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The Science of Binge Watching

The Instant Gratification of Binge Watching Television:
You watch an episode of your favorite TV series, it’s a cliffhanger!  You see the credits, and feel the pangs of sadness because you will have to wait another week to find out what happens next.  Ten years ago, this was the normal way to watch a television series.  Today, technology allows you to push a button (or just sit back and wait) and your next episode can be viewed right away.  Its a beautiful advancement in these modern times.

Binge-watching, also called binge-viewing, is the practice of watching television for longer time spans than usual, usually of a single television show. In a survey conducted by Netflix in February 2014, 73% of people define binge-watching as “watching between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting.”  Binge-watching as an observed cultural phenomenon has become popular with the rise of online media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime where the viewer can watch television shows and movies on-demand.

The idea of assembling several consecutive episodes of a television series in order and watching them in rapid succession originated with the marathon, networks themselves programmed several hours’ worth of reruns of a single series. This practice began in the 1980s and is still popular among subscription television outlets in the 2010s.

Your Body and Mind on a TV Binge:
Here are a few ways the science of binge watching affects your mind, body and soul.

1. The Non-Walking Dead
The effects of sitting for long periods of time have been well documented, and it is generally understood that being sedentary for most of the time is harmful to your health.   Since you’re sitting with your spine in a C shape, it can cause cramped muscles, spinal pressure, and bad posture.  This is a sedentary behavior and if not moderated can lead to weight gain – You are simply not burning many calories if you are not moving your body around.

2. Friday Night Lights
The effects of fluorescent light on the brain have been studied and long term TV watching can have the same effect – too much exposure has been linked to headaches, eye strain, seasonal affective disorder, problems sleeping, poor immune function, hormonal disruption, and anxiety among other symptoms.  Getting out into the sunshine more during the morning and daytime has been shown to combat the negative effects of too much fluorescent light exposure.

3. TV is the new Ice Cream: Depression and Loneliness
Some recent findings on binge-watching associated people who binge on television with depression, loneliness and an inability to control their behavior.  This however, was only a correlational study, and not concluded to be a direct cause and effect relationship.  As mentioned above, this can also be a symptom of too much flourescent light exposure, so its possible these issues are connected in some way.

4. Breaks are for Quitters: Persistence and Resiliency
There are positive effects of binge watching as well.  Based on a survey commissioned by Netflix in December, Three-quarters of 1,500 online respondents reported having positive feelings in binge watching and that binging was a welcome refuge from their busy lives. Nearly eight in ten people said binge-watching a TV show made it more enjoyable than watching single episodes. It would seem that people are craving the long narratives that today’s good television can provide. In today’s world of shortened attention spans, binge watchers have shown an ability to be resilient and focus on a task for long periods of time.

5. This Show is Like My Life Story: Cognitive Empathy
We may become glued to complex, emotionally-charged stories, and want to consume a lot of them, because of our ability to recognize the feelings of others.  In addition to identifying others’ discomfort or elation, this branch of “cognitive empathy” examines how humans can also adopt others’ psychological perspectives, including those of fictional characters. Research has pointed to this occurrence more often with reading fictional texts as opposed to watching a fictional film or television series, in that a more profound emotional reaction occurs while reading as opposed to watching.  But perhaps Binge watching creates more of an emotional bond to characters and scenarios than a shorter time duration.

What it Means to “Binge”:
“Binge” is defined as a short period of time in which you do too much of something.  Inherent in the definition, is a judgement that the behavior is excessive, or somehow suggests the binger is “out of control.”  For some activities like eating, or drinking alcohol, there are real, immediate threats to your well being and these are considered harmful activities.  Perhaps “binge” watching television is not the proper term.  Many people prefer to watch television series this way, and are otherwise responsible, balanced individuals who can moderate their entertainment consumption.  So “binge-watching,” although a very appropriate buzzword to describe the activity, creates too negative a connotation. A few hours is not as excessive as all day marathons.  Getting to watch something you desire is a pleasurable activity, and so if a viewer takes some breaks from sitting for long periods of time, or stretches often enough, the pros and cons can balance out.  Moderation, with all things in life, is the key here.

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Jessica Jones And The Very Real Power Of Suggestion

The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Netflix original series Jessica Jones, pits it’s super powered detective heroine against the super villain Zebediah Killgrave, better known to comic fans as the Purple Man. Despite his less-than-intimidating name, Purple Man has a very formidable ability: he can make people do whatever he asks.

jessica-jones-poster-tennant-ritter

Using these powers, Killgrave has committed crimes ranging from theft, to bank robbery, to over-throwing whole countries. And even a few that are too despicable for us to mention here.

Comic writers have explained this ability in different ways over the years, including super pheromones and telepathy. But there’s one possible explanation which is frighteningly real: the Power of Suggestion. To put it another way, sometimes all Killgrave has to do to make people obey him is ask the right way.

Now, if you’ve ever gotten into a fight with a teacher or parent because you wouldn’t do something they wanted you to, you might think this sounds more far-fetched than the super pheromones. But scientists would disagree with you, especially this one: Stanley Milgram.

Milgram performed one of the most famous experiments on human obedience of all time, and is the subject of Magnolia Picture’s feature: The Experimenter.

Experimenter

What Milgram was trying to find out was how much you could get a person to do, just by asking. In his experiment, he asked regular people to press buttons on a console. The buttons were connected to another person in an adjoining room, who unbeknownst to the test subject was actually an actor working with Milgram. Whenever the buttons were pressed, the actor would pretend to get an electric shock, scream in pain and beg the test subject to stop. Milgram however, asked the subjects to continue pressing the buttons. No matter how much they thought they were hurting the other person, they kept pressing the buttons as long as Milgram asked them to. Some even kept going after they thought they had killed the other person. The test subjects were offered no reward for following the instructions, and there was no penalty if they didn’t follow them. Their only motivation to listen to Milgram was that he was a scientist and he said “please”. Maybe it really is a magic word…

milgram

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Although Milgram’s experiment is controversial, his finding remain popular and some have used them to answer questions such as “why do people join cults?” and “why do people follow dictators?”. And they definitely make Killgrave and his abilities seem that much scarier.

So the next time someone wants you to do something, think hard about who’s asking before you say “yes”.

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Suicide Squad is a Modern Day Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Bohemian Rhapsody is a song composed by Freddy Mercury, and recorded by the rock band, Queen.  It was released in 1975, and has stood the test of time, becoming one of the best selling singles of all time. More recently it has come back into the public’s attention through the new Suicide Squad trailer. So what exactly is the meaning behind the lyrics and its connection to this band of delinquents?

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The word “Bohemian” can either refer to a native or inhabitant of Bohemia or “a person who has informal or unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer.” The second meaning applies here, and has some bearing on the overall message of both the song and film.

This song is a very emotional tale, and tells the story of someone who usually just goes with the flow and has lived a simple life. However, he has done something terribly wrong and owns up to his crime. He faces jail time (or a death sentence).  He struggles with the realities before him in an epic battle between good and evil in his mind, and ultimately accepts his fate and returns to his past way of thinking that he, must again, go with the way the wind blows.

 

The crime, the confession

The song begins with someone who is disillusioned, confused, and seemingly in shock.  The subject also explains that he’s just a simple boy, and lived life modestly, and usually doesn’t care about life’s ups and downs.  But, now he’s wondering why something so bad has happened to him.

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see.  I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, because I’m easy come, easy go, a little high, a little low. Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.”

Then, comes the explanation for his feelings.  A confession. Just pure truth.

Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

This can be connected to Deadshot’s dilemma, an assassin by trade but a family man at heart who will do anything to keep his daughter safe. Not sure if she’ll show up in the film but she plays a major role in his life in the DC Comic Universe.

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The boy now explains that he has to go face the music for his crime. Probably a jail cell. Maybe the executioner.

Mama, ooo, didn’t mean to make you cry, if I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters. Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time. Goodbye, everybody I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.  Mama, ooo (anyway the wind blows). I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

 

It’s not over till the fat lady sings

After a moving guitar solo, that further iterates the despair he is feeling, things get a bit crazy. Facing imminent death can do that to people.  This section depicts the struggle between symbols of good and evil within his mind. The song proceeds with the operatic section.

First, he explains that he feels like a clown, just a fool before his “court” or his mental judgement. A Scaramouch is a clown-like character from classical Italian comedy, often depicted as a coward. I think we can all figure out who the clown is in this bunch.

I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango?

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light? Wait, wrong movie.

Then, he feels fear, and thinks on Gallileo Galilei – the famous scientist who played a major role in the scientific revolution during the Renaissance in the 1600s.  Perhaps he thinks on him because Galileo was deemed a heretic and had to live under house arrest for the a good portion of his life. Wishful thinking?

Do we know any crazy doctors that had to be kept in confinement? Why yes, yes we do.

Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening me. Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo Figaro – magnifico.  But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me. He’s just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity.  Easy come easy go will you let me go?

Bismillah is Arabic for “In the name of God” or “In the name of Allah,” so in this section it would appear he is having an inner battle, portraying his persecutors and saviors at the same time.

Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let me go. Will not let you go. Let me go (never). Never let you go. Let me go. Never let me go ooo. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go.

Then, this section indicates he is prepared for the worst, and assumes he will be facing the devil for his crime.

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me. For me. For me.

If there is any character dealing with an internal battle of good and evil, it’s the Enchantress. It is believed that the Enchantress is possessed by a separate evil entity controlling her powers and she goes to desperate measures to eliminate the demonic force within her.

Suicide-Squad-Trailer-Cara-Delevingne-as-Enchantress

 

After insanity, comes anger, then acceptance

Now, comes the anger.  It would appear that the boy who normally doesn’t seem to care about anything and goes anywhere the wind blows has become angered, perhaps thinking of the emotions that inspired his crime?

So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye? So you think you can love me and leave me to die? Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby, Just gotta get out just gotta get right outta here.

But, after the anger, comes the passivity again, returning to his usual state of mind.  Maybe it’s a way of not letting the pain become too much to bear.

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah. Nothing really matters, anyone can see. Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me. Anyway the wind blows

Each member of the crew carries a burden to bear and a deep darkness within them, but they’re not called the Suicide Squad for nothing. Whether by choice or by the orders of Amanda Waller, they all face certain death and none seem to care about what awaits them.

SuicideSquadCastLight

 

Other interpretations

Mercury himself has refused to explain the composition of this song, other than saying it was about relationships. Could the entire song represent the highs and lows of loving someone and then losing that person?  Maybe a jealous rage caused the fictional crime? Or perhaps, it was about Mercury’s own inner turmoil and confusion since it was written after he understood his own orientation in his life, ending his relationship with women.

Brian May, the guitarist for Queen, supports suggestions that the song contained veiled references to Mercury’s personal traumas. He recalls “Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song.” May, though, says the band had agreed that the core of the lyrics was a private issue for the composer.

The song ended up being a huge commercial success, despite it being an unconventional 5 minutes 55 seconds long. It has become one of the best selling singles of all time, all around the world.  It is definitely one of the most memorable songs I’ll ever hear, and will surely add a new layer of meaning to this year’s blockbuster film about a misfit band of lost souls.

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The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 

Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication

Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

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McGurk Effect

A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear

Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 1.18.11 PM

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader

In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication

Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

lipreadingte thumbnail

The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

lipreadingte thumbnail

The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

lipreadingte thumbnail

The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

lipreadingte thumbnail

The Science of Why We Love Bad Lip Reading Videos

Bad Lip Reading 
Bad Lip Reading is a hilarious YouTube channel that produces videos with false dialogue dubbed over popular movies, television, sports, and news segments.  They make us crack up because the dialogue they use has the most random, ridiculous plot lines, but when you look at the characters, their mouths move pretty much close enough so that you could believe it’s what they’re actually saying. The experience of seeing and hearing these videos, and believing them, compared to what we know about the source material, makes us chortle heartily.

Verbal Communication
Thinkprogress recently published an article about this topic, and we are also excited about the science behind why we love these videos. Our brains translate the sounds and visuals we take in, via our senses, into what we call verbal communication. Language recognition is different, depending on what language you speak or are fluent in. Our brains often make up for a lack of perfect pronunciation, or something misheard, by filling in the gaps, and using logic to conclude what the intended message was. Verbal communication is something called multimodal, using two or more senses to interpret information.

McGurk Effect
A really good way to see this process in action is by seeing the McGurk Effect.  You can see it in the video below by AsapSCIENCE. In it, the man repeats “bar, bar, bar.” When paired with an image of a man clearly mouthing a “bar” sound, that’s what you hear. But when an image of the man clearly mouthing a “far” sound is shown instead, what you hear changes to “far, far, far.” The key is, the sound never changes.  If you close your eyes, it goes back to “bar.” So, your brain concludes what the sound must be, based on what your eyes are perceiving through lip reading. But, it’s also tricking you, because the sound never changes even though the visual does.

Creating Logic by Believing What We See and Hear
Our brains indeed learn better when combining visual and auditory information, and it’s used to this sensory experience every day of our lives.  So, when we see something that doesn’t quite make sense, our natural processes fill in the gaps in the attempt to create logical meaning. With the Bad Lip Reading videos, what’s happening is your brain wants the visual and the auditory signals to match up, because that’s what we would normally predict, and it wants to use all the information available.  But the visuals aren’t crisp enough to completely disagree with the audio. The images don’t quite match what we’re hearing, but our brains just go with it. The creators of these videos aren’t using random words either. They are matching words that are close to the way the subjects’ mouths are moving to make the original words.

Origins of the Bad Lip Reader
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2011, the anonymous figure behind Bad Lip Reading said that he started by trying to lip-read a video of a talk radio host mouthing words to himself. “My brain kept coming up with completely random, strange interpretations. They were mainly random word combinations like “Bacon Hobbit” and “Moose potion, poke me” — things like that. So I grabbed my microphone and recorded these phrases into the computer, and when I played that back in sync with the video, it really looked like the guy was saying it,” he said. One of the reasons lip reading is so hard to do, for anyone attempting it, like the hard of hearing,  is that so much of sound production occurs inside our mouths. One lip movement may correspond to a number of sounds, posing a serious challenge. The Bad Lip Reading creator  is actually a decently good lip reader, he’s finding really well-matching words, just the wrong ones.

Priming and Activating in Communication
Yet, even despite the inherent ridiculousness of the sentences, the video has a sort of logic. This is because of the way we pick which words we’re going to use next.  Priming is what we do when engaged in conversation, preparing to hear a set of words that match with the content of the discussion. If the topic at the moment is hair, we’re likely to keep talking about hair, so we “activate” words related to hair and make them easier to produce. So, the creators of these videos are not only manipulating the way our brains process language, but also the way we communicate, and our natural tendencies to predict, assume, prime, and interpret. Bingo! I mean, Peephole! Ugh, what I’m saying is, Bravo!

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Brain Science of The Paranormal: We Attempt to Explain the Unexplained

 

Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever experienced anything you would call supernatural? Many factors come into play to create the conditions for ghostly experiences, and some of it can be explained by science and how our brain reacts to our environment.  We’ll let you be the judge when you experience anything strange yourself. Was it real? Was it because you had just watched a scary movie? Or is it your brain playing tricks on you?

 

Magnetic fields

In some haunted locations, researchers have measured magnetic fields that are stronger than normal or which exhibit unusual fluctuations. These may be localized phenomena that stem from electronic equipment or geological formations, or they may be part of the Earth’s magnetic field. Some paranormal investigators think the presence of strange magnetic fields as proof of a supernatural presence — the ghosts create the field. Others suggest that these fields can interact with the human brain, causing hallucinations, dizziness or other neurological symptoms.

Studies have shown that when scientists direct non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), our ability to evaluate the intentions of others, including moral judgements, is impaired. Other experiments have shown speech can be impaired by directed magnetism on the brain. This illustrates that with enough magnetic stimulation, changes in the brain’s functions do occur.

 

Infrasound

Several experiments have demonstrated that low-frequency sound waves, known as infrasound, can cause phenomena that people typically associate with ghosts. This includes feelings of nervousness and discomfort as well as a sense of a presence in the room. The sound waves may also vibrate the human eye, causing people to see things that are not there. How many times have you been scared by the flickering scenes in the Paranormal Activity series? Imagine if that happened to you in real life?

Usually, these waves have frequencies of less than 20 Hz, so they are too low-pitched for people to actually perceive. Rather than noticing the sound itself, people notice its effects. Our senses are affected by these low frequency waves, and our brain receives the signal to react. Sensory information may engage wide and diverse areas of the brain: via direct connections with the limbic system, for example, an odor can trigger intense emotions and then circuits that store memories give meaning to what we see and hear.

 

Ghost Stories

A large portion of hauntings are explained as demons inhabiting a home or a person. Such is the case in the Paranormal Activity films. Demonic possession is hypothesized as when your entire being is overtaken by an evil spirit.  Not all spirits are evil, though, as is the case with many of the spirits inhabiting the halls of Hogwarts.

In the Ghostbusters films, the team uses scientific tools to identify, attack, and contain spiritual entities including poltergeist activities, flying spirits and orbs.  Ancient gods who have descended upon New York City are usually the cause of these paranormal activities in these films.  Here’s hoping the ladies of the new Ghostbusters reboot will have more advanced Ghost zapping technology to wield.

In The Shining, the main character Jack Torrance is influenced by supernatural forces in the Overlook Hotel, asking him to commit violent crimes.  This story is perhaps the most haunting, because there are no hints of demonic possession, or of gods or demigods being present as a cause for Jack’s descent into madness. This movie has been ranked as one of the scariest of all time, increasing the audience’s pulse rate by a whopping 28.21%. In the story, he is a recovering alcoholic who encounters spirits of people who met very unfortunate ends in the Overlook Hotel. Is it Jack’s mental state creating this inner turmoil, or the suggestion of ghosts? His son Jack actually has a fictional psychic ability to detect ghosts, so this latent ability may come from Jack’s genetics.

 

Demonic Possession or Schizophrenia?

While demonic possession is a fictional condition, it was considered a real threat before modern medicine. Now, we see that the symptoms of schizophrenia largely resemble those described as being “possessed” – hallucinations, hearing voices, disorganized or catatonic behavior, odd emotional responsis.  We have seen the way the brain behaves in schizophrenic patients, and it is largely the fault of poor signaling of an important neurotransmitter called glutamate. The entire brain is affected.

Some people feel a presence around them often enough that it is something they must learn to live with. The feeling is particularly common in patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric disorders, who report a presence they can feel but can’t see, just like a ghost or a guardian angel.

 

Robot Phantom Hand is Coming for You

In an attempt to understand why some people have ongoing paranormal experiences, scientists in Switzerland developed an illusion to make healthy people feel a ghostly presence. The results of the simulation were astonishing, revealing that the experience is due to mismatched sensory and motor information that confuses the brain. (Science Alert)

The team from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne designed a set-up involving two robots – one that sits in front of the participant, and one that sits behind them. Each participant was asked to place their hand inside a device and then move their hand around.

Their hand movements were transmitted to the robot sitting behind them, which prompted it to put its hand on the participant’s back, mimicking their movements in real-time. This made the participant feel like they were touching their own back, but because the robot was so in-sync with their movements, their brain was able to adapt to the feeling.

Next, the team added a short delay between the participant’s hand movements and the robot’s touch – and this is where things got interesting. After three minutes of delayed touching, several participants felt that there was someone behind them, and others counted up to four ‘ghosts’ in the room. Even though the robot was standing behind them, the volunteers were aware of its presence, and still reported the distinct feeling.

“For some, the feeling was even so strong that they asked to stop the experiment,” said Giulio Rognini, robotic scientist and one of the team, in a press release.  The results suggest that when the robot’s touch was out-of-sync with the participant’s hands movements, the brain couldn’t identify the signals as belonging to the participant’s body, but rather as someone else.

The signals of the sensations of touch are a part of the somatosensory system. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex: information is sent from the receptors via sensory nerves, through tracts in the spinal cord and finally into the brain.

Scientists are taking these findings to help those who experience hallucinations and schizophrenia, but it doesn’t exactly explain people’s experiences when they have a brain without any disorders. Where does that leave people who have a paranormal experience, but yet can’t explain it with science? I guess we’re on our own with that one.  Alone, all by ourselves, perhaps in an old abandoned house, perhaps around 3:00 AM, wrestling with our own fears of the unknown.

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Instant Learning: The Science of Matrix-like Brain Stimulation

 

What if you could plug into your brain, and upload a program to learn Kung Fu? Sound familiar? This happened in The Matrix (1999) to Neo – his brain was accessed via a plug like device, and a computer fed him a program.  Within minutes, he woke up and announced “I know Kung Fu.” He then practiced his skills before mastering the art, but he did indeed know how to fight. 

In reality, scientists are capable of “talking to” or stimulating the brain in such a way as to teach it something specific that it did not know before. This technology is in infancy, but the fictional world portrayed in The Matrix has now officially become a little closer to our reality.  There are so many meta statements in that statement, my head hurts.

Scientists at HRL Laboratories have released a video about their achievements in Enhanced Training Through Neurostimulation.   This is a stimulation system with the goal of manipulating the brain in order to make it capable of performing a skill it was not capable of before.  In their recent tests, the specific task they were looking at is piloting an airplane. This skill requires a synergy of both cognitive and motor performance.

When you learn something, your brain physically changes. Connections are made and strengthened in a process called neuroplasticity.  It turns out, specific functions of the brain like speech and memory are located in very specific parts of the brain.  This specificity means that scientists are able to target the necessary area to make a lasting impact.  The technology utilized (electrical impulses directed at specific places on someone’s head), is not a new concept. Ancient Egyptians, 4000 years ago, would use electric fish to stimulate and reduce pain in certain areas of their head. Even Ben Franklin applied electric stimulation to his head. Rigorous research didn’t really begin until the early 2000s, regarding a specific application like teaching the brain something new through electrical stimulation.

The experiment takes novice pilots (people who have had a brief experience with flying) and tries to bring their brain state up to an expert level.  This requires physical contact with the scalp using a head cap with lots of sensors attached to it, and conductive gel.  It combines three modes of stimulation. One is called functional neuro infrared spectroscopy – this measures the blood flow changes in the brain. Electroencephalogram – EEG – measures electrical activity of the scalp, indicative of brain activity.  And the third modality is the actual stimulation paradigm.  A paradigm is a typical example or pattern of something, or a model.  So, you could think of the instructions or patterns of brain activity required to be an expert pilot as the paradigm that the test subject is exposed to.

The effects of this stimulation take days or weeks of practice to consolidate.  So, it’s not an instant change, it’s the same learning mechanism as normal learning – as far as changes to the brain – they’re just amplifying the process.  The study showed that novice pilots showed a 33% increase in skill consistency, compared to those who did not receive the stimulation in a placebo group.

This technology is still in its infancy.  It can be utilized not only for skill acquisition, but for helping those with traumatic brain injuries.  So, don’t get the idea that this is literally like software that immediately changes your brain in order to become an expert at a new skill you’ve never encountered before, with no practice necessary afterwards.  It’s not magic, it’s amplifying the process of learning.  It could revolutionary for the future of learning, but practice still make perfect.

One of my questions about this process is; how does the difference in long term memory – declarative vs procedural, impact a new skill like this?  Declarative and Procedural Memory are the two types of long-term human memories. With a skill requiring motor functioning, e.g. flying a plane, an expert would likely say that flying their plane is like second nature. The motor skills involved are not consciously accessed before the pilot is just pushing the right buttons, using the gears the right way and adjusting different features. These skills would become second nature to an expert – and thus become what’s called procedural memory.  

The more abstract details about flying, like information about where they are going that day, what the weather conditions are, new information, or details about, perhaps features of an airport they remember, would be recalled using declarative memory.  Your brain actively has to recall declarative memories.  I’m curious how new skills become procedural – in that they become second nature skills that you don’t think about before being able to perform.  Since the scientists say that these “training” experiences require practice to consolidate, perhaps that’s when new knowledge can possibly become second nature.