Interesting Psychological Facts: Did You Know?

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We fall in love with someone because of how they make us feel about ourselves. 

Love is selfish like that.  It’s why we keep going back to those who once used to make us feel good in our skin, in our bodies and our faces.  When someone makes us feel funny, smart, attractive, talented, desirable we innately fall in love with them.  This is true of friendship as well.

Think of the first moments of lust (this applies, but less “flutteringly” to friendship) when the relationship was new and wonderful.  You likely felt sexy.  You likely felt valuable.  Beautiful.  Intelligent.  Interesting.  Funny.  [insert good thing here]  When once-great relationships turn bad, but the people keep trying to “make it work” and one keeps running back to the other, they are chasing a high not unlike chasing a coke high (for those of you who don’t know, the first one or two lines of cocaine is something like bliss without compare; each line thereafter is steadily less and less until you’re basically “chasing a memory” of the high; desperate to get it back).

That’s love.  So, if you’re ever wondering why your relationship with your partner isn’t where it should be:  remember that when people feel good about themselves, they’ll likely reciprocate it.  Don’t run to the gym and get in shape (okay . . . do that, but don’t do just that).  Don’t buy flowers.  Make your partner feel beautiful, valuable, virile, strong, sexy, attractive, wanted, important, intelligent, etc.  (actions always speak louder than words)  Make that person feel like they did when you first fell in love.

NOW, you might be chasing a dream and “that person” may have moved on, but if there’s still love in your relationship and hope for a future between both of you, if you make your significant other fall in love with her/himself FIRST, then you’ll get them to fall in love with you again.  (and I know this from experience:  I Love you Rick).

The strongest way to endear yourself to someone is to express a need for their help and to make them feel needed.  The greatest way to build a friendship is to accept what a person can give and demand that they give it (within reason). This is complicated because this little bit of heuristics seems like it should be well known and well understood.  But we get it wrong so often.

Parable of Jimmy:  Back when I went to church, I had a buddy named “Jimmy”.  He was desperate for friendship to the point where he insisted on paying for everything.  It was always Jimmy’s treat.  It was always Jimmy who paid.  I’m not a cheapie but this man would wrangle a bill out of your hand.  Jimmy had no friends.  People kept away from Jimmy.  Jimmy was also a very nice guy.  Smart. Deep.  But Jimmy never let anybody pay.

Why does that drive people away?  Because people need to contribute.  What we contribute to our relationships tells us we’re essential and that we have worth.  If people won’t allow you to contribute to the relationship within the range of your ability, then they are essentially (and subconsciously) saying: “You are impotent.  You are worthless. You have nothing of value to me.  I don’t really need you.”

Parable of Ricky: My boyfriend has been in school for fucking EVER.  Jeezis Christ I just want him to be done.  For all of our 7 years, I’ve paid the bills, he’s studied.  Praise Vishnu he’s nearing the end of the tunnel.  Anyhoo, about a year and a half ago, he started getting depressed.  Yes, he knew that I wanted him to graduate, but I didn’t beat him up over “taking” my larges.

Nevertheless, Rick admitted that he couldn’t do it anymore.  That he didn’t know what to do because he felt like a user and that he wasn’t needed.  I remembered this lesson and the next day, somewhat authoritatively, told Rick how he would “earn his keep”.  His job was to do the laundry and clean the entire house every Tuesday.  The whole thing.  Every single last bit of it. Two bathrooms.  Two bedrooms. Three kitty litter boxes.  The floors.  The furniture.  Everything.  I established (a significantly over-valued) worth of the effort at $200 a week (some maids cost $50 an hour so it may not be off by too much).

By expressing my constant need of him to contribute in this way, it took the annoying pressure off me and by sticking with the very REAL fact that we each contributed to the relationship, it went a HUGE distance to making him feel valued and needed in our house.

Parable of Pam:  My step-mother brought a previously created son to our family.  We enjoy the same first name.  My little brother Dan is the sibling I’m closest to.  We have the same political outlook.  Same intellectual slant.  Same obsession with movies.  He’s almost exactly 10 years younger than me.  So I get to be the older, wiser brother.

My brother’s bio-father is a wealthy man.  Pam is not.  Dan is her only bio-son.  There’s a connection there that cannot be ignored or disrespected.  We have a very close family, but when a kid was carried in your womb for 9 months and squeezed out of your nether regions, I expect a bonding that is not the same as everywhere else.

My brother didn’t get why bragging about what his dad had bought him (“He’s taking us on vacation to XYZ”) hurt my step mother.  Moreover, what Pam has to contribute to him — her unending love, devotion, willingness to do anything for him and her wisdom — was “all” she had (and that’s a lot).  But for my brother, he wasn’t understanding why he needed to take what my step-mother could give and why, when he rejected it, he hurt her beyond comprehension.

I explained to him the above points (about needing to be needed; needing to contribute) and informed him:  “When your mother calls and offers unsolicited advice.  Take it.  Thank her for it. Tell her how much it helps.  Lie through your fucking goddamned teeth you ungrateful bastard!!!”  Continuing, “Furthermore, telling your mother you love her is insignificant compared to telling your mother that you need her help.  The moment we ask a person for help within their talents and abilities, we reaffirm their skill, power and contribution to your life.  Once every few weeks, pick up the phone, call Pam and even if it ain’t true, say, ‘Mom, I need your advice. . . .’ and try to take the advice.  That’s what she has to give and you need to take it or you’re telling her she’s not needed and cannot contribute anything of value to your life.  That’s devastating for any relationship but especially for a parent.”

So to recap:

  • Make a person fall in love with themselves and they’ll fall in love with you.
  • Take what a person offers, at least occasionally, to tell them they have value.
  • Allow a person to contribute within their skills and abilities to let them know they are needed and a part of your family.
  • Ask a person for help to reaffirm their self worth and to endear yourself to them.

Say you’re viewed as competent or attractive by someone. Your attractiveness or likability will actually increase if you commit a blunder.

Interesting Psychological Facts

Known as the Pratfall effectlikable people who rarely, if at all make mistakes or blunders are perceived as less attractive or likable than those who are still seen as likable but nevertheless more frequently commit open mistakes or blunders.The pratfall effect basically means not to worry if you:

  • Slip in front of your crush.
  • Openly admit failures.
  • Get stage fright in front of everyone at school. ect.

However, in order for the effect to work, people must view you as an attractive, likable, or a good person prior to committing the blunder.

On the other hand, attractiveness decreases when someone regarded as unlikable, unattractive, or not good also pulls a blunder.

Further reading:
The Pratfall Effect
Pratfall effect
Page on Yaleherald

Study: Aronson, E., Willerman, B.  and Floyd, J. (1966) The effect of a pratfall on increasing interpersonal  attractiveness, Psychonomic Science, 4, 227-8

Violence affects children in odd, and perhaps disturbing ways. The proof is in: Bobo doll experiment.

In 1961 and 1963, psychologist Albert Bandura conducted a study and proved that social imitation may hasten or short-cut the acquisition of new  behaviors without the necessity of reinforcing successive approximations.

A ”Bobo doll” is an inflatable toy that is is about 5 feet tall, made of durable vinyl or plastic, and painted like a clown. The doll was built so it would immediately lift up again after being hit by the role models used in the experiment.

The experiment involved exposing children to two adult, male and female role models. One was supposed to act aggressively and the other non-aggressively. After witnessing the behavior, the children would then be placed in a room and observed to see if they would imitate the behavior they witnessed earlier.

Bandura predicted:

  • Boys would act more aggressively than girls.
  • Children would more likely  to imitate the model of the same sex.
  • Children observing the aggressive model would likely act aggressively when the adult model wasn’t present; children observing the non-violent model would be likely less aggressive than the children who observed the aggressive model.

The participants for the experiment were 36 boys and 36 girls enrolled at the Stanford University Nursery School. The children ranged in age between 3 and 6 years old. 24 children were assigned to a control group that received no treatment. The other children were divided into two groups of 24 participants each. One group was exposed to the violent model, and the other the non-violent model.

The boys and girls were divided again, so half of the participants observed the same-sex adult model and the other half observed the opposite sex adult model.
Bandura also tested the children’s degree of aggression before the experiment. The groups were matched equally so they had an average level of aggression.

Each child was tested individually. The child was brought into a playroom where there were a variety of activities to engage in. The non-aggressive model played with the child and ignored the Bobo doll for the entire period. The aggressive model attacked the Bobo doll.

“The model laid the Bobo on its side, sat on it, and punched it  repeatedly in the nose. The model then raised the Bobo doll, picked up  the mallet, and struck the doll in the head. Following the mallet  aggression, the model tossed the doll up in the air aggressively, and  kicked it about the room. This sequence of physically aggressive acts  was repeated three times, interspersed with verbally aggressive  responses.”

After a ten-minute exposure, the child was taken into another room with toys but were told not to play with them. Finally, they were taken to a room with aggressive toys such as the Bobo doll, dart guns, and a rubber mallet and non-aggressive toys including crayons, stuffed animals, and trucks.  The children were then allowed to play with those toys and observed by the raters behind a one-way mirror.

  • Children exposed to  the violent model tended to imitate the same behavior when the adult was no longer present.
  • Boys were more likely to be physically violent while girls were more likely to be verbally aggressive.
  • Boys who had observed a non-aggressive female model were more likely than those in the control group to engage in violence.
  • Boys were more likely to imitate same sex models than girls.

Astronauts can experience a cognitive shift in awareness when viewing the Earth from orbit according to the Overview effect.

While viewing the Earth from orbit or from a lunar space, some astronauts reported the belief that national boundaries vanished, the conflicts between people became less important, and the need for a planetary society with a united imperative to protect Earth becomes obvious or apparent.

In the words of Rusty Schweickart:

You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and  boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see  them. There you are — hundreds of people in the Middle East killing  each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of, that  you can’t see. And from where you see it, the thing is a whole, the  earth is a whole, and it’s so beautiful. You wish you could take a  person in each hand, one from each side in the various conflicts, and  say, ‘Look. Look at it from this perspective. Look at that. What’s  important?'”

And Edgar Mitchell:

The experience in space was so powerful that when I got back to  Earth I started digging into various literatures to try to understand  what had happened. I found nothing in science literature but eventually  discovered it in the Sanskrit of ancient India. The descriptions of samadhiSavikalpa samadhi,  were exactly what I felt: it is described as seeing things in their  separateness, but experiencing them viscerally as a unity, as oneness,  accompanied by ecstasy.”

Further reading:
Overview effect
Space Euphoria: Do Our Brains Change When We Travel in Outer Space?
The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the “Overview Effect” Experienced by Astronauts

Study: The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution (Houghton-Mifflin, 1987), (AIAA, 1998)

The greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform according to the Pygmalion effect.


Pygmalion Effect (Self-Fulfilling Prophecy)

In 1968, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson reported the Pygmalion effect, and named it after Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw.  Students at a single California elementary school were given a disguised IQ test. Teachers were then told the names of some of the students, 20% chosen at random, could be ”spurters” that year and outperformed their classmates. The actual scores of the students were not disclosed to the teachers.

The supposed spurters’ names were notified to the teacher. Rosenthal predicted that teachers subconsciously facilitate or encourage their students’ success. Finally, students’ were tested with the same  IQ test used at the beginning of the study. The First and Second Graders group favored the spurters and showed statistically significant gains in their group. This means that teacher expectations can influence student achievement, stemming from young childhood.

High expectations lead teachers to subconsciously behave in different ways, such as:

1. They create a warmer “socio-emotional  climate” for the learners they regard as high-potential, often conveying  this warmth through non-verbal signals: a nod, an encouraging smile, a  touch on the shoulder.
2. They teach more material, and more difficult material, to learners they see as especially promising.
3. They give up-and-coming learners more opportunities to contribute, including additional time to respond to questions.
4. They offer their “special” learners  feedback on performance that is more detailed and more personalized —  not just a generic “Good job.”

To influence your own personal achievement with this effect, try this:

  • Don’t be hard on yourself.
  • Challenge yourself with more difficult resources.
  • Give yourself many opportunities to contribute in different ways.
  • Off yourself expansive feedback on your personal performance.

A fascinating video explaining the topic in detail:

Further reading:
Pygmalion effect
Page on Psychologytoday
How To Use the “Pygmalion” Effect |


In the late 1930’s, psychologist B.F. Skinner coined the term Operant conditioning – the idea that reinforcement or punishment can be used to modify an individual’s behavior.

The initial experiment with rats
Skinner designed a box (called skinner box) which contained a lever and a food dispenser.

Operant Conditioning

When he put a hungry rat inside this box, it started sniffing around, touching things, and eventually at some point reached the lever. When the rat pressed the lever, food pellets fell through the dispenser. After some point, the rat learnt that pressing the lever got it food and it kept repeating only that action until it was no longer hungry. Reinforcement was used to modify rat’s behavior.

The implications were huge.

Skinner was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that lead to it would be reinforced

Some people were skeptical about Skinner’s claim that behavior is the result of reinforcement/punishment. They pointed out the behavior of superstition which was considered unique to humans and couldn’t be explained by reinforcement.

Experiment with pigeons

As a response, Skinner performed a modified experiment, using pigeons in this case. The food pellets would be released periodically in the box. But this time, release of food was non-contingent on the pigeon’s behavior. The food would drop no matter what the pigeon did.  After doing this for pigeon after pigeon he noticed that some of them developed superstitious like behavior. One pigeon walked around in circles. One thrust its head to the corner of the box. Two pigeons made pendulum motions of their head and body. All of them continued these actions until the food appeared.


None of these behaviors had been observed in the birds prior to this procedure. So why did they suddenly develop this superstition?

The pigeons have made a causal connection of their actions at the time of receiving the reward, with the reward. So the pigeon walking in circles was doing that when it found the food. Skinner proposed that this accidental reinforcementof a response can lead to superstitious behavior. As long as the rewards come regularly enough, the superstitious behavior will develop. The connection between when they do the behavior and get the reward will outweigh the connection when they do the behavior and don’t get any reward. This he proposed, is also the reason why we humans develop superstitions. Seems pretty obvious once you know the reason.

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