Nav: Home

It's all relative: How our brains overstate the prevalence and intensity of threats

June 28, 2018

In a series of experiments, David Levari et al. reveal how people are deceived by their own perceptions, where threatening or harmful stimuli are perceived as remaining abundant even when they are, in fact, decreasing in prevalence. The results underscore the power of perception bias, which could affect a wide range of important decisions, such as those made by police officers or research ethics board members, for example. Psychologists have long known that people make judgements in a highly relative context. For example, when unprovoked attacks and invasions decline in prevalence, behaviors previously deemed less aggressive may then be perceived as more hostile. To better explore this phenomenon, Levari et al. showed volunteers a series of 1,000 dots that varied on a continuum from very purple to very blue, and asked them to decide whether each dot was blue or not. After many trials, the prevalence of blue dots was decreased for one group but not the other. However, even if the number of blue dots decreased, participants perceived the same number of blue dots to exist. Importantly, several additional experiments revealed that this misperception remained in place even if participants were told that the blue dots would definitely decrease, when the decrease happened very suddenly, and when participants were given monetary incentives to report the decrease. But is this a subtle bias, or one more widely applicable to complex scenarios? The authors conducted similar experiments with faces that were rated as "threatening" or "neutral." When threatening faces became rare, participants reported neutral faces as more threatening. Lastly, the authors found a similar shift in the prevalence and rating of "unethical" research proposals.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Blue Articles:

Study shows New Zealand has its own population of blue whales
A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight (STB) between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.
Recordings spout secrets behind blue whale behavior
Researchers are using underwater microphones to interpret and characterize the calls of blue whales swimming through Southern California's oceans, revealing new insights into the behavior of these endangered marine mammals, according to new research being presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting here on Tuesday.
Pretty in pink and boisterous in blue?
Two researchers from the University of Hong Kong suggest that toymakers and parents avoid gender-labelling toys, remove colour divides, and manufacture toys for both boys and girls in a wide range of colours.
How yellow and blue make green in parrots
Many brightly colored birds get their pigments from the foods that they eat, but that's not true of parrots.
A fleeting blue glow
In the 2009 film 'Star Trek,' a supernova hurtles through space and obliterates a planet unfortunate enough to be in its path.
The mystery of the pulsating blue stars
In the middle of the Chilean Atacama desert, a team of Polish astronomers are monitoring millions of celestial bodies.
Engineering on a blue streak
A pair of engineers at the University of Delaware has developed a process to form interwoven polymer networks more easily, quickly and sustainably than traditional methods allow.
Protein mingling under blue light
IBS scientists developed a new faster and more efficient optogenetic tool to manipulate protein clusters under blue light.
Sequestering blue carbon through better management of coastal ecosystems
Focusing on the management of carbon stores within vegetated coastal habitats provides an opportunity to mitigate some aspects of global warming.
Blue and purple corn: Not just for tortilla chips anymore
Consumers today insist on all-natural everything, and food dyes are no exception.

Related Blue Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...