The psychologists call it “deindividuation”. It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under “normal” circumstances they would not have considered. Deindividuation is what happens when we get behind the wheel of a car and feel moved to scream abuse at the woman in front who is slow in turning right. It is what motivates a responsible father in a football crowd to yell crude sexual hatred at the opposition or the referee. And it’s why under the cover of an alias or an avatar on a website or a blog – surrounded by virtual strangers – conventionally restrained individuals might be moved to suggest a comedian should suffer all manner of violent torture because they don’t like his jokes, or his face.
[…] is a collection of essays from leading space psychologists. They place their recent research in historical context by looking at changes in space missions and psychosocial science over the past 50 years. (via NASA)
[…] Another intriguing effect is seen in l, invented by Italian psychologist Gaetano Kanizsa: the Swiss cheese effect. When you glance at it casually, you see a large opaque rectangle with holes in it superimposed on a smaller gray rectangle sitting on a black background. But with some mental effort, you can start to imagine the light- gray rectangle behind the holes as actually a translucent white rectangle in front of the holes and then start to perceive a transparent rectangle through which you see black spots in the back- ground. This illusion demonstrates the profound effect of top-down influences on perception of surfaces; the transparency you see is not entirely driven bottom-up through serial hierarchical pro- cessing of the physical input on the retina.
via Scientific American special edition (2008): 105 mind-bending illusions.
We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, emotional and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large. After forming our beliefs, we then defend, justify and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments and rational explanations. Beliefs come first; explanations for beliefs follow.