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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Psychology’

“I will not let you go”: A story of stalking

January 25, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology No Comments →

5920-Lasdun-Inside
Image by Holly Gressley

“I Will Ruin Him”
How it feels to be stalked
By James Lasdun

Some years ago, I found myself, to my surprise, the victim of a campaign of malicious e-mail stalking and online defamation by a former M.F.A. student.

Nasreen (all names here have been changed) was a talented writer, and she had an interesting story to tell about her family’s experiences in Iran at the time of the revolution. During the term I taught her, I’d made it clear I thought highly of her work.

Two years after she graduated, she contacted me, asking me to help edit her novel. I was too busy at the time, but I put her in touch with my agent, who in turn introduced her to a freelance editor. Nasreen seemed grateful for the help, and an amicable correspondence began between us…

Read the full article in The Chronicle Review.

Fake it till you become it.

January 13, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology No Comments →

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.

Apparently actors have it right: posing works.

Take the Psychopath Challenge

October 16, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology 3 Comments →

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

Read What psychopaths teach us about how to succeed in the Scientific American.

In our observation the people who think they’re crazy tend to be sane. It’s the people who insist they are normal that we worry about.

Memory exercises

October 09, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology, Science 3 Comments →


Now you can stop taking Polaroids of everything. Ubud connection: Guy Pearce starred in The Proposition which was written by Nick Cave who is in the Writers’ Festival.

3. Make a gesture

There are also more leisurely ways to engage your body during learning, as the brain seems to find it easier to learn abstract concepts if they can be related to simple physical sensations. As a result, various experiments have shown that acting out an idea with relevant hand gestures can improve later recall, whether you are studying new vocabulary of a foreign language or memorising the rules of physics.

It may sound dubious, but even simple eye movements might help. Andrew Parker and Neil Dagnall at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, have found that subjects were better able to remember a list of words they had just studied if they repeatedly looked from left to right and back for 30 seconds straight after reading the list – perhaps because it boosts the transfer of information between the two brain hemispheres. It’s worth noting, however, that this only seems to benefit right-handers. Perhaps the brains of left-handed and ambidextrous people already engage in a higher level of cross-talk, and the eye-wiggling only distracts them.

Read Memory: Six Tips to Master Yours in New Scientist.

We can vouch for tip #3. Our “gesture” is note-taking. We find that if we’ve written something down, it’s sealed in the memory. If you have a good memory you don’t have to study for exams, and in the real world your instant access to facts gets you mistaken for an intelligent person.

Death by Boobies

August 25, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Childhood, Psychology 9 Comments →

From Emotional Weather Report, our column every Sunday in the Philippine Star

Blue-footed boobies are a boon to conservationists. How can you argue with a slogan like “Save the Boobies”?

My friend and I were talking about the sense of guilt and how we blame ourselves for things that are not even our fault. Being of a control freakish disposition, we regard accidents and random occurrences as things we could have prevented. When something goes wrong, we assume that we’d been careless. Yes, we expect ourselves to be psychic.

In contrast, corrupt politicians are apparently incapable of guilt or the slightest sense of responsibility. They seem blissfully unaware that what they’re doing is wrong. If they are, they have the uncanny ability to forgive themselves.

The sense of guilt is probably acquired in childhood, when the most casual remarks from our parents are engraved on our psyche. For instance, mothers often tell their children that giving birth ruined their figure. Even if they’re joking, their kids won’t forget it. (Of course the church lays the first and biggest guilt trip on its flock via the doctrine of original sin. You can’t escape the guilt. You’re doomed.)

When I was a kid my mother used to say that her breasts were my fault. (She died ten years ago but she used to tell these stories to everyone so I have permission to repeat them.) My mother was one of those extremely well-endowed women whose boobs walked into a room a full minute before she did. Shopping for brassieres in the era before globalization and open markets was hell: none of the products in department stores could give her the cantilevering she wanted. For that kind of lift she would’ve needed the jet propulsion lab at NASA.

So my mother waged a losing war against gravity, and I was to blame. Apparently her 42Ds had held up well enough until I was born, whereupon they began to sag. She had plenty of milk so I didn’t have to ingest a single drop of infant formula.

Unfortunately when my teeth started growing, I rejected rubber teething toys and used her nipples instead. In her description I had almost bitten through them, so they were hanging on by a sliver of skin. Not only that, but I was supposed to have amused myself by clamping my teeth on her flesh and pulling it in every direction. While this was happening, she said, I would cackle madly, like an overacting Damien the child in The Omen. Imagine a rubber band that is stretched until it loses its elasticity. That’s what happened to her boobs, she said—not time, not gravity, not genetics, but me.

The boobies tried to retaliate by killing me.

According to family legend, when I was six months old my mother’s breasts attempted to murder me. Not by poisoning or asphyxiation, but drowning. My mother was lying in bed, breastfeeding me, when she fell asleep. I continued feeding, and when I’d had my fill I turned away. The milk kept leaking, and soon there was a pool of milk on the bed. When my mother woke up, the puddle was almost touching my nostrils—if I’d moved my head an inch, I would’ve suffocated in milk. Death by boobies.

What is the point of this story? None, really, except to note that our personalities are formed in childhood. The tiniest details and offhand remarks take root in the memory and never go away. These are the things that make us what we are. Yikes.

This is why you shouldn’t use Comic Sans.

August 11, 2012 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Psychology 4 Comments →

Errol Morris published a quiz in the New York Times that was supposed to test whether one was a pessimist or an optimist. But it wasn’t really about pessimism or optimism, it was about the effect of fonts on credulity. Apparently certain fonts are more believable than others.

We all know that we are influenced in many, many ways — many of which we remain blissfully unaware of. Could fonts be one of them? Could the mere selection of a font influence us to believe one thing rather than another? Could fonts work some unseen magic? Or malefaction?

Read Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth (Part 1) in the NYT.

Reminds us of the first issue of Flip. Response to the content was largely positive, but readers LOATHED Times New Roman with a passion.