25 June 2018
You may not know the name (just-world fallacy, anyone?) but you probably know the feeling. Eight psychological phenomena laid bare.
Social psychologists Latané and Darley popularized the ‘bystander effect’ concept following the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in New York City. Genovese was killed outside her apartment, while bystanders who witnessed the crime failed to assist or call the police. In Genovese's case, each onlooker concluded from their neighbours’ inaction that their own personal help was not needed.
Research found that one reason could be to do with the length of an interrogation, for example. Typical police interrogations last for around two hours, however interrogations that produced false confessions lasted 16.3 hours, on average. Pretty shocking.
The bogus pipeline is a fake polygraph used to get participants to truthfully respond to emotional or affective questions. It’s a technique used by social psychologists to reduce false answers when attempting to collect self-reported data.
The just-world fallacy states that people believe ‘you get what you deserve’. This is such a strong notion, that people will rationalise an inexplicable injustice by coming up with things the victim might have done to deserve it. Pretty weird.
Through a 1994 study, it was found that people's biggest regrets tend to involve things they have failed to do in their lives. Essentially, actions cause more pain in the short-term, but inactions are regretted more in the long run.
Counterfactual thinking is a concept that involves the human tendency to imagine alternatives to life events that have already occurred. A bronze medallist is likely to feel grateful that they’d won a medal of any kind, whereas a silver winner is more likely to lament not winning the gold.
Hindsight bias, also known as creeping determinism, is the inclination, after an event has occurred, to believe that there could have been a way to foresee the outcome. I think we’ve all been guilty of this one.
There is currently very solid evidence that some types of psychotherapy (talking therapy) can be effective to treat a broad range of psychological problems, including the prevention of suicide and therefore saving many live.
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