Tag Archives: phenomena

Psychology Phenomena {42} ~ The Ringelmann Effect

The Ringelmann effect is the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases. This effect, discovered by French agricultural engineer Maximilien Ringelmann (1861–1931), illustrates the inverse relationship that exists between the size of a group and the magnitude of group members’ individual contribution to the completion of a task. While studying the relationship between process loss (i.e., reductions in performance effectiveness or efficiency) and group productivity, Ringelmann (1913) found that having group members work together on a task (e.g., pulling a rope) actually results in significantly less effort than when individual members are acting alone. Ringelmann discovered that as more and more people are added to a group, the group often becomes increasingly inefficient, ultimately violating the notion that group effort and team participation reliably leads to increased effort on behalf of the members.

Psychology Phenomena {41} ~ The Rashmon Effect

The Rashomon effect is a term used in film related to the notorious unreliability of eyewitnesses. It describes a situation in which an event is given contradictory interpretations or descriptions by the individuals involved, and is a storytelling and writing method in cinema meant to provide different perspectives and point of views of the same incident.

Psychology Phenomena {40} ~ Suicide Contagion

A copycat suicide is defined as an emulation of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows about either from local knowledge or due to accounts or depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media. The publicized suicide serves as a trigger, in the absence of protective factors, for the next suicide by a susceptible or suggestible person. This is referred to as suicide contagion.

A spike of emulation suicides after a widely publicized suicide is known as the Werther effect, following Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Suicides occasionally spread through a school system, through a community, or in terms of a celebrity suicide wave, nationally. This is called a suicide cluster. Suicide clusters are caused by the social learning of suicide-related behaviours, or “copycat suicides”. Point clusters are clusters of suicides in both time and space, and have been linked to direct social learning from nearby individuals. Mass clusters are clusters of suicides in time but not space, and have been linked to the broadcasting of information concerning celebrity suicides via the mass media.

Psychology Phenomena {39} ~ Pluralistic Ignorance

In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but go along with it because they assume, incorrectly, that most others accept it. This is also described as “no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes”. Pluralistic ignorance is a bias about a social group, held by the members of that social group.

Pluralistic ignorance may help to explain the bystander effect. If no-one acts, onlookers may believe others consider taking action to be improper, and may therefore themselves refrain from acting.

Psychology Phenomena {38} ~ The Lady Macbeth Effect

The supposed Lady Macbeth effect or Macbeth effect is a priming effect said to occur when response to a cleaning cue is increased after having been induced by a feeling of shame. The effect is named after the Lady Macbeth character in the Shakespeare play Macbeth; she imagined bloodstains on her hands after committing murder.

A painting by Gabriel von Max depicting Lady Macbeth attempting to clean her hand with the folded edge of her dress
In one experiment, different groups of participants were asked to recall a good or bad past deed, after which they were asked to fill in the letters of three incomplete words: “W_ H”, “SH ER” and “S _P”. Those who had been asked to recall a bad deed were about 60% more likely to respond with cleansing-related words like “wash”, “shower” and “soap” instead of alternatives such as “wish”, “shaker” or “stop”.

In another experiment, experimenters were able to reduce choice-supportive bias by having subjects engage in forms of self-cleaning.

The effect is apparently localized enough that those who had been asked to lie verbally preferred an oral cleaning product and those asked to lie in writing preferred a hand cleaning product over the other kind of cleanser and other control items.

Other researchers have been unable to replicate the basic effect using larger samples. Replication difficulties have emerged for three out of four of Zhong and Liljenquist’s original studies. A meta-analysis of 15 studies examining the relationship between primes related to moral threat and cleansing preferences found a small effect, with no significant relationship evident across 11 studies conducted by researchers other than the original ones.

Psychology Phenomena {37} ~ The Missing Letter Effect

In cognitive psychology, the missing letter effect refers to the finding that, when people are asked to consciously detect target letters while reading text, they miss more letters in frequent function words (e.g. the letter “h” in “the”) than in less frequent, content words. Understanding how, why and where this effect arises becomes useful in explaining the range of cognitive processes that are associated with reading text. The missing letter effect has also been referred to as the reverse word superiority effect, since it describes a phenomenon where letters in more frequent words fail to be identified, instead of letter identification benefitting from increased word frequency.

The method in which researchers utilise to measure this effect is termed a letter detection task. This involves a paper-and-pencil procedure, where readers are asked to circle a target letter, such as “t” every time they come across it while reading a prose passage or text. Researchers measure the number of letter detection errors, or missed circled target letters, in the texts. The missing letter effect is more likely to appear when reading words that are part of a normal sequence, than when words are embedded in a mixed-up sequence (e.g. readers asked to read backwards).

Despite the missing letter effect being a common phenomenon, there are different factors that have influence on the magnitude of this effect. Age (development), language proficiency and the position of target letters in words are some of these factors.

Psychology Phenomena {34} ~ The Overjustification Effect

The overjustification effect occurs when an expected external incentive such as money or prizes decreases a person’s intrinsic motivation to perform a task. Overjustification is an explanation for the phenomenon known as motivational “crowding out”. The overall effect of offering a reward for a previously unrewarded activity is a shift to extrinsic motivation and the undermining of pre-existing intrinsic motivation. Once rewards are no longer offered, interest in the activity is lost; prior intrinsic motivation does not return, and extrinsic rewards must be continuously offered as motivation to sustain the activity.

Psychology Phenomena {33} ~ The Martha Mitchell Effect

The Martha Mitchell effect refers to the process by which a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health clinician, or other medical professional labels a patient’s accurate perception of real events as delusional, resulting in misdiagnosis.

According to Bell et al., “Sometimes, improbable reports are erroneously assumed to be symptoms of mental illness (Maher, 1998)”, due to a “failure or inability to verify whether the events have actually taken place, no matter how improbable intuitively they might appear to the busy clinician”.

Examples of such situations are:

~Pursuit by organized criminals
~Surveillance by law enforcement officers
~Infidelity by a spouse
Physical issues
Quoting psychotherapist Joseph Berke, the authors report that, “even paranoids have enemies”. Delusions are “abnormal beliefs” and may be bizarre (considered impossible to be true), or non-bizarre (possible, but considered by the clinician as highly improbable). Beliefs about being poisoned, followed, marital infidelity or a conspiracy in the workplace are examples of non-bizarre beliefs that may be considered delusions. Any patient can be misdiagnosed by clinicians, especially patients with a history of paranoid delusions.

Patients may be diagnosed as delusional when their grievances concern health care workers and/or health care institutions, even when the patient has no history of delusion. “A patient arriving claiming to have been injured by another health care professional is regarded as a crazy person who potentially could ruin the career of an innocent colleague.”

Psychology Phenomena {32} ~ The Florence Nightingale Effect

The Florence Nightingale effect is a trope where a caregiver falls in love with their patient, even if very little communication or contact takes place outside of basic care. Feelings may fade once the patient is no longer in need of care.

The effect is named for Florence Nightingale, a pioneer in the field of nursing in the second half of the 19th century. Due to her dedication to patient care, she was dubbed “The Lady with the Lamp” because of her habit of making rounds at night, previously not done. Her care would forever change the way hospitals treated patients. Most consider Nightingale the founder of modern nursing. There is no record of her having ever fallen in love with one of her patients. In fact, despite multiple suitors, she never married for fear it might interfere with her calling for nursing. Albert Finney referred to the effect as the “Florence Nightingale syndrome” in a 1982 interview, and that phrase was used earlier to refer to health workers pursuing non-tangible rewards in their careers.