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Oh, phrenology

It's been awhile since a psychic has tried to flag me down, and it's been awhile since any of my friends have subjected me to new ways of discerning my character flaws/intellectual capacity via my appendages, moles, et al. But I'm currently reading about infamous editor Max Perkins and how he clung to the blueprints offered by phrenology (the theory, not the excellent Roots album). I'm not sure whether he had a set of calipers and some string in his desk during his Scribner's reign, but he wasn't the only one calculating the topography of those 37 cranial nodes and making corresponding judgments.

Ever since phrenology was proposed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall at the turn of the 19th century, it clearly favored bumps and indentations of the gentry; however, should one exhibit any cranial texture that was less than desirable, exercises could be prescribed to lessen the negative impact of certain protrusions. The theory casually maintained itself well into the next century, when a man from Wisconsin burst onto the scene with The Psychograph, a contraption that still lives on at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices:

In 1901, Henry C. Lavery, a self-described "profound thinker" of Superior, Wisconsin became certain that phrenology was true and spent his next 26 years endeavoring to put this science into a machine. On January 29, 1931, he and his partner, Frank P. White, a businessman who had taken his life savings of $39,000 out of stock in a local sandpaper manufacturer - the 3M company - to finance the venture, announced the invention of such a machine - the "Psychograph."

The machine consisted of 1,954 parts in a metal carrier with a continuous motor-driven belt inside a walnut cabinet containing statements about 32 mental faculties. These faculties were each rated 1 through 5, "deficient" to "very superior," so that there were 160 possible statements but an almost unlimited number of possible combinations. The "score" was determined by the way the 32 probes, each with five contact points in the headpiece, made contact with the head.

Hmm. It might interest me if it could give head massages in between diagnoses.

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Food
Learn to Spot the Sneaky Psychological Tricks Restaurants Use
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While dining out, you may have noticed (but perhaps didn’t question) some unusual features—like prices missing dollar signs, or burgers served on plates that could accommodate a baby cow.

These aren’t just arbitrary culinary decisions, as the SciShow’s Hank Green explains in the video below. Restaurants use all kinds of psychological tricks to make you spend more money, ranging from eliminating currency symbols (this makes you think less about how much things cost) to plating meals on oversize dinnerware (it makes you eat more). As for the mouthwatering language used to describe food—that burger listed as a "delectable chargrilled extravagance," for example—studies show that these types of write-ups can increase sales by up to 27 percent.

Learn more psychological tricks used by restaurants (and how to avoid falling for them) by watching the video below. (Or, read our additional coverage on the subject.)

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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