Strange Psychology/Philosophy Questions

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Research About Questions That Might Strike You As Being Strange
compiled by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

A Paper That Questions Its Existence
“Would This Paper Exist If I Hadn’t Written It?” Samuel Lebens, Philosophical Studies, vol. 172, no. 11, 2015, pp. 3059-3080. The author, at Rutgers University, writes:

This paper wants to know whether it would exist, or could exist, in worlds in which I didn’t write it. Before we can answer this question, we first of all have to inquire as to what, exactly, this paper is.... I shall argue that the term ‘this paper’ is actually infected with ambiguity. Does this paper need me? It depends upon what you mean by ‘this paper’.

Haddock: Do I Get Better Looking Each Day?
“Do I Get Better Looking Each Day? Changes in Self-Perceptions of Attractiveness as a Function of Temporal Perspective,” Geoffrey Haddock, European Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 36, no. 5, September/October 2006, pp. 761-771. The author, at Cardiff University, Wales, explains:

Do people perceive themselves as becoming more attractive across time? The present studies investigated whether individuals (a) judge their previous self as physically less attractive than their current self and (b) judge their future self to be physically more attractive than their current self.... The results revealed that participants’ ratings of past attractiveness were lower than current ratings, but only among individuals for whom attractiveness was important to their selfconcept. In Study 2 [the] results revealed that ratings of future attractiveness were higher than current ratings, but only among individuals who frequently engage in social comparisons.

Do Belief Reports Report Beliefs?
“Do Belief Reports Report Beliefs?” Kent Bach, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 78, issue 3, pp. 215–241, 1997. The author, at San Fransico State University, reports:

My thesis is very simple: belief reports do not report beliefs. But that needlessly sounds paradoxical. What I mean is that a belief report does not do quite what it appears to do, namely, say what someone believes. That is, it does not specify what the person believes but merely describes it.

Do Observers (a) Like Curves, or (b) Feel Threatened by Angles?
“Do Observers Like Curvature or Do They Dislike Angularity?” Marco Bertamini, Letizia Palumbo, Tamara Nicolet, Gheorghes and Mai Galatsidas, British Journal of Psychology, vol. 107, no. 1, 2016, pp. 154-178. The authors, at the University of Liverpool and Sheffield Hallam University, explain:

Bar and Neta suggested [in a study called “Humans Prefer Curved Visual Objects”] that the preference for curvature originates from a negative response to angular objects. They argued that... angularity triggers a sense of threat.... Our experiments suggest that the threat association hypothesis cannot fully explain the curvature effect and that curved shapes are, per se, visually pleasant.

What Is the Origin of the Strange Situation Procedure?
“Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure: The Origin of an Instrument,” Lenny Rosmalen, René Veer, and Frank Horst, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, vol. 51, no. 3, 2015, pp. 261-284. The authors, at Leiden University, The Netherlands, explain:

Comparing all the strange situation studies available from the beginning of the twentieth century until the first publications on Ainsworth’s SSP, we argue that the latter was different for a number of reasons.

Do Winners or Losers Have the Most Touching Behavior? (Racquetball and Tennis)
“Comparison of Touching Behaviors of Winners and Losers in Racquetball and Tennis,” Robert V. Heckel, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 77, no. 3 supplement, 1993, pp. 1392-1394. The author explains:

Analysis confirmed the tennis handshake and significantly more physical contact between tennis than between racquetball players. No significant differences were noted in postcontest verbal contacts or in differential touching by winners and losers.

Do Winners or Losers Have the Most Touching Behavior? (Swimming)
“Touching Behaviors of Winners and Losers in Swimming Races,” C.H. Anderton and Robert V. Heckel, Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 60, no. 1, 1985, pp. 289-290. The authors, at the University of South Carolina, explain:

The number and location of interpersonal touches given and received by winners and losers of swimming races were recorded. Winners gave and received significantly more touches than losers. Most touches were hands, back, or shoulders, confirming earlier findings.


This article is republished with permission from the September-October 2017 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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