Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The befuddled tramps in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot are a poetic personification of paralysis. But new research suggests the act of watching them actually does get us somewhere.

Absurdist literature, it appears, stimulates our brains.

That's the conclusion of a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Psychologists Travis Proulx of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Steven Heine of the University of British Columbia report our ability to find patterns is stimulated when we are faced with the task of making sense of an absurd tale. What's more, this heightened capability carries over to unrelated tasks.

In the first of two experiments, 40 participants (all Canadian college undergraduates) read one of two versions of a Franz Kafka story, The Country Doctor. In the first version, which was only slightly modified from the original, "the narrative gradually breaks down and ends abruptly after a series of non sequiturs," the researchers write. "We also included a series of bizarre illustrations that were unrelated to the story."

The second version contained extensive revisions to the original. The non sequiturs were removed, and a "conventional narrative" was added, along with relevant illustrations.

All participants were then shown a series of 45 strings of letters, which they were instructed to copy. They were informed that the strings, which consisted of six to nine letters, contained a strict but not easily decipherable pattern.

They were then introduced to a new set of letter strings, some of which followed the pattern and some of which did not. They were asked to mark which strings followed the pattern.

Those who had read the absurd story selected a higher number of strings as being consistent with the pattern. More importantly, they "demonstrated greater accuracy in identifying the genuinely pattern-congruent letter strings," the researchers report.

This suggests "the cognitive mechanisms responsible for implicitly learning statistical regularities" are enhanced when we struggle to find meaning in a fragmented narrative.

Sumber: This Is Your Brain on Kafka Oleh Tom Jacobs (, September 16, 2009). Hak cipta foto (c) A life I'm doomed to lead (April 9, 2009)

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Aku tidak faham kenapa foto yang seringkas ini diberikan tajuk "Mata Harapan". Sesekali ia bertukar sisi menjadi seperti cermin - mata dalam foto yang menggambarkan harapan atau mata yang memandang menaruh harapan? Mata jurugambar? Atau kedua-dua kemungkinan?

Atau, dalam seni, berilah apa-apa tajuk. Asalkan ada tajuk, setidak-tidaknya berjudul "tanpa tajuk"!

Sumber: Photographer of the week oleh Randy Brogen [Boston Globe, 8 Sept 2009]

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Pepatah Melayu: Lembu punya susu, sapi dapat nama ...

The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) today continued its investigations on Malaysiakini by holding a marathon questioning session involving the online daily's 12 staff members.

The eight-hour session began at 10.30am at Malaysiakini's office in Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur, and ended at about 6.30pm.

Among those questioned were Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran, editors, journalists, video team members and one technical staff.

About eight MCMC officers were involved in the questioning process, who split into three teams to record statements from Malaysiakini staff simultaneously.

Except for Chandran and the technical staff, all the others were involved in the process of news gathering, editing and publishing two stories and videos related to the cow-head protest in Shah Alam on Aug 28 and a press conference by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Sept 2.

They were journalists Rahmah Ghazali, Jimadie Shah Othman, Andrew Ong, cameraperson Amir Abdullah, editors K Kabilan, Nasharuddin Rahman, Fathi Aris Omar, video editors Shufiyan Shukur, Ng Kok Foong and Lydia Azizan.

The investigation by MCMC centres on two video clips published by Malaysiakini - one on the protest and the other on Hishammuddin's press conference - which were deemed offensive.

The videos cited were the 'Temple demo: Residents march with cow's head' and 'Hisham: Don't blame cow-head protesters'.

Sumber asal: Malaysiakini videos: 12 questioned by MCMC (Malaysiakini, 8 Sept 2009)

Monday, September 07, 2009


After analyzing data on the self-reported levels of sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 people, Dartmouth College economist David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England report that sex "enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations" that they estimate increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by getting an additional $50,000 in income for the average American.

"The evidence we see is that money brings some amounts of happiness, but not as much as what economists might have thought," says Blanchflower. "We had to look to psychologists and realize that other things really matter."

Their paper, "Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study," recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, essentially puts an estimated dollar amount on the happiness level resulting from sex and its trappings.

Despite popular opinion, they find that having more money doesn't mean you get more sex; there's no difference between the frequency of sex and income level. But they do find sex seems to have a greater effect on happiness levels in highly educated -- and presumingly wealthier -- people than on those with lower educational status.

Overall, the happiest folks are those getting the most sex -- married people, who report 30% more between-the-sheets action than single folks. In fact, the economists calculate that a lasting marriage equates to happiness generated by getting an extra $100,000 each year. Divorce, meanwhile, translates to a happiness depletion of $66,000 annually.

Whether that hefty happiness income boost is the result of marital bliss or more sex is up for debate. But their "econometric" calculations confirm what psychologists have long known: People who consider themselves happy are usually richer in sexual activity.

"Many studies confirm that people who are depressed have less sex," says psychologist and sex therapist Robert Hatfield, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati and a spokesman for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. "Conversely, if you're not depressed -- 'happy,' as some might say -- you're more likely to have more frequent sex."

Does sex lead to happiness, or are happy people just more likely to lead each other to the bedroom? That's still under investigation, but there is evidence that psyche and sex feed off each other.

Take that study in the May 2001 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, in which Georgia State University researchers found that people who are involuntarily celibate are frequently afflicted with nonhappy feelings -- anger, frustration, self-doubt, and even depression. They conclude it's the result of "missed opportunities" of living without sex.

But according to another researcher, it may not be the sex per se, but lack of semen exposure.

"Semen appears to act as an antidepressant in women," psychologist Gordon Gallup, PhD, tells WebMD.

"In our studies, women who have unprotected sex have lower levels of depression, as measured on the gold standard evaluation tool, than those who have the same amount of sex with a condom.

"In fact, we found no difference in depression scores between women having heterosexual sex with condoms, lesbian sex, or not having sex at all," adds Gallup, of the State University of New York in Albany.

And in a follow-up study to that finding, reported two years ago in Archives of Sexual Behavior, women having sex without condoms were more likely to display depressive signs once they stopped having sex than those on a sexual hiatus whose previous partners used condoms.

"Women [who have sex] without condoms are also more likely to fall victim to the rebound effect following the breakup of their relationship," he tells WebMD. "This suggests that there is a withdrawal effect that influences depressiveness when semen exposure stops."

Sumber: Sex Better Than Money for Happiness, Oleh Sid Kirchheimer [WebMD Health News, July 16, 2004]. Foto (c) Lizards and Turtles

Nota: Asalnya mahu masukkan foto Ludivine Sagnier dari filem Water Drops on Burning Rocks atau La Petite Lili, tetapi bimbang mama dia tengok dengan abang & Nia, akhirnya tukar pix kura-kura berenang di luar perahu.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Selepas menulis coretan peribadi tentang Nathania (yang baru kembali senyum dan berlari, malam ini, selepas demam), ungkapan ini terasa "semacam relevan":

People often compare having a new baby to the early days of a love affair, which is true as far as it goes, but one’s physical fixation on, and craving for, a newborn is much stronger and more intense that that. How often in a love affair can you literally find yourself in tears because you were away from a man for three hours?

I imagine a better metaphor would be addiction. There is an opium-den quality to maternity leave. The high of a love that obliterates everything. A need so consuming that it is threatening to everything you are and care about. Where did your day go? Did you stare blankly at the baby for hours? And was that staring blankly more fiercely pleasurable, more compelling than nearly anything you have ever done?**

Tetapi aku bukan ibu dan tidak pernah menikmati erti cuti bersalin!

** sumber: My Newborn Is Like a Narcotic oleh Katie Roiphe [Double X, 25 Ogos 2009]

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


According to Richard L. Marsh, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Georgia and a leading cryptomnesia researcher, Schneider is on the right track. "When people engage in creative activity, they are so involved in generating or coming up with something new or novel that they fail to protect against what they previously experienced," said Marsh. Over the last 20 years, Marsh has designed numerous models for studying cryptomnesia in the lab. An early study involved asking subjects to work with an unseen "partner" (actually a computer) to find unique words in a square array of letters, similar to the game Boggle. A short while after completing this task, the researchers asked each participant to recall the words they had personally found, and to generate new words neither the participant nor the participant's partner had previously been able to find.

The subjects plagiarized their partners roughly 32 percent of the time when trying to recall their own words, and up to 28 percent of the time when attempting to find previously unidentified words in the puzzle. Not only was plagiarism rampant, many subjects who plagiarized also checked a box indicating they were "positive" their answers had not previously been given by their partners.

Henry Roediger, a memory expert at Washington University in St. Louis, said that cryptomnesia is partially caused by the lopsidedness of our memories: it's easier to remember information than it is to remember its source. Under the right conditions, this quirk can even evoke false memories. In one study, the more times Roediger instructed participants to imagine performing a basic action (like, "sharpen the pencil") the more likely the participants were to recall—incorrectly—having actually performed the action when asked about it later.

But misattributing memories from one source to another, whether from imagination to reality or from a friend to oneself, is only one of the psychological quirks behind unconscious plagiarism. Another is implicit memory, which Dan Schacter, a psychologist at Harvard, called, "the fact that we can sometimes remember information without knowing that we're remembering it."

The classic demonstration of implicit memory involves a psychological technique known as priming. When a person is exposed to a list of words (or "primed") in one setting, than later asked to come up with words from a specific category, say "types of fruit," in another setting, the person is more likely to name fruit that had appeared during the priming session than fruit that hadn't.

This result may not seem all that exciting, except that it also occurs with amnesiacs, who are unable to form conscious memories of the actual priming session. At the most basic level, says Schacter, this suggests that implicit memories are formed in different regions or systems of the brain than conscious memories. This disconnect, coupled with errors in remembering the source of ideas, words, or even whole phrases, may be responsible for cryptomnesia. "Unconscious plagiarism makes it sound like a pretty exceptional and unusual circumstance," said Roediger. "But I really think that at a very simple level, these things are happening all the time. You know, your friend uses some expression and you pick it up and use it too."

While unconscious plagiarism is embarrassing in cases where original creative output is expected, in most aspects of daily life it ranges from useful to indispensible. What is called cryptomnesia in one context is known as social learning theory in another. For example, children learn how to behave by unconsciously copying others, and friends strengthen their relationships when they assimilate each other's phrases, behaviors, and opinions.

But before we give high-profile cryptomnesiacs a free pass, as if they were suffering from an intractable psychological disorder, there's a bit more to know. Cryptomnesia happens more frequently between those who trust one another, such as people in romantic relationships or close friendships, but less frequently between strangers—particularly when the one whose ideas or words might be plagiarized is present. And due to our innate skepticism, unconsciously copying a person one doesn't know, or a source one doesn't yet trust, is uncommon.

[Sumber: You Didn’t Plagiarize, Your Unconscious Did, Oleh Russ Juskalian (Newsweek Jul 7, 2009)]