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New Study Replicates Stanley Milgram’s Infamous Shock Experiments

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In the early 1960s, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram recruited hundreds of men for a series of experiments on obedience and authority. He asked them to administer a series of increasingly powerful shocks to a person in another room. The man being “shocked” was, in reality, an actor hired by the lab, and the screams of pain the participants could hear from the other room were pre-recorded. Perversely, plenty of the participants obeyed the experimenters’ prompts to hurt strangers.

Half a century later, the Milgram experiments are, though controversial, a bastion of the psychology canon, and a number of modern researchers have set out to replicate his findings. In the latest iteration, a group of Polish researchers found that 90 percent of participants were willing to administer the highest voltage shocks available to another person when asked to—a similarly high number as in Milgram’s original experiments.

In a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers from the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Wrocław, Poland recruited 40 men and 40 women to participate in a re-make of Milgram’s study. However, in this case, both those administering the shocks and those “receiving” the shocks were a mix of men and women, while in Milgram’s experiments both the participants and the actors were men.

Like Milgram’s subjects, they were told they were participating in a study on memory and learning and that they would be playing the part of the teacher, while the other person in the lab (an actor) would be the student. The “student” was supposed to learn associations between certain syllables, and the "teacher" was instructed to read a set of those syllables aloud. The teacher was given 10 buttons that they were told would administer shocks of increasing intensity. When the student made a mistake, the experimenter instructed the participant to shock him or her. The student was hidden behind a wall, but the participants could hear pre-recorded screams of pain.

The participants were initially told they could stop the experiment at any time and that stopping would not require them to give back the $15 they had received for their participation. But once the shocks started, the experimenters urged the participants to continue shocking the student despite any reservations they expressed. The experimenters used phrases similar to those Milgram employed, such as “The experiment requires that you continue,” “It is absolutely essential that you continue,” and “You have no other choice, you must go on.”

A full 90 percent of the participants went on to press the 10th button, administering what they thought was the highest voltage of shock.

Whether or not people were willing to continue shocking strangers may have been influenced by the gender of the stranger, the study’s authors write, though the effect was small. “When it was a woman being ‘zapped,’ participants were 3 times more likely to withdraw from the experiment (regardless of their own sex). However, the fact that only 10 percent of our participants failed to perform all of the experimenter’s commands means that this difference is far from statistically significant.”

According to the study, this is the first time Milgram’s experiments have been replicated in Central Europe, where relationships to authority may be different than in the New Haven, Connecticut community Stanley Milgram recruited from. As a Soviet state for decades, Polish freedoms were severely restricted, and both in school curriculums and in the culture at large, there was a strong emphasis on obedience to authority. Though the collapse of the Soviet Union brought democratic elections, free speech, and a free press, some of those liberal ideals have seen a reversal in recent years as the hard-right Law and Justice party has gained power.

This study was relatively small, and larger studies might be able to confirm whether the gender of the person being shocked might influence people’s willingness to go along with the experiment. The high percentage of people who followed instructions, though, suggests that Milgram’s dim view of human nature wasn’t wrong. People really can be bullied into hurting other people pretty easily. Still, it would be interesting to replicate these studies with larger, more culturally diverse groups of people, examining how participants’ inherent views on authoritarianism and obedience might influence their responses.

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Art
The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
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Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Narcissists Are More Likely to Be Compulsive Facebook Users
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Updating your Facebook status throughout the day is probably a sign you need a different hobby, but according to a new study, the habit can also indicate something else. As PsyPost reports, people with Facebook addiction are also likely to be narcissists.

For their recent study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany followed the Facebook activity of 179 German students over the course of a year. They were looking for cases of so-called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) based on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, a system developed by University of Bergen researchers that measures factors like mood modification, withdrawal, and relapse in relation to Facebook use.

They wanted to find out whether FAD was linked to other mental health problems. In addition to gauging Facebook compulsion, they also surveyed subjects on their depression and anxiety levels, social support systems, physical health, narcissism, and general satisfaction with life. The results showed a strong correlation between FAD and narcissism. Rather than Facebook making its users more narcissistic, the researchers state that people with narcissistic personalities are at a greater risk of developing the social media addiction.

"Facebook use holds a particular meaning for narcissistic people," they write in the paper. "On Facebook, they can quickly initiate many superficial relationships with new Facebook-friends and get a large audience for their well-planned self-presentation. The more Facebook-friends they have, the higher is the possibility that they attain the popularity and admiration they are seeking; whereas in the offline world they might not be as popular since their interaction partners can quickly perceive their low agreeableness and exaggerated sense of self-importance."

The researchers also found a connection between Facebook addiction and higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies investigating Facebook Addiction Disorder have been conducted in the past, but there’s still not enough research to classify it as an official behavioral addiction. The researchers hope their work will lead to similar studies pinning down a link between FAD and mental health consequences.

[h/t PsyPost]

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