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Psychology
Status: Hoax (supposedly a magic trick, but it doesn't work)
I received this polite request this morning:

Dear web master ,
Please review this website that is able to determine a persons sex just by four visual questions.
Name : Gene Guess .com
Link : http://www.geneguess.com
Thank you ,
Pras Til


So here goes: it worked for me, correctly guessing my gender. I suppose it was an interesting ten-second time waster. I don't know why it worked. Obviously it has a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right (unless you're a hermaphrodite, which might trip it up a bit). My theory is that the color choice question must be an important clue, since guys probably tend to pick darker colors than women.

Update: Based on everyone's comments, the gender guesses it makes appear to be totally random. The trick is apparently that it will be right half the time, thus half the people will think it works. And yet it did fool me into wasting time with it.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 10, 2005
Comments (37)
Status: Art Project
image Mindbending Software claims to offer programs that will insert subliminal messages into the favorite computer games of your kids, thereby reprogramming them, as they play the games, to do as you wish. Their website states:

Mindbending Software Inc. is a company specialized on psychological conditioning software packages for children. With the newest technologies our products infiltrate the computer games of your kids and mingle various subconscious or conscious conditiong messages and images in the game contents. The technology can be compared with the subconscious pictures in the TV program, and if you don’t know about them, ask yourself why are you buying all those things you don’t need. You see it works ! Our software uses the same and some other patented methods to condition your kids. Try it out, if you aren’t satisfied you’ll get your money back!

Their subliminal control programs include the Tranquilizer™, Intellectualizer™, Selfesteemizer™, and Professionizer™. So is this real? Not really. It's an art project created by Robert Praxmarer. But what gets me is that he actually will allow people to buy the products listed on the site. Or, at least, he'll take their money. Click on the 'Add to Cart' button, and you'll be taken to a PayPal screen that will transfer money to his account. Most hoax sites, by contrast, carefully avoid taking anyone's money, because if they do take money and don't deliver what they've advertised, that's fraud. So maybe Praxmarer really will send some kind of "subliminal" software to people who pay for it. (He wants, on average, over $1000 per program.) But he could still be opening himself up to charges of fraud if the software doesn't work as advertised.
Categories: Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 03, 2005
Comments (6)
Status: Hoax
image According to the HETRACIL website, "HETRACIL is the most widely prescribed anti-effeminate medication in the United States, helping 16 million Americans who suffer from Behavioral Effeminism and Male Homosexuality Disorder." In other words, it's supposedly a drug to treat homosexuality. The look and feel of the site is pretty convincing, perfectly imitating the bland soothing nature of other pharmaceutical sites. And it's plausible that some drug company could try to devise such a product, given that up until the late 1960s the American Psychiatric Association actually did list homosexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders as a psychiatric disorder. However, as far as I know, no drug company is currently developing a treatment for homosexuality. In other words, HETRACIL is a hoax. This is revealed on homomojo.com in an interview with Benjamin, the creator of the HETRACIL site. The interview explains that "What he intended with these creations was to spur conversation on a “what if” scenario in which a cure for homosexuality (or at least feminine tendencies) becomes a reality. What would be the ramifications to society if sexual orientation could be manipulated?"
Categories: Health/Medicine, Psychology, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 01, 2005
Comments (25)
Status: Hoax
A press release that appeared during the past week on pressbox.co.uk declared that Tom Cruise would be delivering a series of four lectures at a scientology centre in Los Angeles on "topics related to 'The Modern Science of Mental Health.'" The press release turned out to be a hoax, getting a stern response from Cruise's lawyer: "It's totally phony... Tom is not giving any lectures... I'm going to look into it, because, in my view, it's forgery, wire fraud and apparently committed on an interstate basis. So, if I can find out who did this, I certainly intend to pursue every remedy I can find." The press release has now been removed from pressbox, so in the interest of posterity, here it is:

Continuing his vigorous advocacy for Scientology's solutions to mental health problems, Tom Cruise will deliver a series of four lectures on topics related to "The Modern Science of Mental Health" beginning next month. Co-sponsored by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the lectures will be held at Scientology's Celebrity Centre International in Los Angeles. All lectures will be free to the public. Due to limited seating at the Celebrity Centre, tickets will be available only to Scientology parishioners and selected members of the press, but the lectures will be simulcast on the web, and a live video feed will be available for broadcasters who wish to cover these highly informative presentations.

The first lecture, set for October 15, is titled "How Psychiatry Invented Schizophrenia, and What Scientologists Can Do About It".

The second lecture, tentatively scheduled for October 22, is on "Handling Sexual Dis-Orientation: Out of the Closet and Into the Auditing Room".

The topic of the third lecture, in early November, will be "Diagnosis and Treatment of So-Called Clinical Depression with the Hubbard Mark Super VII Quantum Electropsychometer".

The fourth lecture is "Neuroanatomical Changes Resulting from Chronic Methamphetamine Abuse: Can Narconon's Sauna and Niacin Treatment Program Help?"

Transcripts of each lecture will be made available after the broadcast.


(via A Socialite's Life)
Categories: Celebrities, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 29, 2005
Comments (13)
Status: Old wives' tale disproven by science
At last I can return to my nocturnal cheese-eating ways, now that I know eating the stuff won't cause me nightmares... Actually I had never heard any rumor associating cheese with nightmares, but apparently researchers at The Dairy Council had, because they designed an experiment to disprove the fallacy. With the help of 200 volunteers they determined "cheese may actually help you have a good night's sleep." But stay away from Stilton, which caused an uptick in odd and vivid dreams. Cheddar made people dream about Jordan and Johnny Depp (which sounds to me like nightmare material).
Categories: Food, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 20, 2005
Comments (30)
Here's an ingenious way to lose weight: give yourself false memories to trick yourself into believing that you actually hate all the food you love. This technique is being pioneered by memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, of UC Irvine:

In her latest work, her team convinced volunteers that they had been sick after eating strawberry ice cream as a child. Loftus and her colleagues gave 228 undergraduate students questionnaires about food. The volunteers subsequently received feedback on their questionnaires that suggested they had had an unpleasant experience related to food in the past. The researchers told them this conclusion had been generated by a sophisticated computer program. A control group of 107 received no feedback.
It was found that 41 per cent of the first group took on the false childhood memory and were more averse to eating strawberry ice cream afterwards.


All my life I've hated fish because of an unpleasant childhood memory of my German grandfather gouging out the eyeball of a fish at the dinner table and eating it (in Germany they eat all parts of the fish). But what if this memory is a false one? I could become a fish lover. Though I wonder if it's possible to give people fake good memories of food. Or does the memory trick only work in a negative way?
Categories: Food, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 04, 2005
Comments (15)
In the past few days the 'Piano Man' has been getting a lot of attention. He's a guy who was found "wandering on a windswept road on the Isle of Sheppey". He was dripping wet and very confused. The authorities took him to a hospital where the staff discovered that although the guy refuses to say a word, and they have no idea of his identity, he is an accomplished piano player. He's now been at the hospital for a couple of weeks, during which time he hasn't said a word, but he loves to play the piano. All of this seems very similar to the case of the pianist David Helfgott, who was depicted in the 1996 film Shine starring Geoffrey Rush. The cases seem so similar that some people are suspecting it's some kind of hoax or prank. I really doubt it's a hoax. It sounds like he's been at the hospital long enough that the staff would have seen through it by now if the guy were just putting on an act. (thanks to KJ for forwarding some links about this)
Update: My wife pointed this out to me. Could the Piano Man be a modern-day Princess Caraboo?
Update 2: A Polish mime claims that he knows the Piano Man and says that he's a French street musician named Steven Villa Masson. This has yet to be confirmed.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed May 18, 2005
Comments (28)
A widely reported story last week stated that a study conducted by Hewlett Packard found that "Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers." Sounded like bad news for people like myself who are constantly checking email. But Mind Hacks has examined the study a little more closely and found its results aren't all they're cracked up to be. What the test actually found is that people do worse on IQ tests if they're simultaneously trying to answer email and phone calls. Which isn't surprising. But this 'IQ loss' only lasts for as long as the distractions last. In other words, you're not really losing any intelligence. Reading email simply stopped people from focusing on the test.
Categories: Psychology, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Apr 28, 2005
Comments (6)
A study conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire and the Edinburgh International Science Festival has found that women may not be as intuitive as they think they are. In fact, men may be more intuitive than women. Study participants "were asked to look at ten pairs of photographs showing smiling faces. One of the smiles in each pair was genuine and the other was fake, and people had to spot the genuine smile." You can take this fake-smile test yourself and see how intuitive you are. I only scored 5 out of 10, so I must not be intuitive at all. However, I have a few doubts about the study. First of all, how do they judge the difference between a fake smile and a real smile? In all the sets of photos the people are obviously posing, so what makes one posed smile real and another posed smile fake? Also, I'm not sure how much you can tell about intuition by looking at pictures, because body language, which isn't conveyed in these still images, has a lot to do with intuition.
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 17, 2005
Comments (31)
Gary C. sent me this riddle which has been doing the rounds on email for quite a while, though I had never seen it before. As Gary pointed out, the interesting thing about this is not whether it really is a Paul Harvey riddle (I have no clue), or even the riddle itself. It's the claim that 80% of kindergarten kids got the answer while 83% of Stanford graduates were unable to. Instead of trying to track down whether or not a group of Stanford graduates ever has been tested with this riddle, I thought I'd do the next best thing. Take an unscientific poll of Museum of Hoaxes readers to see how many of you are able to figure out the answer right away vs. aren't able to. That'll give a rough approximation of the percentage of (presumably over-kindergarten age) people able to solve the riddle, assuming people answer the poll honestly.

I have to admit that I couldn't get the answer. I finally gave up and googled for the answer.

If you've seen the riddle before and already know the answer, then base your response to the poll on the first time you ever saw the riddle. Did you figure out the answer immediately? If you were in kindergarten when you first were given the riddle, then don't respond to the poll.

I put the answer in a link below for those people, like myself, unable to figure it out.

Paul Harvey RIDDLE:
When asked this riddle, 80% of kindergarten kids got the answer, compared to 17% of Stanford University seniors.

What is greater than God, More evil than the devil, The poor have it, The rich need it, And if you eat it, you'll die?

Send this to 10 people and then press shift and you will get the answer.
P.S. You won't believe this, but this really does give you the answer!!!!


The Answer
Categories: Psychology
Posted by Alex on Sat Feb 12, 2005
Comments (214)
Sarah Kenney said that her husband died in Iraq when he dove in front of a bullet that would have hit a child. Her story attracted the sympathy of a group called Homefront Heroes, which then told the media about it. But it turns out that Kenney's husband didn't die in Iraq. He's still alive and well here in America. He isn't even a soldier. Kenney had made the entire thing up. This sounds like a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, in which people attract attention by inventing illnesses in others (usually claiming that their children are sick, but claiming that a husband has died would seem to fit the description of the syndrome as well). Kenney later made a statement to the press: "I think I need some serious counseling... This is the most serious lie I've ever told, but I've been caught in many lies." Sounds like she's heading in the right direction, but still seems a little creepy.
Categories: Military, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 11, 2005
Comments (8)
image Sufferers of Morgellons disease complain of invisible parasites biting their skin. And they get skin lesions from which sprout strange fibers. And mysterious black spore-like specks appear on their skin. Cases of this strange disease seem to be spreading, especially in the Bay area. One theory is that it has something to do with Lyme disease. Or it may be a case of mass delusion. The medical community seems to think it's mass delusion. Most people who show up complaining of these symptoms get diagnosed with 'delusional parasitosis', which is a psychological problem in which people imagine that they're infested by parasites. Not having any medical qualifications at all, I won't weigh in on whether this is a real disease or mass delusion, but some of the behavior of the patients does sound suspiciously bizarre. Take the case of Theresa Blodgett:

She gathers up the black specks, the mysterious fibers and the small, fuzzy 'cocoons' she finds on her skin and around her home. She tapes the macabre samples to typing paper, but she said no doctor will analyze the collection. Physicians who glance at the specimens dismiss the lot as stray hairs, clothing fibers, scabs and other common household debris, she said.

So either she really is suffering from something and is desperately but unsuccessfully trying to get doctors to pay attention to her, or she's obsessively collecting house dust and stray flecks of dirt and convincing herself that these things are parasites attacking her. (Thanks to 'K' for the links)
Categories: Health/Medicine, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 11, 2005
Comments (607)
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