Monthly Archives: November 2010

Belief in the supernatural creates false memories in kids.

By, Adam K. Fetterman
In my previous post I gave a possible explanation of why so called “paranormal researchers” or “ghost hunters” attribute randomness to the paranormal. I also mentioned that I would have an upcoming post on why people are motivated to believe in the paranormal. However, I came across an article about the memories of supernatural experiences in children, so that post will be put on the backburner for now. The reason this article struck me is because I recently have been watching a spin-off (?) of Paranormal State called Psychic Kids. The show employs “psychic” Chip Coffey to help “psychic” children develop and embrace their “psychic abilities” in order to not be afraid anymore. In the episodes of this show, and others such as Paranormal State, the children and adults are quite convinced that what they have seen in the past was real, and paranormal. This is because they probably have created false-memories of these events based on their supernatural beliefs.

According to the research of Principe and Smith (2007), children who hold beliefs of the supernatural are more likely to construct memory errors that comport with their paranormal beliefs. Specifically, they found that children who believe in the tooth fairy were more likely to recall supernatural experiences surrounding the loss of a tooth, than those that do not believe. That is, they have constructed “real” memories, falsely. These findings likely explain why the children and adults from these paranormal shows appear completely convinced that their experiences were real.

It may not seem harmful to believe in the tooth fairy or some paranormal activity in a way that does not affect one’s life or when it is an adult making their own choices. However, it may seem a little more worrisome if the children show some psychological distress as a result. As Skepchick and PZ Myers have pointed out, these shows and psychics, such as Psychic Kids and Chip Coffey, may be preying on children with blatant psychological problems. That is, they seem to be feeding these problems by unscientifically “confirming” these false memories, which could increase their anxiety, fear, and social isolation. All of this for our entertainment(?).

Still coming: Why people are motivated to believe in the paranormal.

A&E’s Psychic Kids website.

Psychic Kids. By, Jen at Skepchick.org

Bad move A&E. By, PZ Myers at Pharyngula

Principe, G. & Smith, E. (2007). The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth: How belief in the Tooth Fairy can engender false memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 625-642

On the effectiveness of intergroup apologies

By Kevin R. Betts

A common theme of my previous posts concerns intergroup conflict and its resolution. Some conflicts I have examined include clashes in Bangkok between anti-government protestors and the Thai government, relations between the LAPD and bicycle commuters, immigrant relations in Arizona, conflict on the Korean peninsula, and reciprocal determinants of terrorist and counterterrorist actions. The nature of these conflicts is complex, and accordingly, the interventions I proposed have sometimes been complex as well. But a recent article by Blatz and Philpot (2010) suggests that some of these conflicts may not require complex solutions. Rather, a simple public apology may sometimes be all that is needed to restore peace.

Blatz and Philpot (2010) suggest that intergroup apologies can improve intergroup attitudes, restore trust, and promote forgiveness. Additionally, they identify nine moderators (intentionality, time since harm, severity, privity, costliness, time since apology, trust, power, and identification) and four mediators (remorse, sincerity, empathy, and assigning responsibility) that influence apology-outcome relationships. Although it is beyond the scope of this brief post to examine all of these factors, one can imagine how each might relate to the conflicts discussed above. Take whether or not the perpetrators intended to harm the victim (intentionality) as an example. This past summer, I wrote about an incident where an LAPD officer was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter during the monthly mass bicycling event Critical Mass. As an organization, the LAPD reacted to this incident by condemning the actions of the officer and expressing their support of lawful bicycle commuting. Framing this incident as unreflective of the LAPD as an organization (unintentional) may have aided their attempt to restore relations with bicycle commuters in the city. In contrast, intergroup apologies should be less effective when transgressions are clearly intentional. For example, the North Korean government openly takes credit for their recent attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. Although an official apology is certainly warranted for this attack, it is unlikely to be effective in achieving the immediate forgiveness of South Koreans.

Clearly, not all intergroup conflicts can be resolved with an apology. What should be taken from this research is that when certain conditions are met, the power of a simple public apology for improving intergroup attitudes, restoring trust, and promoting forgiveness should not be underestimated.

Read more

Blatz, C.W., & Philpot, C. (2010). On the outcomes of intergroup apologies. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 995-1007.

Destruction on island at center of Korean barrage (CNN)

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

Essay Writer for Hire- Who is worse, the cheater or the enabler?

By Erica Zaiser

If you haven’t read this yet, you should. It is the story of a man (using the alias Ed Dante) who writes essays and exams for students in higher education for pay. The article sheds light on this completely undetectable method of cheating,  the inherent flaws in higher education, and the shocking number of people completing undergraduate and even graduate degrees with someone else’s work. The author claims to have written for on nearly every subject and completed 12 graduate theses in his time doing the work. He also has said that he plans to retire and wants to reveal to academia this underground ring of cheating.

Perhaps even more interesting than the article is the discussion which has followed, with many people berating the author for his involvement in cheating. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem that people are angry at the student cheaters, they are angry at the man making money and actually writing the essays. What is it that makes people so angry? People seem particularly mad that he makes money off the whole thing. Does that make it worse? On one hand you could argue that without him students would just find someone else to help them cheat. On the other hand, he knowingly allows and enables the cheating. Which is worse?

Interestingly, there is research on this topic. In a set of studies by Whitley and Kost (1999), people were asked to evaluate the people who help students cheat. In general, people in their studies viewed cheaters as being more morally culpable than those who helped them cheat. However, there was some evidence that when people are paid for cheating, they are viewed more harshly than when they do it to “help a friend”. Although this only rung true for women in their study, it seems to ring true for many responders to the story. There is surprisingly little research out there on attitudes towards cheating or those who help cheaters. But with the apparent rampant use of this method of cheating, as claimed by the author, it seems like an important area for more research to be done.

Read More: The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story.

Read More: College students’ perceptions of peers who cheat.

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That is probably not a ghost, it’s probably just randomness.

By, Adam K. Fetterman

Poster design by Gravillis Inc.

A recent trend in cable television is paranormal investigation shows. For example, the SyFy channel has Ghost Hunters and A&E has Paranormal State. The point of these shows is to investigate claims of the paranormal and then confirm or debunk them. While certain shows do a fairly good job of at least “trying” to debunk the claims, others make no clear attempt. For instance, many, if not all, of these shows feature a time of “investigation” in which the main “characters” try to communicate with the spirit world. They do so by asking the “ghosts” to make a noise or make themselves appear. Usually they will come up with some sort of noise or evidence and conclude that, “indeed, there is a presence!” The first problem here is that, in order to properly debunk such events, one must not believe in them in the first place, or at least have some education in explaining psychological or natural experiences. However, the main issue is that a truly skeptical person will take the evidence of a random noise in response to a question as chance occurrence that is more likely to be explained statistical randomness. One the other hand, a paranormal believer would dismiss that event as chance and explain it paranormally.

This is what is known as the conjunction fallacy. According to Rogers, Davis, & Fisk (2008), indeed those who believe in the paranormal, are more susceptible to the conjunction fallacy than non-believers. Furthermore, they found that those less educated in math, statistics and psychology were more susceptible as well. Therefore, when two not-so-rare events occur (i.e. talking and a bump in the night), paranormal believers make the error in concluding that both events occurring simultaneously was too improbable to be coincidence. Based on previous findings, Rogers and colleagues suggest that this happens because those that believe in the paranormal have less understanding of chance and randomness. In closing, it is obvious that these shows are for purely entertainment value and most people would not tune in if they didn’t find “evidence” of the paranormal. However, it does seem troublesome to perpetuate a lack of rational and logical reasoning skills.

In a couple weeks: Why some are motivated to believe in the paranormal?

Researching the paranormal with Ryan Buell. By, Jennifer Vazquez – The Leader

A&E’s Paranormal State website.

SyFy’s Ghost Hunters website.

Rogers, P., Davis T., & Fisk, J. (2009). Paranormal belief and susceptibility of the conjunction fallacy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 524-542

Are you aware of your partner’s secret STD?

By Kevin R. Betts

“Don’t wait until you’re naked in bed with someone to tell them you have an STD.” This is legitimate advice from therapist and relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, as quoted in a recent CNN health article. But as an uninfected individual, is this unfortunate scenario something that you need to be concerned about? Certainly an individual that you willingly become intimate with wouldn’t put you at risk without at least informing you. Right? Not necessarily.

Take HIV infection as an example. Fisher, Kohut, and Fisher (2009) point out that most research in the social sciences aimed at preventing the spread of HIV targets uninfected individuals. Meanwhile, research aimed at preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals remains scarce. Yet it is infected individuals that are the greatest threat to the spread of this disease. Fisher et al. (2009) argue that this inappropriate focus on the behaviors of uninfected individuals resulted from the well-intentioned efforts of researchers to avoid strengthening existing patterns of prejudice, fear of contagion, and blaming the victim. Although these intentions are admirable, they nonetheless have neglected to consider an important link in the chain of infection. Many infected individuals remain willing to hide information about HIV and other contagious diseases from their partner(s). Fisher et al. (2009) urge social scientists to refocus their efforts on preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals.

What should uninfected individuals take from this example? It is important that you speak with your partner(s) about sexually transmitted diseases. Although this discussion may be uncomfortable, it may also save you extensive physical and psychological distress down the line.

Read more:

8 tips for telling your partner a health secret (CNN)

Fisher, W.A., Kohut, T., & Fisher, J. (2009). AIDS exceptionalism: On the social psychology of HIV prevention research. Social Issues and Policy Review, 3, 45-77.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

The Wiley Blackwell Exchanges: Wellbeing Conference is About to Start

Image by Noodle snacks (http://www.noodlesnacks.com/)

We are very excited to announce that on November 15th 2010 (just a few days from now) the Wiley Blackwell Exchanges: Wellbeing Conference will begin at http://wileyblackwellexchanges.com/. To sign up as a delegate (for free), click here. For those who have signed up we recommend that to do the following:

Free Special Issue: Papers from the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference

We are delighted to announce the publication of a Special Issue made up of papers presented at the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference. The following papers are now AVAILABLE FOR FREE until January 2011!

Communicating about Communication: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Educating Educators about Language Variation (pages 245–257)
Christine Mallinson and Anne H. Charity Hudley

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(99K) | References

Beyond ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’: Breaking Down Binary Oppositions in Holocaust Representations of ‘Privileged’ Jews (pages 407–418)
Adam Brown

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(92K) | References

Language and Communication in the Spanish Conquest of America (pages 491–502)
Daniel Wasserman Soler

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(87K) | References

Equal Representation of Time and Space: Arno Peters’ Universal History (pages 718–729)
Stefan Müller

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(168K) | References

Recycling Modernity: Waste and Environmental History
Tim Cooper

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(86K) | References

A Hybrid Model of Moral Panics: Synthesizing the Theory and Practice of Moral Panic Research (pages 295–309)
Brian V. Klocke and Glenn W. Muschert

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(105K) | References

Borderlands Studies and Border Theory: Linking Activism and Scholarship for Social Justice (pages 505–518)
Nancy A. Naples

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(101K) | References

Cultural Sociology and Other Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity in the Cultural Sciences (pages 169–179)
Diana Crane

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(90K) | References

Fertility and Inequality Across Borders: Assisted Reproductive Technology and Globalization (pages 466–475)
Eileen Smith-Cavros

Abstract | Full Article (HTML) | PDF(80K) | References

Jesus made me vote that way.

By, Adam K. Fetterman
It is Election Day 2010 and there are a variety of motivations people have to vote and how to vote. Many are angry and some are anxious and uneasy, according to Holly Bailey. Many conservative voters are angry at the Democrat controlled house and senate. Many liberals are upset about the lack of hope and change promised to them by President Barack Obama, regardless of how many of his promises he has acted on. Regardless of party, many voters are basically upset with the state of the country. For these reasons, people have a motivation to vote and to vote in a certain way. However, these may not be the only things influencing the way they vote.

According to research by Abraham Rutchick (2010), the place in which one votes can have a significant effect on the way one votes. What he found was that when voting in a church or exposed to Christian imagery, people tend to vote more conservatively. For example, people voting in a church tended to vote for conservative candidates and ban same-sex marriages, than those voting in secular locations (Rutchick, 2010). This is a very important finding. Churches are particularly popular polling locations. It has always seemed odd to vote in churches, but until now there has been no reason to not vote in churches. They are in the communities and can hold a lot of people. However, given the evidence of the influence, it seems that voting should be conducted in secular locations, away from the biasing influence of the churches. If not for this reason, then at least of the separation of church and state, even if the reasons are not apparent.

2010: A campaign year driven by conflicted emotions. By, Holly Bailey

Rutchick, A. M. (2010). Deus ex machina: The influence of polling place on voting behavior. Political Psychology, 31, 209-225.