Can a reasoning test predict who will make a good detective?

GettyImages-118096569.jpgBy Alex Fradera

Although criminal investigation has been transformed through technological developments in DNA, phone tracking, and online data, the way a detective works through a crime has remained much the same. The first suspect is often the true perpetrator, but not always, and snowballing biases continue to lead to miscarriages of justice. Proficient detectives need the ability to generate and evaluate different explanations and keep an open mind. New research in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology investigates whether it’s possible to use established tests of reasoning ability to identify who has the skills necessary for thinking this way.

University of Gothenburg psychologists Ivar Fahsing and Karl Ask asked 166 recruits (60 women, aged around 23) from the Norwegian Police University College to complete two tests of reasoning ability. One involved deductive reasoning – the ability to apply rules to reach a correct conclusion, in this case, combining shapes to form a new target shape. The other involved inductive reasoning –  viewing different images, and using these to figure out the rule that is governing them all. These tests already feature in Norwegian police recruitment but it’s not clear whether they are useful for predicting detective skills, which are more dependent on abductive reasoning, which is much harder to test.

Whereas deduction seeks linear, definitive conclusions, and induction tries to identify a category based on the available clues (“all birds, none fly”  therefore the category must be “flightless birds”), abduction amplifies the known information to generate imaginative possibilities (“an open wine bottle and smashed glasses could suggest a thwarted seduction… or a failed reconciliation with his wife?”). It requires a leap of logic, a creative act, hard to measure but known to differentiate stronger investigators, whether criminal or scientific. The ability to make many such leaps helps avoid premature foreclosure on the possibilities of a case.

Fahsing and Ask were hopeful that measures of deductive and inductive reasoning would help identify better detectives because investigation isn’t rooted solely in abduction, and because different forms of reasoning ability are known to correlate (so a candidate skilful at deduction and induction ought to be skilled at abduction and therefore detective thinking too).

To assess detection nous, the researchers asked their participants to review two case vignettes, each describing a woman missing under ambiguous circumstances, and some versions also mentioned the arrest of a suspect. The participants’ task was to outline all the possible explanations that could account for the facts. Both vignettes had been reviewed by an expert panel of detectives, who generated a “gold standard” of 9 viable hypotheses for the first and 11 for the second.

The participants tended to neglect the non-criminal hypotheses, such as the possibility the missing woman had suffered an accident. More importantly, scores on the reasoning ability tests didn’t predict their detective performance. Nor did they predict immunity to a commonly observed detecting error: becoming more narrow-minded (generating fewer hypotheses) after reading that a suspect had been arrested.

The current data suggest that commonly used cognitive assessments are unlikely to help identify candidates with the best aptitude for becoming a detective. It seems police forces will need to think more inventively about the actual skills that contribute to good detection if they are to succeed in separating the Maigrets from the Clouseaus.

— In Search of Indicators of Detective Aptitude: Police Recruits’ Logical Reasoning and Ability to Generate Investigative Hypotheses

Image: Peter Sellers In ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ is disguised as a mountain climber, while hiding in a trash can, in a scene from the film ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’, 1976. (Photo by United Artists/Getty Images)

Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

from BPS Research Digest http://bit.ly/2ovmSuq


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Plum Tea Crazy: A new Tea Shop Mystery by NYT Bestselling Author Laura Childs

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Win a print copy of Plum Tea Crazy (U.S. Only)


Theodosia Browning investigates a Charleston steeped in tradition and treachery in the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs.

While viewing the harbor’s Gaslights and Galleons Parade from the widow’s walk of Timothy Neville’s Charleston mansion, local banker Carson Lanier seemingly tumbles over a narrow railing, then plunges three stories to his death. But a tragic accident becomes something much more sinister when it’s discovered that the victim was first shot with a bolt from a crossbow.

At the request of the mansion owner, Theodosia investigates the tragedy and is soon neck deep in suspects. An almost ex-wife, a coworker, a real estate partner–all had motives for killing the luckless banker, but one resorted to murder to settle accounts.

INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!

 


Interview with Laura Childs, New York Times bestselling author of Plum Tea Crazy.

Laura, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential. Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?

Theodosia Browning is the sassy, outgoing proprietor of the Indigo Tea Shop. Formerly a marketing exec, Theodosia is quick-witted and droll, and has a knack for getting embroiled in police investigations.

How alike are you and Theodosia? 

I’m a former marketing exec myself, but I’ve never gotten involved in a criminal investigation. However, if I met Theodosia in real life I’d probably be analyzing clues right alongside her and trying to figure out a list of suspects.

Do your characters change and evolve throughout consecutive books in the series?

They’re the same characters personality-wise. However, they have grown and evolved a bit over the course of nineteen books. For example, Theodosia and her dog Earl Grey used to live in the apartment above the Indigo Tea Shop. Now they reside in a cute little Hansel and Gretel cottage in Charleston’s historic district.

Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life – on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

I haven’t killed anyone from my past in any of my books, but I do get my petty revenge from time to time. I assign their names to killers or characters that I particularly detest!

How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties or are you true to life?

My Charleston, SC setting is faithful right down to the antique cobblestones. The places I write about – Church Street, Gateway Walk, Duelers Alley, White Point Gardens – are all real places. My job as an author is to capture their charm and allure with words. I want you to picture the Spanish moss swaying in the trees, smell the salty Atlantic air rushing in, and have the feeling of being followed down a narrow, walled-in lane.

When the movie or TV series is made, who plays the major roles?

I think Debra Messing would make a terrific Theodosia

and Michael Caine would be a delightful Drayton.

What’s the worst and best advice you’ve ever heard or received as an author?

Worst advice – English teachers (pretty much all of them) who tried to hammer in that old maxim of “writing what you know about.” If authors did that we’d never have fantastic novels about outer space, time travel, and dinosaurs. Writing is all about creating imagery – a direct product of stretching your imagination!

Best advice – This was an object lesson of sorts. Mystery great Mary Higgins Clark took me under her wing at a Mystery Writers of America symposium and graciously introduced me to several editors and agents. When it came time for lunch – when Mary had a plethora of invitations – she whispered to me that she had to go home and write, that she had a tricky deadline. That’s when I realized that producing pages and meeting deadlines took precedence over panel discussions, lunch, and everything else. I realized that writing was serious business.

BONUS: Stay tuned for a character interview with Theodosia Browning herself!


About the Author

laura-childs-from-facebook

Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fund raising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:

The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.

The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!

The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.

Visit Laura’s webpage or find her on Facebook.

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The pique persuasion technique plays on our curiosity and it’s surprisingly effective

501125424By Alex Fradera

Sorry to bother you – I’m just after three pounds sixty-five for a bus ticket to Bromley.

Living in an urban area you frequently hear this kind of request, which showcases a persuasion approach called the “pique technique”, whereby people are more likely to comply with requests for an unusually specific quantity, because it piques their interest. But do people really give more readily, or in higher amounts, when exposed to the technique? A meta-analysis in the journal Social Influence puts pique through its paces.

 

The technique was first investigated in the nineties by a trio of researchers – Michael Santos, Craig Leve and Anthony Pratkanis – with experimental assistants posing as panhandlers on Santa Cruz wharf and asking passers-by for either 17 cents or a quarter. They found the unusual sum led to more compliance from the passers-by, and so to more coinage in the cup.

The researchers hypothesised that the unusual sum is effective as it disrupts the “refusal script” that people have primed in response to generic requests, and instead generates curiosity that encourages the person to engage. The paper spawned further work exploring the technique, including its effectiveness when asking for someone’s time, but some studies found no effects or even negative effects.

To make sense of this muddied picture, Seyoung Lee and Thomas Feeley from the University of Buffalo looked across the available research, six studies in all, to verify whether there is a reliable case for the technique and what might be driving it.

Does piquing pay? Across the studies, there were 16 tests of whether successful requests led to more generous donations when the request was for an unusual sum, and the meta-analysis showed that this was not the case: donations, when given, were similar for both typical and unusual request amounts.

However, piquers earned more overall, because the technique enhanced the chances of getting a donation in the first place. The size of the effect was larger than for other tricks for gaining compliance like the foot in door technique (.27 vs. .11 in terms of statistical effect sizes). The effect size varied across different studies and conditions, so Lee and Feeley investigated what might moderate it, finding the technique more successful in studies conducted in France compared to the US, and working better for smaller requests than for those involving more than a dollar.

The analysis also showed that when the technique was used, people were more likely to respond by asking what the money was for. This is consistent with the idea that the technique disrupts automatic processes and encourages conscious engagement with the request. It’s as if the unusual detail shakes the person out of a slumber to see the moment as the beginning of an interaction, rather than as environmental noise to tune out. Unfortunately the paper doesn’t provide data on whether these curious people were more likely to donate; we do know, however, that when the piquer preemptively explained what the request was for (as per my opening example), participants were more likely to comply.

Many persuasion techniques are overtly exploitative, trying to win compliance by wearing away the target’s defences. Piquing in some way fits this mould, by dodging underneath the normal means of parrying an unsolicited request. But its basic mechanism seems legitimate: to wake us up to what’s happening right now, and then leave it to our conscience how to react. After all, even if you have a principled objection to giving to charity street reps or to the homeless, it’s no bad thing to sometimes be prompted to consciously reflect on your decision.

Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) is Contributing Writer at BPS Research Digest

A meta-analysis of the pique technique of compliance

from BPS Research Digest http://bit.ly/2slaFeT


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Why Two Volcanoes in Hawaii Are So Close, but So Different


By JOANNA KLEINA
The New York Times
Mauna Loa, the biggest volcano on Earth — and one of the most active — covers half the Island of Hawaii. Just 35 miles to the northeast, Mauna Kea, known to native Hawaiians as Mauna a Wakea, rises nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. To them it represents a spiritual connection between our planet and the heavens above.

These volcanoes, which have beguiled millions of tourists visiting the Hawaiian islands, have also plagued scientists with a long-running mystery: If they are so close together, how did they develop in two parallel tracks along the Hawaiian-Emperor chain formed over the same hot spot in the Pacific Ocean — and why are their chemical compositions so different?

“We knew this was related to something much deeper, but we couldn’t see what,” said Tim Jones, an earth science Ph.D. student at Australian National University and the lead author of a paper published in Nature on Wednesday that may hold the answer.

Continue Reading

Microscopic Cars Square Off In Big Race

Microscopic Cars Square Off In Big Race
This car race involved years of training, feats of engineering, high-profile sponsorships, competitors from around the world and a racetrack made of gold. And it’s invisible to the naked eye.Read more on NPR


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Which Hot Button Words Are Dealbreakers in Relationships? (I’ll say “fava beans” and “Chianti”)

Words Can Change Your Brain

I was reading about certain words that should never be used in advertising because they yield poor results. The article pointed out that people are far less likely to click on the word “submit” on a web site because it is too committal. As an alternative, “click here” is better, and “click here to receive whatever is being offered” is better yet. The article went on to point out how language can be a turn on or a turn off when making decisions.

As I read, I started to consider some of the keywords that don’t fly too well in the realm of relationships. I couldn’t help but ponder words like “obey,” for instance; a word that was once the norm in traditional wedding vows (and may still be in certain circles). Using “obey” in the realm of relationships is a deal breaker for many of us, including several terms that mean something similar. (Ironically, when I looked up synonyms of “obey”, “submit” came up!) Even reference to the “head of the household” can be an indicator of a power hierarchy. If this is okay with you, no problem, but if not, paying attention to this kind of terminology may assist you in avoiding some major struggles.

In my work as an online dating advisor, I would guide people to watch for the themes they, or the people they were interested in, posted in their profiles. I encouraged them to watch for the underlying messages that they were sharing through, often unconscious, choices. Repetitious sexual content, mention of alcohol and drugs, complaints about previous partners, a clear portrayal of low self-esteem, or elevated ego are all little red flags to watch for in an online write-up. Even in our face-to-face relationships, we all drop indicators of our beliefs and attitudes everywhere we go through our language and choice of words.

Some words aren’t the issue themselves, but rather the problem arises with the timing of their use. For instance, “love” — a word we clearly associate with relationships — can serve as a bomb if dropped too soon or a detriment if not used soon enough. “Commitment,” “monogamy,” and “marriage,” can freak people out when thrown around too early in the dating process, as well. And equally, at some point in the relationship, a lack of willingness to use these terms may be a deal breaker.

What we call each other at different stages of the relationship may also be an indicator calling for attention. Referring to your date as your “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend” can cause just as many problems as referring to your boyfriend or girlfriend as your “date” or your “lover.” Your level of commitment, or lack thereof, is revealed in your choice of labels, as is how you define the relationship.

How we refer to sex may also be a trigger. For some calling it “making love” (instead of sex) may be an issue, while for others it may be exactly the other way around.

How we talk about previous partners and past relationships can also reveal hot button issues. I have a friend who is adamant that people should refer to their previous husband or wife as “former spouse” rather than their “ex”, as he feels it is far more honoring of the major role they have previously played. While you may prefer not to honor those that have come before you, the truth of the matter is that in time you may be the next on the “ex” list wishing for more honor.

For me, a hot button is to refer to breaking up as “dumped,” as in “I dumped him or her.” We dump trash, not people. Using this term for breaking up can be an indicator that the respect levels of people and relationships may be sorely lacking.

People will often reveal early in the relationship where the big issues will lay ahead simply in their words. The problem is that we don’t often listen, or pay attention until the situation gets out of control. While everyone’s hot button issues may be slightly different, we would all benefit by paying a little closer attention to what is said, what is meant, and what is being revealed.

Rather than just considering what your hot button issues are when someone else utters them, be sure to practice awareness of the words you use as well — the words or the timing of your words, that may be pushing others away. Your own clarity and impeccability with the alignment of your words and your intended meaning will set the tone of deeper discussions, and greater understanding.

What are your hot button words or terms in the realm of relationships?

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.

from World of Psychology http://bit.ly/2pJKde4


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Which one is the “I love you, man”?

Binge_BSPThere are certainly different types of drunks. “Sober Dave is boring, you should hang out with Drunk Dave, he’s wild!” or “She is usually a sweetheart, but watch out, she’s a mean drunk.”

Having documented the transition to our drunk alter-egos for 100s of years, we are no strangers to the concept of drunk personality types. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that alcohol can change our personalities from a sober type to a drunk type.

 

Today, research pioneered by University of Missouri graduate student, Rachel Winograd, supports the existence of at least four categories of drunk personalities. Importantly, she reveals if one’s type of drunk personality puts them at greater risk of alcohol-related harms (e.g. regrettable sexual encounters or drunken injuries), as well as alcohol addiction.

A group of 187 pairs of undergraduate drinking buddies answered questions linking their drunk personality to the “big five” personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism). Cluster analysis of these answers led to the description of four main drunk personality types as outlined below.

Not only is it a bit of fun to ask, “What kind of drunk are you?”, the drunk personality research field holds promise for the development of novel interventions to help problem drinkers.

Drunk Personality Type 1: The Ernest Hemingway

As Ernest Hemingway wrote, he ‘‘can drink hells any amount of whiskey without getting drunk.” Thankfully, this is the most common drunk personality type shared by 42% of the undergrads, who reported behaving roughly the same and only slightly changing when intoxicated.

Compared to the other personality types, the personality factors that tend to change the most when drunk — i.e. conscientiousness (being prepared, organized, prompt) and intellect ( understanding abstract ideas, being imaginative) — do not change drastically. It is no surprise then that this drunk personality type was not linked with experiencing more negative consequences or alcoholism symptoms.

Drunk Personality Type 2: The Mr. Hyde

Unfortunately, the second most common drunk personality type (23% of the sample) is the monster of a drunk named after the twisted alter-ego of Dr. Jeckyll, Mr. Hyde. They are characterized by being less conscientious, less intellectual and less agreeable than their sober selves or other drunk personality types.

Their drunk personality being the perfect recipe for increased hostility when under the influence, they are statistically more likely to have alcohol use disorder symptoms (i.e. have a higher risk of alcohol addiction). They also suffer a whole range of negative consequences from drinking, from blacking out to being arrested for drunken behavior.

Drunk Personality Type 3: The Nutty Professor

This type of drunk, comprising 20% of the study participants, does a personality 360 [1] when they get drunk. They are particularly quiet and introverted when sober, but their drunken persona has a large increase in extraversion and decrease in conscientiousness (compared to the other drunk types and their sober self). This is likened to the the Disney character, Shermen Clump, when he transforms from taking his secret chemical formula in The Nutty Professor.

Despite having the most drastic personality change, Nutty Professors were not associated with experiencing more negative alcohol-related consequences from drinking.

Drunk Personality Type 4: The Mary Poppins

The least common drunk personality type in the study, found in 15% of the participants, was ‘The Mary Poppins. They are not only particularly agreeable (i.e. embodying traits of friendliness) when sober, they are also agreeable and friendly when drunk. Like Hemmingways, they also decrease less than average in conscientiousness and intellect when getting drunk.

Their drunken sweetness sets them apart from less agreeable Hemmingways. They are essentially the opposite of the Mr Hyde drunk type of drunk, resulting in significantly less negative consequences from getting drunk.

[1] Perhaps Dr. Clark meant to write 180, as 360 degrees is a full circle that brings you back to your original orientation. Or she was making a joke that I am too obtuse to get. Either way, I’ve left the original phrasing.

REFERENCES

Hemingway, E., & Baker, C. (1981). Ernest Hemingway, selected letters, 1917-1961. New York: Macmillan Pub Co.

Winograd, R. P., Littlefield, A. K., Martinez, J., & Sher, K. J. (2012). The drunken self: The Five-Factor model as an organizational framework for characterizing perceptions of One’s own drunkenness. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(10), 1787–1793. doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01796.x

Winograd, R. P., Steinley, D., & Sher, K. (2015). Searching for Mr. Hyde: A five-factor approach to characterizing “types of drunks.” Addiction Research & Theory, 24(1), 1–8. doi:10.3109/16066359.2015.1029920

This guest article originally appeared on the award-winning health and science blog and brain-themed community, BrainBlogger: What’s Your Drunk Personality Type – Nutty, Naughty or Nice?

from World of Psychology http://bit.ly/2paelfh


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Tropical Fish, Opioid Delivery System, or Nightmare Fuel?

D) All of the Above. Sounds like a promising murder weapon…

With their large lower canines, fang blennies deliver opioid-laced venom that seems to cause a sudden drop in their predators’ blood pressure.

from NYT Science


This fish-themed post is posted in honor of the French April 1 tradition, poissons d’avril. It involves exchanging humorous fish-themed cards and stealthily attaching paper fish to unsuspecting acquaintances.


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Swiss Restaurant Offers Insect Cooking Class, Forces Uncomfortable Comparison to Crustaceans

Insects are a sustainable and healthy food source, Bern’s Löscher restaurant explains.

A Swiss eatery has bugs on the brain, and they’re hoping that patrons will bite. As Travel + Leisure reports, The Löscher restaurant in Switzerland’s capital city, Bern, is now offering classes to instruct people how to cook with insects.

Aside from the initial “ick” factor, insects are a sustainable, protein-packed food source, and cultures around the world—from Central Africa to Asia and Latin America—eat the tiny critters. To enjoy the taste of bugs, we need to rethink our relationship with them, Löscher’s manager, Andrea Staudacher, told Swiss news outlet 20 Minuten, according to The Local. “We associate prawns with food but not grasshoppers. However the two animals are very similar,” Staudacher said.

Read the rest at Mental Floss 


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