Architectonic · Design · Social/Politics

The Gruen Effect: The birth of the shopping mall and how a displaced architect accidentally changed American cities

Victor Gruen was maybe the most influential architect of the twentieth century: He is regarded as the father of the shopping mall. How fundamentally his concept would change the world was something that not even this immigrant from Vienna, who was noted for thinking big, could have foreseen. In the nineteen fifties, Gruen built large-scale “shopping towns” in the suburban sprawl of the United States. Based on the model of European city centers they were not only to facilitate shopping but also to strengthen social ties in the isolated suburbia with a mix of commercial and social spaces. However, in the context of an increasingly consumption- and speculation-driven economy the polyfunctional shopping center turned into a gigantic sales machine, which had a formative impact on the development of cities all around the globe. Thus, in architecture, the Gruen Effect describes the maelstrom introduced by seductively designed sales spaces that makes us give up purposeful shopping and get lost in the shopping experience. Since the principles of the shopping mall have little by little been transferred to downtown areas, today this phenomenon produces the city as the place of commercialism, the staging of lifestyle, distinction and event; it outlines the creation of a type of downtown, which serves the gods of consumer culture and defines consumption as the prime principle of urban planning. Text via.

A documentary directed by Anette Baldauf and Katharina Weingartner.

Via The Fox is Black

Photographics · Science · Theory

People Will Believe Whatever You Suggest if You Show Them a Picture: Psychology Study

When people evaluate claims, they often rely on what comedian Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness,” or subjective feelings of truth. In four experiments, we examined the impact of nonprobative information on truthiness. In Experiments 1A and 1B, people saw familiar and unfamiliar celebrity names and, for each, quickly responded “true” or “false” to the (between-subjects) claim “This famous person is alive” or “This famous person is dead.” Within subjects, some of the names appeared with a photo of the celebrity engaged in his or her profession, whereas other names appeared alone. For unfamiliar celebrity names, photos increased the likelihood that the subjects would judge the claim to be true. Moreover, the same photos inflated the subjective truth of both the “alive” and “dead” claims, suggesting that photos did not produce an “alive bias” but rather a “truth bias.” Experiment 2 showed that photos and verbal information similarly inflated truthiness, suggesting that the effect is not peculiar to photographs per se. Experiment 3 demonstrated that nonprobative photos can also enhance the truthiness of general knowledge claims (e.g., Giraffes are the only mammals that cannot jump). These effects add to a growing literature on how nonprobative information can inflate subjective feelings of truth.

Text via Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness’ abstract.
Photo via Medical Daily

Human-ities · Science · Social/Politics · Theory

Should We Be Optimistic?

If ignorance is bliss, then optimism must be euphoria. Thanks to a mechanism called the optimism bias, humans are pretty much incapable of applying basic risk statistics to their own lives. We know smoking causes cancer, but we don’t expect it to happen to us. We find a lump on our body and we tell ourselves it’s probably nothing.

Although the term optimism bias was first used in the 1980’s, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman was most likely the one who made it part of general vocabulary. In his 2011 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Kahneman notes that “people tend to be overly optimistic about their relative standing on any activity in which they do moderately well.” The optimism bias generates the illusion of control: the idea that we are in control of our lives. Bad things only happen to others.

You can see where this bright outlook on life can cause trouble. Wearing seatbelts? Not necessary. Opening a savings account? Maybe later. Being overly optimistic in life puts us at risk. In addition, people who show cheerful, optimistic personality traits during childhood, have a shorter life expectancy than their more serious counter parts. On the other hand, optimists are more psychologically resilient, have stronger immune systems, and live longer on average than more reality-based opposites. So who’s better off in life; the optimist or the pessimist? And who’s reality comes closest to the truth?

Excerpt from an article written by Anouk Vleugels, United Academics. Continue HERE

The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

Human-ities · Science

The Science of Compassion

ALL the major religions place great importance on compassion. Whether it’s the parable of the good Samaritan in Christianity, Judaism’s “13 attributes of compassion” or the Buddha’s statement that “loving kindness and compassion is all of our practice,” empathy with the suffering of others is seen as a special virtue that has the power to change the world. This idea is often articulated by the Dalai Lama, who argues that individual experiences of compassion radiate outward and increase harmony for all.

As a social psychologist interested in the emotions, I long wondered whether this spiritual understanding of compassion was also scientifically accurate. Empirically speaking, does the experience of compassion toward one person measurably affect our actions and attitudes toward other people? If so, are there practical steps we can take to further cultivate this feeling? Recently, my colleagues and I conducted experiments that answered yes to both questions.

Excerpt of an article written by DAVID DeSTENO, NYT. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Science

Is Some Homophobia Self-Phobia?

Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.

The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, the research will be published the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves,” explains Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study’s lead author.

Excerpt from an article on Science Daily

Human-ities · Science · Social/Politics

Ten of the most influential social psychology studies

“I have been primarily interested in how and why ordinary people do unusual things, things that seem alien to their natures. Why do good people sometimes act evil? Why do smart people sometimes do dumb or irrational things?” –Philip Zimbardo

01. The Halo Effect: When Your Own Mind is a Mystery
02. How and Why We Lie to Ourselves: Cognitive Dissonance
03. War, Peace and the Role of Power in Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment
04. Our Dark Hearts: The Stanford Prison Experiment
05. Just Following Orders? Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment
06. Why We All Stink as Intuitive Psychologists: The False Consensus Bias
07. Why Groups and Prejudices Form So Easily: Social Identity Theory
08. How to Avoid a Bad Bargain: Don’t Threaten
09. Why We Don’t Help Others: Bystander Apathy
10. I Can’t Believe My Eyes: Conforming to the Norm

Via PsyBlog