The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
 
The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Psychology
Why do people cling to false beliefs?
Posted by The Curator on Sat May 24, 2014
According to Dartmouth professor Brendan Nyhan (as reported by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker), "persistently false beliefs stem from issues closely tied to our conception of self." So in order to change deeply held misperceptions, it's useless to present people with facts and information. Instead, you need to "target people‚Äôs beliefs about themselves." This recalls what's long been known by hoaxers, that it's easy to fool people if you just tell them what they want to believe. That is, people readily accept ideas that complement their pre-existing view of the world and of themselves. I also recall an old finding from social psychology, that people who rate low on self-confidence…
Categories: Psychology Comments (1)
The Candy Witch
Posted by The Curator on Thu Oct 31, 2013
In 2004, the researchers Jacqueline Woolley, Elizabeth Boerger, and Arthur Markman conducted a study at the University of Texas at Austin in which they told young children (ages 3 to 5) at a childcare center about the "Candy Witch." This was the script they used: 'Let me tell you about the Candy Witch. I have never seen the Candy Witch so I don't have a real picture of her. But somebody made a doll that looks like her, and I have a picture of that. Here it is. This is what she looks like. (Speaker shows picture of a Candy Witch doll and passes the picture around.) She's a really nice witch. And do you know…
Categories: Paranormal, Psychology Comments (0)
Dr. Phil’s Personality Test
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 26, 2013
A brief personality profile test has been circulating online, where it's identified as having been authored by "Dr. Phil" (Dr. Phillip McGraw). However, Dr. Phil has disavowed any connection with the test. So the question is, where does this test come from? Sleuths on the Snopes message boards tracked down a version of it that was posted on USENET back in 1994, at which time it was attributed to a Dr. Charles Vine. With that info, it was relatively simple to do a google search and find a version of the test that was included in a 1987 book titled Great Ideas: Listening and speaking…
Categories: Psychology Comments (0)
Questions about the Milgram experiment
Posted by The Curator on Thu Sep 12, 2013
Gina Perry has authored a new book about Stanley Milgram's famous obedience experiment (Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments) in which she argues that Milgram fudged his data and conclusions. Boing Boing reviews it. Perry suggests the fudging happened in several ways: First, although Milgram claimed his experiment always followed a set script, Perry reviewed the original audio tapes and found this wasn't the case. Instead, Milgram's experimenter "wheedled and nagged the subjects into turning up the shock dial."Second, she argues that a substantial portion of the experimental subjects saw through Milgram's ruse and realized that they weren't actually shocking someone. I'll have…
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (0)
Do not push this button!
Posted by The Curator on Wed Feb 20, 2013
Here's a prank that's also an interesting experiment in social psychology. In the middle of a busy public square, a big sign over a red button says, "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON." Of course, random people walking by inevitably do push the button. At which point, everyone in the square appears to drop dead. So what does the person who pushed the button do? Does he/she try to help the people? No. Every single person who pushed the button runs away, as if trying to escape being found out. The prank was filmed in a square in Rio de Janeiro. The TV presenter Silvio Santos provides a narration (in portuguese). More info at forbes.com.…
Categories: Pranks, Psychology Comments (4)
The Problem With Being Polite
Posted by The Curator on Mon Jul 30, 2012
Little white lies are part of the lubricant that keeps the cogs of the social machinery running. For instance, if someone tells a bad joke, we usually smile. We don't tell them they're not funny, because that would be rude and might hurt their feelings. The problem (according to Joyce Ehrlinger, a professor of psychology at Florida State University) is that sometimes these little white lies can be dangerous if people take them too seriously and become overconfident in their abilites. In such cases, being less polite would help to deflate the ego of these people and bring them back to reality. Ehrlinger explains: "There's definitely no harm in some types of overconfidence, and I…
Categories: Psychology Comments (5)
Honesty Cafes
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 18, 2009
As part of an ongoing effort to battle a culture of corruption, the Indonesian government is opening Honesty Cafes, designed to teach people the value of honesty. Snacks and drinks are available, and you pay on the honor system, putting your money into a clear plastic box. From the NY Times: The attorney general’s office says the honesty cafes will nip in the bud corrupt tendencies among the young and straighten out those known for indulging in corrupt practices, starting with civil servants. By shifting the responsibility of paying correctly to the patrons themselves, the cafes are meant to…
Free Flattery
Posted by The Curator on Mon Mar 16, 2009
Too close to a fake thing. Brett Westcott and Cameron Brown like to stand on a corner in Times Square and compliment people walking by. They say they're doing this in a genuine attempt to spread good cheer. The problem is, many people have difficulty judging their sincerity: Brown admits some students think they're playing a practical joke. "Some people question our sincerity, but we're 100 percent sincere. We wouldn't be doing this for two hours every Wednesday for eight months if we didn't mean it... The worst response we've gotten is the middle finger, or they just tell us to shut up. But then we give them positive reinforcement for that." If…
Categories: Pranks, Psychology Comments (10)
What are women thinking?
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 03, 2009
A new study published in Psychological Science reveals that women are far more skilled at faking romantic interest than men. The experiment involved a speed-dating session. Observers were asked to guess how the men and women felt about each other. Turns out it was easy to guess how the men felt, but no one had a clue how the women felt. The researchers could have simply asked any average guy who would have told them that, most of the time, we have no clue what women are thinking. That's the feminine mystique. Link: Chicago Tribune.
Rejects spot fake smiles
Posted by The Curator on Wed Nov 19, 2008
A study published in the October issue of Psychological Science has found that people who feel rejected are significantly better at spotting fake smiles than are other people. (Link: US News & World Report.) Those who feel rejected can accurately detect fake smiles 80% of the time, versus only 50% for other groups. According to the author of the study, "It's not clear why rejection may boost the ability to figure out when someone else is faking an emotion. It may have something to do with a primitive need to fit in with others and to detect what they're really thinking." I think it may have something to do with a concept…
Categories: Psychology Comments (8)
Rumormongering Traders
Posted by The Curator on Wed Nov 19, 2008
Britain's Financial Services Authority has found a new group to blame for the financial crisis: naive traders spreading rumors. It cites one example of a trader who "spread a piece of 'hot news' to 10 to 12 of his friends over a messaging system without making clear that it was a rumour. One of his contacts then did not hesitate to spread the message on to 150 of his contacts." To counter the problem, the FSA is urging companies to adopt policies "on how to deal with rumours and monitoring chat sessions, phone calls and emails from traders." Good thing it's tackling this problem. And once it's succeeded in making the stockmarket…
Nintendo Wii Truth Experiment
Posted by The Curator on Mon Nov 17, 2008
University of Memphis psychologist Rick Dale used a Nintendo Wii in an experiment to show that the human brain is wired to believe before it doubts. I don't think this is a new finding. It makes sense that the brain has to assume all incoming info is true, in case a quick reaction is needed. For instance, it wouldn't be wise to stand around debating with yourself whether the tiger leaping out of the jungle is real or fake. Doubt, therefore, takes second place in the brain's hierarchy of information processing. Which is one reason (among others) why people fall for hoaxes. The particular design of Dale's experiment (via Silicon Republic):
Categories: Psychology, Science Comments (3)
Do hoaxes tell us anything about the character of their victims?
Posted by The Curator on Wed Sep 10, 2008
On the New York Times opinion page Stanley Fish recently offered some thoughts about the Wine Spectator hoax, comparing it to the Sokal hoax of the 1990s. After musing about the two hoaxes, he draws this lesson about hoaxes in general: a hoax that is sufficiently and painstakingly elaborated can deceive anyone if the conditions are favorable. This means that the success of a hoax reflects on the skill of the hoaxer and says nothing about the substantive views of those who were fooled by it. One can relish and even admire the cleverness of…
Categories: Psychology Comments (8)
Placebo Walk Buttons
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 08, 2008
I've previously posted about the issue of placebo walk buttons -- that is, the widespread suspicion that the walk buttons at intersections don't have any effect on traffic lights. (There's also a separate theory that you can control the traffic lights by pushing the button in a special way.) An article on canada.com addresses the issue of placebo buttons at some length. They insist the idea of placebo buttons is a myth (at least for the city of Victoria), and they interview a traffic planner to discover what really happens when the button is pushed:
Categories: Psychology, Urban Legends Comments (11)
Missing Child Experiment
Posted by The Curator on Tue May 06, 2008
Local 6, an Orlando news station, recently conducted a "missing child experiment." They plastered posters all over a mall claiming that 8-year-old Britney Begonia was missing. Then they had Britney herself sit down alone a few feet from some of the signs. The question was: would anyone notice the poster and offer to help Britney? The predictable result: Of the hundreds of people who walked past and saw the posters, only two stopped to ask Britney if she was OK. Many people, questioned later, said they noticed Britney's resemblance to the girl in the poster, but were "fearful of getting involved." It's the
Categories: Psychology Comments (11)
Page 1 of 6 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›
All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.