Archive for 'Arts and science'

Car Horn Honking Studies (part 1)

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Anyone who has driven a vehicle in various different countries might have observed that the national rate of ‘horn honking’ varies considerably – but why? A widely-cited study by Douglas T. Kenrick and Steven W. MacFarlane (published in 1986) investigated whether one simple variable – temperature – might be having an effect.


The team organised that a “female confederate” driving a Datsun 200SX would repeatedly perform a potentially irritating manoeuvre at a set of traffic lights in Pheonix Arizona.

“When the light turned red, she moved her car to the head of the intersection and waited for a subject to pull in behind her. The confederate then waited for the light to turn green and remained stationary throughout the 12-second course of the light.

The confederate was instructed to keep still, with her eyes forward, car in neutral, foot off the brake, and her hands on steering wheel. Once the green light had changed, the confederate made a legal* right turn on the red light.”

An observer recorded how long the cars which were behind her spent honking their horns. 75 such tests were conducted between April and August, when the “Temperature Humidity Discomfort Index” varied from 86º to 116º (Fahrenheit).

“Results indicated a direct linear increase in horn honking with increasing temperature. Stronger results were obtained by examining only those subjects who had their windows rolled down (and presumably did not have air conditioners operating).”

See: ‘Ambient Temperature and Horn Honking : A Field Study of the Heat/Aggression Relationship’ in: Environment and Behavior, March 1986 vol. 18 no. 2 179-191.

* Question [optional]: Under what circumstances is it possible to make “a legal right turn” on a red light?

Coming soon: Horn Honking part 2


The cat-flap as a psychoanalytic metaphor

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

CatFlapStefano Bolognini, who is president of the International Psychoanalytical Association explores the usefulness of the cat-flap as a psychoanalytic metaphor in his book ‘Secret Passages : The Theory and Technique of Interpsychic Relations’ (2011 – Routledge).

The book is reviewed by Professor Cordelia Schmidt Hellerau in an essay entitled ‘SECRET PASSAGES:SOPHISTICATING THE CAT-FLAP’ (in: Psychoanalytic Quarterly, Volume LXXXI, Issue 2, pages 443–455, April 2012.) Bolognini’s work, explains the professor :

“[…] provide[s] us with the sense of getting to know a seasoned psychoanalyst who loves his work and generously shares with us not only the highlights of successful interpretations, but also the at times stumbling, tentative, or awkwardly searching steps that will help both, analyst and patient, find their way to the cat-flap.”

The ‘cat-flap’ metaphor in this context is illustrated by passages from the book.

“Perhaps, without our knowing, there was a draft, a door left ajar between our mental apparatuses, or a small opening, almost invisible, like in the great wooden doors of Italian houses in medieval times, at the bottom of which was a swinging flap (a ‘cat-flap’) through which the house cat could come and go unheeded, unseen, and without disturbing its owners, intent on other pursuits. [p. 66]

[The cat-flap] . . . is a good symbol for a structural (it is part of the door) and functional (it was specifically designed so that the cat can carry out its function of catching mice inside and outside the house) device that is not only intrapsychic but also interpsychic. The cat-flap is quite distinct from the door, which allows the passage of people, and from incidental cracks, which allow the passage of mice, clandestine, parasitical guest that harm the community / interpsychic-relational apparatus. [p. 67]”

Bonus Assignment [optional]:

Click to continue reading “The cat-flap as a psychoanalytic metaphor”

The M-through-Z of Social Dilemmas (podcast 65)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Social situations sprout all kinds of awkwardness. You can classify some of those awkwardnesses under the letters M through Z, as we do in this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by Robin Abrahams tells about:

The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

Norwegian live-reading of immensely long consumer terms-and-conditions

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The Norwegian Consumer Rights Council is doing a live reading of popular end-user license agreements for apps and services. As we post this blog item about it, the readers are approaching the fifteen (15) hour mark in their long journey through time. Click on the image below to go to their site and endure the spectacle:


(Thanks to Carl-Henrik Hörnkvist for bringing this to our attention — and especially for using his telephone to do so.)

The Parachuting Rag-Doll Experiment

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Falling from a great height with a parachute is likely to result in lesser injury than falling from a great height without a parachute, suggests a newly published German medical study. The study is:

Does usage of a parachute in contrast to free fall prevent major trauma?: a prospective randomised-controlled trial in rag dolls,” Patrick Czorlich, Till Burkhardt, Jan Hendrik Buhk, Jakob Matschke, Marc Dreimann, Nils Ole Schmidt, Sven Oliver Eicker, European Spine Journal, vol. 25, no. 5, May 2016, pp 1349-1354. (Thanks to Gylfi Ólafsson for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany, report:

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first prospective, randomised, and controlled trial that clearly demonstrates that using a parachute prevents major trauma.”


The report’s figure 2, reproduced here, comes with this explanation:

“Frontal volume rendered view giving an overview on the following main findings. R right, L left. a Uninjured rag doll in the parachute group, hash symbol zipper of the peritoneal back, asterisk node of the balloons representing the lungs (dashed line). b (1) brain injury (left cranial balloon ruptured), (2) spine and pelvic injury (LEGO bricks dislocated), (3) severe abdominal and thoracic organ injuries (only 2 of 5 balloons left intact). Please note that the testicular protection unfortunately did not fit the apparently male doll.”