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Study: Half of Your Friends Don’t Consider You Their Friend

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Just because you consider someone your friend doesn’t mean that they feel the same way. A new study, published in PLOS One, indicates that people may have more one-sided friendships than they think they do, according to Science of Us.

In the study, researchers from the MIT Media Lab asked 84 undergraduates in a class to score how well they knew other people in the class. They “asked each participant to score every other participant on a 0–5 scale, where 0 means ‘I do not know this person’, 3 means ‘Friend’ and 5 means ‘One of my best friends,’" as the paper explains. Then, the participants were asked to predict how other people would score them.

Predictably, people thought that the people who they considered their friends would also rate them as friends. But this wasn’t the case. Almost half of all the friendships reported in the survey weren’t reciprocal—meaning that only one of the two people considered the other a friend. This, the researchers note, might be about social climbing: People might be more likely to claim friendship with a person of higher social standing, while people who are popular are more choosy about who they call a friend.

Recent research has tied friendship to major health benefits, including living longer, having better mental health, and lower risk of dementia. While some studies have linked these benefits to specifically satisfying friendships, it’s harder to say whether people who have one-sided friendships actually find them unsatisfying, or if they derive just as much pleasure from interacting with people who only consider them acquaintances as with people who perceive their bond as closer. This might also add a layer of complexity to studies about social influence, which typically ask people about their perceived social networks. 

[h/t Science of Us]

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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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