Archive for September, 2012

September 30, 2012

Space Diving

Red Bull Stratos

Like skydiving, space diving refers to the act of jumping from a plane, balloon, or spacecraft in outer space and falling to Earth’s atmosphere before parachuting to a landing. Depending on one’s definition of ‘space,’ the only historical case of a human intentionally space diving from the stratosphere is Joseph Kittinger, who jumped from a helium balloon at the height of 100,000 feet (approximately 30 kilometers).

Higher jumps from mesosphere or thermosphere have yet to be successfully performed, though Orbital Outfitters is working to create a suit that will enable safe space diving. Space diving from beyond the stratosphere has been imagined in various fictional contexts.

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September 30, 2012

Correlation does not imply Causation

Pirates and global warming

Correlation does not imply causation‘ is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that a relationship between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other. The opposite belief, ‘correlation proves causation,’ is one of several questionable cause logical fallacies by which two events that occur together are claimed to have a cause-and-effect relationship.

The fallacy is also known as ‘cum hoc ergo propter hoc’ (Latin for ‘with this, therefore because of this’) and ‘false cause.’ It is a common fallacy in which it is assumed that, because two things or events occur together, one must be the cause of the other. By contrast, the fallacy, ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc,’ requires that one event occur after the other, and so may be considered a related fallacy.

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September 30, 2012

Actor–observer Asymmetry

Fundamental attribution error

Actor-observer asymmetry (also actor-observer bias) explains the errors that one makes when forming attributions about behavior. When a person judges their own behavior, and they are the actor, they are more likely to attribute their actions to the particular situation than to a generalization about their personality. Yet when a person is attributing the behavior of another person, thus acting as the observer; they are more likely to attribute this behavior to the person’s overall disposition than as a result of situational factors.

People are more likely to see their own behavior as affected by the situation they are in, or the sequence of occurrences that have happened to them throughout their day. But, they see other people’s actions as solely a product of their overall personality, and they do not afford them the chance to explain their behavior as exclusively a result of a situational effect.

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September 29, 2012

Fundamental Attribution Error

Attributional bias

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.

The fundamental attribution error is most visible when people explain the behavior of others. It does not explain interpretations of one’s own behavior—where situational factors are often taken into consideration. This discrepancy is called the actor–observer bias. As a simple example, if Alice saw Bob trip over a rock and fall, Alice might consider Bob to be clumsy or careless (dispositional). If Alice tripped over the same rock herself, she would be more likely to blame the placement of the rock (situational).

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September 29, 2012

Backmasking

Paul is dead

Backmasking is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward on to a track that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking is a deliberate process, whereas a message found through ‘phonetic reversal’ may be unintentional. Backmasking was popularized by The Beatles who used backward instrumentation on their 1966 album ‘Revolver.’ Artists have since used backmasking for artistic, comedic and satiric effect, on both analogue and digital recordings.

The technique has also been used to censor words or phrases for ‘clean’ releases of rap songs. Backmasking has been a controversial topic in the United States since the 1980s, when allegations from Christian groups of its use for Satanic purposes were made against prominent rock musicians, leading to record-burning protests and proposed anti-backmasking legislation by state and federal governments.

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September 29, 2012

Subliminal Stimuli

Subliminal messages

Subliminal stimuli (literally ‘below threshold’), contrary to ‘supraliminal stimuli’ or ‘above threshold,’ are any sensory stimuli below an individual’s threshold for conscious perception. Some research has found that subliminal messages do not produce strong or lasting changes in behavior. However, a recent review of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies shows that subliminal stimuli activate specific regions of the brain despite participants being unaware.

Visual stimuli may be quickly flashed before an individual can process them, or flashed and then masked, thereby interrupting the processing. Audio stimuli may be played below audible volumes, masked by other stimuli, or recorded backwards in a process called ‘backmasking.’

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September 29, 2012

Mere-exposure Effect

office romance by chris reed

The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. In social psychology, this effect is sometimes called the familiarity principle. The effect has been demonstrated with many kinds of things, including words, Chinese characters, paintings, pictures of faces, geometric figures, and sounds. In studies of interpersonal attraction, the more often a person is seen by someone, the more pleasing and likeable that person appears to be.

The earliest known research on the effect was conducted by Gustav Fechner in 1876. Edward B. Titchener also documented the effect and described the ‘glow of warmth’ felt in the presence of something that is familiar. However, Titchener’s hypothesis was thrown out once tested and results showed that the enhancement of preferences for objects did not depend on the individual’s subjective impressions of how familiar the objects were. The rejection of Titchener’s hypothesis spurred further research and the development of current theory.

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September 29, 2012

Propinquity

birds of a feather

In social psychology, propinquity [proh-ping-kwi-tee] (from Latin: ‘nearness’) is one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction. It refers to the physical or psychological proximity between people. Propinquity can mean physical proximity, a kinship between people, or a similarity in nature between things (‘like-attracts-like’).

Two people living on the same floor of a building, for example, have a higher propinquity than those living on different floors, just as two people with similar political beliefs possess a higher propinquity than those whose beliefs strongly differ. Propinquity is also one of the factors, set out by Jeremy Bentham, used to measure the amount of (utilitarian) pleasure in a method known as felicific calculus (which is used to calculate the degree or amount of pleasure that a specific action is likely to cause).

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September 29, 2012

Hysterical Realism

White Teeth

Hysterical realism, also called ‘recherché postmodernism,’ is a term coined in 2000 by the English critic James Wood in an essay for ‘The New Republic’ on Zadie Smith’s novel ‘White Teeth’ to describe what he sees as a literary genre typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterization and careful, detailed investigations of real specific social phenomena.

Wood uses the term to denote the contemporary conception of the ‘big, ambitious novel’ that pursues ‘vitality at all costs’ and consequently ‘knows a thousand things but does not know a single human being.’ He decried the genre as an attempt to ‘turn fiction into social theory,’ and an attempt to tell us ‘how the world works rather than how somebody felt about something.’ Wood points to Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon as the forefathers of the genre, which continues in writers like David Foster Wallace and Salman Rushdie.

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September 29, 2012

Marriage of Convenience

Lavender marriage

A marriage of convenience (plural marriages of convenience) is a marriage contracted for reasons other than the reasons of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as political marriage.

In the cases when it represents a fraud, it is called ‘sham marriage.’ Marriages of convenience are often contracted to exploit legal loopholes of various sorts. A couple may wed for reasons of citizenship or right of abode, for example, as many countries around the world will grant such rights to any wedded resident.

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September 29, 2012

Hypergamy

Anna Nicole Smith

Hypergamy [hahy-pur-guh-mee] (colloquially referred to as ‘marrying up’) is the act or practice of seeking a spouse of higher looks, socioeconomic, caste or status than oneself. The term is often used more specifically in reference to a perceived tendency among human cultures for females to seek or be encouraged to pursue male suitors that are higher status than themselves, which often manifests itself as being attracted to men who are comparatively older, wealthier, or otherwise more privileged than themselves.

According to evolutionary psychologists, females have evolved a preference for higher status males because they offer their prospective children both ‘better’ genes and greater resources, e.g. food and security. Men, who invest less in their children, have less reason to prefer mates with high social status. Some have even argued that men ‘marry-down’ to ensure that their mates have a higher incentive to remain faithful.

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September 29, 2012

Going Dutch

Going Dutch‘ is a term that indicates that each person participating in a group activity pays for himself, rather than any person paying for anyone else, particularly in a restaurant bill. There are two possible senses—each person paying his own expenses, or the entire bill being split (divided evenly) between all participants. In strict usage, ‘Going Dutch’ refers to the former, paying one’s own expenses, and the latter is referred to as ‘splitting the bill,’ but in casual usage these may both be referred to as ‘going Dutch.’ Splitting the bill is generally easier to compute, as it does not require checking what each individual ordered, but has the downside that people who ordered more expensive items are subsidized by others.

One suggestion is that the phrase ‘going Dutch’ originates from the concept of a Dutch door. Previously on farmhouses this consisted of two equal parts. Another school of thought is that it may be related to Dutch etiquette. In the Netherlands, it was not unusual to pay separately when going out as a group. When dating in a one-on-one situation, however, the man will most commonly pay for meals and drinks. The ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ connects ‘go Dutch’ with ‘Dutch treat’ and other phrases many of which have ‘an opprobrious or derisive application, largely due to the rivalry and enmity between the English and Dutch in the 17th c[entury],’ the period of the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Another example is ‘Dutch courage.’

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