The Psychology of Happiness

Can money buy happiness? A recent study suggests not, but being richer than your friends can. Research has found that happiness is connected to a person’s social rank much more than their size of pocket.

The lead researcher, Dr Chris Boyce, Psychologist, said “Earning £1 million a year appears not to be enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn £2 million a year”.


I guess this means that happiness might be easier to achieve for some people and much harder for others- depending on how rich your friends are!

If you win the Lottery, think twice before moving house, you may find your new neighbours are richer than you!

Ali x

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

Cognitive scientists say that we can predict the future up to one-tenth of a second before something actually happens. Our brain is constantly slower than the things that happen around us, this means it takes a little while for our brain to convert what we see into what is actually happening right now.

The lag in what we see and what our brain processes are compensated by our brain’s motor system, it offsets the delay by predicting the events that are most likely to occur. It’s a useful evolutionary trait which has allowed us to close the one-tenth second gap between our sight and our mind.

Optical Illusions work by making our brain predict what should be happening in front of our eyes. The trick is that our mind’s perception does not match that of reality.

Ali x

Live Science: Key to All Optical Illusions Discovered

Decisions Made Through the Eye

In the movie Blade Runner, The Voight-Kampf test was used to distinguish humans from replicants by testing the fluctuation of the pupils and the involuntary dilation of the iris.

Our pupils are known to dilate when we are under heavy stress as a part of the fight-or-flight response. Noradrenalin is a hormone found during times when our pupils dilate; it suggested that noradrenalin can also influence our memory and decision-making ability.

Pupils dilate when viewing optical illusions; in the spinning woman image (above), it is suggested that noradrenalin essentially makes us decide upon the direction the woman is spinning before it appears to actually happen.

Ali x

New Scientist: Decision-makers betrayed by their wide eyes

Dreamchild: Alice in Wonderland

I’ve just been to see an awesome film at The BFI. “Dreamchild” is being screened as part of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ season; it tells the story of Alice Liddell – the child who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland stories.

The film centres on an elderly Alice who is nearing the end of her life, looking back on her childhood, trying to make sense of the relationship she had with the famous writer. It’s a dark tale – but very moving – it really leaves the audience struggling with what to think. Much better than being spoon fed like so many of the films we see these days.

The film was made 25 years ago by Director Gavin Millar and the Wonderland creatures are created by none other than Jim Henson’s Creature shop. A little known fact is that Alan Bennett and Julie Walters voice the mock turtle and the Dormouse. These are not cuddly Disney creatures they are scary! If you get the chance to go and see this film you really should- it’s on again next Tuesday 16th

Ali x

Dreamchild: BFI Southbank

What is Deception

Our ability to deceive one another is linked to our high level of self-awareness. Deception is a unique trait that separates us from the animal kingdom. We lie to each other for personal gain; it’s a mechanism that monkeys use on a primal level.

Art of the State: Banksy

Monkeys usually call out to others when they find food so that they can share it; sometimes the monkey that finds the food will not call out to others and in a bid for self-preservation, it will hoard it all instead.

I suppose the reward is far greater than the risk; evidence suggests that our ability to recognise deception is about 53% accurate. Deception is a survival trait that we pass onto our babies; at its most basic level deception is self-preservation.

Ali x

New Scientist: The Truth About Lies