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People Believe Comparisons With ‘More Than,’ Not ‘Less Than’

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All comparisons are not equal. Though logically, sentences like “men generally make more money than women” or “San Franciscans generally pay more money in rent than New Yorkers” are the equivalent of “women generally make less money than men” and “New Yorkers generally pay less rent than San Franciscans,” the latter sentences don’t hold the same sway with most people. According to a new study, people tend to prefer to make and read comparisons with “more than,” and are more likely to believe those assertions than statements phrased with "less than." 

The study, published by psychologists from two German and Belgian universities in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, compared the two lexical structures in a series of seven tests with 1,388 people who spoke German or Dutch. In each study, people tended to more strongly believe statements about older and younger workers, drug efficacy, and gender stereotypes when they were framed as “more than” comparisons. They were also more likely to spontaneously use “more than” constructions themselves. 

“More than” statements, the researchers posit, are easier for people to process, because it’s easier for people to imagine the presence of a quality rather than its absence. Thus, people might use, like, and agree with “more than” statements more often because they do not have to work as hard to wrap their brains around them. (Sort of how subtraction is a more complex math subject to learn than addition.)

The study might be limited by the fact that it only studied speakers of two Germanic languages—people with a background in a different language family, such as Mandarin Chinese speakers, might view comparisons differently. However, Dutch and German are both fairly closely related to English, so it’s likely that the findings would parallel anglophone tendencies as well.

[h/t: Social Psych Online]

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Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
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Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

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Vivid Imagery Makes Poetry More Pleasurable, According to Psychologists
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Contrary to what English teachers led us to believe, most readers don’t judge poetry based on factors like alliteration and rhyme. In fact, a new study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts suggests that vivid imagery (i.e. sense-evoking description) is what makes a poem compelling, according to Smithsonian.

To determine why some poetic works are aesthetically pleasing while others are less so, researchers from New York University and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, had more than 400 online volunteers read and rate 111 haikus and 16 sonnets. Participants answered questions about each one, including how vivid its imagery was, whether it was relaxing or stimulating, how aesthetically pleasing they found it, and whether its content was positive or negative.

Not surprisingly, taste varied among subjects. But researchers did find, overall, that poems containing colorful imagery were typically perceived as more pleasurable. (For example, one favorite work among subjects described flowers as blooming and spreading like fire.) Emotional valence—a poem's emotional impact—also played a smaller role, with readers ranking positive poems as more appealing than negative ones. Poems that received low rankings were typically negative, and lacked vivid imagery.

Researchers think that vivid poems might also be more interesting ones, which could explain their popularity in this particular study. In the future, they hope to use similar methodology to investigate factors that might influence our enjoyment of music, literature, and movies.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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