giz asks
Which Superstitions Are Based on Facts?

Superstitions – passed down through generations, or developed spontaneously on certain online forums – gobble up thousands of productive hours yearly. But it would be wrong to say that all that time spent avoiding ladders or cracks in the pavement is wasted. For one thing, we’d probably just be spending that time on some equally useless activity, like working. For another, superstitions are essential binding agents between people, generations, and some vague notion of the Past, from which most of these superstitions sprang, and where, presumably, they made somewhat more sense. To learn more about which superstitions have some basis in fact, for this week’s Giz Asks we reached out to a number of experts in the field. Read More >>

giz asks
Is the “Death Drive” Real?

Statistically, at least ten people reading this article will be dead within sixteen months. I just made that statistic up, but if you felt a little flutter of excitement at the prospect of your imminent demise, you might be verifying the death drive – Freud’s theory, postulated in 1920, that each consciousness is dually saddled with a will-to-live and its fatalistic opposite, the latter best-expressed by way of such self-annihilating activities as war, cigarette smoking, etc. Read More >>

science
Why Am I Suddenly Afraid of Flying?

For years you’ve flown without issue – no breathing exercises, no pills – but suddenly you can’t board without picturing catastrophe. No one you know has recently died in a crash; you have not, to your knowledge, dwelled excessively on those Boeing catastrophes; and yet suddenly, out of nowhere, you’ve become the kind of person who’s afraid to fly. Read More >>

time
Why Does Time Slow Down and Speed Up?

Time contracts, expands, swallows and spits you out into this instant, which feels – depending on your perspective – either impossibly remote from where you were two years ago or barely removed from it at all. Flight delays, breakups, bouts of serious illness – all can bring you back to the high school classroom where it’s somehow slo-mo clock. You feel every tick. Meanwhile, an uneventful year can spool out in what feels like six days. Or maybe the reverse is true for you. The perception of time is intensely personal, not to mention effectively unmeasurable. But few if any internal clocks are synced to UTC – no one experiences time at an even, unvarying rate. For this week’s Giz Asks, we’ve reached out to a number of experts to find out why. Read More >>

psychology
Research Shows That Doing a Bad Job Wrapping Presents Will Make a Person Like Your Gift Even More

The hectic holidays are approaching, but according to a study shared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, you shouldn’t waste your time immaculately wrapping the gifts you bought everyone—they’re more inclined to like what’s inside if the presents are wrapped poorly. Read More >>

science
The Woman Who Turned Psychological Testing Into a Science

“I don’t have time for this,” psychologist Anne Anastasi reportedly said in 1987, before hanging up the phone on a call from Ronald Reagan’s White House. The call, according to Harold Takooshian, a psychology professor at Fordham University, was to inform her that she had won the first National Medal of Science for psychology. It took another phone call—which Anastasi again declined—and then a call to the Fordham University psychology department’s secretary to convince Anastasi that she had in fact received the honour. Read More >>

science
Is the Butterfly Effect Real?

Is the 2004 Ashton Kutcher vehicle The Butterfly Effect a good movie? Definitely not, no—but try telling that to me at age thirteen. And then wrap your head, once more, around the fact that if you had told me that, you might have set in motion the utter annihilation of the human race—the whole notion of the butterfly effect being that small-scale events (telling a credulous thirteen-year-old he has bad taste in movies) can generate massive, unforeseen consequences (World War III, nuclear apocalypse, etc.). Read More >>

memory
Can You Forget Things on Purpose?

Memory’s ungovernable, a ceaseless shaming pain: you’re either scrambling to retrieve it (rooting around for keys, or the name of some acquaintance) or you’re scrambling away from it, wishing it wouldn’t toss up, for the seven hundredth time, this or that miserable incident (deaths, bad dates, awkward elevator talk, trauma beyond the scope and tone of this parenthetical, etc.). Eternal Sunshine posited a medical remedy for this latter scourge – but is such a thing actually possible, outside of twee pseudo-indie movies from the early aughts? Can you actually forget things on purpose? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out a number of psychologists with different viewpoints to find out. Read More >>

science
Why Do People Believe in Pseudoscience?

It’s difficult to change someone’s mind if they have anything like a strong opinion on the risks of vaccination, or the usefulness of orbs and essential oils in the treatment of late-stage liver cancer. But if you’re ever going to stand a chance of doing so, you’re going to need to wipe the rage-spittle off your face and set about the hard, not especially rewarding work of trying to understand these people. And so for this Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of psychologists and historians who’ve studied the issue to figure out why people believe in pseudoscience. Read More >>

memory
Why Do We Forget?

To live is to forget – account numbers, names, the precise locations of keys and wallets, friends from childhood, peripheral characters from prestige TV shows, inside jokes, past ambitions, U.S. history, much else. Goldfish with guns: that’s the human race. But every frailty, we know, serves some larger adaptive purpose. So it is worth asking, as we wrack our brains for whatever it was we know we were supposed to do today: why must things be like this? Why do we forget? For this week’s Giz Asks, we reached out to a number of neuroscientists and psychologists to find out. Read More >>

science
The Psychology of Faking Your Own Death

Why would anyone fake their own death? Some seek a departure from royalty, a career as a pirate, or a quiet life after taking down the Third Reich. Usually, they’re chasing an escape from bankruptcy or bad marriages. But for some, it may seem that staging their own death is the only way to feel like they’re alive. Read More >>

dreams
Why Do We Remember Some Dreams but Not Others?

If you’ve ever woken up on the brink of a heart attack, drenched in sweat and convinced you’ll never live down the shame of sprinting nude through downtown Pittsburgh, you know that some dreams are more memorable than others. Most dreams, in fact, seem totally unmemorable – at least in the sense that we can’t remember them. And yet every now and then a dream will linger into breakfast and well into the day, or month, or year – will become a memory like any other. Read More >>

science
Would Perfect Memory Be a Burden or a Superpower?

The ability to remember every moment of your life sounds like an amazing proposition, but for the very few people who actually have this ability, it comes at a cost. Read More >>

animals
Do Dogs Forget Their People?

Let’s say your long-term relationship totally implodes. Browsing for a new apartment, or a therapist that takes your insurance, you hear your dog bark in the other room – and realise, with a start, that it’s not actually your dog. Once you’re all moved out, the dog will be out of your life, too. Stewing in self-pity you think – and subsequently become convinced – that this dog, who you’ve fed and bathed who knows how many times, and coined several adorable nicknames for, will forget you ever existed by the start of next spring. Read More >>

giz asks
Does Your Cat Actually Hate You?

Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves; cats – or at least some cats, some of the time – can spend years at your side without making it totally clear that they know, or care, who you are. An expression vaguely resembling contentment flits across their face and you think, triumphantly: see! My cat doesn’t despise me. Read More >>