Be one with Flappy Bird: The science of 'flow' in game design

When the smartphone phenomenon Flappy Bird took off not so long ago -- and before it morphed into something uncontrollable and became its own hard-to-swallow lesson for the game industry -- it was as if everyone you'd ever known had suddenly stumbled on mobile gaming's most brilliantly manufactured drug. Facebook and Instragram were awash in high score screenshots and admissions of addiction-fueled guilt while all of Twitter might as well have been Flappy Bird references with some news and global chatter sandwiched in between.

One particularly interesting boast from a friend of mine, who had hit … Read more

Are you Superman or Voldemort? Avatars may affect the real you

Video games have long provided a safe way for players to try out different personalities. In the land of pixels and pretend, we can try out the role of lithe, attractive do-gooder elf or become a hideous orc who leaves a trail of havoc (and dead elves) in our wake.

Most of us probably assume that after the game is over, we return to being simple boyfriends, moms, teachers, or accountants operating according to our own moral principles, regardless of the virtual personas we took on. New research, however, indicates that this just might not be the case. … Read more

Too much Facebook can make you unfaithful

They always told me that freedom was all about choice.

Then I got that choice and realized that things weren't so easy.

How is one supposed to choose when one has 300 TV channels or 150 bars or 500 million members of one's target sex on Facebook?

We are not equipped for discernment. We are mere chemicals trying to get through the day.

Now, the worst has been confirmed by science. A study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking says that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more your eyes will wander toward … Read more

Short people got no reason to live, study (kinda) says

Put yourself in the shoes of the short.

Far too often, they're forced the crane their necks to talk or merely look someone in the eye. Far too often, they move in for a hug, and instead of enjoying the nape of a neck all they get is the cushion of a belly.

Some very fine British researchers feared that those on the smaller side might suffer a corresponding sense of self-worth simply because of their size. So they concocted an experiment at Oxford University to test the long and the short of it.

What they found was depressing.… Read more

How real are cinema psychos? New study finds out

Was Norman Bates really a psycho, or was Hitchcock's classic character just a misdiagnosed pseudopsychopath? Just because you torture your favorite author like Annie Wilkes did in "Misery," does that make you more realistic than Baby Firefly in "The Devil's Rejects"?

For a recent study titled "Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction?" physicians Samuel J. Leistedt and Paul Linkowski studied more than 400 films released in the last century to determine which fictional psychopathic characters were indeed portrayed accurately.

Out of the films, 126 fictional psychopathic characters -- 21 female and 105 male -- were selected to be examined based on the "realism and clinical accuracy of their profiles," according to the paper, which was published in December in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Senior forensic psychiatrists and cinema critics then analyzed the films and their psychopathic characters.… Read more

Constantly taking photos may mess with your memory

All right, Apple. It's like this.

You like to tell us that more people take pictures with the iPhone than any other camera.

You like to make ads in which, if you're not taking a picture of something, you can't be said to be living.

But just stop it. You might be messing with our memory.

That, at least, seems to be the conclusion from a depressingly modern piece of research performed by the Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Published in Psychological Science, this study took its subjects on a tour of an art museum, then tested their … Read more

E-paper Rorschach wristwatch will have you seeing spots

You'd think notorious watchmaker Tokyoflash would be run by a gang of mad scientists determined to drive people crazy with their incomprehensible timepieces.

But during a recent visit to its headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, I found a positively tranquil office housed in a charming and rare prewar building.

I was quickly given some hands-on time with the Kisai Rorschach, a recent creation that uses an e-paper display from E Ink to create inscrutable inkblots that would have made Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach proud. … Read more

The great new scourge: Instagram envy

Do you feel inadequate?

Do you look around and wonder if you could have been a contender? A contender for most interesting man or woman in the world?

Do you believe that, if a court case had gone your way, or if you hadn't been a touch tipsy when you met the heir or heiress to a substantial fortune, you would be living the life of your dreams -- and, importantly, posting pictures of it every day?

Some who feel this way are, apparently, resorting to living vicariously through society's latest mirror: Instagram.… Read more

Great news! Engineers aren't psychopaths (but CEOs are)

I've been feeling a little disturbed lately. Slightly insane things are happening all around me and nothing seems to make sense anymore.

So I thought I'd seek out some information about psychopathy, in the hope of making myself feel better -- or at least understood.

Somehow, I stumbled upon an article on The Week that disturbed me even more. In casual style, it wondered which professions contained the greatest number of psychopaths and which ones had the fewest.

Honestly, I thought engineers would be somewhere near the top of the list. The ones I know are intense creatures, prone to excessive rational thought and irrational action.… Read more

How to tell if your kid is addicted to the iPad

The prime purpose of an iPad, at least as far as I understand it, is to keep people quiet.

Let them disappear into their tablet and entertain themselves, and peace will reign.

There is, though, the danger that you might get hooked. Especially if you are, say, 3 years old.

A British-based psychologist has therefore created a list of five warning signs for parents to look out for. … Read more