News, Psychology

Constructive noncompliance – when citizens disobey the laws… and it’s a good thing

Image credits: iStock.

When citizens stop complying with the laws, it’s generally a bad thing – laws are there for a reason, and not respecting the laws carries negative consequences – for the people involved, and for social order. But what if, consciously or not, citizens are actually disobeying the laws in order to enact positive changes? A new MIT study found that sometimes, that’s exactly the case.

Biology, News, Psychology

Flies feel fear too, but do they have other emotions as well?

Flies feel fear too, but probably not in the way humans do. Drawing: Kim Carlson

Fruit flies experience fear, one of the primary emotions, according to a new research that suggests there’s much more to flies scattering about in the face of a swatter than a mere robotic reflex. But do the flies feel other emotions too? That’s an extremely difficult question to answer, since the researchers themselves aren’t even sure what they’ve been observing is genuine fear. It does, however, bear all the characteristics of fear. The findings are important since the show that other “lesser beings” that have a primitive nervous system like other insects or spiders might also experience fear, and possibly other emotions as well like happiness or sadness. Who knows, maybe love too?

Animals, News, Psychology

Rats rescue their friends from drowning out of empathy (and kindness)

"Don't worry, buddy! I'll fix this." Image: SATO, N. ET AL., ANIMAL COGNITION (2015)

We use the word “humane” to describe kind behavior and sympathy towards others, but the term might falsely lend some to believe that this is an exclusive human quality. Far from it. Rats too are kind, sympathetic and as “humane” as any human. For instance, when their peers are in danger of drowning, rats will come to their aid to save them. Even when a tasty treat, like chocolate, is offered instead the rat will most often than not choose to help his dying friend. To hell with chocolate!

Feature Post, Psychology

How Oculus Rift could revolutionise Social Psychology

oculus rift

Upon acquiring virtual technology company Oculus, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted that virtual reality technology would one day permeate areas of life further than just the world of gaming, and we would ‘someday [use virtual reality] to enjoy a courtside seat at a basketball game, study in a classroom, consult with a doctor face-to-face or shop in a virtual store’. It’s true – the creation of immersive, virtual environments does indeed have masses of potential for industries which beforehand, were seemingly incongruous with such technology. Social psychology, the study of human experience and behaviour, is one of them.

News, Psychology

Fear of punishment and conformity might explain how traditions are created and mantained

Ceremony Dance

The threat of punishment and humans’ seemingly innate tendency to copy other behaviors form the basis of a psychological model that explains how traditions or entrenched ideals are formed and maintained in society.


The speed of emergency evacuations depends on… your relationships?

The main lobby in New York's Grand Central Station

You’re standing in a crowded space when suddenly the fire alarm goes off. Do you a) immediately proceed to the exit, or b) wait for other people and head out as part of a group? The answer probably depends on who you’re with at the time, and according to a paper published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, the distinction may be crucial during emergency evacuations.

Genetics, News, Psychology

Kid doesn’t like going to school? Your ‘bad’ genes might have a say in all this

school kids

Some kids seem to enjoy school activities more than others, but while efforts seem to be concentrated on improving teaching, a new research suggests that genes play a major role as well – sometimes they’re more important than the environment, as far as motivation and doing well in school are concerned. The findings were reported by a team led Yulia Kovas of Goldsmiths, University of London that aggregated a swath of studies which included 13,000 twins aged nine to 16 from six countries, including the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, Russia and the US.

News, Psychology

Ignoring the dress code can actually enhance status, but only if other people think you’re elite

Mark Zuckerberg clothes

There’s a fine line between being seen as a non-conformist (higher status) and sloppy dresser (lower status). But what sets apart people like Zuckerberg from regular people like you or me (apart from money, of course…)? Well, to get to the root of this silver line, the Harvard researchers studied the observers themselves to understand what are the boundary conditions and signals that make people confer higher status to nonconforming individuals over conforming ones.

Feature Post, Psychology

Breaking the Backlash – A take on the social psychology of discrimination

AFP Photo/Guillaume Souvant

On January 7th 2015, the world looked on in horror as news of the Charlie Hebdo shootings broke. The story of two brothers, identifying as members of the militant Islamist group Al-Qaeda, who forced their way into the satirical magazine’s Paris offices and killed 11 people is one that is now sadly well-known to people across the globe. A story that might be less well known, however, is that of the ramifications that the brothers actions had for members of the very faith that they were claiming to represent.

News, Psychology

Metaphors help us read other people’s minds

power of metaphors

Friends use metaphors more often when speaking to one another, and this helps them gauge each other’s emotional state according to a study published in the journal Memory & Cognition. The Canadian researchers who performed the study conclude that metaphors facilitate social interactions, comprehension and empathy.