Tag Archives: psychological science

Crossing the Line: What Constitutes Torture?

Torture. The United Nations defines it as the “infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” But how severe is severe? That judgment determines whether or not the law classifies an interrogation practice as torture.

Now, a study published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, condemns this method of classification as essentially flawed. The reason: The people estimating the severity of pain aren’t experiencing that pain—so they underestimate it.

As a result, many acts of torture are not classified—or prohibited—as torture, say authors, Loran F. Nordgren of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Mary-Hunter Morris of Harvard Law School, and George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University. (more…)

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Actions and Personality, East and West

People in different cultures make different assumptions about the people around them, according to an upcoming study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers studied the brain waves of people with Caucasian and Asian backgrounds and found that cultural differences in how we think about other people are embedded deep in our minds. Cultural differences are evident very deep in the brain, challenging a commonsense notion that culture is skin deep. (more…)

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Watch Your Language! of Course–But How Do We Actually Do That?

Nothing seems more automatic than speech. We produce an estimated 150 words a minute, and make a mistake only about once every 1,000 words. We stay on track, saying what we intend to, even when other words distract us—from the radio, say, or a road sign we pass while driving.

An upcoming study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows for the first time why we so rarely speak those irrelevant words: We have a “verbal self-monitor” between the mental production of speech and the actual uttering of words that catches any irrelevant items coming from outside of the speaker. (more…)

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Following the Crowd: Brain Images Offer Clues to How and Why We Conform

What is conformity? A true adoption of what other people think—or a guise to avoid social rejection? Scientists have been vexed sorting the two out, even when they’ve questioned people in private.

Now three Harvard University psychological scientists have used brain scans to show what happens when we take others’ opinions to heart: We take them “to brain”—specifically, to the orbitofrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. These regions compute what we value and feel rewarded by, both primitive things like water and food and socially meaningful things like money. (more…)

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Brooding Russians: Less distressed than Americans

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy portrayed Russians as a brooding, complicated people, and ethnographers have confirmed that Russians tend to focus on dark feelings and memories more than Westerners do.  

But a new University of Michigan study finds that even though Russians tend to brood, they are less likely than Americans to feel as depressed as a result.

(more…)

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