Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #05 (Randomness Fails)

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In short: Fundamental human observation allows the detection of patterns from vague information, but in so doing leaves us prone to attributing inaccurate meaning to what we see and hear. In other words, our senses do in fact lie. Sometimes.

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #05 (Randomness Fails)

  1. 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
  2. 2. Evidentiary reasoning:Why do people believe weird things?
  3. 3. Testimonial evidence “At what speed were the vehicles going when they hit into 31.8 mph each other?” “At what speed were the vehicles going when they smashed 40.8 mph into each other?” Loftus (1976)
  4. 4. Testimonial evidence “At what speed were the vehicles going when they hit into 31.8 mph each other?” “At what speed were the vehicles going when they smashed 40.8 mph into each other?” Loftus (1976)
  5. 5. False assumption regarding evidence: People absorb information accurately, evaluate it accurately, and use it to draw accurate conclusions More accurate assertion: People absorb information crudely, evaluate itinconsistently, and use it to draw conclusions that are often–but not always–roughly accurate
  6. 6. Evidentiary reasoning errors Cognitive factors Difficulties with randomness Difficulties with sampling Difficulties with probabilistic reasoning Social factors Difficulties with motivation Difficulties with second-hand information Difficulties with first-hand information Difficulties with exaggerated impressions of corroboration
  7. 7. Difficulties with randomness
  8. 8. Difficulties with randomness
  9. 9. Difficulties with randomness
  10. 10. Difficulties with randomness Pattern detection ‘built-in’ for evolutionary reasons Human psychology results in a failure to appreciate randomness Allows some useful mental shortcuts But leaves us prone to being fooled
  11. 11. “Pareidolia” “The Badlands Guardian” Alberta, Canada Google map“The Old Man of the Mountain” New Hampshire, US (collapsed in 2003) Tree aliens
  12. 12. www.mrbreakfast.com
  13. 13. skepticalteacher.wordpress.com
  14. 14. Steven Gerrard in a plate of chips
  15. 15. Auditory pareidolia Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs) electronically captured sounds which resemble speech, but which are not the result of intentional voice recording http://www.glowingdial.com/audiofiles.htm Backmasking a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward
  16. 16. BackmaskingLed Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven Forward: If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed Play now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen. Yes there forward are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Backward: Play backward Click here for audio files and lyric reveal: http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/stairway-to-heaven- backwards.html
  17. 17. BackmaskingQueen – Another One Bites the Dust Forward: Another one bites the dust! Another one bites the dust! Play Another one bites the dust! Another one bites the dust! forward Backward: Play backward Click here for audio files and lyric reveal: http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/another-one-bites-the- dust-backwards.html
  18. 18. BackmaskingBritney Spears – …Baby One More Time Forward: With you I lose my mind. Give me a sign… Play forward Backward: Play backward Click here for audio files and lyric reveal: http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking/baby-one-more-time- backwards.html
  19. 19. SummaryHuman observation is predicated on the constructionof perceptions from fragmentary sensations In general, our scanning of environments for major cues is quickly overtaken by a “filling-in of the blanks”Thus, human observers are adept at detecting patternsfrom vague information Pattern recognition acuity helps us navigate our surroundings both normally, and when perception is compromisedHowever, by necessity, such a process is prone to error Illustrations include pareidolia, both visual and acousticOver-active ‘pattern recognition’ shows our tendencyto attach false meaning to what we see and hear Which demonstrates our susceptibility to acquiring unreliable beliefs
  20. 20. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes

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