The Hot-Hands bias comes from basketball, where a player who has scored several successive shots in a row is believed to have “hot hands” or is on a streak. Members of their team will pass to them more, and members of the opposing team will increase attacks on that player. When you look at the wider picture, it becomes apparent that their hands were not hot at all, just their perception of success.
Like a fresh banana of psychological weirdness, here’s another cognitive fallacy for you to chew on! Follow Maki’s comic with Carl Zimmer’s wonderful New York Times article on how we aren’t the only monkeys to fall victim to the peculiarities of pattern recognition.
Zimmer, discussing recent research by psychologist Andreas Wilke, notes that our tendency to see streaks of good fortune, whether it’s 3-pointers or poker hands, might hold its origin in foraging for food:
Our ancestors were constantly searching for food, either gathering plants or hunting animals. As they searched, they had to continually decide where to look next. The wrong choice could mean starvation.
Dr. Wilke argues that this threat led our ancestors to evolve some rules of thumb based on the fact that animals and plants aren’t scattered randomly across a landscape. Instead, they can be found in clumps.
That meant that if our ancestors picked up a fruit from the ground, they were likely to find more by looking nearby, rather than going somewhere else. As a result, they became very sensitive to these streaks. They were an indication that good fortune would keep coming.
Whether you’re looking for food or a flush, the first step towards a life where you are not being tricked by your brain on a regular basis is to learn exactly how your brain is tricking you on a regular basis.
Related: Have you seen this week’s episode of It’s Okay To Be Smart? It’s all about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and blowing on Nintendo games. Watch below:
Did you ever blow on your Nintendo games to make them work?
Yeah, me too. Turns out it didn’t help anything. But it does illustrate some mind-blowing ways that our brains play tricks on us to help win the game we call “life.”
Check out this week’s It’s Okay To Be Smart to find out why! Who knew an old video game could teach us so much about our psychology?
Do you knit? Here’s some scientific proof that it’s good for you.
Dedicated, calm, repetitive practice, just the sort you get from knitting, drawing, crafting, or practicing an instrument, can induce a “relaxation response”, essentially the opposite of “fight or flight.”
BrainCraft breaks down the needly neuropsychology for you.
For those of you who are interested in knitting and the brain, might I suggest you combine them like so:
(knitted brain by Karen Norberg/Boston Museum of Science)
Here’s rionhunter's response, I've added my take on this below:
I made a response to this, but unfortunately, tumblr has a way of eating up anything more than 10 lines long, and it got a little lost. So, even though I’m not Hank, I thought I would make a full post explaining the science.
To understand why it’s happening, though, I’m going to have to quickly explain to you what is happening first.
Hopefully we all know that animation (and film) is just a collection of images, flashed in quick succession. The motion that we see, however, is pieced together in our brains, thanks to a thing called ‘persistence of vision’.
Persistence of Vision is caused by the lag in your brain. Seriously.
That brief instant it takes for your brain to understand what it’s seeing is the reason you’re able to watch movies. And we should be thankful for that brief instant.
Light comes into your eyeballs, and it’s crazy hectic data. There’s so much stuff happening all the time everywhere. And while our brains are good, they can’t process everything they’re seeing at light speed. Everything we perceive through our retinas is just light, bouncing off other things. We all know that, but it’s something we often forget.
The brain processes one instant of reality, then a snapshot of the next, and then the next, and so on, and pieces them together to create motion.
This is everything. This is your entire reality. The perception of instances blended together to form a delicious smoothy of senses.
For motion to be consistent, however, what it’s seeing needs to resemble what it was seeing the moment before. For example, for objectX to look like it’s moving, it needs to mostly be where it was the microsecond before, but slightly not.
Basically, you need to think about those ol’ claymations kids make, where the lego slowly edges fowards. You need to take that concept, and apply it to everything you’ve ever known and loved.
If objectX doesn’t overlap where it was before, it’ll look liked it appeared there out of nowhere or a whole new objectX. This is when the illusion of movement is broken. It doesn’t occur in live-action movies or reality as much, because it’s hard to break the illusion of reality when you’re in reality, whereas to create a realistic perception of reality, from nothing, on a screen?
Yeah, a little trickier.
In an industry setting, animators have to create at least 25 frames for every second of footage (FPS). And sometimes, in that 25 frames, animators need to have something move so fast on a frame, that it doesn’t overlap its previous self.
Their solution, as you probably know, is to stretch and contort their object in a way that’s not dissimilar from motion blur with cameras. Especially when you acknowledge that motion blur is everything that’s happening for that 1/25th of a second.
Again, a lot of this is common knowledge, but it’s a matter of how it all pieces together to work.
As you can see here, in figure A, the hotdogs are smoothly sliding out at a consistent speed, which means, if you were to mark each spot they were in every frame, the marks would make a straight line.
The intervals between each marking isn’t very much, because they’re moving quite slowly. The hotdogs are mostly overlapping themselves between each frame.
Now remember that the illusion of movement is all in your brain, where it looks for something that resembled the instant before, and projects trajectory into your concious.
The only reason you’re able to reverse the flow of hotdogs is because they look so similar, and because it’s literally all in your head.
When you make yourself think the flow of hotdogs is going into this fine gentleman’s pants, you’re making yourself believe that, in one frame, hotdogX moves almost a whole hotdog length down, instead of only a little bit of a hotdog length up.
And because it’s almost a whole hotdog length down, in just one frame, the distance of the intervals along the hotdog’s trajectory increases, which means it travels more distance in the same amount of time.
In that one instance of perceived reality (IPR)(Don’t use that anywhere serious, I just made that up), the hotdog moves 9 pixels, instead of 2 (approx.)(I’m not going to count them)
So, to summarize the answer to your question (aka TL:DR);
The reason why the ‘dogs fly into his pants faster is because your brain lag enables you to perceive motion through light (it likes things that look the same). And when things look the same, you can screw with your brain something hardcore.
When you force your brain to see things at different intervals, it can change how you perceive them.
I don’t totally agree with rionhunter's explanation. It's true that persistence of vision and related phenomena of visual perception are responsible for the fact that films and TV don’t look like the series of still frames that they are. But to me, none of that explains the directional perception of the hotdogs or their (apparent) speed.
Today’s films, TV shows, and digitally animated features aim for 24-30 frames per second. Hand-drawn animation like the Disney films of yore used to get away with as little as 12 images per second (each doubled to create a total of 24 frames per second). And yes, they would distort images in between to create a motion-blur type effect.
But the GIF illusion above reminds me more of the spinning dancer illusion than anything else:
Almost instantaneously, that dancer will appear to spin in one direction. A majority of you will see it in a certain direction over the other, but I don’t want to lead the witness, so to speak, by telling you which. Most of you, given enough brain cramping, will be able to reverse the direction of the dancer, just like you reversed the direction of the happy hot dogs (try using your peripheral vision to make it switch).
This initial reaction/reversal trickery is due to the lack of a depth reference in both images. It’s likely that our perceived position below Hot Dog Man tricks our brain into assuming the franks are flying away to the right. And without a reference point that makes the opposite impossible, you can readily make the opposite possible and perceive the hot dogs falling into his pants. Incidentally, you may have heard that your directional preference determines whether you are “right-brained” or “left-brained”, but that’s BS, because brain-sidedness is a BS concept to begin with.
As for their apparent speed? In each of the frames of this GIF, a sausage moves vertically by 12 pixels and horizontally by 4 pixels (I measured). It doesn’t matter which direction you perceive them moving, that’s how far they go in either direction. It’s likely that they appear to move faster when entering his pants (appearing to move down and to the left) because the background is moving to the right. You know how sometimes when you’re stopped at a stoplight and the car next to you will move and you suddenly feel like you’re moving backwards? It’s like that. It’s an illusion of self-motion. On the other hand, when the hotdogs move in the same direction as the drumsticks, the illusion of motion is reduced because the background reference is interpreted differently by your brain. What’s especially cool about this is that the hotdogs move the same distance no matter what, your brain is just doing that thing it always does where it lies to you.
So there ya go John and Hank and everyone else. That’s my take on the hot dog man illusion GIF. Science side … out.
(Hot dog GIF by Lacey Micallef)
Biases and Butterflies
At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova takes a look at Shankar Vedantam’s book The Hidden Brain, which seeks to make conscious the unconscious biases that guide our actions, manipulate our minds, and often silently haunt our lives. In today’s society, Vedantam says, the effects of our biases are no longer localized, whether it’s the effect of color on our shopping choices or our odds of accepting (or not) vaccine science or evolution. Rather, their effects can ripple like hurricanes born from butterfly wings via waves of social technology:
Unconscious biases have always dogged us, but multiple factors made them especially dangerous today. Globalization and technology, and the intersecting faultlines of religious extremism, economic upheaval, demographic change, and mass migration have amplified the effects of hidden biases. Our mental errors once affected only ourselves and those in our vicinity. Today, they affect people in distant lands and generations yet unborn. The flapping butterfly that caused a hurricane halfway around the world was a theoretical construct; today, subtle biases in faraway minds produce real storms in our lives.
Most poignant are the tales of gender and sexual bias recounted in the book, which Maria has highlighted here. It’s important to remember how deeply seated our psychological biases can be, and how far their effects can reach, because even if we ourselves feel free from those biases, or feel that those who hold them are Dodo-bound for cultural extinction, we live in a world where the few can still knock down the many, thanks to the far-reaching effects of modern culture.
But I hold out high hope for continued change. Only by making our unconscious biases conscious, by bringing our shadow selves out of the neural shadows and into the light, can we change our minds … in the most literal sense.
Last week’s PBS Idea Channel details an excellent account of staring those biases in the masked face, in comic books. Watch the wonderful How is Ms. Marvel Changing Media for the Better? below:
Think you’re a smart shopper? What if I told you that your buyer’s brain could be tricked by something as simple as color?
We’ve evolved natural reactions to some colors (like red for blood, or anger, or sexual fertility), and we’ve been culturally adapted to many others, so it’s no surprise that color can subtly influence our behavior.
Don’t buy it? Let BrainCraft explain!
Your Warped Perception of Time
Ever feel like time is rushing by? What about time standing still? Unless you’re traveling close to the speed of light, that just means your brain is playing tricks on you. Learn about the tricks your neurons are playing on you in this new video by BrainCraft.
Bonus: For more on the weirdness of time, head over to Brain Pickings and read about Claudia Hammond’s book Time Warped.
The Science of Kissing
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my latest: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know and more about the evolution, neuroscience, and psychology of kissing, which, when you really consider what you’re doing, has got to be the absolute strangest human behavior out there.
I mean, really, what other animal is like "Hey, great to see you, let’s wipe our open mouths all over each other!"
Anyway, there’s some amazing evolutionary biology and neuroscience behind the humble kiss. Share this bit of science with someone you love!
Is there an upside to social media narcissism?
Love this idea from BrainCraft (also on Tumblr). Sure, this is the era of the selfie, and our eyes often point more to social media than social meatspace. That results in a fair amount of certifiable narcissism in our digital lives (which aren’t really separable from our meatspace lives, which is really the point here).
Are there upsides to social media narcissism? Can it make us more aware of ourselves? Or is it just a digital version of shameless vanity with an Instagram filter slapped on?
I think technology is fairly inert as long as it isn’t filled with bullets. It doesn’t make people act a certain way, it’s more like it gives people outlets and opportunities to act in certain ways that they are already inclined to act, whether that’s accentuating their introversion or inflating their vanity (and all shades in between). Sure, the resulting behavior isn’t always good (and it isn’t always bad, either), but as Mike says in this Idea Channel episode, the distinction between online and offline is increasingly a false one:
And paying attention differently doesn’t mean that people are paying attention badly, it just means that … well, it’s different. Directing our attention at our social avatars or our social networks or at our own ducky faces looking back at us from our outstretched arms can be a good or a bad thing, and maybe both simultaneously. Check out this video I did last year for more on that idea:
(Tumblr dash viewers, click through to watch the other videos)