AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: psycology

The Science of the Appeal Behind Dark Personalities

A recent study suggests that many people have a mysterious attraction to dark personalities. Specifically, people with traits like Machiavellian, narcissism, and psychopathy. These three traits are called the “Dark Triad” and people with these traits were found to be more attractive than those who were seen to have less of these characteristics. On this surface, it seems bogus. Who in their right mind finds a psychopath to be sexy? However, a quick examination of society proves otherwise. Dark brooding characters seem to be all the rage right now, it’s why movies like the Twilight series sell out (teenage girls swoon over Edward’s moodiness) and why TV shows with characters forced to make morally ambiguous decisions like The Walking Dead are hits.  In the experiment,

Each student was photographed soon after they arrived.  Then, after taking this initial photograph, each student asked to change out of their own clothes and put on a pair of gray sweatpants and a t-shirt…The students were then photographed in this more natural state. Holtzman and Strube showed both sets of photographs to a group of strangers who rated them in terms of physical attractiveness. By comparing the attractiveness ratings of the dressed-down and dressed-up students, the researchers were able to determine how much each student was able to make themselves more appealing through flashy clothes, makeup, accessories, etc.

The students in the study were then tested for the Dark Triad, and the results were confirmed with the friends and family of the students. While there was a definite correlation between attractiveness in the photos of the dressed up students and a high Dark Triad score,

the dark triad score was not related to ratings of physical attractiveness in the dressed-down photos. In other words, people with dark personality traits are not seen as more physically attractive than others when you take away their freedom to wear their own clothes and makeup.

This suggests that people with darker personalities are simply better at making themselves look nice. Do I believe this? To a large extent, yes. The more narcissistic you are, the more you’re going to care about your appearance.
The amygdala is the portion of the brain believed to be responsible for these kinds of personality traits.

The article does add one important point: choose your friends carefully. Social interactions  and the way we perceive others, is a complex mechanism. The amygdala is a small part of the brain that is responsible for much of our social interactions and ability to connect to others. This part of the brain plays a big role in deciding who seems like a potentially good friend and who you may want to avoid. Initially  humans being tend to associate physical attractiveness with goodness and trustworthiness,

a phenomenon known as “the halo effect.” When we perceive someone as physically attractive, we automatically assume they are also kinder, smarter, and more confident. Therefore, creating a physically attractive veneer is a highly effective way of creating an advantageous first impression.


As the saying goes: don’t judge a book by its cover.





Just for fun, I took a Dark Triad quiz.  Click on he link to take it yourself. Judging from my score, I should be able to make myself look like Miss Universe. I can’t, in case you were wondering. As with any kind of generalizations such as these, they are never 100%. Leave a comment with your result. Do you agree with it?

All Procrastinators Must Read!

Credit: quinn.anya Flickr

Have you ever found yourself procrastinating? As a High-School Student, I find that there are only two types of answers a person can give to this type of question. Yes (the truth), and no (a lie). Procrastination  is a big problem faced by students of all ages, and is a very prominent symotom of senioritis  . It can also lead to health issues, such as insomnia . After doing research, I came up with an article that can help explain procrastination, and come up with ways to help self-regulation .

In this article , Julie Morgenstern (productivity consultant in New York, author of Time Management From the Inside Out) provides an explination of procrastination, saying that people tend to put off their work because they are overwhelmed. Maybe there’s something going on at home? Or maybe your workload just looks way to big that day? Whatever it is, it is messing with your ability to get your work done (or even start it!). Procrastinators tend to waste their time by responding to trivial emails, or cleaning their workspace because accomplishing these stress-less tasks gives the person a “momentary sense of accomplishment”.

The psycology behind procrastinating presents a theory that procrastinators “would rather be accused of lacing effort than lacking ability; the idea is: If I never finish, I can never be judged” (Mr. Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success.). In addition, procrastinators present a fear of failure . That is, the idea that “if I do well, you might expect more from me next time, and I don’t know if I can come through”(ibid).

Procrastination is also a method used by perfectionists . Morgenstern comments that “perfectionists often tend to need the pressure of the deadline to force themselves to finish”. Have you ever found yourself doing better “under pressure” than just working in advance?

The solution: break it down. If you have a major project due find a way to break down the steps required to complete the project, and focus on completing each step. Also, try setting up a reward system. For example, let’s say I have an AP Lit essay due next week. In my reward system, if I complete the task of finding all the quotes I plan on using, I reward myself with 20 minutes of internet-surfing. If I finish my basic outline, I reward myself with one full episode of The Office (etc). If a reward system down’t work, trying altering your surroundings. Bring your work outside, or just go work in a different room.

For more info on procrastination (and how to cure it), check out this website:

You Have The Power!

Credit: scui3asteveo on Flickr

Do you have willpower? Are you able to resist the temptation of a cookie while on a diet, or checking your facebook while you should be doing homework?

The theory that has been misleading people is that willpower is connected to a person’s biological makeup, and that the reason they don’t have the willpower to walk away from temptation is purely because of biology. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and the only thing that has the power to override your willpower, is you.

In a recent study, psychologist Veronika Job proved that willpower and self-control are actually related to working hard and exercising certain parts of your brain. “When you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one – then people successfully exert more willpower” (Job). Job took two groups of people, giving one group a simple task that required no self-control (crossing off every e in a typed text), and the other group a task that required little self-control (crossing off some e’s according to complex rules). After these two tests, the groups were required to perform a tricky cognitive test that involved a lot of self-control to avoid making mistakes. The first group performed well, believing that their “supply” of willpower had not been used up yet, while the second group felt that theirs had depleted, and performed poorly, except for a few people that felt willpower is not limited and performed well.

This study shows that anyone can believe that willpower is unlimited, and if some people can believe it, and prove it, then why shouldn’t you?

In another study, Job followed 153 college students, taking note of them over 5 weeks (including finals week). During stressful times, the students who believed in unlimited willpower ate less junk food, procrastinated less, and earned better grades than their “pessimistic” friends.

The sign that people generally look for to tell that their willpower has been limited is fatigue. If people begin to feel tired, they start to slack off because they believe their “battery” has just run out and they need to wait for it to “charge”. People who believe in unlimited willpower simply dig deeper to better recourses, refusing to give up.

So the next time you have a test coming up, and you start to slack off, think of what kind of person that makes you. Are you the type of person who can be so easily defeated by fatigue? Or are you the type that refuses to give up until the task at hand is done? Because only you have the power to make that choice!

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