Considering this is the era of fact sharing and how people like ‘quick bites’ of information, I thought I’ll compile some of the psychological facts that are almost never talked about.
These are not psychology facts per se. These are robust research findings that are close to being facts. Truth be told, it’s hard to call research a ‘fact’ in science. Because, the evidence just keeps growing and it keeps changing the shape of information. More research adds a context. It adds limitations and generalizations. The line between solid evidence & facts is blurry. Nay, we don’t really know where to draw it.
Scientific information has to be understood in a certain way. Perhaps I’ll write on that someday, or you could just ask me in the comments section:)
For all practical purposes, the contents of this article are research insights. We will use the term ‘psychological fact’ loosely but in a more serious sense than most of the random, wrong, and unfalsifiable facts you hear. For starters, don’t take psychology facts on face-value. They might just be opinions. This is because most ‘everyday facts’ are based on public sentiment and their nature itself makes them a meme. Thus, misinformation.
You’ll find experts scratching their heads to come up with just a few facts because they know that there rarely exist any ‘Facts’ in psychology.
(I’m pointing at some sites like Quora, BuzzFeed, Times of India, etc. for spewing incorrect information). You want a psychology fact meme to share? Caption this information and share it with a warning. 🙂 (:
*Bear with me. We’ll get to the actual content of this post soon*
Back to the fake psychological facts. They look like:
- Dreams are spirits guiding your future – unfalsifiable
- When you hiccup, someone is missing you – wrong
- You can never multi-task – wrong
- Insert psychological effect 1* – It’s an effect. Serious limitations exist.
- Insert psychological effect 2* – I repeat, it’s an effect. Depends on the context.
- Insert psychological technique – Imagine writing ‘gravity makes things fall’ and calling it a fact. Rather pointless, right? Why not? After all, it is a process to make things fall. Just hold it in a place that has gravity! Duh.
- Your brain looks like the universe; in fact, researchers say it is a universe – Depending on the how much you are zooming into the brain/universe, with the right artist’s interpretation, you can make it look like an elephant, an ant, a cell-phone, a cap… oh and, a brain! Also, don’t treat metaphors as any more real than a map is for a territory.
So now, let us look at some unglamorous but reliable statements of interesting psychological facts/insights.
10 Interesting Psychological Facts that’ll blow your mind away… or not.
Psychology Fact 1: Your reading speed increases when you use sans-serif fonts instead of serif fonts.
Explanation: The Serif feature, which is the tiny extra-appendage, increases the information processing demand. Specific extra features that define an element (here, letters) can increase the cognitive load of that element. There is just slightly more information to process. In fact, if you increase these ‘extra elements,’ the brain will spend a lot more time in automatically comprehending the visual features as well as the extra time needed in consciously deciphering the content.
Psychology & Brain Fact 2: Moving your eyes left to right (and repeat) for 30 seconds can temporarily improve your memory for recently learned content. But only when you are right-handed
Psychology Fact 3: Desserts served in round plates are perceived as sweeter than other types of plates.
Explanation: Round plates are abstracted with sweetness as compared to sharp-edgy plates (often saltier/less-sweet). This abstraction takes places when information from one sense mingles with information from another sense through cross-modal perception. It happens to all of us to varying degrees. In fact, cross-modal perception is integrated into virtually all of our perception.
Psychology Fact 4: Coffee is expected to be more aromatic when served in narrow mugs as compared to wide mugs. Wide mug coffees are expected to be sweeter.
Explanation: This is also explained by cross-modal perception. The aroma is likely to be ‘concentrated’ due to the narrower opening of a glass. Imagine the force of water getting stronger with a narrower hose. It is also possible that the roundness of the plate primes the expectation of the ‘sweetness’ and then amplifies it.
Brain Fact 5: Neurons undergo a recruitment process where some neurons win and represent information. The recruited neurons stay, and the others die.
Explanation: This empirical finding isn’t exactly clear. What we know is:
- Some neurons are better suited for representing specific learning & memory.
- Natural variation in neurons (cell structure, location, etc.) may deem some superior and some inferior.
Other guiding processes in the brain recruit the best fits and leave the rest. Ignored neurons have no real purpose and are then destroyed.
Psychology Fact 6: If you are unable to maintain eye contact, you can look between the eyes. It does not feel overwhelming. So the anxious can be a lot more comfortable with it. This really is a trick and not a psychological fact but so what? Forgive me for the blasphemy in this post. Wanna fight?
Explanation: This is more of common sense. Eyes are the window to the soul, so they say. Metaphors. They are weird. But there is a level of depth to eye contact that can be anxiety-inducing. If it makes you anxious, look between the eyes. Your eyes don’t exactly converge inward, so it doesn’t look that different to the observer. You can now put up the facade of a ‘confident eye-contact maker.’
Psychology Fact 7: We perceive pain and heat by very similar sensory mechanisms. Sometimes we cannot differentiate between the two.
Explanation: The same sense receptors on the skin called ‘TRPV1’ send a signal for pain and heat. Neurally, they send the same signal through the same pathway. Our perception of the two is different based on our knowledge of what caused the pain, the emotional weight of that pain, the expectation, and our reactions. Our reactions can further fuel our feelings and intensify them through positive feedback loops.
Psychology & Brain Fact 8: Multitasking is possible as long as one of the tasks you are doing is highly automatic and you are excellent at switching quickly between the 2. However, this is not true multi-tasking. It is task switching. It is possible to automate complex tasks through practice. Such as playing 2 guitars at the same time.
Explanation: It is true that our brain focuses attention in one single area at a time because attention demands a lot o neural resources. It is not economical to focus on multiple things simultaneously, biologically speaking. But this isn’t a complete picture. Humans can ‘automate’ activities where the attentional demands are very low. So quick shifts in attention can allow the body to perform an activity flawlessly IF the activity is well rehearsed and one has mastery over it. The way singers can play the guitar while singing, or piano players synchronize both hands independently.
Psychological Fact 9: Cross-modal congruence is when people feel information from one sense matches with information from a different sense. People like faces that kind of match their namemore than faces that don’t match their name. This, sometimes, is the basis of naming pets and babies. The research also shows that people tend to vote in favour of those whose names match their face.
Explanation: Arnold ShezwanEGGer – the brawny man. Picture him named ‘Bob.’ Does it sound right to you? Well, there is a tendency to prefer cross-modal congruence – a preferred liking for sensory features that match each other. It’s the same reason why designers feel a product shape is a lion and not a rat. The same reason why artists think a certain color doesn’t depict a context correctly. We experience a particular satisfaction when there is ‘congruence’ between 2 sensory elements. Read more on cross-modal correspondence here.
Psychological Fact 10: Studying 2 or 3 similar topics in parallel in small chunks is more effective than full-blown hours of study on a single topic. This applies to school and college level content.
Explanation: This study method is a combination of two processes called ‘Interleaving’ and ‘chunking.’ They have ample evidence to prove their efficacy. The logic here is that similar topics are loaded with information that fits into a larger framework. Interleaving helps you learn similar concepts simultaneously. The activation of this neural & cognitive framework for similar topics helps in:
- Strengthening the framework
- Strengthening the components of the framework
- Preventing overlearning
- Forming interconnections between key concepts. This also helps in retrieving information.
- Digesting information as chunks. Chunks allow better encoding of information which is conceptually grouped together. Chunks are small bites of information. The definition of detail is better maintained in smaller chunks than in larger chunks. Drinking a bucket of information and then vomiting it doesn’t help.
Hope you are satisfied with these less popular psychology facts insights. Finding authentic facts in an area like psychology is extremely hard. Not only do facts need to be unconditionally true, but they also need to fail a falsifiability test. That means, people have to do A LOT of research before they can call something a fact. They have to try and disprove it and then fail at it. They have to demonstrate the existence of it over time, and many researchers need to replicate the findings. Then, you can say something is a fact.
I’m sure, you and I share the same point of view. These aren’t really facts. These are just robust research findings.
Anyway, gotta package information in a way that sells. So these were your Psychology Facts which didn’t blow your mind away.
Did you like what you just read? I’d love it if you share it with your friends and family! 🙂
P.S. This is my 50th Post. Dayumn, blogging informational content is hard! P.P.S. I took a poll on what type of content you all would like me to write on, and to my surprise, some of you opted for rants. I tried.
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Hey! Thank you for reading; hope you enjoyed the article. I run Cognition Today to paint a holistic picture of psychology. My content here is referenced and featured in NY Times, Forbes, CNET, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, 10-15 books, academic courses, and research papers.
I’m a full-time psychology blogger, part-time Edtech and cyberpsychology consultant, guitar trainer, and also overtime impostor. I’ve studied at NIMHANS Bangalore (positive psychology), Savitribai Phule Pune University (clinical psychology), and IIM Ahmedabad (marketing psychology).
I’m based in Pune, India. Love sci-fi, horror media; Love rock, metal, synthwave, and pop music; can’t whistle; can play 2 guitars at a time.