Monday, September 11, 2017

Placebo can enhance creativity

Placebo can enhance creativity. Liron Rozenkrantz, Avraham E. Mayo, Tomer Ilan, Yuval Hart, Lior Noy, and Uri Alon. PLOS One,


Background: The placebo effect is usually studied in clinical settings for decreasing negative symptoms such as pain, depression and anxiety. There is interest in exploring the placebo effect also outside the clinic, for enhancing positive aspects of performance or cognition. Several studies indicate that placebo can enhance cognitive abilities including memory, implicit learning and general knowledge. Here, we ask whether placebo can enhance creativity, an important aspect of human cognition.

Methods: Subjects were randomly assigned to a control group who smelled and rated an odorant (n = 45), and a placebo group who were treated identically but were also told that the odorant increases creativity and reduces inhibitions (n = 45). Subjects completed a recently developed automated test for creativity, the creative foraging game (CFG), and a randomly chosen subset (n = 57) also completed two manual standardized creativity tests, the alternate uses test (AUT) and the Torrance test (TTCT). In all three tests, participants were asked to create as many original solutions and were scored for originality, flexibility and fluency.

Results: The placebo group showed higher originality than the control group both in the CFG ... and in the AUT ..., but not in the Torrance test. The placebo group also found more shapes outside of the standard categories found by a set of 100 CFG players in a previous study, a feature termed out-of-the-boxness...

Conclusions: The findings indicate that placebo can enhance the originality aspect of creativity. This strengthens the view that placebo can be used not only to reduce negative clinical symptoms, but also to enhance positive aspects of cognition. Furthermore, we find that the impact of placebo on creativity can be tested by CFG, which can quantify multiple aspects of creative search without need for manual coding. This approach opens the way to explore the behavioral and neural mechanisms by which placebo might amplify creativity.

What are the psychological mechanisms that allow placebo to increase the originality aspect of creativity? There are at least two possibilities. The first mechanism is based on extensive research by Amabile and Deci and Ryan[25, 33, 34, 51–53], that suggests that creativity is modulated by motivation. Extrinsic motivators were shown to be mostly detrimental to creativity, whereas intrinsic motivation is conductive to and strongly associated with creative abilities[25, 32, 33, 51, 54–56]. A key factor in intrinsic motivation, according to self-determination theory [34, 35], is the belief in one’s competence. For example subjects who practiced encouraging statements (related to self-confidence, releasing anxieties etc.) and omitted self-incapacitating statements showed improved creativity scores[57]. This is in line with the verbal suggestion in our study that the odorant increases creativity, which may have made subjects feel more competent. Additional components of intrinsic motivation, such as social relatedness, may also have been increased by experimenter effects in the present study, by the experimenter’s perceived interest in the effects of the odorant.

A second possible psychological mechanism of placebo, as suggested by Weger et al., is to weaken inhibitory mechanisms that normally impair performance[24]. Creativity was found to increase in several studies that tested conditions with reduced inhibitions, such as alcohol consumption[36–38]. Wieth and Zacks showed that creative problem solving was improved when participants were tested during non-optimal times of day, and suggested that this is due to reduced inhibitory control[39]. Moreover, studies which used non-invasive brain stimulation by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) found enhanced creativity, and attributed it to reduced inhibitions and diminished cognitive control[49, 58]. This effect was suggested to be in line with paradoxical functional facilitation theory, which attributes improved performance of damaged nervous system to release from inhibition[59]. Informal notions in improvisation theatre suggest that the inner critic is a source of inhibition that limits creativity[60]. The verbal suggestion made in our study that the odorant increases creativity and reduces inhibitions may thus work through a reduced-inhibition mechanism and/or by increasing belief in one’s competence. Future work can test which of these mechanisms is at play.

Brain indices of disagreement with one’s social values predict EU referendum voting behavior

Brain indices of disagreement with one’s social values predict EU referendum voting behavior. Giulia Galli, Miroslav Sirota, Maurizio Materassi, Francesca Zaninotto, and Philip Terry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsx105,

Abstract: Pre-electoral surveys typically attempt, and sometimes fail, to predict voting behavior on the basis of explicit measures of agreement or disagreement with a candidate or political position. Here, we assessed whether a specific brain signature of disagreement with one’s social values, the event-related potential component N400, could be predictive of voting behavior. We examined this possibility in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. In the five weeks preceding the referendum, we recorded the N400 while participants with different vote intentions expressed their agreement or disagreement with pro- and against-EU statements. We showed that the N400 responded to statements incongruent with one’s view regarding the EU. Crucially, this effect predicted actual voting behavior in decided as well as undecided voters. The N400 was a better predictor of voting choice than an explicit index of preference based on the behavioral responses. Our findings demonstrate that well-defined patterns of brain activity can forecast future voting behavior.

Keywords: Event-related potentials, N400, voting behaviour, social beliefs

Differences in home advantage between sports

Differences in home advantage between sports. Marshall B. Jones. Psychology of Sport and Exercise,

•    Home advantage is not associated with the number of positions.
•    Home advantage is strongly associated with distance covered by the entire team.
•    Especially so in relation to the number of positions over the course of a game.

"The most compelling evidence that the home effect is minor or nonexistent in individual sports is embedded, oddly enough, in team sports. Many team sports include passages that can be described as “individual efforts.” Free throws in basketball are a good example. When a player attempts a free throw, he or she plays as an individual; teammates and opposing players are sidelined or otherwise idled. In samples from the NBA numbering 95,494 (home) and 90,875 (away) Jones (2013) reported a difference in conversion rates of 0.2%, 75.2% (home) to 75.0% (away), not significant at the .05 level (critical ratio = 0.71, p > .4), despite the enormous sample sizes and despite, too, the efforts of hometown fans behind the backboard to distract the away shooters."

Parents Who Pay to Be Watched - Behaviorally Architecting the Family

Parents Who Pay to Be Watched. Kim Brooks. The Cut, Aug 22 2017,

An educational consultant they’d hired, Myrna Harris, suggested something that at first seemed extreme — a relatively new company known for helping children in crisis that could set up a highly structured, highly regimented environment in a home.
The family architects were the foot soldiers of the company, but the most critical part of the strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house.

The company was called Cognition Builders, and Harris explained that they would send people to a family for a period of weeks to observe everyone’s behavior and to figure out how parents could get better control over their kids. The people they sent were called “family architects.” They’d move in with a family for months at a time, immersing themselves in their routines and rituals. The family architects were the foot soldiers in the Cognition Builders team, but the most critical part of the company’s strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house, which enabled round-the-clock observation and interaction in real time. At the end of each day, the architects would send the parents extensive emails and texts summarizing what they’d seen, which they’d use to develop a system of rules for the family to implement at home. Over time, the role of the family architects would evolve from observing to enforcing the rules. Through this kind of intensive scrutiny and constant behavioral intervention, they claimed to be able to change a family’s, and a child’s functioning from the ground up.

The idea, I learned by speaking with employees and clients of the company over several months, is that if you want to truly change the way a person parents, you need to be there as they’re parenting, not occasionally but immersively and consistently. “We are a fly on the wall of a family’s home,” the company’s clinical director, Sarah Lopano, explained. “We take a very behavioral approach to everything we do.”

The science behind Cognition Builders “approach” isn’t exactly straightforward. Lopano insists that the core of their program is educational, not therapeutic, and that they tailor their approach to the needs of a particular family and borrow from many different types of intervention. The family architects are young; many have advanced degrees in fields like education, behavior analysis, clinical psychology, or social work, but aren’t necessarily licensed therapists. The “service” they provide comes down to watching you parent, suggesting changes, and making sure you do what they say.

Resource depletion through primate stone technology

Resource depletion through primate stone technology. Lydia V Luncz, Amanda Tan, Michael Haslam, Lars Kulik, Tomos Proffitt, Suchinda Malaivijitnond. amd Michael Gumert. eLife 2017;6:e23647 doi: 10.7554/eLife.23647

Abstract: Tool use has allowed humans to become one of the most successful species. However, tool-assisted foraging has also pushed many of our prey species to extinction or endangerment, a technology-driven process thought to be uniquely human. Here, we demonstrate that tool-assisted foraging on shellfish by long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand, reduces prey size and prey abundance, with more pronounced effects where the macaque population size is larger. We compared availability, sizes and maturation stages of shellfish between two adjacent islands inhabited by different-sized macaque populations and demonstrate potential effects on the prey reproductive biology. We provide evidence that once technological macaques reach a large enough group size, they enter a feedback loop – driving shellfish prey size down with attendant changes in the tool sizes used by the monkeys. If this pattern continues, prey populations could be reduced to a point where tool-assisted foraging is no longer beneficial to the macaques, which in return may lessen or extinguish the remarkable foraging technology employed by these primates.

My comment:

Coolness as a trait and its relations to the Big Five, self-esteem, social desirability, and action orientation

Coolness as a trait and its relations to the Big Five, self-esteem, social desirability, and action orientation. Ilan Dar-Nimrod, , Asha Ganesan, and Carolyn MacCann. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 121, 15 January 2018, Pages 1–6.

•    A substantial variance in self-reported coolness is explained by two factors.
•    Self-assessment of coolness is best derived from 2 factors of assorted traits.
•    Explicit self-esteem adds to the coolness evaluations above these 2 factors.
•    Extraversion is the best Big Five predictor of self-assessment of coolness.

Abstract: As coolness is often associated with status elevation and socially desirable valuation, understanding what entails coolness may prove useful in a myriad of contexts. In this study, we tested the two-factor model of coolness proposed by Dar-Nimrod et al. (2012), where Cachet and Contrarian domains of coolness are comprised of 14 facets (e.g., irony, confidence). Participants (N = 225) completed 120 items representing these 14 facets, as well as measures of the Big Five, action orientation, social desirability, and self-esteem. The findings largely replicated the two-factor structure of Cachet and Contrarian Coolness. Cachet and Contrarian Coolness factors incrementally predicted self-perceptions of coolness above and beyond the Big Five personality dimensions, action orientation, implicit self-esteem, age, and sex in a hierarchical regression. Cachet Coolness was the strongest predictor of coolness self-perceptions, with explicit self-esteem and Contrarian Coolness also significantly predicting self-perceived coolness. Findings suggest that the two factors of coolness capture elements of coolness that are not measured by common personality measures. These findings may have implication for studying the role of coolness in group dynamics and social relations across diverse age and ethnic groups.

Keywords: Coolness; Social desirability; Contrarian; Personality; Big Five; Self-esteem; Rebelliousness

Entrepreneurs' subjective success not related to objective business performance over time

Well-Being, Personal Success and Business Performance Among Entrepreneurs: A Two-Wave Study. Josette Dijkhuizen et al. Journal of Happiness Studies,

Abstract: This two-wave longitudinal study among 121 entrepreneurs in The Netherlands investigated bi-directional relationships between entrepreneurs’ well-being and performance. Results of Smart PLS analyses showed positive well-being at Time 1 (work engagement; life satisfaction; and job satisfaction) predicted subjective entrepreneurial success 2 years later, both as indicated by entrepreneurs’ reports of achieved financial success (including personal income security and wealth, business turn-over, sales and profit growth), as well as perceptions of achieved personal success (personal fulfilment, community impact and employee relations). No relations were found with objective indicators of business performance (profit; turnover; and number of employees) over time. The expected recursive relationship between performance and well-being was only found in the short term; a better objective financial situation immediately preceding the second measurement moment, predicted better well-being at T2. These results are both in line with a well-being–performance (gain) cycle, and the happiness set-point thesis that predicts resilience in the face of events. This paper contributes to the literature by emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurs’ well-being as a key factor in long-term subjective financial and personal entrepreneurial success. The practical implication is that entrepreneurs should maintain and improve their own well-being to achieve positive long term business outcomes.

My comment: Entrepreneurs' subjective success is not related to objective business performance over time.