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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Contrast Sensitivity Function

I liked the way how everything was clearly explained from the basics in this page.

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Most psychological articles on the internet have focused on the negative effects of multitasking. As theoretically dividing a (more or less at the time) finite number of resources to perform more tasks should mean less neurological resources per task, this makes some sense (even as in the example below).

However based on one of my experiences as study participant, this may not hold true for certain individuals at lower task numbers. In a task where I had to follow line mazes with a pencil, I was faster at covering a given length of the maze when I was performing basic arimethic compared to when I was just covering the maze. The researcher hypothesised that this was because I could have decided to concentrate harder when there were more tasks.

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Not the usual debate on determinism/free will, but rather, a question araised as to how often do we make choices that have not a spot of influence from the society around us?

I was reading a passage by Pobedonotsev on parliamentary democracy. Key phrases included:

  • “What is this freedom by which so many minds are agitated, which inspires so many insenate actiona… which leads the people so often to misfortune?”
  • “… the democracy now aspires to universal suffrage – a fatal error…”

Having been exposed to Western ideas of democracy, I initially scoffed at what he said. But then here come the more interesting parts:

  • “… an aggregation of votes alone has a relative value… “
  • “… the real rulers are the dextrous manipulators of votes… “

While I understand that what he meant was based somewhat on the principle that a single vote alone has little “power”, this did make me think about the views of society in influencing our votes. What if despite that voting may be anonymous and private (not that this was the case in Pobedonotsev’s time), what if we are inclined to vote for Party X because everybody else around you seems to think it may be good while you haven’t done your research/don’t really care? While it is hard to say who are the dextrous manipulators of votes or even if there is an individual responsible for it (I think “manipulators” indicates responsible intent), perhaps social forces tinge our opinions unconsciously, even if we as individuals in a controlled environment would have free will.

That having being said, given that he says that these manipulators

  • “… rule the people as any despot or military dictator might rule it…”; while
  • “This history of mankind bears witness that the most necessary and fruitful resforms… emanated from the supreme will of statesmen, or from a minority enlightened by lofty ideas and deep knowledge” ,

the fact that he seems to have a natural bias for the statesmen as the only people capable of learning as well as that they might be somewhat superior in ideology to the “despot” makes me suspicious of the thrust of his argument. Do we attribute it to social factors?

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Designer babies

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article5489548.ece

This case certainly brings up the debate as to what we should screen for and what we shouldn’t screen for. My immediate opinion leans towards only screening for things which could have a significant impact on life expectancy (wellbeing being far too obscure). But this would technically allow a whole range of other conditions e.g. depression (depressed people have a lower life expectancy than other people due to the risk of committing suicide) to perhaps even intelligence, if some obscure links could be found linking lower intelligence to less well-paid jobs, more work risks, worse healthcare and who knows what. As with many other moral debates, it is likely that there is no straight-forward answer to this one and policy will depend on the personal opinion of those in charge of policy-making.

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Protected: Tit for tat

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It’s a matter of logic

An excellent post by the BPS research digest here on evolutionary psychology – precisely what I would have written back!

http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2008/10/is-evolutionary-psychology-dubious.html

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Another time paradox

Another of those classic time problems in entering dates on electronic forms –  I was sorting out my UCAS Apply personal details section and I see that for “Date of first entry” allows dates up to year 2011. Fancy entering the UK in 2011 when applying for university entrance in 2009?

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