4 Forensic Psychology Studies That Will Save You From Stupidity

Brain Cancer

Forensic psychology might sound like a field of brain studying where men in lab coats standing around pristine laboratories smoking pipes and pondering the brain chemistry of prisoners who dream about hacking their mother to death with a frozen fish.

Believe it or not, the strides and studies done in the field don’t just apply to people who are legally prevented from being able to use forks.

Some of the field’s most comprehensive and groundbreaking studies apply to the whole spectrum of the human mind and can prevent non-felony carrying citizens of society from being really dumb.

1. James Cattell’s Psychology of Testimony

Confidence seems to have been replaced in this day in age with correctness. It doesn’t matter if the crazy thing you are spouting into a microphone, through a television camera or at the few pigeons in the park who can stand to be around you is completely wrong. As long as you are 100 per cent sure of your assessment of the world, then being wrong about it doesn’t matter. For instance, just look at everything Glenn Beck has ever said. The preceding describes this phenomenon perfectly (I’m sure the pigeon thing is just around the corner).

James Cattell, one of psychology’s founding fathers who pushed to have it studied as a major scientific field, conducted a study to test the reliability of testimony by masking Columbia Universitystudents a series of questions and rate their degree of confidence in the answer they gave. He found the higher their confidence was in the answer, the greater their inaccuracy making it that much harder to shake their belief in it.

How Does This Keep Me From Being Stupid?

Confidence is useful for trying to ask someone to the prom (especially if you’re too old for high school) and proving that you can do something when everyone else says you can’t (which is technically everything you do). When it comes to actually learning about anything, don’t let your perspective get in the way of actual knowledge by eliminating basic facts and data to fit some preconceived notion or belief. In other words, do the opposite of what every person on basic cable news does.

2. William Stern’s Eyewitness Testimony Experiment

We’ve already seen how confidence can drive someones smarts down the toilet faster than Liquid Plumber hitting a clog created by a discount Taco Bell bender, but sudden emotions can also play a big part in basic memory recall.

Psychologist William Stern conducted a similar study along the lines of Cattell’s survey to prove the effectiveness of eyewitness testimony. He had some subjects stage a fake fight in the middle of one of his lectures that became increasingly heated and eventually led to violence. The students were asked to recall the events they saw and Stern noted several errors in the events noting that emotions can distort the actual chain of events of a situation.

How Does This Keep Me From Being Stupid?

It’s rather simple in this case: don’t let emotion drive your thinking. The worst time to make a decision is when we’re under a great deal of duress or stress and such intense emotions can not only cloud our judgment but prevent us from making rational decisions long after we’ve managed to calm down due to infected memory recall. So if you’re in the middle of a huge decision and your heart is racing and making your mind try to think of a million things at the same time in order to make a decision in the next five seconds, take a deep breath, put down the gun and go have a couple of Oreo’s until you can regain your composure.

3. Stanley Milligram’s Torture Experiment

Seeing a header with the word “torture” in it under the banner of an article that’s supposed to teach people how their daily behaviours and reactions sounds a bit out of place, unless you’re an 18th century executioner, a South American dictator or Dick Cheney.

However, Milligram’s groundbreaking experiment in the forensic psychology of situations and behaviours in the face of authority actually used a very serious form of torture to understand why some people do horrid things to others in the name of following orders, such as Nazi soldiers who obediently killed millions of Jews under direct orders from superior officers. The volunteers were asked to teach another volunteer to memorize and recall a series of word pairings and every incorrect answer would be punished with an increasingly larger electric shock, some of which could reach in excess of 450 volts. The person receiving the shocks was an actor and suffered no physical pain but the person on the other end thought the shocks and situation were real, under the guise of a fictional experiment about pain and memory retention.

How Does This Keep Me From Being Stupid?

Milligram found that human nature could be manipulated to reach extreme levels of total obedience under the right conditions and they could swing in the opposite direction with total disloyality based on a single variable. Maximum obedience could be achieved by making the subject a member of the instigating team under the guise of “teaching” the victim as an assistant. A rebellious peer could swing the pendulum the other way by giving the subject fuel to disobey his orders. So in order to prevent from being manipulated or misled, don’t go into a situation where you are uncomfortable by yourself and surround yourself with people who can back you up when you are needed to do something you do agree with or may find uncomfortable. There are, as they say, strength in numbers. Just make sure none of them are carrying pitchforks and/or torches.

4. Robert Hare’s Psychopath Checklist

The word “psychopath” or “psychotic” gets thrown around a lot for behaviour that would barely qualified as “slightly perturbed” or, if you want to get scientifically technical, “just a wee bit cuckoo for cocoa puffs”.

Want to know how that’s true? It’s simple, use the “psychopath checklist.” It’s an actual list of criteria established by University of British Columbia psychologist Robert Hare, noted for his work in the study and science of psychopathy. He developed the checklist based on his years of study of the behaviour and personality traits of those who are clinically defined as psychopaths, a list that is fast becoming a standard method of diagnosis and finding effective treatment for those with psychopathic tendencies. The full list can be found at http://www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare-Psychopathy-Checklist.html.

How Does This Keep Me From Being Stupid?

If you haven’t been able to figure how this can help you, maybe you need to use the checklist on yourself.

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