Since its inception as a science in 1879, psychology has been tasked with providing answers for some of the burning questions that had intrigued and interested scientists and everyday people alike for a very long time. The science of mind and behavior has since offered many theories and propositions which resulted in psychological research that would illuminate some interesting, thought provoking and often controversial facts about the ever elusive human nature.
In this article, we’ll be counting 19 psychological facts that will blow your mind. Make sure to read until number 19, because you are guaranteed to be amazed at how these facts might challenge your common wisdom and your perception of human behavior that you encounter on a daily basis.
1. People are more likely to attribute their own behavior to situational factors and other people’s behavior to their personality.
The first hypothesis for this so-called actor-observer asymmetry or actor-observer bias was formulated by social psychologists Edward Jones and Richard Nisbett, and was subsequently tested in various studies that confirmed the existence of this phenomenon. Although later studies yielded contradictory results, there is a robust body of research that suggests its validity.
2. Women like women more than men like men.
This psychological finding clarified through experiments conducted by psychologists Stephanie Goodwin and Laurie Rudman challenged previously held notions that men show automatic in-group bias as a consequence of the power differential between men and women in society. The results of the experiments suggest that women’s thinking can be summarized as: “If I’m good and I am female, females are good”, while men’s thinking can be approximated by the sentence: “Even if I am good and I am male, men are not necessarily good”.
3. When offered a list of items or options of any kind to choose from, people tend to choose the first item or option.
This phenomenon, termed “the primacy effect”, was first demonstrated in a study named “First is best”. This effect shows people’s tendency to choose the first option that is presented if the decision is made automatically and it’s even more pronounced if people choose between generally undesirable objects.
4. The strongest predictor for romantic attraction for both sexes is a person’s physical attractiveness.
This fact has been persistently proven and has never been falsified since the 1960s when the first compelling research about romantic attraction emerged.
5. Your mind wanders at least 30% of the time.
According to Jonathan Schooler of UC, Santa Barbara, this “mind wandering” happens during everyday tasks about 30% of the time, while in some situations, such as in crowded highways, that can happen up to 70% of the time.
6. Whether or not you should trust your “gut feeling” depends on your mood and the level of simplicity or complexity of the decision.
Research suggests that your intuition is more likely to be correct if you are in a good mood and if the decision you are supposed to make is complicated.
7. You can remember just 3 or 4 things at a time.
More recent studies have debunked the results of early studies of our working memory and its supposed capacity to store up to 7 items at a time.
8. Anticipating a reward makes people more excited than actually getting a reward.
Brain scan research has demonstrated that people’s brains show more stimulation and activity when they anticipate a reward than when they get one.
For example, most people feel more excited when they are anticipating a promotion at work than when they actually get the promotion. The takeaway – enjoy the ride more and worry about the destination less.
9. Multitasking is largely a myth.
Multitaskers are actually engaging in serial tasking, which is the act of shifting from one task to another in rapid succession, as opposed to engaging in two or more tasks simultaneously. Multitasking in two activities is possible only if one task is so well learned as to be automatic and if the two tasks require different types of brain processing.
A great example for this would be listening to music while writing on your laptop or talking on the phone while ironing.
10. Memory is more of a reconstruction than a reproduction of past events. We don’t remember past events as if they were video clips stored on a hard drive – these past events are actually reconstructed every time we think about them. They are less of a reproduction of the actual past reality, and more of an act of piecing together a new puzzle every time we consciously try to remember a particular event that is heavily influenced by our subsequent experiences, attempts to fill in the gaps in our memory, mixing different memories and our emotional states. This is why a memory of an event can easily change.
11. The more choices people are offered, the less likely it is that they will choose anything.
Iyengar and Lepper tested this hypothesis back in 2000 and concluded that the probability a person would choose any particular item or object was in reverse proportion to the number of choices they have.
12. More intelligent people tend to stay up later and get up later than less intelligent people on weekdays.
This fact was confirmed by an analysis of a large representative sample of young Americans. More intelligent children tend to be more nocturnal when they grow up than their less intelligent counterparts.
13. Less competent people tend to overestimate their competence, while more competent people tend to be more accurate and slightly critical in their assessment of their abilities.
This happens because low ability people do not possess the skills or self-awareness to recognize their own incompetence. You might have come across the term for this phenomenon in the polarized internet sphere – it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
14. It takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a person based on their facial characteristics.
This was established by two Princeton psychologists, Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, who added that longer exposure to a stranger doesn’t significantly alter a person’s already formed impression of that stranger.
15. Most people will likely alter their opinion about a fact they are already sure or fairly sure is correct if they face enough social pressure from other members of the group who can be even obviously wrong about that same fact.
Social psychologist Asch conducted a series of experiments, which were subsequently replicated many times, that proved that people’s desire to conform to a group can, in most cases, completely distort their otherwise accurate assessments of reality.
16. A person will like you more if they do a personal favor for you than if you do a personal favor for them.
Not only will they like you more – they will also be more willing to do more favors for you in the future. This is the core principle behind the so-called Benjamin Franklin effect, which was verified in a study conducted by psychologists Jecker and Landy.
This is actually one of our tips to attracting women. Be sure to check out our video on How to Attract Women with Psychology for more.
17. Most people are obedient to a perceived authority to the point where they will engage in immoral and cruel behavior if instructed by that authority, even if it conflicts with their personal conscience.
Seminal work in the field of obedience to authority was done by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who conducted a series of experiments where a group of participants were asked to administer electroshocks to a “learner” that were gradually increasing to the point where they could have had fatal results were they real. A very high proportion of subjects would comply with the authority figure’s demands, even if that meant engaging in inhumane act of applying more and more painful electroshocks.
18. The higher the number of people who are witnessing a person in need of emergency assistance, the less likely it is that those individual people will be willing to help that person.
This phenomenon is called “the bystander effect” and was initially extensively researched in the late 1960’s by John Darley and Bibb Latane. Many studies followed exploring the same phenomenon. It is believed that “the bystander effect” is a product of three main confluent factors:
1) diffusion of responsibility, or the feeling of having less responsibility when more bystanders are present;
2) evaluation apprehension, or the fear of unfavorable public judgment when helping, and
3) pluralistic ignorance, which refers to the belief that because no one is helping, the situation is not actually an emergency.
19. People really do need one thing to be truly happy – love.
The Harvard Grant longitudinal study that followed its subjects’ lives for 75 years determined that the best predictor of general happiness and life satisfaction was the presence and amount of love the subjects experienced during that period of time. Psychiatrist George Vaillant, the long-term director of the study, concluded that there are two pillars of happiness: one is love, and the other is finding a way of coping with life that doesn’t push love away. We can’t think of a simpler, yet more powerful psychological finding than this one.