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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Psychology
The Difficulty of Debunking
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 05, 2007
The Washington Post has a depressing article about the difficulty of myth-busting. Experiments by Norbert Schwarz at the University of Michigan reveal that a few days after telling people a rumor is false, many of those people will have misremembered what they were told and think the rumor is true. The crux of the problem is that: Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it. Other psychologists have found that hearing the same thing again and again from the same source can actually trick the brain into thinking information is more…
Categories: Psychology Comments (8)
The Comforting Machine
Posted by The Curator on Thu Aug 02, 2007
This has nothing to do with hoaxes, but I thought it was interesting, so I'm posting about it anyway. Also, it reminded me of the Compliment Machine, which I posted about just a few days ago. I received an email from Jennifer Baumeister, who tells me that she's an artist from Berlin working on a project called Comfort XxL, the comforting machine. Here's a description of it: The comforting machine is an art project by the German artist Jennifer Baumeister. She asks people from different…
Categories: Art, Psychology Comments (5)
The Compliment Machine
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jul 27, 2007
No form of deception is more ubiquitous in modern life than the cheery platitudes we constantly exchange: "How are you?" "Fine!" or "Have a nice day." Washington DC based artist Tom Greaves has created a work of art designed to hold a mirror up to this culture of shallow, saccharine pleasantries. It's the compliment machine -- a red-and-white striped box that sits on a street corner and delivers compliments all day. As pedestrians pass by, it continuously shouts out words of encouragement: "People are drawn to your positive energy." "You are always there when needed." "Your eyes are…
Categories: Art, Psychology Comments (13)
Phantom Vibration Syndrome
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 14, 2007
Many cellphone users are reporting that they often feel their cellphone vibrating, when it's not vibrating at all. The phenomenon is being called Phantom Vibration Syndrome (an allusion, I assume, to Phantom Limb Syndrome, in which amputees feel sensations in their missing limbs). Psychologists attribute these phantom vibrations to cellphone users' brains becoming over-alert to the sensation of vibration, and therefore experiencing false alarms: Alejandro Lleras, a sensation and perception professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adds that learning to detect rings and vibrations is part of a perceptual learning process. "When we learn…
Categories: Psychology, Technology Comments (16)
Faces in Trees
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 08, 2007
I was inspired by the news story about the mayor's face in a tree to search out other examples of faces in trees. I knew that stories about faces in trees pop up regularly in the news, but to my knowledge no one had ever collected these stories together in one place. So it seemed like an appropriate thing to waste a couple of hours doing. I posted the results in the hoaxipedia. It's more faces in trees than you can shake a stick at.
Intention Experiments
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 06, 2007
Writer Lynne McTaggart has been sponsoring a number of "experiments" to promote her book The Intention Experiment, in which she makes the argument (from what I can surmise without actually having read the book) that we can influence the world around us through our intentions. If we want something to happen, we merely intend for it to happen. Here's a description of the first three experiments: The first experiment was an enormous success when 400 people sat in a hall in London and intended for a leaf in the University of Arizona to 'glow and glow'.…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (22)
Best of the Forum – 25th May 07
Posted by Boo on Fri May 25, 2007
As some people receive Museum updates via RSS feed, or just don't frequent the forum, we have decided to round up some of the most interesting threads each week for all to see. Rabbit-Headed Cat (Smerk) Two carcasses discovered in 1988 and 1993 are thought to be a new species – rabbit-headed wildcats. These Kellas cats seem to be rare, and investigators are urging landowners and gamekeepers to help them discover more. Sadly, the rabbit-like ears aren’t as impressive as I’d hoped. Get…
Colour-Changing Card Trick
Posted by Boo on Thu May 10, 2007
This trick is quite an interesting little demonstration of misdirection. I shan't say more, so as to not give it away, but keep your eyes peeled - there is more to this than just one trick. (Thanks, Nettie and David B.)
Quick Links: Honesty, Graffiti, Hindu Goddess, and Mozart
Posted by The Curator on Tue Apr 17, 2007
Brits flunk honesty test A credit-card protection firm, Affinion International, conducted an experiment in which they left items such as mobile phones, key, and wallets in city centres (Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, and Manchester). All the items were clearly marked with the owner's contact number, but most were never returned. Not surprising. Obscene messages end graffiti experiment Officials in Louisville tried to give graffiti artists a legal place to practice their craft, but abandoned the experiment after the concrete walls simply became filled with obscene messages. The walls will now be painted beige... and will doubtless soon be covered with illegal graffiti. Man from…
Categories: Art, Psychology, Religion Comments (5)
The Virtual Milgram Obedience Experiment
Posted by The Curator on Thu Dec 21, 2006
Back in the early 1960s Stanley Milgram conducted a famous experiment at Yale University. Volunteers were told that it was designed to test the effect of punishment on learning. Would a person learn a list of word pairs better if they were punished every time they got an answer wrong? The volunteer was instructed to deliver an electric shock to the learner every time one of his answers was wrong. The shocks increased in intensity for every wrong answer. Of course, the experiment wasn't actually about the effect of punishment on learning at all. It was really designed to see how long the volunteers would obey…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (28)
Quick Links: Gnomes and Gropers
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 21, 2006
Yet Another Traveling Gnome Back in the Spring Allen Snyder's gnome disappeared from his garden. Now he's learned that it's been attending Pittsburgh Steelers' games. Next stop an airplane to somewhere far away. Submitted by Big Gary who notes: "Predicatable, but I thought you'd want to keep your gnome section up-to-date." Pretends to be mentally ill to get a grope This is pathetic. William Mucklow has been accused of pretending to be mentally ill so that he can hire nurses to take care of him. He then grabs their breasts as they try to do their job. A pretty elaborate strategy to get a grope.
Jesus in an Ultrasound
Posted by Boo on Thu Aug 24, 2006
Following hot on the heels of the chocolate Virgin Mary (which, as many people pointed out, looked more like the Maltese Falcon) comes: Jesus as seen on an ultrasound picture. Seven months through her pregnancy, Laura Turner went for a routine ultrasound. She already knew that her son had a cleft lip, and she and her partner had been told there was a possibility of the child having Down's Syndrome. She says that she didn't notice anything particularly odd about the scan until a friend pointed it out once they got home.…
Is Fake-Nice A Good Thing?
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 23, 2006
Status: Etiquette advice Miss Manners recently tackled the question of whether it's better to be honest (and unpleasant) or to be fake-nice. A correspondent asked her: How can one deal (correct word?) with nice people, saying "all the right things," without meaning any of it? It's just been driving me crazy as it seems to be occurring more and more. Miss Manners responded that it would be a disaster if people were always brutally honest: This is not an affliction, Miss Manners assures you. It is a blessing. For the last several decades, people have been saying all…
Categories: Psychology Comments (23)
Pickle Phobia
Posted by The Curator on Sun Jul 09, 2006
Status: Undetermined Some of the things I post about aren't the most intelligence-enhancing things in the world. I know that. But what follows is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. It's a woman who appeared on the Maury Povich Show who claims to be Pickle-Phobic. The mere sight of pickles sends her into a state of screaming panic. Her fear of pickles is ruining her life. Here's what she has to say: "My name is Mariah, and I hate…
Categories: Photos/Videos, Psychology Comments (47)
Watching Eyes Make Us Honest
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 28, 2006
Status: Strange experiment An experiment described in a recent issue of the journal Biology Letters reveals a simple way to make people behave more honestly: display a picture of watching eyes. Melissa Bateson, a biologist at Newcastle University, conducted the experiment on her colleagues, without their knowledge, using the communal coffee pot in the departmental lounge as the set-up. She found that when she placed a picture of a pair of beady eyes above the coffee pot, contributions to the 'honesty box' (the box in which people are supposed to deposit money to pay for the…
Categories: Psychology Comments (6)
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