How can you improve learning while you sleep?

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Eric Barker  -  
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Economists are fond of telling us that “people respond to incentives.” It seems that’s true even when we’re passed out on the couch:

Sleep is known to promote the consolidation of motor memories. In everyday life, typically more than 1 isolated motor skill is acquired at a time, and this possibly gives rise to interference during consolidation. Here, it is shown that reward expectancy determines the amount of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Subjects were trained on 2 different sequences of a finger sequence motor task before 12-hr retention intervals of either nocturnal sleep or daytime wakefulness. After training was finished, reward expectancy was varied by announcing a monetary reward for performance improvement at retesting on either the first- or second-trained sequence. Before the retest, however, subjects were informed that reward would depend not on only 1 sequence but on the average performance for both sequences. Posttraining sleep enhanced overall finger sequence performance. The sleep-dependent gain in skill was significantly greater for the sequence that was associated with monetary reward after training, regardless of whether this sequence was the first or second to be trained. After wake retention intervals, no or only minor performance gains were observed. The data show that expectancy for a reward enhances offline learning of a skill during sleep.

Source: Anticipated reward enhances offline learning during sleep. from Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition –

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Does darkness increase dishonesty?:

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Eric Barker  -  
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Yes, it does:

via boston.com

In several experiments, researchers found that light levels influence selfish behavior. People who were placed in a dimly lit room were significantly more likely to cheat than people placed in a well-lit room. Likewise, people who were asked to wear sunglasses were less generous in a sharing game than people who were asked to wear clear glasses. This pattern appears to be the result of an increased sense of anonymity in lower light levels, even though light levels did not confer any actual increase in anonymity.

Zhong, C. et al., “A Good Lamp is the Best Police: Darkness Increases Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behavior,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

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How much does a firm handshake matter during a job interview?

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The authors examined how an applicant’s handshake influences hiring recommendations formed during the employment interview. A sample of 98 undergraduate students provided personality measures and participated in mock interviews during which the students received ratings of employment suitability. Five trained raters independently evaluated the quality of the handshake for each participant. Quality of handshake was related to interviewer hiring recommendations. Path analysis supported the handshake as mediating the effect of applicant extraversion on interviewer hiring recommendations, even after controlling for differences in candidate physical appearance and dress. Although women received lower ratings for the handshake, they did not on average receive lower assessments of employment suitability. Exploratory analysis suggested that the relationship between a firm handshake and interview ratings may be stronger for women than for men.
Source: Exploring the handshake in employment interviews. from Journal of Applied Psychology – Vol 94, Iss 6

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Can personalities be judged by physical appearance alone?

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Via Eurekalert:

Observers were able to accurately judge some aspects of a stranger’s personality from looking at photographs, according to a study in the current issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (PSBP), the official monthly journal of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Self-esteem, ratings of extraversion and religiosity were correctly judged from physical appearance.

Researchers asked participants to assess the personalities of strangers based first on a photograph posed to the researchers’ specifications and then on a photograph posed the way the subject chose. Those judgments were then compared with how the person and acquaintances rated that individual’s personality. They found that while both poses provided participants with accurate cues about personality, the spontaneous pose showed more insight, including about the subject’s agreeableness, emotional stability, openness, likability, and loneliness.

The study suggested that physical appearance alone can send signals about their true personality.


Want to predict the result of a sporting event? Don’t even think about it:

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“…people with expertise in football are better at predicting match outcomes when they spend time not consciously thinking about their predictions.”

Via bps-research-digest.blogspot.com:

Imagine you’ve just paid an expert good money for their verdict and they say to you: “Can you hang on a couple of minutes whilst I don’t think about this”. You’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve gone silly. They may have. But another possibility is that you’ve chosen a shrewd expert who’s totally up-to-speed with the latest decision-making research: Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues have just shown that people with expertise in football are better at predicting match outcomes when they spend time not consciously thinking about their predictions.

And:

This may seem bizarre but it’s entirely consistent with Dijksterhuis’s Unconscious Thought Theory and with the folk wisdom that says it’s a good idea to sleep on a problem. According to Dijksterhuis’s theory, the subconscious is sometimes less prone to the biases that afflict the conscious mind, thus ensuring that an expert gives due weight to the most important factors.

This was borne out in a second experiment, much like the first, in which students predicted the outcomes of World Cup football matches. Again, distracted experts made the most accurate predictions. This time, however, the researchers also asked participants to estimate the teams’ world rankings – apparently this is the most reliable predictor for the outcomes of World Cup matches. For experts who spent time consciously considering their match predictions, there was no correlation between their knowledge of team rankings and their prediction accuracy. By contrast, for the experts who spent time not thinking about their predictions, there was a correlation between their ranking knowledge and predictive accuracy. Not consciously thinking about the problem at hand seemed to ensure that experts paid due attention to the most important factor affecting match outcomes.

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