On the Newsstand

Go Ahead, Rationalize. Monkeys Do It, Too
The New York Times
November 6, 2007
“For half a century, social psychologists have been trying to figure out the human gift for rationalizing irrational behavior. Why did we evolve with brains that salute our shrewdness for buying the neon yellow car with bad gas mileage? In a paper in Psychological Science, researchers at Yale report finding the first evidence of cognitive dissonance in monkeys and in a group in some ways even less sophisticated, four-year-old humans.”
— Coverage of “The Origins of Cognitive Dissonance: Evidence From Children and Monkeys” in Psychological Science (Louisa C. Egan, Laurie R. Santos, and Paul Bloom, Vol. 18 (11), 978-983).

The Year in Medicine From A to Z: Blindness
Time
December 3, 2007
“But this [critical period for binocular vision] is bigger than previously thought. Scientists from MIT published a paper in Psychological Science about a 32-year old woman in India whose cataracts were removed at age 12.  Investigators who recently caught up with her found that while her vision will never be 20/20, she does see reasonably well, giving new hope to many blind kids.
— Coverage of “Vision Following Extended Congenital Blindness” in Psychological Science (Yuri Ostrovsky, Aaron Andalman, and Pawan Sinha, Vol. 17(12), 1009-1014).

Are We Happier Facing Death?
Time.com/CNN
October 30, 2007
“Here’s one for the annals of counterintuitive findings: When asked to contemplate the occasion of their own demise, people become happier than usual, instead of sadder, according to a new study in the November issue of Psychological Science. Researchers say it’s a kind of psychological immune response — faced with thoughts of our own death, our brains automatically cope with the conscious feelings of distress by nonconsciously seeking out and triggering happy feelings, a mechanism that scientists theorize helps protect us from permanent depression or paralyzing despair.”
— Coverage of “From Terror to Joy: Automatic Tuning to Positive Affective Information Following Mortality Salience” in Psychological Science (C. Nathan DeWall and Roy F. Baumeister, Vol. 18 (11), 984-990).

Scents and Sensitivity
The Economist
December 6,, 2007
“Unlike the media of sight and sound, in which subliminal messages have been studied carefully, the potential power of subliminal smells has been neglected. Wen Li and her colleagues at Northwestern University in Chicago are now changing that. In particular, they are investigating smells so faint that people say they cannot detect them. The idea is to see whether such smells can nevertheless change the way that people behave towards others. Dr. Li’s experiment, the results of which have just been published in Psychological Science…found that the odours helped shape people’s judgments about the faces when their responses indicated that they had not smelled anything.”
— Coverage of “Subliminal Smells Can Guide Social Preferences” in Psychological Science (Wen Li, Isabel Moallem, Ken A. Paller, and Jay A. Gottfried, Vol. 18(12), 1044-1049).

Observer Vol.21, No.1 January, 2008

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