|Posted by sgspsychology on February 3, 2009 at 9:29 AM||comments (15)|
The previous blog about ape-pods got me thinking about creating a Psychology playlist. This would be a set of songs that all relate to the Core Studies in some way, probably because of their titles but maybe because of a lyric or video. Here's what I've got so far:
PILIAVIN et al (1969)
REICHER & HASLAM (2006)
LOFTUS & PALMER (1974)
BARON-COHEN et al (1997)
SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH et al (1986)
Tell you what, I'll even offer prizes for good suggestions from students: Chocolate bars! No kidding!
|Posted by sgspsychology on January 26, 2009 at 9:27 AM||comments (5)|
Loftus & Palmer's research is (to me, at any rate) a bit creepy. I mean, if we don't really remember things when we remember things, then how can we be sure about anything at all?
A recap: Elizabeth Loftus showed students film of a car crash then quizzed them about what they remembered; one of the questions contained a critical verb ("How fast were the cars going when the cars SMASHED into each other") and if participants got asked this "smash" question, they 'remembered' the cars going faster and many also 'remembered' broken glass - even though there was no broken glass!
Loftus' idea is that when we recall things, we're not really replaying some mental videotape of the event. She says that memory is "reconstructive". In other words, we make it up! Every memory is a made up thing, made up partly out of actual events that happened, partly out of information we learned after the event and largely out of "schema" or stereotypes about how things tend to happen in general.
Let me give you an example from a different study. Ira Hyman et al. got parents together with their college-aged children to share childhood stories. Actually, the parents were asked to include one false story of a childhood event that never happened - either an overnight stay in hospital with a fever or a birthday party with pizza and a clown, both at age 5. Participants were tested and recalled over 80% of the true events and none recalled the false one. THey were then tested again a week later, but now 20% said they recalled something about the false event. One person remembered being hospitalised, but added that he remembered a doctor, a female nurse and a friend from church who came to visit him there!
Loftus has also shown that we can get false memories from TV!!! Apparently, there are loads of people who remember fetching Hovis bread from the bakery or getting Werther's Originals from their grandad or having Bisto gravy with the family roast - they've seen so many adverts, they think it actually happened to them! Loftus tested this buy showing people a promotional video for Disneyland; these were all people who had visited Disneyland as children. One version had been doctored to show kids cuddling someone dressed as Bugs Bunny. Later, members of the audience "recalled" meeting Bugs at Disneyland. But this would have been impossible, since Bugs Bunny is a creation of Warner Bros, not Disney. They got the memory from watching the video!
So if we can't trust our own memories, what can we trust?
If you like the idea of memories being messed with, here is my top 5 list of Messing With Memories Movies:
1. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)
Jim Carey in Serious Actor Mode as the sadsack whose kooky girlfriend (ever-excellent Kate Winslett) dumps him then visits a newfangled clinic to have all her memories of him wiped away. Peeved, Carey goes for the same treatment. He's happy as the memories of their recent unhappy relationship are wiped but as the treatment starts unearthing and deleting the happier memories from further back he resists, trying to find a way to hold on to his memories of the girl he loves.
2. MEMENTO (2000)
Guy Pearce is the insurance investigator with improbable abs who gets shot in the head. THe brain damage means he can't make new memories and forgets everything within half a minute of it happening. Trying to find the gunman who killed his wife, he has instructions tattooed onto his own body and Polaroid snaps stuck up everywhere to tell him what to "remember". Oh, and the film happens backwards!!! And the ending will screw you up!!!
3. OPEN YOUR EYES (1997)
If for some reason you can't watch foreign subtitled films (i.e. you are deeply retarded) then you could find the Hollywood remake, VANILLA SKY starring Tom Cruise, but be warned, it's not as good.
4. RANDOM HARVEST (1942)
Or maybe you can't bring yourself to watch old Black-and-White weepies? Now you're making me mad. In this one, Ronald Colman is the British officer who comes back from World War I with no memory. He meets his true love then, when the memories come back, forgets about her. From there on, it twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing. Keep a box of Kleenex nearby: much sobbing.
5. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)
It's a David Lynch film and - what a shock! - it makes almost no sense. But it comes so close to making crazy dreamworld anti-logic sense that it's brilliant. Rita (Laura Elena Harring) has no memory and Betty (Naomi Watts) is trying to help her discover who she is. But is Rita really dead? Or is it all just Betty's dream? Is Betty really Diane and did she kill Rita?
Any other "messing with your memories" suggestions are welcome!
|Posted by sgspsychology on January 23, 2009 at 10:50 AM||comments (5)|
On the subject of bonobo apes, I found an interview with Sue Savage-Rumbaugh describing her work with Kanzi and the other chimpanzees. I was really struck by her reply when the interviewer asked her if it was true that the chimps like to watch telly. She replied:
"...Their lives are so confined. They can expand their world by watching television."
Wow! My mum always told me TV would rot my brain. But I guess, if Mother Nature intended you to roam wild in the jungle, then even the 50 acre wooded park where the apes live must feel pretty confining. So... what TV do chimps watch, exactly?
"They like the home videos we make about events happening to people they know from around the lab..."
That figures. Even my daughter's dog shares an interest in that sort of thing.
"... They like suspenseful stories, with an interesting resolution."
Hmmm. That's getting creepier. So they go for "Diagnosis Murder" or "C.S.I. Miami" do they? Do they figure out the murderer before Inspector Lynley does? Or do chimps prefer sado-horror, like "Saw" or "Hostel"? Just what exactly is Sue showing these poor creatures?
"... Of movies we buy, they really like films about human beings trying to relate to some kind of ape-like creatures. So they like 'Tarzan,' 'Iceman', 'Quest for Fire', the Clint Eastwood movies
with the orangutan..."
Now that's getting crazy. They like "Every Which Way But Loose"??? That would put apes at about the same level of cultural development as the 1970s! And is Clyde the Orangutan the hero of the film, from an ape viewpoint? Do they watch "2001 A Space Odyssey" and think the opening scene is great but it all goes downhill when the action moves to outer space? Just where exactly do their loyalties lie in "King Kong"? These are questions that need to be answered!!!
So, if that's the sort of movies chimpanzees like, what sort of music do they listen to? I'm putting together a Kanzi Playlist for my iPod. Obviously, there are the obvious choices:
Any other ape-related music for Kanzi's playlist is much appreciated!
|Posted by sgspsychology on January 22, 2009 at 10:05 AM||comments (1)|
One of President Obama's first acts in office has been to close down the notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This huge fortified jail was originally set up to hold Cuban and Haitian refugees but since 2001 it's been used to hold and interrogate terror suspects captured in Afghanistan or Iraq. The US terms these people "enemy combatants" and, since they weren't waging a conventional war (part of an army, wearing uniforms, etc) they don't get the full protection of the Geneva Convention. Naturally, the US is keen to quiz these prisoners on terrorist plots and naturally there have been all sorts of accusations of brutality and torture. Some Muslim prisoners have claimed guards insult their religion and flush copies of the Qur'an down the toilet. The Red Cross accuses the prison of using beatings and sleep deprivation and there have been four suicides and hundreds of suicide attempts.
Why does such stuff go on? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo claims to have the answer. Back in the '70s he conducted the Standford Prison Experiment (SPE). This took a couple of dozen nice college boys and asked them to play the part of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison set up in the university basement. It was supposed to run for a month but had to be shut down after 6 days. Inspired by one particular guard (nicknamed "John Wayne" by the rest), the guards became sadistic and brutal, thinking up fiendish ways to torment the prisoners. But it didn't end there. Everyone involved - the guards, the prisoners, even Zimbardo acting as the "prison warden" - seemed to lose their sense of perspective. In hindsight, it's clear everyone identified too closely with their roles; the guards became guards, the prisoners became prisoners.
Zimbardo decided that a "slide into tyranny" was inevitable whenever you took a group of people and gave some of them powerful roles and others powerless ones. He's had pretty much the last word on the subject for years. Back in 2004 he was in the news again when stories surfaced about American guards at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. These guards tormented and abused their prisoners, stripping them, forcing them to perform sex acts and filming their sadistic deeds. Everyone was stunned that all-American kids (some of them women!) could descend to this level but Zimbardo was quick to point out the moral of the SPE, "how ordinary people could be readily transformed from the good Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde".
Interested? Watch this great video lecture by Philip Zimbardo on the psychology of tyranny.
That's why Reicher & Haslam's study is important. They're the first people to try to replicate the SPE, with lots of safety checks to stop things spiralling out of control. They've also tried to gather quantitative data and explore the different variables that turn some people into vicious bullies and others into courageous rebels. On the surface, they got similar results - their study was cancelled on Day 8 when a group of participants tried to set up a harsh regime of punishment and revenge. However, they found things worked out differently along the way: the guards were weak and divided whereas the prisoners had high morale and felt powerful. They found that key individuals could really swing a group to their side. When they introduced a new prisoner with negotiation skills (codenamed pDM), the prisoners and guards found a way to work together. When pDM was taken out of the prison, anarchy returned.
Reicher & Haslam show that the "slide into tyranny" isn't inevitable. Prisons don't have to be hellholes. It seems that people choose tyranny when they've run out of options: better a tyrant in charge than total chaos.
I guess President Obama isn't planning on letting all the terror suspects in Guantanamo run free. They'll be rehoused in another prison, probably somewhere on the US mainland. Reicher & Haslam's findings could be very useful for setting up a prison regime that manages to stay humane and fair. There's a danger that the Americans might become very paranoid about using power to hold and interrogate the prisoners. But being squeamish about using power was exactly the problem Reicher & Haslam's guards felt... and as you know, that led to chaos and tyranny in the end too.