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Study Finds Experts Overestimate Their Knowledge

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Everyone has been guilty of it at some point. You’re in the middle of a conversation about politics or music or art, and someone asks, “Have you heard of…?” And despite your complete lack of knowledge of that band or law or artist, you say, “Sure!” 

As it turns out, the more you know about a subject, the more likely you are to fib when your knowledge falls short, claiming that some factoid rings a bell when, in fact, there are no bells to be rung. A new study published in Psychological Science finds that when people consider themselves experts, they’re more likely to profess understanding of made-up concepts. 

In five different tests, researchers at Cornell University and Tulane University presented fake facts about finance and geography to participants in the lab. Self-professed experts were more likely to claim they were very knowledgeable about concepts and places that didn’t exist. This tendency, called “overclaiming,” occurred even when participants were warned that some of the concepts they were encountering would be fake. 

Our results suggest that people do not simply consult a ‘mental index’ that catalogues their knowledge but instead draw on preexisting self-perceptions of knowledge to make inferences about what they should or probably do know,” the researchers write. It seems there’s some truth to the idea that wisdom is all about knowing what you do not know. 

[h/t: Washington Post]

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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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