I recently attended One Day University, a fantastic day-long series of lectures by top professors in various fields of study. I highly recommend checking it out if the event comes to your city. I’m going to share some of the tidbits I learned from two of the psychology-based lectures, and if enough requests come in, I’ll do my best to reach the professors who taught to give us more insight.
1) Dr. Catherine Sanderson of Amherst discussed the mind/body relationship. She addressed eating, pain/health and arousal and love. About these:
– the average college-aged woman wants to be 5’7’’ and 100 pounds. That body mass index meets the criteria for Anorexia Nervosa.
– when asked which of these four items would be most embarrassing to purchase: condoms, Snickers, tampons or a pregnancy test, most college-aged women picked the Snickers. In other words, you’re better off saying that you might have gotten knocked up rather than admitting you have a chocolate craving.
– when dating, both men and women eat less when they are with someone they find desirable. If not, food consumption increases. Why bother impressing someone you’re not interested in?
– when presented with a series of neutral words that suggest old-age (e.g., Florida, gray hair, Bingo), students actually walked more slowly from the experimenter’s room to the elevator. Their pace picked up later, but they were initially influenced by old-age stereotypes.
– people who own dogs live longer. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but a few ideas are out there. One is that many dog owners walk their dog, which is a form of exercise and health promotion. Another is that a dog serves as a social lubricant, allowing for the creation of a greater support system. And finally dogs give unconditional love which can promote long-term health. Similar results were not found with other animals, so if you want to say a cat gives unconditional love as well, forget it. We all know that a cat is simply a glorified stuffed animal that hates you.
– people often misinterpret their physiological responses as arousal and love. When told to cross a bridge, men were met at the other side by a woman who gave them her number, “just in case they had any questions.” The men who walked over a solid, sturdy bridge (i.e., limited physiological response) rarely called the woman. However, the men who walked over a very shaky bridge (which generated the fear response) often called the woman within a few days. They paired the meeting of the woman with the arousal response and many believed they were experiencing the “love at first sight” phenomenon. Dr. Anderson promoted the idea of using a strong physiological response to help long-term romantic relationships. Her advice for couples is to go to a lot of amusement parks, take tango lessons, get cardiovascular exercise together and watch plenty of horror movies. You’ll use the arousal response to stay connected to your partner.
2) Dr. Jeff Hancock of Cornell discussed “The Brave New World of Lying and Deception.” A few interesting tidbits:
– humans lie, on average, one time per day. That actually struck me as somewhat low.
– 80% of Match.Com profiles have at least one lie in one of three major categories: height, weight and age. Women most often lie about weight, men about height. These two variables are more likely suspects because they are more easily changeable (e.g., dieting, high heels, shoe lifts, etc.), whereas age is more fixed.
– humans can detect lying only 54% of the time, or only slightly above chance. The fact that it’s that high at all is likely because of the small group of people who are just horrible liars that we can all detect, as well as “Wizards,” those who are successful at detecting lies over 90% of the time. One study found only 18 Wizards in 20,000 people studied, and it’s unclear why they are able to pick out lies as well as they do.
– people believe that studying a person’s eye movements and/or change in voice will help us detect their lies. Both of these assertions are essentially false, with voice pitch being minimally useful.
– as “Lying Profiles” are being developed, three trends are emerging. Narratives that contain lies tend to have fewer “I” statements (which allows for a psychological distancing from the lie), fewer “exception” words such as “but,” “except,” “aside from,” etc. (to decrease the complexity of the lie) and contain more negative emotion. Dr. Hancock noted this last factor is due to what he called “guilt from the leakage.” I have to wonder if the negative emotion (“Oh, the accident that caused me to be late to this job interview was just horrible”) is also a subconscious method of inducing pity or sympathy from the listener, who is then less focused on how truthful you are.
That’s all I can remember at the moment so I’ll call it quits for now. Thanks to both Drs. Sanderson and Hancock for some great stuff. If you didn’t find any of this interesting…it might be time to move on to technology blogs, because human behavior doesn’t get much more fascinating than this.