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Pictured: Lead author Michael Woodworth (not a manipulator). UBC Okanagan
Pictured: Lead author Michael Woodworth (not a manipulator). UBC Okanagan

We’re Better at Spotting Manipulators Online Than in Person

Pictured: Lead author Michael Woodworth (not a manipulator). UBC Okanagan
Pictured: Lead author Michael Woodworth (not a manipulator). UBC Okanagan

Anybody can get scammed, manipulated, or exploited. But there’s some good news, especially for those of us who rarely leave our computers or phones: People are less likely to get suckered online than in face-to-face interactions. A new study shows that the absence of nonverbal cues better allows us to see through deceivers. The study results were published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. 

Psychologists quantify our personalities by breaking our behavior and thought patterns into traits. The “Big Five” are extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness. But the list doesn’t end there—there’s also the so-called Dark Triad (DT): psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. People who score high on DT traits are more likely than the general population to be skilled exploiters, intimidators, or manipulators. In other words, they’re the ones you need to watch out for in negotiations. 

In person, anyway. “While there has long been a fascination with DT personalities and how they can impact ‘ordinary’ people, little has been studied as to how these people behave online,” senior paper author Michael Woodworth said in a press statement. Woodworth and three of his colleagues at the University of British Columbia decided to find out if DT-inclined manipulators fare as well online as they do in person. 

The researchers recruited 200 college students, some of whom scored significantly in one or more DT traits. The students were given instructions to negotiate the best price for concert tickets (either as the buyer or the seller), and were broken into two groups. Half the students conducted their negotiations in person, while the others negotiated online.

As expected, high-DT participants were extremely successful in face-to-face negotiations. Online … not so much. These master manipulators were 12.5 percent less successful than other participants when their negotiating partner couldn’t see them. To rephrase: Not only were they less successful than they would have been in person, but they were actually less successful than other people. 

“The results of this study are pretty clear—once you remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the equation, the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier,” Woodworth said. “We can also conclude that it is very likely that the qualities that allow these people to successfully charm, manipulate, intimidate, or exploit others appear to require a live, in-person audience.” 

So what does this mean for you and me? “If you want to be confident in your ability not be taken in by these types of known manipulators,” Woodworth said, “you’re probably better off dealing with them online.”

Fortunately, these days you can get nearly everything online. Used furniture? Check. Engagement ring? Check. Landscapers? Sure! 

Obviously, there are some exceptions; negotiating your salary or other benefits pretty much has to be done in person. But if you already know your boss is a manipulator, you might not want to work there anyway.

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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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iStock

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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