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.