[Video] Your Body vs. The World

By Anupum Pant

Like 9gag, sometimes BuzzFeed can be informative too. So, for the time I stay away for a weekend trip, here’s an interesting video I came across.

Just for the record: The surface of your skin has more bacteria than there are people on Earth.

Tickling Yourself

By Anupum Pant

In most cases tickling yourself is tough. That is because whenever you try to tickle yourself, at the back of your head (yes, really at the back, in a part of the brain called the cerebellum) you know that the sensation was caused as a result of your own movement. That way, the brain is able to predict the sensation and is able to nullify it.

When someone else tries it on you, the brain fails to predict the movement and the somatosensory cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex fire up to make you feel the tickle.

But have you ever tried tickling yourself with a fake hand? It still doesn’t work! Even when you don’t use your direct body part, your brain knows and can predict movement. Unless of course, the fake hand is being used by someone else. It’s interesting but believable that tickling yourself with a fake rubber hand doesn’t fool the brain. But there’s more.

In fact, if you had a tickling robot which could be controlled with a remote control, you still won’t be able to use the remote to operate it and make yourself tickle. While, if some one else had the control and they tried to control the robot to tickle you, you’d feel more ticklish. Unless, there’s a delay. It blows my mind to think about that!

What if, there was a robot which could control the remote control of a tickling robot, and you could control the first one with another remote control. Would you be able to tickle yourself using this contraption? I’m saying no, you still won’t be able to tickle yourself if there was no delay in between. What do you say?

Yes, delay is crucial here. Suppose you had a long contraption which would make movements after a few seconds of delay with respect to the control (which you have in your hand), you’d feel more ticklish, if you tried. Studies say, more the delay, the more ticklish it is.

Note: People with schizophrenia can tickle themselves, using their own hands, fake hand or something else.

Remember, I started the article with “most cases”. That is because there are a couple of ways to tickle yourself successfully. Try making little circles with a soft touch behind your knee for instance. Or use a feather on the sole of your foot. Or, try making circles with your tongue on the roof of your mouth where there’s a ribbed texture…

Superstitious Pigeons

By Anupum Pant

B.F. Skinner was an American psychologist, a behaviorist, and a social philosopher. He was also the inventor of the operant conditioning chamber – A.K.A the Skinner box, is a box which is used to study animal behaviour. For example, you can use it to train an animal to perform certain actions in response to some input, like light or sound.

Using one of his favourite animals, he designed an experiment where he trained a pigeon in order to examine the formation of superstitious beliefs in animals. Here’s what he did.

He placed a couple of pigeons in his setup which was designed to deliver food to them after certain intervals. Of all the things, the timing of food delivery by this apparatus wasn’t related to one thing for sure – behaviour or actions of the bird.

And yet, after some time in this automated setup, the pigeons developed certain associations which made them belief that the food came when they did something. They had developed superstitious beliefs.

For instance:

One bird was conditioned to turn counter-clockwise about the cage, making two or three turns between reinforcements. Another repeatedly thrust its head into one of the upper corners of the cage. A third developed a ‘tossing’ response, as if placing its head beneath an invisible bar and lifting it repeatedly. Two birds developed a pendulum motion of the head and body, in which the head was extended forward and swung from right to left with a sharp movement followed by a somewhat slower return. – Wikipedia

The bird behaviour isn’t much different from what humans do…

The pigeons started believing in a causal relationship between its behaviour and delivery of food, even when there was nothing like that.

It’s almost like the humans blowing on the dice, or throwing it harder to make a favourable number appear. Even when blowing or throwing a dice harder doesn’t hold any causal relationship with the event of good numbers turning up.

During other times, when people bowl down a bowling ball and twist  their bodies towards right to make the ball go right, they have in fact unknowingly developed a superstitious belief, just like the pigeons that there’s a causal relationship between turning their bodies and curving of the bowling ball. In reality, there’s nothing like that. The ball goes where it has to, irrespective of how they turn their bodies.

Just like in the superstitious pigeon’s case, the food would have appeared anyway. The pigeon didn’t have to do something to get it.

via [Wikipedia]