Read Quirkology Online

Authors: Richard Wiseman


Table of Contents
Table of Figures
What is the use of such a study? The criticism implied in this question has never bothered me, for any activity seems to me of value if it satisfies curiosity, stimulates ideas, and gives a new slant to our understanding of the social world.
The Mysterious Q-Test
Before we begin, please take a few moments to complete the following exercise.
Using the first finger of your dominant hand, please trace the capital letter
on your forehead.
There are two ways of completing the exercise. You can draw the letter
with the tail of the
toward your right eye like this:
In this case,
can read it, but someone facing you can’t.
Or you can draw it with the tail of the
toward your left eye.
In this case, someone
facing you
can read it, but you can’t.
As we will discover later, the way in which you completed the task reveals a great deal about an important aspect of your life.
Exploring the Backwaters of the Human Brain
have long been fascinated by the quirky side of human behavior. When I was a psychology undergraduate, one of my very first experiments involved standing for hours in London’s King’s Cross railroad station looking for people meeting partners who had just gotten off a train. The moment they were locked in a passionate embrace, I would walk up to them, trigger a hidden stopwatch in my pocket, and ask, “Excuse me, do you mind taking part in a psychology experiment? How many seconds have passed since I just said the words ‘excuse me’?” After querying around fifty such couples, I discovered that people greatly underestimate the passing of time when they are in love, or, as Albert Einstein once said, “Sit with a beautiful woman for an hour and it seems like a minute, sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour—that’s relativity.”
An interest in the more unusual aspects of psychology has continued throughout my career. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I traveled north to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and spent four years working on a doctorate examining the psychology of deception. Once that was completed, I accepted an academic position at the University of Hertfordshire, and set up my own research unit to examine unusual areas of psychology. I am not the first academic to be fascinated by this approach to examining behavior. Each generation of scientists has produced a small number of researchers who have investigated the strange and unusual.

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