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Movies You'd Erase Your Memory to See Again for the First Time

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Earlier this month we had a nice discussion of books you can't put down -- the comments led me to buy several new books, the first of which I've already failed to put down (thanks for the Shadow Divers tip, Capt Grayson!). But a comment left by septer leads us to a related discussion about movies. Here it is:

You should blog about such movies too, ones that you wish you could erase from your mind, just so you can relive the experience of watching it for the first time!

This is a particularly interesting point, because we're talking about something other than movies you love and like to watch over and over. There are lots of movies I love that I don't wish I could relive watching for the first time. For example, I feel like Rushmore is a touchstone -- I can watch it again every year or so and experience both nostalgia for the first viewing, as well as a new perspective on the movie provided by later viewings. But there are definitely some movies I'd zap my brain and watch again for the first time. Here are two favorites:

The Village - I'm not usually a big fan of twists, period pieces, or horror, but boy did I love watching this movie for the first time. In this M. Night Shyamalan picture, I actually figured out several of the twists long before they were revealed -- but I loved that feeling of figuring them out, putting together the pieces. Knowing that a twist was coming (based on seeing The Sixth Sense), I kept an eye out for clues, and became a very active viewer, questioning everything I saw and trying to fit bits of evidence into various theories...all while watching and enjoying the movie. When the twist (and subtwists) were finally revealed, it was deliciously gratifying, and I remember feeling physically tired and happy after the movie ended. Wow. Subsequent viewings have been okay, but I'll never get back that feeling of fresh engagement from the first time.

AdaptationAdaptation - Again, this movie had a lot going on structurally that wasn't clear to me at first. On the first viewing, I was utterly unaware of anything fishy going on until maybe a half hour in. At some point (perhaps during the scene -- no spoiler here -- when Kaufman describes movie-opener scenes going back to the dawn of time), aspects of the movie's plot and narrative perspective start to fray around the edges, and I started to wonder what was actually going on. Watching it come apart was a revelation for me, as I enjoyed the movie on at least two levels. On the surface it's a funny, touching, weird movie. Beneath that, there's a meta-narrative about writing and identity that floored me. Anyway, I do enjoy watching this one over again, but I feel like now it's more like studying a work of art -- trying to figure out how the writer put it together -- than the pure joy of experiencing the reveal for the first time.

So, what movies would you like to see again for the first time? (Please avoid posting plot- or twist-related spoilers in the comments!)

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Are Smart People More Likely to Believe Stereotypes?
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A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General finds that people who score higher on one type of intelligence test are more likely to buy into stereotypes. Fortunately, they’re also more likely to discard them.

There are many different kinds of intelligence, each reliant on its own set of skills and abilities. One such ability is pattern recognition, without which we’d have trouble recognizing faces, learning languages, or reading other people’s emotions. Because it’s so central to our cognitive and social functioning, pattern recognition is sometimes used by researchers as a shorthand for overall intelligence.

Researchers at New York University wondered if there was any downside to this kind of intelligence—if a person’s ability to make quick associations could make them more susceptible to harmful generalizations and stereotypes.

To find out, they designed a series of six online experiments to compare more than 1200 participants’ pattern recognition skills with how easily they bought into stereotypes.

In one experiment, the researchers showed participants a collection of men’s faces, along with a description of something each man had done in the past. Some of the men’s actions were good, like sending flowers to someone who was sick. Others were unpleasant.

What the participants didn’t realize was that the researchers had rigged the setup so that one facial feature, either a wide nose or a narrow one, was paired more frequently with bad behavior, essentially inventing a negative stereotype.

After this subconscious introduction, participants were invited to play a trust game with a virtual partner (actually a research bot). The “partner” avatars had subtle differences in the shape and size of their noses.

Sure enough, participants who aced the pattern recognition test were more distrustful of participants with the “bad” kind of nose, whichever type that happened to be. Their ability to jump quickly to conclusions seemed to lead them right into the stereotype trap.

“Superior cognitive abilities are often associated with positive outcomes, such as academic achievement and social mobility,” lead author David Lick said in a statement. “However, our work shows that some cognitive abilities can have negative consequences.”

The news wasn’t all bad. Another experiment tested people’s ability to let go of harmful existing stereotypes—in this case, relating to gender. The researchers subtly exposed participants to information that challenged their beliefs, showing women behaving assertively, for example, or men stepping aside to let others lead.

As it turned out, participants who scored higher on the pattern recognition test were also better at taking in this new information and letting it change their minds. After exposure, they were less likely to buy into harmful gender stereotypes.

“Finding that higher pattern detection ability puts people at greater risk to detect and apply stereotypes, but also to reverse them, implicates this ability as a cognitive mechanism underlying stereotyping,” co-author Jonathan Freeman said in the statement.

“Our findings may help pave the way for future research that leverages pattern detection or other cognitive abilities for reducing social biases.”

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Experts Say Trying to Force Yourself to Be Happy Doesn't Work
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A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that people who accept their difficult emotions are better off in the long run than those who try to force their way into a better mood.

Many psychologists and meditation teachers endorse a practice called radical acceptance. The basic idea is that when something bad happens—say, a dear friend moves away—you have two options. You can either deny or fight that reality, or you can accept it, deal with the loss, and move on. Or, to put it a different way: Pain is inevitable, but suffering, like the kind caused by denial, is optional.

Radical acceptance works because it teaches practitioners to accept reality and hard situations. Could the same framework help with hard emotions like anger, sadness, and grief? 

To find out, psychologists conducted three separate studies. The first was an online survey, in which 1003 people described how they related to their emotions. Participants were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I tell myself I shouldn't be feeling the way that I'm feeling."

The second study took place in the lab and was framed as a mock job interview. The researchers told 156 people that they would be giving a speech extolling their job skills and qualifications. They were told the taped speech would be shown to a panel of judges as part of a mock job application. Then they were given two minutes to prepare. 

The last study invited 222 people to spend two months journaling about tough moments in their lives. Six months later, the researchers surveyed these people to see how they were feeling.

All three experiments yielded the same basic result: People who let themselves feel their feelings were, on average, less stressed, anxious, and depressed than those who tried to avoid or control them. 

"We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health," senior author Iris Mauss of UC Berkeley said in a statement. 

"Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you're not giving them as much attention," Mauss said. "And perhaps, if you're constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up."

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