates and Downloadable PDFs

Mass study guide updates for biological, cognitive, sociocultural and abnormal.  I will be converting them to pdf soon for on-the-move revision.

Money Can('t) Buy Happiness?

Does having expensive, lavish things desensitize you to life's smaller pleasures? We all know affluent people can be scumbags but do they enjoy life less than others just because of their money? A new series of studies suggest it may be the case.

Quoidbach and his colleagues found that employees at a university were less likely to 'savor positive experiences in their lives' if they were wealthier than their peers.  Even if they were just reminded of money by being shown a stack of Euros lessened their ability to savor positive experiences.  In their second study they used subconscious priming by discretely slipping in a picture of money during a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire, the participants had to eat chocolate.  Those that were primed ended up eating less chocolate and were rated by observers as enjoying the chocolate less than participants primed with a neutral non-monetary picture.

The researchers explain the results by claiming that the more wealth you acquire, the greater the ability to experience all the best things life has to offer - which is true.  When you experience the best things all of the time, you get habituated to, for example, lobster in garlic butter sauce every day or what-have-you. Having these experiences all the time desensitizes us to the enjoyability of a sunny day or finding $20 on the floor.  One study on lotter winners confirmed this theory finding that people who won between $50,000 and $1,000,000 in the 1970s were unimpressed by life's small pleasures than non-winners.

There are alternative explanations for Quoidbach's studies.  Maybe seeing money triggers feelings of guilt.

Maybe it even causes feelings of disgust this affect our ability to enjoy chocolate.

Whatever the case, Sonja the woman who penned the article, argues that money can buy happiness but it must be used wisely.  For more information see the full article.

Autism Link to MMR Vaccine is Bullshit (Penn & Teller, 2010)

This research is by no means new, but the ripple effect of the original study is still salient - even more than 10 years later.  For those of you who do not know, the original study found a correlation between children who had been administered the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism.  Immediately, vaccination rates dropped drastically in the UK and this silliness eventually infected its way to the US.  It is worth mentioning that the original study had a sample size of 12.  That's it, just 12 - 11 boys and 1 girl.  That doesn't seem very balanced, especially since the prevalence rate for autism in boys is up to 4 times higher than in girls. The reason the news spread so quickly was because of the media and its penchant for over-dramatizing and misrepresenting scientific findings in order to sell newspapers.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a relatively newly identified phenomenon as Penn and Teller rightfully point out.  Individuals with ASD in the past would have been labeled as weird, the clever kid, the socially awkward computer geek among others.  Now that we have the ability to diagnose - albeit with a lack of specificity hence the spectrum in ASD - the amount of individuals diagnosed has risen.  So of course, since more children are getting vaccinated and more parents want to protect their children against diseases there is an increase in both and an illusory correlation can be made.  That doesn't mean that they are linked.  As I'm sure you've heard a million times before, correlation ≠ causation, and it never will.

One of the hilarious things in last night's episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit was Jenny McCarthy's role in the anti-vaccination movement.  Apparently she had a child with autism who was cured - there is no cure for autism - and now she parades around the US campaigning against vaccinations.  What an upstanding citizen, preaching as if an expert on a subject she knows little about, preventing parents from protecting their children from diseases because her child was misdiagnosed as having ASD.  Misunderstanding science can be detrimental to society, luckily for you the IB won't release you from its clutches until you understand the fundamentals of science.  Consider it a vaccination against ignorance.

Psychology Studies Biased Towards WEIRD People

Most psychology research uses opportunity samples composed of university undergrads.  Undergrads are cheap, meaning you can usually force them to participate in studies for course credit, and usually in want of money - you can pay them a few pounds an hour for their time.  Recently a large meta-analysis has illustrated the danger of extrapolating findings from studies using undergrad students only to the general population - most of these studies are lacking in external validity.

The most prestigious journals use students from the WEIRD - Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic - countries which make up less than 12% of the global population.  Most of the samples used are not representative of the world we live in so there are cultural differences that are often lost that could greatly affect the results.  For example, a phenomenon known as the Muller-Lyer illusion (see below) usually concludes that when lines of equal length yet the arrows point in different directions, one is perceived as shorter than the other.  However, the San foragers of the Kalahari do not perceive a difference in length between the two lines suggesting the difference in environment and its surroundings plays a role in our perception of objects.

More Extended Essays

Here are some additional ones I found on Crane's old site but his links are dead so I've added them. They are all from Nørre Gymnasium except the last one which is from IB Survival.

Drunk Monkeys

I've heard of these drunk animal videos but only just searched for them today. This one is actually educational as well. The monkeys have the same proportion of drinkers to non-drinkers as human populations and they have been studied to understand alcoholism in humans. This video is hilarious as well with all its drunken monkey shenanigans.

Maxim Sex Survey: What Women Want

This is my kind of survey. Men's magazines do the same things as women's magazines but raunchier, and Maxim is probably my favorite. Some of their findings are hilarious: 40% of women surveyed watch porn once or twice a month and 81% do not want you to attempt entry into their backdoor without asking first (be polite ;). Women also want an hour of foreplay!

Good news for men - 89% of women still enjoy sex even if they don't climax. The room most chosen besides the bedroom for sex by women was the kitchen.

Onto criticism, the most important of which is probably the sampling method. Nearly half of the women surveyed were from big cities in the US which relates to the next problem. Only US residents were surveyed and because the sample wasn't stratified so not only are the results not representative of the US population they definitely cannot be extrapolated to women from different countries with other sexual appetites and histories. Furthermore, the article says it gathered its data with the help of The Frisky and Lemon Drop. If you check out those sites you can see that a certain type of woman frequents those sites which will affect the results of the survey. Women in the target age group should have been surveyed from different socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels and city sizes.

Excellent Extended Essays

I have added several psychology excellent extended essays to my mediafire account.  They all scored full marks, an A, on each criterion by examiners.  They should help you gauge what is expected of you in psychology extended essays.
Hint: Look for a yellow square in the top right to get to the PDF view
Here are some additional ones I found on Crane's old site but his links are dead so I've added them here. They are all from Nørre Gymnasium except the last one.

Mass Article Update

I added tons of articles in pdf form on the bottom of the revision pages under Additional Resources.  They are denoted by this icon

Juvenile Delinquents, Two Types?

A new longitudinal study reports that past delinquent behavior does not necessarily translate into future crimes.  The most important indicators are social and familial circumstances.  I'll leave it up to you to think of all the different possible scenarios that could lead juvenile delinquents to stop committing crimes.  A few subtype boxes and combinations is certainly not enough to fully predict future criminal behavior - individual differences and perception of life experiences probably plays a large role.

Better Sex with Cocaine and Alcohol

A new review (metastudy) has just been published on the effects of various drugs on sexual performance. They found that most drugs, both stimulants and depressants, decrease sexual performance with the following caveats:

  • Cocaine facilitates erections in rats
  • Caffeine makes both male and female rats horny
  • A little bit of booze removes inhibitory tendencies
  • Too much booze disrupts sexual performance but this wears off over time

Pfaus claims that '[o]nly animal model studies can provide direct cause and effect data and physiological information' for sexual behavior.  Alarm bells should be ringing, only animal studies provide causal relationships of drugs on sexual behavior? Really? Not to sound like a speciesist but we can only say that rat studies can inform our understanding of human sexual behavior.  Humans are far more complex neurologically and although cocaine may increase erections in rats it doesn't necessarily mean the same will happen in humans.

Studying animals it is the only logical starting point for studying this sort of behavior but we must be weary when extrapolating the results to humans.

Terrorists Suffer from Anxiety Disorders

Maybe they do, maybe they don't. My point is instead one of ecological validity (a form of external validity) referring to the extent that experimental findings apply to real world situations. These researchers investigated how anxiety and uncertainty can make us become more radical and committed to religious causes. They did most of this with computers using implicit measures and explicit measures for testing attitudes towards religion. Self-report was used to test whether participants would 'die for their cause' among other things.

Here's the problem: we do not know how or if people who score 5/5 on wanting to die for a religious cause (the participants were undergraduates) are actually willing to do go and risk their life if the religious cause called him/her up and said alright it's go time. Saying you'd sacrifice your life for some fictional religious cause on a computer and actually putting your real life that actually means something to you at risk is completely different from some temporary virtual life you are willing to send off to religious war or what have you.

Think about how careless people can be when playing video games - why would you care if you die, you respawn anyway. It's the exact same problem for experiments that try to test social phenomena: we behave differently when the risks are real vs fictitious.  But doing real world research on terrorists or any other form of criminal is complicated if not impossible.  For example, there are obvious ethical considerations if I wanted to test how likely someone who scores highly on an explicit measure of prejudice is to commit a hate crime. You just cannot do that (at least where I'm from).

Nevertheless, the problem of ecological validity is an important one and should be pointed out whenever possible, though justified as to why it matters in the context of a particular experiment and the real world situation it relates to.

Does the Late Bird Get the Worm?

Ever wonder why you may be groggy in the morning starting school ridiculously early in the morning. This may be because adolescents begin a a delayed sleep phase. Researchers convinced a school to meet 30 minutes later in the mornings than usual. Class attendance improved and there were less visits to the health center for 'fatigue-related complaints'. Students were surveyed for mood prior to the study and after the 30 minute change and after the 30 min change, fewer students reported feeling depressed or irritable.

Let's criticize this study. The problems with self-report are numerous, the largest one that House (yea from the tv show) would agree with is prevarication (=lying). If you were a student and your school started at 9 instead of 8.30 don't you think you'd circle whatever you needed to to ensure they kept the newly instated rule? Of course you would. There is also research showing that people are very bad at judging the amount of sleep they get, so if students report that they sleep 8 hours, well they could just be wrong.

See podcast for more

Methodology Updated

I spent the morning doing an extensive update to the methodology page adding tons of content.  I will probably turn it into a pdf cause it ended up pretty long. If anything is unclear, shoot me an email and I'll fix it.

I also updated the video resources page linking to many full movies, documentaries and specials on google video and youtube. Since it's summer time, I figured people would rather watch something than read over the summer ;).

Mythbusters Tackle Beer Goggles

Yesterday's episode of Mythbusters took on beer goggles. Here's what they did. They had 30 faces that Jamie, Adam and Kari rated while sober on a 10 point Likert scale. Then they got buzzed - Jamie and Adam drank 3 beers and Kari 2 beers - and rated different faces that other participants had rated equally attractive for Jamie, Adam and Kari. Afterwards they got drunk by drinking many more beers and rated different faces that were rated equally attractive by other participants.

Their results were a bit odd:
  • Jamie's ratings increased from buzzed to drunk but were highest while sober
  • Adam's ratings were steadily higher from sober to drunk
  • Kari's ratings improved from buzzed to drunk but decreased from sober to buzzed

They deemed the myth plausible but there are some confounds to consider like experimenter bias.  Jamie seemed intent on proving that he was not affected by the beer goggles effect.  Adam appeared to want the beer goggles to gain some credence through evidence.  To eliminate this bias they of course should have used participants who were unaware of the aim of the experiment using blind procedures.  They also should have accounted for the placebo effect by using a more complex experimental structure that would have used 2 groups who received either non-alcoholic or alcoholic beer.

Check out the video here


What does the IB want? I spent 2 years trying to answer this question. I scoured the internet, browsed forums and attended revision courses to try and find answers. What I will be doing is trying to pass on the knowledge I discovered so you guys can pass your exams. Maybe your school has just started the IB program and your teachers are a bit inexperienced. Do not fear!

Grab the syllabus in case your teacher has never shown it to you ;)