For reasons which are not entirely nostalgia based – I promise – I’ve been looking through old photos. I’ve scanned a few and put them at the front of the gallery. They cover a random mix of people, in different places and in the date range 1998-2002. I resisted scanning anything from when I was at school – to the chagrin, i’m sure, of any old, nostalgia junky, school-friends who may read this blog (you know who you are).
If you hover the cursor over a thumbnail you get a little caption about that photo…
September 29th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
A neat little effect:
If two successive sounds are heard as fused, the location of the total sound is determined largely by the location of the first sound. This is known as the “precedence effect”, although it has been called the “Haas effect”…
This, among other things, stops you getting confused when a sound comes at you from two speakers at once.
Now, if you drop something and record the sound, and then play it back backwards, you can hear the echos that are normally masked.
(Thanks to Nicol, and his supervisor, for the info)
There is more, of course, in the book
B.C.J. Moore, An Introduction to the Psychology of Hearing, 5th Ed., Academic Press, San Diego (2003).
September 29th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
Tom: It is Good and True and those are some of our favourite things.
Matt: Good. True. Easy. Choose Two.
September 28th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
The great thing about trying to coordinate book production over three continents is that whatever time of the day or night it is, there is always someone you can ring. I just wish we were working with more people in Japan so I’d have more to do in the hours when the Americans have left work but the Europeans haven’t got up yet.
I’ve hit a momentary lull, so here are some mental notes-to-self on the business of getting permission to reprint figures and excerpts from other people’s books, articles and websites (I am not a lawyer, so there may be errors in my understanding here – it’d love to hear any corrections/qualifications people have):
 Another part of the general scam of scientific publishing. Scientists (paid by public money often) write, edit, peer-review and proof the articles for free, draw the figures, etc, etc and then the publishers hold the copyright and make money by selling the journal back to the University libraries (also paid for by public money).
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
London, I’m leaving you
London, I’ve given you my all and I’m becoming less and less
London twenty-third of september two-thousand and four
I can’t stand it any more
You can keep the casual brutality of the tube
The hours lost travelling
A city not built to a human scale
The rootless anonymity of the crowds
The indifference of fear
London, I’m sick of your insane demands
London, when will you be worthy of your overblown reputation?
London, when can I go into the supermarkets and buy back the hours I lost commuting?
I’m addressing you
Are you really going to let your emotional life be run by mammon?
Do we all really believe our own PR?
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
It occurs to me that I am being unfair
I am talking to myself again
London, you are a vampire city
It’s like national service – compulsory, crowded, dirty and with a pervading air of violence. I’ve done my year, I want out
A hundred pretty distactions and no time or money to do them
London this is quite serious
London this is the impression I get from a year of busy insecurity
London is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job
It’s true I don’t want to be in Westminster or drink in expensive wine-bars, I’m misanthropic and maladjusted anyway.
London, I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel
As of now I am based in Sheffield. With apologies to Allen Ginsberg.
September 23rd, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
‘all things flow and nothing is permanent‘
September 21st, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
…in the midst of a putative peace, you could, like me, be unfortunate enough to stumble on a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out
- Arundhati Roy
September 18th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
The Society’s Publications and Communications Board would like to produce a new document to complement the Annual Report, focusing on psychology rather than the Society. This report would outline significant scientific research developments and practical applications from the discipline in the last year.The aim is to promote the usefulness of the discipline to an external audience of research councils, politicians, civil servants, employers and journalists. Before potentially producing this as a separate document in 2006 we would like to pilot the project as a special feature in The Psychologist. Your contributions are sought. We are looking for brief descriptions of:
published research from the last year partnerships between academia and the public or commercial sector leading to new products or applications of psychological knowledge; or new professional developments which will have a significant impact on the lives of others.
…you could even just send one sentence on what has been found, one on why it is important in terms of understanding people or making a difference to their lives, plus the reference. Material has to be intrinsically relevant and interesting to an extremely wide audience with little or no background knowledge of the area, and written in a way that makes it more so. It is a tough task, but this is a great opportunity to show what psychology has been up…This is your chance to silence the psychology doubters by showcasing interesting and useful research from the last year, so get writing. Send your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 15 November. Feel free to get in touch before then if you have any questions about the process or the suitability of material. [my emphasis]
September 18th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
Real laziness here, stealing notes from a review of a book that I can’t be bothered to read
The Book: The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few by James Surowiecki
The Review: London Review of Books. The Notes: gyford.com
Phenomenon: For many decisions the average of many judgements is often better than the judgement of a single, albeit expert, individual. Example: judging the number of jellybeans in a jar – typically even individuals who have previously been most accurate (‘the experts’) will be outperformed by the average answers.
Seems analogous to the ‘less is more’ effect. This is, roughly, that sometimes an overabundance of information can distract you from applying an on-average-correct heuristic. Example: Answer this question Which city has more inhabitants: San Diego or San Antonio?. Who should do better at this question, Germans or Americans? The Germans, typically, have little knowledge of the size of American cities. So when given this pair they guess that the one they have heard of is larger (San Diego), and they are correct. The Americans know lots about American cities. They try to use all the information they have to make a correct decision. Which is more politically important? Which has more people I know living in it? Which felt bigger when I visited? Sometimes this information is helpful, sometimes it is distracting. Sometimes decision making based on more knowledge is outperformed by that based on less knowledge (here the analogy with the wisdom of crowds i guess). In one study  the German group using their simple recognition heuristic scored 100%. More generally, often neither method/group is always correct, but the simple, one criterion, rule can often be more correct.
So one mechanism by which the wisdom-of-crowds effect works is probably just reducing the level of knowledge that is contributing to the decision. A dumb kind of wisdom!
But crowds can often be dumb-dumb too, especially when they become herds. What are the conditions under which they keep their dumb-wisdom, the conditions when a mixture is better than the best expert?
Requires certain conditions for the crowd to make good decisions: members of group must be willing to think for themselves; they must be mostly independent of each other; must be reasonably decentralised; must be some means of aggregating opinions into a collective judgement. If people start second-guessing each other, or following each other, the crowd becomes a herd and herds are bad at decision making…Crowds do not do well the question is not a straight-forwardly cognitive one. They are not good at moral judgments.
You might argue that a group of people which are all thinking for themselves isn’t really a crowd. You might also argue that the wisdom of crowds doesn’t apply to moral judgements because individual judgements are non-commensurable in so many ways, not just because they are subject to lots of weird biases. If the choice is the same, but the individuals are making different decisions (e.g. they have access to contradictory information and/or they are using different criteria to select what a ‘good’ answer is) then aggregation isn’t possible.
I think a more helpful book would not be The Wisdom of Crowds – Why the Many are Smarter than the Few but The Wisdom of Crowds – How the Many can be Smarter than the Few. Anyway, good to have some starting notes on when crowd decisions will outperform individual decisions – and when ‘emergent’ decisions will be herd-like and unproductive.
 Goldstein, D. G., & Gigerenzer, G. (2002). Models of ecological rationality: The recognition
heuristic. Psychological Review, 109, 75-90. Online here
Speaking to a !Kung bushman called !Xoma about a custom called hxaro, the anthropologist was told:
Hxaro is when I take a thing of value and give it to you. Later, much later, when you find some good thing, you give it to me. When I find something good I will give it to you, and so we will pass the years together
Asked about what would count as a fair exchange, !Xoma wouldn’t answer. Would three strings of beads be fair in exchange for a spear? Would two? Would one?
He explained that any return would be acceptable because we don’t trade with things, we trade with people
Excerpted from Deborah Tannnen’s (1990) You just don’t understand: Men and Women in Conversation, which is far better, far more sociolinquistically weighty and far more fun than it probably sounds.
(Mapping of how patterns of hxaro gift exchange between tribes maintain social networks here)
September 16th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
September 13th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink
It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the and that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’
– Aldous Huxley
September 11th, 2004 § Comments Off § permalink