Magazine article Psychology Today

Stopped in Your Tracks

Magazine article Psychology Today

Stopped in Your Tracks

Article excerpt

ONE SCIENTIST TAKES THE MEASURE OF OUR AMAZEMENT

A MESMERIZING WORK of art, an unbelievable story, a nail-biterof a basketball game-some thingsare just naturally captivating. Why these, though, and not the drying of paint? In Riveted, JIM DAVIES, a cognitive scientist at Carleton University, proposes four overarching characteristics of the things that enthrall us.

-Kelly Dickerson

People are fascinated by other people, so most things we find compelling have a human element. This is often why we feel so enthralled by fictional characters, and why the finale of a favorite TV show can feel like the end of a real-life relationship. Religions enlist this affinity to make their teachings more accessible, Davies says, by assigning "humanlike qualities and characteristics to god-like entities."

Feelings of hope and fear command attention. This is one way the evening news keeps us tuned in. A broadcast often starts with a question that arouses fear ("Is drunk driving on the rise?"] but follows up with something hopeful [like a program to prevent DUI). …

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