October is nearly behind us, but not before the widely popular celebration of Halloween on Monday. It’s a time for transforming an ordinary pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern and putting spooky decorations in yards and windows. Children, adults, and even pets will dress-up in costumes that run the gamut of adorable to horrible. At long last, this year participation in Halloween activities is expected to be back to pre-pandemic levels, with 69% planning to celebrate the holiday this year, up from 65% in 2021 and comparable to 68% in 2019 according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. Better stock up on candy and goodies for trick and treaters!
Halloween traditions also include haunted houses which, like trick-or-treating, originated during the Great Depression. According to historians, parents and community leaders started haunted houses to distract young boys who had redefined Halloween pranks to include vandalism, setting fires and other acts that destroyed property and endangered lives. These DIY haunted houses were simple – the dark basement of a neighborhood house decorated with pieces of fur and uncooked liver on the walls, damp sponges hung from the ceiling, black cat cut-outs and tunnels to navigate. Kids would put their hand in a bowl of peeled grapes that they were told were eyeballs to further add to the illusion of a frightening, haunted place!
We actively fall victim to the illusions during Halloween and in amusement parks and haunted houses, responding with fear or delight. But these are not the only illusions that challenge our rational thinking. Illusions can be created by information we hear, read or never read. Yale University researchers found people had an illusion of knowledge after searching the internet for a particular topic, even if they found nothing in the search. In the late 1990s, researchers found that when people hear the same false information repeated again and again, they often come to believe it is true – including people who initially know that the misinformation is false. Commonly called the illusory truth effect (also known as the illusion of truth effect, validity effect, or truth effect), this psychological phenomenon continues to be validated in current studies of misinformation in health, political, and science.
Carve out some time on this Halloween weekend to check out the following:
1. No Illusion
- Whites now more likely to die from covid than Blacks: Why the pandemic shifted (The Washington Post)
- Employers Are Concerned About Covering Workers’ Mental Health Needs, Survey Finds (Kaiser Health News)
- 1 in 10 older Americans has dementia (Univ. of MI Health)
2. Don’t Be Tricked
- Video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children (National Institutes of Health)
- Misinformation, Disinformation, and Propaganda: Infographic: Spot Fake News (Cornell University)
3. Pick Your Poison
- Symposium highlights emerging influence of toxicants in neurologic disease (American Neurological Association)
4. Lift your spirits
- How the Great Pumpkin Became Great (JSTOR Daily)
- How to Live With a Ghost (New York Times)
- Can You Find the Ghost (Seek & Find)
- A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials. One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon (Smithsonian Magazine)
Enjoy your weekend!
Suzanne Daniels, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 1416
Birmingham, MI 48012
Office: (248) 792-2187
Email: [email protected]