Archive for October, 2014

October 18, 2014

Zeigarnik Effect

Zeigarnik recall

Bluma Zeigarnik (1901 – 1988) was a Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist who discovered the Zeigarnik [zy-gar-nikeffect, which states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. She first studied the phenomenon after her professor, Gestalt psychologist Kurt Lewin, noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders. However, after the completion of the task – after everyone had paid – he was unable to remember any more details of the orders.

The advantage of remembrance can be explained by looking at Lewin’s field theory (a framework which examines patterns of interaction between the individual and the total field, or environment): a task that has already been started establishes a task-specific tension, which improves cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents. Task completion alleviates the tension. In case of task interruption the reduction of tension is impeded. Through continuous tension the content is easier accessible and it can be easily remembered.

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October 17, 2014

Misophonia

misophonia by eliza stein

Misophonia [mee-so-fo-nee-uh], literally ‘hatred of sound,’ is a rarely diagnosed neuropsychiatric disorder in which negative emotions (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. The sounds can be loud or soft. The term was coined by American neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff and is sometimes referred to as ‘selective sound sensitivity syndrome.’

A 2013 review of neurological studies and fMRI studies of the brain as it relates to the disorder postulated that abnormal or dysfunctional assessment of neural signals occurs in the anterior cingulate cortex and insular cortex. These cortices are also implicated in Tourette Syndrome, and are the hub for processing anger, pain, and sensory information. Other researchers concur that the dysfunction is in central nervous system structures. It has been speculated that the anatomical location may be more central than that involved in hyperacusis (over-sensitivity to certain frequency and volume ranges of sound). An alternate view, by two misophonia treatment providers, is that misophonia is a Pavlovian conditioned reflex.

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October 17, 2014

Behavioral Immune System

rachel herz

The behavioral immune system is a phrase coined by psychologist Mark Schaller of the University of British Columbia to refer to a suite of psychological mechanisms that allow individual organisms to detect the potential presence of disease-causing parasites in their immediate environment, and to engage in behaviors that prevent contact with those objects and individuals (or remediate their effects).

These mechanisms include sensory processes through which cues connoting the presence of parasitic infections are perceived (e.g., the smell of a foul odor, the sight of pox or pustules), as well as stimulus–response systems through which these sensory cues trigger a cascade of aversive affective, cognitive, and behavioral reactions (e.g., arousal of disgust, automatic activation of cognitions that connote the threat of disease, behavioral avoidance).

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October 16, 2014

Foil

the odd couple

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities in their counterpart (the term derives from the practice of backing gems with foil to increase their brilliance). In some cases, a subplot can be used as a foil to the main plot, particularly in metafiction (‘breaking the fourth wall’) and the ‘story within a story’ motif. A foil often differs drastically from the lead character, but can also be extremely similar, with only a key difference setting them apart. Foils generally serve one or more of three broad functions: contrast (‘this is different than X’), exclusion (‘this is not X’), or blame (‘X did this’).

In ‘Frankenstein,’ by Mary Shelley, the two main characters of Dr. Frankenstein and his ‘Adam of your Labors,’ his ‘creature,’ his ‘wretch,’ are both together literary foils. Both are hungry for knowledge, but whereas the doctor is selfish and arrogant, the monster is compassionate and gentle. In ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ Mary’s absorption in her studies places her as a foil to her sister Lydia Bennet’s lively and distracted nature. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ the naive Brutus has foils in Cassius and Mark Antony, who are ambitious and experienced politicians.

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October 6, 2014

Sidekick

Sancho Panza by Antonio Saura

A sidekick is a close companion who is generally regarded as subordinate to the one he accompanies. Some well-known fictional sidekicks include Don Quixote’s Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes’ Doctor Watson, The Lone Ranger’s Tonto, and Batman’s Robin.

The origin of the term is unknown. It was originally ‘side kicker’ (as seen in the short stories of American writer O Henry), having grown from the 1850s term ‘side partner.’ Contrary to popular folk etymology, it is unrelated to the early-20th century British pickpocket slang ‘kick,’ referring to a trouser pocket. One of the earliest recorded sidekicks may be Enkidu, who adopted a sidekick role to Gilgamesh after they became allies in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ (an epic poem from Mesopotamia). Other early examples include Achilles’ Patroclus from the ‘Iliad,’ and Moses’ Aaron from the Bible.

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October 3, 2014

Comic Relief

Faustus

Comic relief is the inclusion of a humorous character, scene, or witty dialogue in an otherwise serious work, often to relieve tension. It is a narrative technique that momentarily alleviates the stressful emotions and angst building up in a dramatic story. Comic relief often takes the form of a bumbling, wisecracking sidekick of the hero or villain in a work of fiction. The secondary character will often remark on the absurdity of the hero’s situation and make comments that would be inappropriate for a character who is to be taken seriously. Other characters may use comic relief as a means to irritate others or keep themselves confident.

Comic relief can also occur during dramatic moments in comedies. Greek tragedy does not allow any comic relief. Even the Elizabethan critic Sidney following Horace’s ‘Ars Poetic’ pleaded for the exclusion of comic elements from a tragic drama. But in Renaissance England, Marlowe among the University Wits (a group of late-16th-century English playwrights and pamphleteers who were educated at Oxford or Cambridge) introduced comic relief through the presentation of crude scenes in ‘Doctor Faustus’ following the native tradition of Interlude which was usually introduced between two tragic plays. In fact, in the classical tradition the mingling of the tragic and the comic was not allowed.

October 2, 2014

Jar Jar Binks

The People vs George Lucas

Jar Jar Binks is a fictional character from the Star Wars saga created by George Lucas for his prequel trilogy. He was the first lead computer generated character of the franchise, he was portrayed by Ahmed Best in most of his appearances. Jar Jar’s primary role in ‘Episode I’ was to provide comic relief for the audience, and was generally met with extremely negative comments from both critics and viewers. He is often acknowledged as one of the worst and most hated characters of all time.

Joe Morgenstern of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ described him as a ‘Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen.’ Race theorist Patricia J. Williams suggested that many aspects of Jar Jar’s character are reminiscent of blackface minstrelsy, while others have suggested the character is a ‘laid-back clown character’ representing a black Caribbean stereotype. George Lucas has denied any racist implications. Ahmed Best also rejected the allegations, saying that ‘Jar Jar has nothing to do with the Caribbean.’

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October 1, 2014

Fan Edit

The Phantom Edit

A fan edit is a version of a film modified by a viewer, that removes, reorders, or adds material in order to create a new interpretation of the source material. This includes the removal of scenes or dialogue, replacement of audio and/or visual elements, and adding material from sources such as deleted scenes or even other films. The field was popularized by an individual calling himself the ‘Phantom Editor’ (later revealed as professional editor Mike J. Nichols). He removed elements from George Lucas’ ‘The Phantom Menace’ that he felt detracted from the film, and made minor changes in dialogue, languages, and subtitles to give the film’s villains a more menacing tone.

There were a total of 18 minutes cut from the original film, reducing the run time from 136 minutes to 118 minutes. The end result became known as ‘The Phantom Edit,’ which circulated Hollywood studios on VHS in 2000. It was the first unauthorized re-edit of a major film to receive publicity and acclaim and inspired dozens of other edits to surface on the internet. Lucasfilm, the production company of series creator George Lucas, condoned the edit, and did not pursue legal action against its distributors.

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