Off topic: How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion
Thread poster: Vito Smolej

Vito Smolej
Local time: 09:54
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
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Jul 21, 2009

by Daniel M. Wegner

published in 3 JULY 2009 VOL 325 SCIENCE

In slapstick comedy, the worst thing that could happen usually does: The person with a sore toe manages to stub it, sometimes twice. Such errors also arise in daily life, and research traces the tendency to do precisely the worst thing to ironic processes of mental control. These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations, but they also increase the likelihood of such errors when we attempt to exert control under mental load (stress, time pressure, or distraction). Ironic errors in attention and memory occur with identifiable brain activity and prompt recurrent unwanted thoughts; attraction to forbidden desires; expression of objectionable social prejudices; production of movement errors; and rebounds of negative experiences such as anxiety, pain, and depression. Such ironies can be overcome when effective control strategies are deployed and mental load is minimized.


Fig. 3. Sample tracings of 30-s videos from below a handheld pendulum on a string when pendulum
holder is asked to (A) hold it steady, (B) keep it from swinging parallel to the arrow, (C) hold it
steady while counting backward from 1000 by threes, or (D) keep it from swinging parallel to the
arrow while counting backward from 1000 by threes. [Figure based on data from (43).]

PS: "Irony, Irony of it all" - borrowed from "The heart of darkess"


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How to Think, Say, or Do Precisely the Worst Thing for Any Occasion

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