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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’



Creative Commons License
Night Noises by Fayyaad Hendricks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

I apologize for the overimagification, but that’s the result of two days of challenge. It’s actually left me a little on the drained side, but…it was actually fun. It’s weird how much I can accomplish when I’m not actually playing video games! Don’t get me wrong…I miss playing them, but I’ve discovered activities and parts of me that I’d forgotten about. And I think that’s the most important lesson I’m taking away from all this–life DOES exist outside of games. The Darling Wife is impressed enough at this little book I’ve written that she’s actually at the moment in the process of trying to find it a publisher. I’m going to clean up the artwork and layout a bit, and then we’ll see if there’s a chance I can get this, and perhaps a few other stories into bookshops. Is that too ambitious for something I wrote and drew over the course of two nights? Probably…but it’s fun and exciting, even if nothing comes of it. Anyhow, enjoy the story and illustrations, as raw and un-refined as they are. If you can’t read it, my apologies; I’ve shrunk it down quite a bit so that I don’t overload anyone’s browser. If there’s a call for it, I’ll post the finished, reworked, cleaned up product at Flickr or Picasa. Just to get an indication, does anyone think they’d actually pay money for a story like this?

Back to the story of addiction. I don’t know if it’s just a case of information synchronicity, or…er…that psychological phenomenon where you only start taking notice of things because they’re relevant to you (argh, can’t remember what it’s called!!), but I’ve suddenly noticed an awful lot of articles popping up in my RSS reader about video game addiction. This statistic comes to us via Switched.com, and states that almost 1 in 10 US children are addicted to video games; 8.5% to be a little more precise. It’s an alarming number if you’re going to label it “addiction” vs “compulsion”. The sample size is significant: 1,178 adolescent children, with 8.5% of them exhibiting addictive behavior:

(Researcher, Douglas) Gentile looked for symptoms like becoming irritable when gameplay was cut short, avoiding homework to play, stealing money to buy gaming paraphernalia, and escaping reality and avoiding problems through games.

That sounds about right for “addiction”, and with kids of my own, I’m beginning to feel as though this hasn’t received enough attention till now. The article goes on to state that Dr Gentile has touted the benfits of video games before, so he’s not exactly a completely biased voice in this matter.

Gentile doesn’t necessarily think games are bad. He would just like to see game manufacturers use the significant influence games have over children for good instead of evil — for creating powerful educational devices.

[Link: Switched.com - Almost 1 in 10 Children Addiction to Video Games]

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xbox 360 logo

I read this article about video game addiction at GameSpot with great interest, seeing as how the article discussed two interests of mine: psychology, which I studied at university, and video games, my favorite down-time pursuit, and an industry that I’d love to work in. The article is long (runs into four pages) and unless you’re as rabidly interested in both spheres under discussion as I am, I doubt you’ll read the entire thing. (Incidentally, if you DO happen, by some strange quirk of the universe, to read the entire article, I’d be interested to hear your comments!)

tl;dr: how to define and quantify the concept of “video game addiction” as a psychologically valid term that can be listed in the next edition of the DSM. In other words, what criteria can we use to say “yep, this guy has a problem”.

The article goes into describing the obvious cases such as the chap who died after several days of non-stop Starcraft. The focus is on the word “addiction”, and if a person has an addiction problem, then playing games will affect other parts of their lives that aren’t generally spent playing games, such as social, marital, work, etc.

So after discussing this issue with The Darling Wife, I asked her if she thinks I have an addiction issue. To put things in perspective, there’s very little time that I’m not either actively playing games (I have a 360, a Wii, and a DS, and a computer provides endless opportunities for gaming), thinking about games, talking about games, or on the odd occasion, dreaming about games. The first 8 or 10 blogs in my feed reader are all gaming blogs, but my counter-argument is that those are the sum total gaming blogs I read out of about 50 or so feeds. Personally, I don’t think I have a gaming addiction problem.

So I proposed an experiment: I’d give up gaming for a week, from Sunday to Sunday, and document how removing a core part of what I do affects me, if at all. I’m not allowed to read gaming blogs, talk about games, play games, and I have to actively try to avoid thinking about games if I can. Now I know that will annoy some of the other authors of this blog, since Friday night is the time that everyone gets together to play multiplayer online Gears of War 2. So surely that’s already HELPING my social life, since it’s impossible to interact with my friends IRL, right?

To make things interesting, The Darling Wife has come up, Top Gear style, with a few challenges to keep my documenting of my week interesting. I’m not sure if I should be dreading or looking forward to it. Watch this space!

[Link: GameSpot - Game Addiction: The Real Story]

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ikea-cat-some-assembly-required

Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about how people tend to value creations that they’ve labored over more than those that they haven’t.

When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations. We call this phenomenon the IKEA effect, in honor of the wildly successful Swedish manufacturer whose products typically arrive with some assembly required.

In one of our studies we asked people to fold origami and then to bid on their own creations along with other people’s. They were consistently willing to pay more for their own origami. In fact, they were so enamored of their amateurish creations that they valued them as highly as origami made by experts.

The article goes on to state that the effect extends to office politics, and managers might see ideas and processes that originate with them as more valuable than those that come from outside.

It contributes to the sunk cost effect, whereby managers continue to devote resources to (sometimes failing) projects in which they have invested their labor, and to the not-invented-here syndrome, whereby they discount good ideas developed elsewhere in favor of their (sometimes inferior) internally developed ideas.

Personally, I’d call this the “Mo” effect, but that’s neither here nor there.

Either way, it’s an interesting argument, and links to the psychological effect of people being blind to their own imperfections while criticizing those same imperfections in others. People seem wired to put worth in something where they understand the labor “cost” involved, whether that cost be monetary, work hours, or otherwise. I think that’s why people put a high price on art (or any creative work, really); it’s something that the man-on-the-street feels incapable of without considerable time and effort on their behalves (whether actually true or not).

How do you feel about DIY projects that you’ve put your heart and soul into? How about projects that you’ve seen as being similar to your own? My personal feeling is to put great worth in artistic works not because I’m incapable, but because I DO understand the labor cost, having produced artwork myself. On the other hand, I see that no one around me has any love for my jokes, but that’s because they think that they just pop into my head, and that I don’t sweat for hours trying to perfect the funny. They’re right, of course, but I’m lot letting anyone think I know that.

[Link: Harvard Business Review - The IKEA effect]

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A friend and I decided to try a little social experiment. How many people, when driving by, look upwards? We didn’t exactly keep records (which would have made it a little more scientific), but here was the setup. We stood on a balcony above a reasonably busy road for roughly five minutes (this was roughly how long it took for aforementioned friend to finish his smoke break). In traffic terms, we’d see perhaps 2 to 3 cars every 5 to 6 seconds, so it wasn’t too hectic, and we were able to observe. We decided to test the hypothesis that people mainly don’t look upward or around them while they’re in their cars, and to do this, we simply waved at the cars going by.

Result: We repeated the experiment twice, and with roughly similar results. The first time, we got two return waves in the entire duration, and the second time we got about 5 return waves. Mind you, The waves back skew the results, because we DID get a few looks of “what the hell are you two on about?” and two definite “frak you” looks.

Of the return waves, it seems that we got the best results from people in delivery trucks, most likely because the trucks afford them better views outwards. Women were also more friendly than guys and likely to wave back, but I suspect that the results might reverse themselves were a woman to join us. Mostly however, we were firmly ignored.

So what, ultimately, does this little experiment show us? Either that most people who drive by are unfriendly pricks, or that most people are keeping their eyes firmly on the road ahead. Which is either good, or bad, depending on how you look at the results.

So, if you were in the car passing by, and two random strangers are standing on the balcony waving at everyone, would you wave back?

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backmasking-sample1

Some of you might know Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. It’s not only an ultra cool rock song but also a great example of backmasking, when a song is played backwards to reveal a hidden message. It turns out their innocent words about hearing “a bustle in your hedgerow” turn out to be an ode to “my sweet Satan”. (The backwards version’s about 27 seconds into the video below).

There are other famous backmasking examples. Britney Spears asks you to “Sleep with me, I’m not too young” in Baby One More Time and The Beatles have revealed Paul McCartney’s death in a number of their songs. (I’ve included links to the various backmasked songs below.)

Naturally, I started wondering how other songs would sound backwards – not to find hidden messages, but just to see what they sound like. So I got a free audio editor called Audacity and started mixing songs in my music collection.

Man, was I amazed! I’m addicted to the different sounds produced – arrythmical beats and tones, undecipherable words and unexpected anticlimaxes. It just speaks to a different part of the brain. Slow some songs down or speed them up and you get even whackier results.

Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive sounds absolutely haunting. Jimi Hendrix sounds higher than usual – a good thing in his case. And Billie Holiday sounds depressingly melancholy, even for her.

Now, I know that finding hidden messages is mostly pareidolia (reverse speech is an example), the brain finding patterns and significance where there possibly aren’t (apparently to help you survive in the wild). So you won’t find any hidden messages (mostly). But, the sounds you get when backmasking arb songs are fascinating and sometimes unreal. And you get to double your music collection without too much effort.

So, if you get yourself a couple of ping pong balls, a strong cup of coffee and some backmasked songs, you could be dancing backwards in the clouds before long.

To the fellow backmaskers: !yojnE

Links:

Reverse Speech – Related phenomenon where it’s theorised that once every 10-15 seconds of conversation, there’s a subliminal sentence that, backwards, expresses your subconscious thoughts.

Stairway to Heaven – Normal song live (very cool song; 8:00+ but worth it), backwards (short) and backwards (long). (YouTube – quality of normal live song not too good; better link anyone?)

Backmasking samples – Some samples on one page, including Stairway to Heaven and Britney’s Baby One More Time.

Beatles Songs – Samples from a couple of their songs (YouTube – quality not that good, but audible).

Bogosity – Pareidolia – An interesting video discussing the stupidity of pareidolia, finding patterns where there aren’t. (YouTube)

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According to the Typealizer analysis, Utter Insanity authors are classified as ENTP – Visionaries:

The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of theday, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical ability.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

Aww…isn’t that nice? Do you agree with this analysis? Let us know what your blogs say about you!

[Link: Typealizer, thanks Tim!]

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Boston Globe has a fun-looking article about how to hallucinate without the benefit of drugs. One of methods suggested is to tune a radio to static and then tape two halves of a ping pong ball to your eyes, thus depriving your body of sensation. Within minutes you should see…well…someone try it and tell us! What sort of insanity does your brain come up with?

[Link: Boston Globe - Hack Your Brain]

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Infovore has a very interesting article about the future of the world as run by gamers. This is no mere conjecture: a generation of people who have grown up with games as part of their everyday lives is now coming into power. The question then becomes “what skills would someone who has been a gamer all their lives have?”

Among the skills listed are resource management, understanding of complexity, and dealing with failure as a fact of life. I love the section regarding failure:

When we learn in games, we learn by failing; we learn whether or not we
can really make that jump, or if that enemy really is vulnerable to
fire. Part of understanding the complex systems of games is making
mistakes. And, as we become more experienced, we learn to discern
between something being “possible but not by me (yet)” or “impossible
for anyone”. Once you learn that progress comes from failure, you stop
seeing failure as an absolute, and more as a step on the path.

Furthermore, the article goes to mention one of my favorite games:

And some games really place the notion of exploratory failure at their
core. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time makes failure an integral
part of its gameplay by giving the player a limited ability to rewind
time. Mistakes are not instantly punished; they’re only punished if you
don’t learn from them (and make them when you have run out of the magic
rewind power). I think it’s dangerous to remove any notion of challenge
from games, but there are ways to make that challenge scale up-or-down,
and Sands of Time balances challenge and exploration very, very nicely.

One of my favorite parts of the article, itself a quote from another article (“Games without frontiers” by Clive Thompson):

“Constance Steinkuehler — a game academic at the University of
Wisconsin — was spending 12 hours a day playing Lineage, the online
world game. She was, as she puts it, a “siege princess,” running
150-person raids on hellishly difficult bosses. Most of her guild
members were teenage boys.

But they were pretty good at figuring out how to defeat the bosses.
One day she found out why. A group of them were building Excel
spreadsheets into which they’d dump all the information they’d gathered
about how each boss behaved: What potions affected it, what attacks it
would use, with what damage, and when. Then they’d develop a
mathematical model to explain how the boss worked — and to predict how
to beat it.

Often, the first model wouldn’t work very well, so the group would
argue about how to strengthen it. Some would offer up new data they’d
collected, and suggest tweaks to the model. “They’d be sitting around
arguing about what model was the best, which was most predictive,”
Steinkuehler recalls.”

That’s when it hit her: The kids were practicing science.

At one point, Steinkuehler met up with one of the kids who’d built
the Excel model to crack the boss. “Do you realize that what you’re
doing is the essence of science?” she asked.

He smiled at her. “Dude, I’m not doing science,” he replied. “I’m just cheating the game!””

The conclusion that comes from this article is that

Well, if [gamers] can handle complexity, and they’ve stocked up all the
magic item chests ready for when scarcity hits, and they’ve failed
enough times at the low-stakes games that they know they can make it at
the high-stakes ones, and if our environment is one carefully planned
out for effective growth rather than rammed together for efficiency,
and if they understand how to handle the ever-more complex forms of
communications necessary to deal with the large, distributed teams of
people necessary to understand complexity – and if they can create a
world that supplies and consumes the data necessary to make smart,
informed, decisions – then they might just make it awesome.
No-one would ever tell us that games were a waste of time.

Sheer brilliance, I must say.

I’m an RPG gamer myself, for the most part, so I guess that part of the skillset that I’ve developed as a gamer include resource management (potions can be damn scarce!), critical analysis decision making (do I apply the skill points to THIS stat, or THAT stat?), and just a tenacious doggedness at slogging away at something (random battles, in the case of RPGs) to attain a greater goal (levelling up…usually to defeat the next boss and get the storyline to progress). What do you think? What skills do you think that games has brought to you life, other than brilliant hand-eye coordination, an itchy trigger finger, and crap driving skills?

Go read the article: the future might just be looking damn bright…in a pixellated kind of way.

[Link: Infovore - If gamers ran the world]

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Found this fun little game that tests how good your short-term memory is. You’re show a list of items, and then when you think you have them memorized, you click next and pick them from the items shown. It starts off easy and then they add more items. One wrong move and you’re out! My first try got me to memorizing 15 items at a go, but I understand that between 4 and 9 and average. Your first try scores in the comments, please!

[Link: The Short Term Memory Checker, via The Presurfer]

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Try out this quick test at News.com.au to see if you’re left or right brained. Turns out I’m about as right-brained as they get (which by looking at the list they provide, I could have told you), but I’m still not certain how this works. The entire test consists of looking at an animation of a spinner dancer’s silhouette and determining which direction she’s spinning. If she’s turning clockwise, you’re right-brained, and if anti-clockwise, then you’re left-brained. With a lot of concentration, I managed to get her to spin the other way, but for some odd reason, it deeply distresses me because it looks “wrong”. Don’t ask. Anyhow…your experiences in the comments!

[Link: News.com.au - Left Brain v Right Brain Test]

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