Time runs differently when you're vacationing in Paris. Sculpture at Gare St-Lazare, Paris. Photo © David McSpadden, via flickr and creative commons‘When I play Candy Land with my five-year-old, time creeps,” she says. “A game lasts only 10 minutes, but it feels like two hours to me.”

My friend is describing her experience of subjective time. The clock in her phone steadily marks the minutes, no matter what she does. Yet while she plays Candy Land— a board game that requires no reading, minimal counting skills, and is popular with young children—her brain measures time in a decidedly Dali-esque way. It perceives each second as stretching and warping around the experience of the game. Compared to the experience of time during the game, she finds time compresses and races before and after playing.

“My daughter finds the 10 minutes flash by like lightening.” More »

Photo © Rebecca Pollard, via flickr and Creative CommonsSeven of Victoria’s video-game studios recently launched new games. The games, which include TinyMob’s Tiny Realms and GameHouse’s new version of Slingo, highlight the industry’s growth in the region.

The 20 or so Victoria-based studios employ 240 people and spend about $25 million annually. Eight years ago, about 40 people worked in local game studios.

On a global scale, gaming revenues are predicted to grow to $78 billion in the next two years.

The industry’s growth mirrors that in other digital technology industries. As the Internet advanced in sophistication and conquered both the wider, geographic world and our personal time, so have video games.

We’ve come a long way, baby, from Pokémon, Doom and The Legend of Zelda.

Game designers have also become more sophisticated in attracting and retaining players.

In many games, designers intentionally manipulate players to keep them online and to keep them returning to play more, again and at higher levels. They design consequences into games to prevent players from stopping play, and build in rewards for players who stay in the game, move up to higher levels and to subscribe to advance the game….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Single-serving bags of chips. Photo © m01229, via flickr and Creative Commons

Nature Boy waved a bag of potato chips at me.

“No, thanks. I’m not hungry,” I said.

“But when you see this bag, how do you feel? Do you feel a twinge of guilt? Do you feel nostalgic?”

“Actually, right now, I feel puzzled and exasperated….”

Nature Boy’s household psychological experiment came after he’d read about neuromarketing, a field of study that examines how the sight of certain products triggers specific and not always expected emotional responses deep within people’s brains.

That’s the neuro-part of the field. The marketing part comes when companies use that information to design, package and position products to increase sales….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Playing on beach. Photo © Wynand Strydom, via creative commons and flickr

Summer calls. Many youngsters stand at the leading edge of the season and anticipate two months of endless days, sunshine, mucking around and running about. Two whole months of playing!

However, many instead will endure a packed roster of prebooked, highly managed and directed activities. Many will take part in day camp after day camp, week after week. Many will have formal and informal learning activities thrust upon them. Most will be signed up for numerous and various pursuits that will keep them occupied and out of trouble until Mom and Dad or the grandparents can take their allotted summer vacations.

Few kids will have much time for play.

Many psychologists consider play an endangered activity. Today’s children experience little free time. They participate in activities, take lessons… even play dates must be scheduled and have unwritten agendas. So much of what kids do comes with explicit expectations, predetermined objectives, and the pressing, stress-inducing need to be somewhere at such and such a time, then off to somewhere else for something else, with little time between.

The danger in all this busy-ness, warn child-development experts, is that it comes at the cost of free, creative play. Researchers have long rooted around in the human mind to tease out how play affects kids in the moment, a few months down the road, and later on when they become adults.

Play, they’ve found, is essential for children’s social, physical, mental and emotional development and health. Scientists have found that play increases mental and emotional flexibility, creativity, and social skills, as well as increases kids’ abilities to find meaning in experiences, regulate their emotions and stress, express themselves creatively, coherently and spontaneously, and think laterally and divergently….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Dogs are attuned to their people, but who is in charge. Photo © Stefan Holodnick, dailyinvention.com, via creative commons.

Some dogs show more intelligence than most people. Or so their owners tell me.

Perhaps thinking of one’s four-legged best friend as brighter than one’s children—perhaps not one’s children, but possibly one’s in-laws—goes with the territory of being a dog owner. Much like people universally describing their driving skills or their children’s giftedness as better than average.

I don’t know if the “my dog is smarter than most people” phenomenon is universal to two-legged members of clan Canis. I do, however, know I am required by friends to adjust my vocabulary in certain canine company. Forbidden words include W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-A-L-L and C-A-T.

According to University of B.C. psychologist and canine-intelligence expert Stanley Coren, dogs can learn about 160 words. Exceptionally bright pooches can attain a vocabulary of about 300 words….

Read the rest in the Victoria Times Colonist….


Anticipating a vacation extends the period of happiness a vacation causes. Photo by Ralph Daily

A friend started a long-planned vacation last week. I interrupted her last-minute preparations with a phone call to wish her a happy and safe journey.

“You must be really looking forward to this.”

“Umm, well…. I am…. Now.”

“Just now?”

“You know, I’d booked the essentials almost a year ago, but I haven’t thought about it much since. With everything that’s been going on at work, I just haven’t had the time.”

Alas for my friend, in neglecting to nurture anticipation for her vacation, she has cheated herself out of some key holiday-related happiness. Psychologists have been trying to nail down the effects of vacations on emotional wellbeing for years. The verdict to date is that taking vacations boosts a person’s overall level of happiness only slightly and only over the very short term. However, a person can engineer an early jump in their vacation gladness—they can extend the holiday-happiness window—if they consciously feed their own anticipation for the getaway….

Continue reading this article at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Sign for voting place. Photo by Roland TanglaoAdvance voting in B.C.’s provincial election closes today. Pollsters and pundits are pontificating on what it all means for Tuesday’s general vote. Meanwhile, I ponder how my own biases, tendencies and other psychological traits influence my perceptions of this election campaign.

Elections build community. The electoral process involves and engages (some) citizens. It commits them to common cause and values.

But communities, like nations, come with borders. Who and what are excluded defines a community as much as who and what are included.

And many election campaigns focus more on building fences around similarities than on building bridges between differences. Parties seeking election strive to distinguish themselves from the pack. They also work to define their communities, so they can efficiently entrench that support and effectively woo voters just beyond — but not too far beyond — the boundaries.

Nonetheless, the process of “building community” via democratic election can be divisive. There’s nothing like an election with one or two emotional issues to emphasize differences.

Our biases and tendencies have been shown to be subconscious and uncontrollable, even when we know they exist and how they manifest, and try to guard against them.

Let’s peek into our psyches to see how some social-psychological factors might influence us at election time.

Continue reading at the Victoria Times Colonist….