WBEZ | psychology http://www.wbez.org/tags/psychology Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Are some people hard-wired to take more risks than others? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-some-people-hard-wired-take-more-risks-others-108913 <p><p>From the time she was 16, people kept telling Jody Michael she should check out one of Chicago&rsquo;s famous financial exchanges.&nbsp; She&rsquo;d be a natural, they said, on the trading floor.</p><p>Michaels wasn&rsquo;t interested.</p><p>&ldquo;I kept saying, &lsquo;No!&nbsp; I don&rsquo;t want to be around numbers. No,&rsquo;&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;And then one day, a friend who was working at Reuters tricked me.&rdquo;</p><p>The friend invited Michael for a bite to eat...but took a detour.</p><p>&ldquo;Instead of going to lunch, we walked onto the trading floor,&rdquo; she recalls.</p><p>This was the famous &lsquo;pit&rsquo; at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the old days, before electronic trading. It was crowded with guys in colorful jackets &ndash; and they were all guys back then &ndash; shouting, waving their hands, literally jumping up and down to make trades. Some of them worth millions of dollars. Non-stop.</p><p>&ldquo;I walked on, I was like, OH MY GOD,&rdquo; Michael says. &ldquo;It was competitive, it was fun, it was exciting. And it&rsquo;s the antithesis, I found out later, of most people that walk on the floor. They walk on the floor, they&rsquo;re overwhelmed. They&rsquo;re like, &lsquo;Oh my God &ndash; what are people doing?&rsquo; And it was a very different experience for me.&nbsp; I really wanted to go and play.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRAIN%20SCAN%20SOUNDCLOUD%20THUMB.png" style="float: left; height: 260px; width: 350px;" title="A snapshot of the human brain highlights the areas associated with rewards, fears, and decision-making. Area B, highlighted in yellow, shows the brain’s “reward center,” which can push us to take risks. (Photo courtesy of Camelia Kuhnen)" />And so she did, for more than a decade, first as a trader and then as a manager at the Mercantile Exchange. Jody Michael says she loved the rush &ndash; including the minute-by-minute risk-taking &ndash; but she acknowledges it&rsquo;s not for everyone.</p><p>So what makes people like Jody Michael different? Camelia Kuhnen at Northwestern&rsquo;s Kellogg School of Management has given the question some serious thought. A neuro-economist, she studies what&rsquo;s going on inside people&rsquo;s heads &ndash; literally &ndash; when they&rsquo;re making financial decisions.</p><p>&ldquo;We get to ask questions that have never been asked before. And you know what? We can even answer them sometimes,&rdquo; she says with a laugh. &ldquo;For example: Why do some people take a lot of risks and others don&rsquo;t? Or: Why are some people confident in their beliefs, and others aren&rsquo;t?&rdquo;</p><p>In some experiments, Kuhnen puts people inside fMRI machines, gives them investments to choose from, and sees which areas of the brain light up. She also looks at their genes, their personalities, and their credit reports.</p><p>Kuhnen describes Jody Michael&rsquo;s experience as an example of a phenomenon called &ldquo;traders&rsquo; intuition.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s probably not gonna be just mathematics &ndash; knowing how to deal with numbers and probabilities &ndash; that&rsquo;s gonna make you a successful trader,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about understanding what everybody else in the market is doing. [Michael] probably was able to understand what all those people in the pit were all doing and talking about &ndash; yelling about, I should say.&rdquo;</p><p>In the midst of all that chaos, Jody Michael was able to &ldquo;read&rdquo; people, and the room as a whole. Researchers have found that this traders&rsquo; intuition is tied to what psychologists call &ldquo;theory of mind&rdquo;:&nbsp; The ability to form a mental picture of other people&rsquo;s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.</p><p>Michael agrees. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t about numbers at all,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It was driven absolutely by feeling &ndash; ooh, it feels like I&rsquo;m at home, in the competitive environment and driven by the opportunity.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CBOT%20image.jpg" style="height: 220px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="The Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Former trader Jody Michael says unlike most people she felt right at home in the chaotic risk-taking chaos environment of the famous pit. (Wikipedia)" /></p><p>The beginning of Jody Michael&rsquo;s life on the trading floor provides a window into the psychology of traders. And as it happens, when she left the floor 15 years later it was to go back to school to study psychology. Now <a href="http://www.jodymichael.com/" target="_blank">she&rsquo;s a professional coach</a> to traders. She says she aims to help her clients understand themselves as well as they understand the markets.</p><p>&ldquo;The most important piece of trading is you,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;As we go into trade, we are shaped by our perceptions, our attitudes, our beliefs, our values, how we think, the moods that we&#39;re in, all of that impacts what we see, what we don&#39;t see, what we take action on, what we don&rsquo;t take action on. That is the psychology of trading.&rdquo;</p><p>And her best example of the psychology in action is a client we&rsquo;ll call &ldquo;Steve.&rdquo; Steve isn&rsquo;t his real name because of client confidentiality, but his story opens up questions about the nature of risk taking. How much of it is hard wired in our brain, and how much of it is what we choose?</p><p>Steve is a hotshot trader &ndash; experienced enough to play the market by intuition.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s a sensation-seeking, I-need-a-lot-of-variety kind of guy,&rdquo; says Michael.</p><p>But, when he first came to Michael&rsquo;s office, he wasn&rsquo;t making as much money as he wants.</p><p>Michael&rsquo;s work with Steve takes a few steps: First comes awareness. She helps Steve understand that although he thinks he&rsquo;s just doing one thing all day &ndash; trading &ndash; he&rsquo;s actually doing it in two completely different ways.&nbsp;</p><p>First are the setups: As Michael describes it, this is based on long years of experience. When certain conditions come up, bam! He buys this or sells that, and it&rsquo;s gonna make him a ton of money.</p><p>But they only appear every so often, and meanwhile, he&rsquo;s trapped watching the screens, waiting.</p><p>&ldquo;And he gets bored!&rdquo; Michael says. &ldquo;So in between those trades, when he&rsquo;s sitting around &ndash; and this is where he gets into trouble &ndash; he will just play, going in and out, all day long, to fulfill that need for that feeling: He&rsquo;s in it. He&rsquo;s in the game. He needs to be in the game.&rdquo;</p><p>Camelia Kuhnen&rsquo;s research shows that some people are just like this &ndash; they&rsquo;re born risk takers. She points to a gene called DRD4 that regulates dopamine levels in the brain&rsquo;s reward center.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah, if you carry the long version of DRD4, you tend to take about 25 percent more risk in your portfolio than other people,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Jody Michael works with Steve for months, and helps him become aware of the difference between the good trades and the other stuff. She has him practice, training himself to do the opposite of what his instincts tell him. If his brain says &lsquo;go,&rsquo; Steve learns to stop.</p><p>But then Steve starts to falter. He can&rsquo;t stay disciplined in controlling his trading habits.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;What we figured out with Steve was that he had a competing commitment,&rdquo; says Michael. &ldquo;Steve has a strong need to have fun, and play.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, he was making all these dumb trades because he loved to do it. Or, you could put it this way: He wasn&rsquo;t just yielding to a compulsion to take risks:&nbsp; He was indulging a desire to have fun &ndash; which for him involved taking risks.</p><p>Once he knows the difference between work and play, he gets to choose. And what Steve decides is: He wants to keep playing.</p><p>&ldquo;He acknowledged, &lsquo;You know, I don&rsquo;t care: I love this,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Michael. &ldquo;&lsquo;I just wanna do this.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>So rather than change what he does, Steve changes his attitude. He learns to embrace it.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s interesting is that Steve came to me to minimize the risk and to become a better trader,&rdquo; says Michael. &ldquo;And how he ended up leaving was: He was the same trader but at peace with it.</p><p>He makes less money than he might &ndash; but enough that he gets to keep playing. And enough that he can fly to Vegas eight times a year, with money to blow.&nbsp;</p><p>Jody Michael says other traders she&rsquo;s worked with would never make the choices that Steve does.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to look at the dollar amount and say, &lsquo;Hey, percentage-wise, this is crazy,&rsquo;&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;But you get a guy like Steve, and he makes enough, and he says, &lsquo;I&rsquo;m driven by opportunity, but I also want to play.&rsquo; And he does.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>So what does Camelia Kuhnen&rsquo;s science tell us about what makes Steve so unique?&nbsp; Well, not much. He probably carries the longer DRD4 gene, but genes only account for around 35 percent of behavior, she says. They&rsquo;re just hints, really, about the kinds of risks you might accept.</p><p>&ldquo;Just the pure genetic component, while it&rsquo;s important, is not the only thing that drives behavior,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Your own experience matters a lot. Where you were born and how you were brought up matters a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>And, Steve might say: How well you know yourself, and what you choose to do with that knowledge.</p><p><em>Dan Weissmann is a reporter for <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/">Marketplace</a>. &nbsp;Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/danweissmann">@danweissmann</a>.</em></p><p><em>&ldquo;At What Cost?&rdquo; is made possible in part by the John A. Wing Society, an initiative of the Illinois Humanities Council to improve dialogue about business and the common good.</em></p></p> Mon, 14 Oct 2013 10:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-some-people-hard-wired-take-more-risks-others-108913 Clever Apes #31: ¿Habla usted simio? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-06/clever-apes-31-%C2%BFhabla-usted-simio-99831 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lang%20books.jpg" title="(flickr/Fiona Bradley)" /></p><p style="text-align: left; ">Exact statistics are hard to come by, but it is generally accepted that a majority of the world&rsquo;s population speaks more than one language. In the U.S., census data shows that about 20 percent of people speak a language other than English at home. That number has been steadily growing, but it doesn&#39;t account for all the people who learned a foreign language in school, or for some other purpose.</p><p>With that in mind, if we want to better understand how the brain works, how it processes sound and language, it might be a good idea to study the brains of bilingual people. In <a href="http://www.communication.northwestern.edu/departments/csd/research/bilingualism_psycholinguistics/">Northwestern&rsquo;s Bilingualism and Psycholinguistics Laboratory</a>, Dr. Viorica Marian is concerned with doing just that. The lab does research examining the differences of bilingual people in learning and memory from those with a single language.&nbsp;</p><p>In a paper recently published in <a href="http://www.pnas.org/">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, Dr. Marian&rsquo;s lab teamed up with the <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/">Auditory Neuroscience Lab</a> lead by Dr. Nina Kraus. Graduate student Jen Krizman lead research that uncovered an interesting difference in the way that a <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/slideshows/bilingualism/index.php">bilingual brain processes sound</a>.&nbsp;Researchers have known that bilinguals excel at tasks that test their attention and this recent <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/documents/Krizman_et_al_PNAS_2012.pdf">collaboration</a> has helped explain why. &nbsp;</p><p>If you are bilingual, you are always going to have both languages active when you are communicating. So you constantly have to inhibit one language as you engage the other one. Having this bilingual experience leads to advantages in ability to inhibit irrelevent information. Being able to pay better attention changes the way the brain responds to sound and how you are able to focus on the important features of a sound. Basically, the bilingual brain shapes itself into a more efficient sound processor...C&#39;est incroyable!</p><p>In this episode, we also talked with <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/bkeysar.shtml">Dr. Boaz Keysar</a>. He studies language and decision making at the University of Chicago. In a <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/ForeignLanguageEffect.pdf">recent paper</a>, he showed that when people think in their second language, they are less affected by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases">decision biases</a>. In a nutshell, he showed that people make different decisions based on the language they&#39;re using.</p><p>It is important to note that the subjects in his experiments were different from those in the Northwestern paper. In the Northwestern experiments, the subjects learned their second language early in life. Dr. Keysar&#39;s work dealt with people who learned a second language later.</p><p>This is important because Keysar&#39;s theory for why thinking in a second language lessens the effect of decision bias like &quot;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)">the framing effect</a>&quot; and &quot;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion">loss aversion</a>&quot; has to do with the emotional distance a second language provides. A native tongue has a stronger connection to the emotional part of the brain than the second language does. &nbsp;Keysar suggests that thinking in a second language is more analytical because it is not as emotionally anchored. &nbsp;So be careful what language you think in...it could literally change your mind.</p><p>No matter what language you&#39;re thinking in, don&rsquo;t forget to subscribe to our&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 06:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-06/clever-apes-31-%C2%BFhabla-usted-simio-99831 Clever Apes #28: The critter economy http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-20/clever-apes-28-critter-economy-97474 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-20/THUMBNAIL_Gorrilla.png" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Dario Maestripieri studies how humans behave compared with primates." class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-20/DARIO pic for post.png" style="width: 600px; height: 484px;" title="Dario Maestripieri studies how humans behave compared with primates. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></p><p>It seems like economics is a purely human invention, far removed from the jungle. But scientists say our ancestors were spending and investing for millions of years. So our behavior when we manage our portfolio or climb the corporate ladder resembles nothing so much as the interactions of apes or monkeys. In the latest installment of Clever Apes, we consider how our financial activity has deep parallels in the primate world. And furthermore, many of our most important financial decisions come from even more primitive impulses, deep in our lizard brains.</p><p>The University of Chicago’s <a href="http://primate.uchicago.edu/dario.htm">Dario Maestripieri </a>is a professor of comparative human development, evolutionary biology, neurobiology and psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience. (I usually abbreviate titles, but his makes me happy). He studies the intersections among our minds, our primate cousins, and evolution. In his new book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Games-Primates-Play-Investigation-Relationships/dp/046502078X">Games Primates Play</a>, he details how the mechanisms of economics have their origins in our deep past.</p><p>Apes and monkeys play the market by choosing whom to groom and whom to attack, whom to sleep with and what food is worth risking a fight for. As Yale psychologist Laurie Santos explains, the psychology that governs those decisions didn’t begin with humans. So we see monkeys making the same kinds of classic mistakes that humans make, like “loss aversion,” where we work harder to avoid losses than to achieve equivalent gains. (<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/laurie_santos.html">check out her TED talk </a>for a great explanation.)</p><p><img alt="(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-20/THUMBNAIL_Gorrilla.png" style="width: 250px; height: 188px; margin: 10px; float: right;" title="(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">We’re also subject to the same quirks of biology as many non-human primates. Biologists have found that <a href="http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223%2895%2900675-3/abstract">monkeys with high levels of testosterone and lower levels of the brain chemical serotonin </a>tend to take more risks: taking longer leaps between trees, challenging unfamiliar males, and so on. Maestripieri and his colleagues set up a <a href="http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/index.php/Kellogg/article/the_biochemistry_of_financial_risk">similar experiment with business school students. </a>There too, those with higher levels of testosterone were more likely to make long-shot investments or go into a riskier profession.</p><p>Finally, we check in with neuroeconomist <a href="http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/kuhnen/htm/">Camelia Kuhnen </a>of Northwestern University. She finds that our investment decisions are heavily influenced by some of the most ancient parts of our brains. She and a colleague did an experiment where they <a href="http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/kuhnen/htm/RESEARCH/KWKW_2008.pdf">activated the brain’s reward center </a>using something that had nothing to do with money – in this case, it was sexy pictures. In males, anyway, this led them to make riskier bets in an investment game. Just the whiff of reward was enough to make these guys high-rollers … something we can thank our reptilian ancestors for.</p></p> Tue, 20 Mar 2012 20:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-20/clever-apes-28-critter-economy-97474 Worldview 1.10.12 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11012 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2012-january/2012-01-10/460345resize.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A resolution that calls for an end to torture will be brought before the Chicago City Council this Thursday. If the resolution passes, it would make Chicago the first city in the U.S. to oppose all forms of torture. Local residents Mario Venagas, a Chilean torture survivor, and Dr. Frank Summers, a psychologist, discuss why this resolution matters. Later, <em>Worldview</em> takes you inside the film <a href="http://www.beneaththeblindfold.org/Home.html" target="_blank"><em>Beneath the Blindfold</em></a> with directors Ines Sommer and Kathy Berger. The film follows four survivors of political torture as they try to overcome the lasting effects of their imprisonment and reclaim their dignity. It premieres this Friday at the <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/strangerthanfiction2012" target="_blank">Gene Siskel Film Center</a>.</p></p> Tue, 10 Jan 2012 15:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11012 Clever Apes #23: First memories http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitze" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web SMALL.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 442px; float: left; margin: 10px;" title="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">I’m sitting at a picnic table in our screened-in porch. It’s my third birthday party, and I’m opening presents. I unwrap a Tonka truck, and drop to the floor to start playing with it.</p><p>That’s been my earliest memory ever since I can, well, remember. But as the years wore on, something weird started happening. I started to feel less attached to the person in that memory. Now, I feel like I’m seeing the memory through someone else’s eyes, watching myself push that truck on the green astroturf carpet. I’m not even sure it’s a real memory anymore.</p><p>This has been on my mind because my own son recently had his third birthday. It got me wondering what his first memory will be, and more broadly, what is the nature of early memories? How reliable might they be, and how important to the construction of our identities?</p><p>On the latest installment of Clever Apes, we dig into what science has to say about early memory. Young kids actually have lots of memories that don’t make it into long-term storage. The phenomenon, called <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-child-in-time/201012/the-shifting-boundary-childhood-amnesia">“childhood amnesia,” </a>is not very well understood. But it seems to have something to do with the lens through which we see the world, and how it changes from early childhood (say, age three) to the more verbal period starting around age five or six. It’s tough to bridge that divide, and that may explain why I’m having a hard time connecting with my three-year old self.</p><p>And there’s another reason: memories are made from networks of neurons in our brains. That wiring gets used for lots of things, and so with each new memory, the networks change a little. When we remember something, we effectively rewrite it. That means that in some sense, each time we reflect on a memory, we’re putting a little more distance between ourselves and the actual event. Recent research suggests we’re even doing this in our sleep.</p><p>It’s enough to give a fellow a dose of existential distress. But there’s an upside too: A Chicago researcher has demonstrated <a href="http://www.luc.edu/childrensmemory/elaborative_conversation.shtml">ways that parents can reinforce and help solidify a child’s memories. </a>If you listen to the show, you can hear me trying this out on my son, Ezra. I bribed him with M&amp;Ms to get him to sit still.</p><p>Watch this space in the next day or so for a collection of first memories from our colleagues here at WBEZ. You can also get it via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>. We’re on <a href="http://twitter.com/cleverapes">Twitter </a>and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>, too.</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 23:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877 Scientists link loneliness with lousy sleep http://www.wbez.org/story/scientists-link-loneliness-lousy-sleep-93650 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-31/518380699_4a4beef2d9_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Loneliness has been linked to poor health, but it’s been unclear why. Lianne Kurina of the University of Chicago and her team <a href="http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=28332">tested the theory that poorer sleep </a>might be what predisposes lonely people to high blood pressure, heart disease and even earlier death.</p><p>The researchers examined 95 people from a close-knit religious community in South Dakota centered around farming. The subjects did interviews, and then wore a special sensor called a wrist actigraph for a week to measure their sleep.</p><p>“Our study population in general was not very lonely” says Kurina, an assistant professor of health studies at the University of Chicago. “So it was surprising to find that even subtle differences seemed to translate into differences in sleep patterns.”</p><p>Specifically, the lonelier subjects slept just as long, but tossed and turned more and had more frequent wakings. The subjects did not seem aware of the difference in sleep quality, as there was no difference in the subjective reports people gave of their sleep.</p><p>The results match up with an earlier study of college students, a much more diverse group with widely varying senses of loneliness. Kurina says the consistency of results across these two very different groups suggests it might be a wide-reaching effect. The authors of the study, which appears in <a href="http://www.journalsleep.org/">the journal Sleep, </a>speculate it might have to do with a basic need to feel connected and secure in order to sleep soundly.</p></p> Tue, 01 Nov 2011 01:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/scientists-link-loneliness-lousy-sleep-93650 Why we love guns in the movies http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-02/why-we-love-guns-movies-89991 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-02/milos guns.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I tried to remember the first time I saw guns in the movies, but I couldn't do it. It's like guns have ALWAYS been there. Guns and shootouts were there as early as Edwin S. Porter's 1905 early classic film, "The Great Train Robbery”— a primitive, though brilliant precursor to the Western genre. The American Western subsequently rationalized the genocide of American Indians by elevating the image of technologically superior white men with guns — which made them such efficient killers — over the image of the so-called savages who used bows and arrows. One might as well ask, what is it exactly that the white defenders of the Empire are so actively defending in so many movies? What requires so much wholesale gun-induced bloodshed, usually of people who are NOT like the heroes in race, character, ethnicity, physical appearance, or political philosophy?</p><p>Did this inherent presence of guns in movies influence my attitude to violence? Perhaps - I hate gratuitous violence in film - and movie violence is very often gratuitous. I just don't want to watch it. I realize many others have the opposite reaction. Watching kids with their eyes -- and one assumes their minds -- glued to violent video games, I can only assume they've made the transition to an alternate universe where guns don't really hurt real people, and a gun shot is just an additional shot of adrenalin in the pulse of youthful excitement.</p><p>For me, the most memorable movie gun moments don't involve a strutting John Wayne or, for that matter, Gary Cooper poised in some dusty pseudo-Western courtyard with an itchy trigger finger. What impacts me are the moments when guns are most abstract, as in the strange demolition of scorpions that is the prequel of Sam Peckinpah's "Wild Bunch," or in the Coen Brothers' first feature, "Blood Simple," in which gun violence is part of the cartoonish parade -- ironic at every turn and gesture. This applies, too, to the early Quentin Tarantino movies like "Pulp Fiction" and to some of the Hong Kong action films to which it owed its provenance, in which guns become instruments of a balletic fantasy in which they might as well be pencils. The Takeshi Kitano films like "Violent Cop" are in this genre, too, but knowingly or unknowingly, they owe a lot to Sam Peckinpah, who took film to violent extremes, but intelligently, with an underpin to the ironic in a very cynical spin. Peckinpah’s statement was that violence was an innate part of man's nature, and there wasn't much to rationalize about it — like in Hollywood Westerns, in their simplistic fairy tales of good versus evil.</p><p>Guns in movies used to be exclusively reserved for testosterone-driven male characters until sometime in the 1980s when films like "La Femme Nikita" and the newer James Bond films introduced sexy women who could aim and fire with split second timing. Calendars featuring scantily-clad women with bazookas followed soon after.</p><p>This all leads me to my favorite gun imagery in film. The scene is repeated several times in the course of Dusan Makavejev's pseudo-documentary, "WR: Mysteries of the Organism." Dressed as a soldier, Tuli Kupferberg, the anarchist, poet, and co-founder of the band The Fugs, walks around Manhattan toting a toy rifle. He ends up stalking people at Lincoln Center, as he gleefully masturbated his toy rifle.</p><p>In a brief gesturee — a kind of interlude — Makavejev breaks down to its psychological essence what guns are really all about: fear and power. In the context of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, which Makavejev's film is theoretically about, guns are part of a sexually repressive authoritarian structure leading to war, dictatorships, rapes and murders-- a sick society which refuses to be made whole. In Makavejev's world, we must collectively make love, not war, because guns and violence are loved by those individuals interested in pleasuring only themselves.</p><p>In films, conflict is essential to a film's dramatic arc. But gun violence as the centerpiece of so much film seems like an expedient means of gaining command of a maximum number of eyeballs. Every filmmaker has a choice. The smart and transcendent ones, like the arch audience manipulator, Alfred Hitchcock, know that the suggestion of violence is a mechanism more powerful and enduring than a hundred thousand bullets from an automatic...</p><p><em><a href="../../contributor/milos-stehlik" target="_blank">Milos Stehlik’s</a> commentaries&nbsp;reflect his own views and not necessarily those of Facets Multimedia, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/worldview" target="_blank">Worldview</a> or 91.5 WBEZ. </em></p></p> Tue, 02 Aug 2011 17:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-02/why-we-love-guns-movies-89991 Disgust and the fear factor http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-29/disgust-and-fear-factor-85847 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-April/2011-04-29/disgust kid.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/fessler/publications.html">Dan Fessler</a> has a strong stomach. He’s the evolutionary anthropologist featured in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-26/clever-apes-11-deconstructing-disgust-85712">the latest Clever Apes</a>, on the nature and origins of disgust. He says people vary widely in their sensitivity to disgust. This makes perfect sense – if you know any nurses (or butchers or sanitation workers or entomologists), you know that a person can train himself or herself out of the disgust response. At least for certain things: Even Dan Fessler has a weakness:</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483489-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Fessler_needles.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Fessler says most phobias elicit a combination of fear and disgust, with his needle phobia leaning toward the disgust side. Research shows that’s a <a href="http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/disgust-in-phobias/">common characteristic of blood/injection/injury-type phobias</a>, and one that makes them harder to treat. Disgust seems to magnify a person’s anxiety about needle-sticks and the like, and evidence is growing that the<a href="http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3286416/"> disgust response ought to be addressed</a> in addition to fear in any therapies.</p><p>It’s less clear how to attack the disgust response in other phobias, such as fear of spiders or insects. My suggestion: exposure therapy. Check out the faces in this video and it’s clear these people are not just scared, but grossed out. Also maybe embarrassed – or at least, they probably should be for going on this show:<br> &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KPaMz885OKI" width="425"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 29 Apr 2011 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-04-29/disgust-and-fear-factor-85847 Clever Apes: Testosterone drives a hard bargain http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-23/clever-apes-testosterone-drives-hard-bargain-84160 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-23/P1010164.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Let&rsquo;s talk a little bit about <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone">testosterone</a>, shall we?</p><p>Sure, it&rsquo;s a loaded topic, tied up with what behaviors are supposedly &ldquo;male.&rdquo; But of course both men and women have it, and it seems to play a big role in the kind of people we wind up becoming. Testosterone is considered an <a href="http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/?ttype=2&amp;tid=10123">&ldquo;organizing hormone,&rdquo;</a> meaning the amount of it present in the womb has lifelong effects on how a baby&rsquo;s body and brain will develop.</p><p><a href="http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/bio/galinsky.htm">Adam Galinsky</a> is a psychologist at Northwestern University&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/">Kellogg Graduate School of Management</a>. Being in the business school and all, he was curious how prenatal testosterone levels affect the way people act in a bargaining situation.</p><p><sub>Listen to the interview with Adam Galinsky</sub></p><p><span player="null" class="filefield_audio_insert_player" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-92828" href="/sites/default/files/Testosterone podcast (1).mp3">Testosterone podcast (1).mp3</span></p><p>But before you can do that, you have to measure how much testosterone someone was swimming around in in the womb. This turns out to be pretty easy.</p><p><img height="300" width="400" alt="Prenatal testosterone correlates to ring and index finger lengths. Weird, right?" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-23/Fingers.JPG" /></p><p>Look at your hand. If your <a href="http://fingerlengthdigitratio.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/aggression-testosterone-and-your-finger-length/">ring finger is longer than your index finger</a>, you probably had a lot of testosterone in your prenatal bathwater. If the two fingers are more equal, or if your index finger is longer, you had less. Now, consider that this hormone, which determined the structure of your digits, also has a big role in how your brain is built.</p><p>Galinsky says it appears that testosterone is uniquely associated with a sensitivity to status. So <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&amp;_udi=B6WJB-51KK99S-1&amp;_user=10&amp;_coverDate=05%2F31%2F2011&amp;_rdoc=1&amp;_fmt=high&amp;_orig=gateway&amp;_origin=gateway&amp;_sort=d&amp;_docanchor=&amp;view=c&amp;_searchStrId=1691388589&amp;_rerunOrigin=google&amp;_acct=C000050221&amp;_version=1&amp;_urlVersion=0&amp;_userid=10&amp;md5=11c1ff63e8327c7837747d7fb627d92c&amp;searchtype=a">he designed an experiment</a> to see how people at a negotiating table behave when they perceive an insulting offer. A subject (the &ldquo;responder&rdquo;) is told that another person (the &ldquo;proposer&rdquo;) has been given $40 and can choose how to divide it up between the two of them. Some of the responders are told they&rsquo;ll be getting an unfairly low share &ndash; just $5. Next, the roles are reversed, and the study subject gets the money and gets to decide.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s where the testosterone figures in. People with higher levels of prenatal testosterone were much more likely to retaliate with a low-ball offer, while lower-testosterone subjects were more likely to respond with a fair offer &ndash; even to the person who had just screwed them. So Galinsky says high testosterone seems to correlate with an aggressive response to losing face &ndash; though not necessarily to aggression more generally. And furthermore, the correlation holds for both men and women.</p><p>It seems to me that this means that before negotiating, you should photograph the hands of the person across the table from you. Measure those fingers &ndash; and you may learn a surprising amount about how that person&rsquo;s brain works.</p><p>Subscribe to the Clever Apes&nbsp;<a title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" target="_blank">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes" href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, or find us on&nbsp;<a title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Mar 2011 21:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-23/clever-apes-testosterone-drives-hard-bargain-84160 Why we choke when the pressure's on http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/why-we-choke-when-pressures <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2010-November/2010-11-04/norwood-kickRESIZE.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Choke. A person shines in practice, gets called in to deliver during that pivotal moment in the big game...and they can&rsquo;t. They choke.</p><p>Who knows why, maybe it&rsquo;s the bright lights? The pressure, or the trash talking? Whatever, they just can&rsquo;t bring it, they can&rsquo;t do their best.</p><p>So what explains the tendency to drop the ball &ndash; literally or figuratively &ndash; when the pressure&rsquo;s on?</p><p><a href="http://www.psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/sbeilock.shtml" target="_blank">Sian Beilock</a>, associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, investigates in her new book <a target="_blank" href="http://www.amazon.com/Choke-Secrets-Brain-Reveal-Getting/dp/1416596178/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1288882812&amp;sr=8-1">Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To</a>.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s Gabriel Spitzer talked with Beilock, who says there&rsquo;s a major concept that unlocks the secret of the choke. It&rsquo;s called working memory.</p><p>Sian Beilock will give a talk in Tinley Park this Sunday at the <a href="http://www.alumniandfriends.uchicago.edu/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=mjJXJ7MLIsE&amp;b=4725657&amp;ct=8654037" target="_blank">University of Chicago&rsquo;s Harper Lecture</a>.</p><p><em>Music Button: The Mercury Program, &quot;You Yourself Are Too Serious&quot;, from the CD A Data Learn The Language, (Tigerstyle) </em></p></p> Thu, 04 Nov 2010 14:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/why-we-choke-when-pressures