Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What flavor of perfectionist are you?

What flavor of perfectionist are you? It matters! | Psychology Today Blogs

Flavors of perfectionism? I did not know that.

The Art of Neurodiversity

The Art of Neurodiversity | Psychology Today Blogs

Very impressive. Essentially a video of an autistic savant who has an extremely high aptitude for both nearly photographic memory and art.

Well worth a watch.

Top 10 Memory Hacks

Lifehacker Top 10: Top 10 Memory Hacks

Not a bad list. It uses both old, tried-and-true methods and incorporates some newer methods based on very recent research.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My new favorite site

Dr. Mezmer's Blog of Bad Psychology: Mezmer's Maxims:

I am so happy I discovered Dr. Mezmer's site. Below is a sample from his list of "Maxims":

Pinker's Principle: There are two sides to every argument, unless a psychologist is involved, in which case there is only one.

Wright's Law: Never argue with a fool. People might not know the difference.

Mezmer's Law of Science: The specialist learns more and more about less and less until, finally, he knows everything about nothing; whereas the generalist learns more and more until, finally, he knows nothing about everything.

There is oh, so much more. Go forth and read.

Improve your "fluid intelligence"

Not Exactly Rocket Science : Single memory training task improves overall problem-solving intelligence

The author makes some great points about the latest craze in "brain training" - many of which I agree with, but find slightly unfortunate, mostly because I love the site Sharp Brains (and they're all about brain training research, some of which is quite good).

Still, this research showing how you can improve your fluid intelligence with simple memory training tasks (and memory training has proven to be effective, even if it doesn't involve the same kind of training that would make intuitive sense).

So that's good news.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mezmer's Dictionary of Bad Psychology

This is just too freaking awesome not to post about. In fact, it's so spiffy that I've included it in my links section under "Humor."

Genius stuff.

UPDATE: Holy crap. The more I read in this thing the more genius it is. It's sure to get a few people out there really peeved, but that's part of what makes it so darned funny. Nothing is sacred. Also, be sure to check out the parent site: Dr. Mezmer's World of Bad Psychology. I was especially amused by his skewering of evolutionary psychology - he's really got a burr under his saddle over that subject. Hilarious.

High self-esteem is not always what it's cracked up to be

High self-esteem is not always what it's cracked up to be, says UGA psychologist

This is more of a study of extremes, but there are some very interesting conclusions here.

Emerging technologies for learning

Becta Government & partners - Research - Reports and publications - Emerging technologies for learning

Some really interesting articles in here. Apparently the company is a British governmental agency and they are reporting on the British equivalent of the K-12 system here in the U.S.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Daniel Gilbert - Happiness Researcher

Daniel Gilbert - Happiness Researcher - New York Times

Fun interview.

Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

YouTube - parts of the brain

What compendium of brain science would be complete without a link to the incredible Pinky and the Brain and their wonderful song: Parts of the Brain.

Genius stuff. "Brain-stem! Brain-stem!"

Also, do not EVER try and follow this. Vocal and brain injury will definitely occur.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The core modern argument against Free Will

Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them


This article is quite interesting. Apparently (where simple decisions are concerned) our brain makes "decisions" about what we are going to do several seconds before we actually perceive the actual choice.

Apparently this is evidence that we do not have free will. The idea being that we are completely at the mercy of the neurochemical processes inside our brains, about which we have no awareness and therefore are devoid of any control.

I would like to propose another interpretation: saying that this provides evidence that we have over our own decisions is a bit shortsighted; we're talking about extremely simple decisions. From the experiment linked here they are talking about the choice of whether or not to use the right or left hand to push a button.

Before you make any conclusions about overall decision making processes, how about you do some more research on identifying the neural activity involved in complex decision making processes?

Is it possible that self-perception and decision-making processes for more complex activities fall under a more positive interpretation of "free will" and therefore contribute to building the brain (neural connections) in a particular way that would influence the brain's activity in simpler actions?

Sorry - I just can't buy that we (even if you want to go from an evolutionary perspective) would have such a strong sense of free will if it was all just an illusion. As with most research, early interpretations are probably wrong or at the very least highly simplified and the larger implications misinterpreted.

UPDATE: For some fun discussion on the subject go to the Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams. He is a proponent of the idea that we have no free will and posts sporadically on it, which always results in a slew of highly entertaining comments. His latest post is no exception.

UPDATE: more here

I've posted a lot about this in the past, so here are some more recent articles to look at as well: here, and here.

UPDATE: seems that similar research involving the use of EEG were done 30 years ago. Amazing.

UPDATE: even more here. And further history about the research here.

UPDATE: At least this guy provides a unique way of describing what he thinks.

UPDATE: And here's a fun little experiment of some potential consequences.

I started a "Gender differences" blog a while back (the topic has sort of died down as of late so I've been neglecting it) - but from the looks of it I may have to start a "Free Will" blog just to keep track of all this stuff.

UPDATE: I may just do that blog after all, if for no other reason than to have a place to keep track of this discussion. Here is some more on someone who interprets the data on behalf of free will. His argument is sort of semantic in nature, but it is interesting nevertheless.

Good heavens: still more here!

Gee, do you think this is a hot topic? Seriously, nearly every one of these posts has been produced inside the last week. Incredible.

Antidepressants and neurogenesis / plasticity

The Mouse Trap: Antidepressants and neurogenesis / plasticity

So, anti-depressants have a very direct effect on brain plasticity. How's that for an unforseen consequence for medical intervention!

More here.

Space versus body based number representation

Deric Bownds' MindBlog: Space versus body based number representation

Embodied cognition strikes again.

Praise or Social Standing = money?

Praise = money?

Talk to ANY behaviorist (or Operant Conditioning maven) and they'll tell you the exact same thing. This cannot POSSIBLY come as any surprise in the anals of research.

However, the brain imaging results of similar research makes it much more interesting to consider.

Book focuses on how people of color, women use Internet, digital media

Book focuses on how people of color, women use Internet, digital media

I'd be more interested in a comparisson between cultures and genders, so hopefully the book provides stats and usage trends from both sides rather than focusing on just the titled perspectives without providing any context.

Dominant personalities biased toward the vertical?

Not sure what the authors of this study were trying to find and or prove, but the results are certainly rather interesting.

More here.

Story problems vs. symbology

Not Exactly Rocket Science : When learning maths, abstract symbols work better than real-world examples

My, how I do wish this research had appeared in the late 70's - before I had to deal with word problems in my education. It could have saved me a lot of pain.

More thoughts here.

International Positive Psychology Association

IPPA Network | Home | Positive Psychology

This sounds like something I'd be interested in, if I were choosing to go into counseling or therapy - which I am not.

Eric Kandel Interview

Eric Kandel im Interview | ScienceBlogs.de - Wissenschaft, Kultur, Politik

I've been reading his book "Searching for Memory" (which was published after I first started this blog - so don't think I copied the title of this blog from his book) which is quite good. It provides a wonderfully narrated historical perspective on the development of neuroscience, and specifically about the cellular/molecular developments in neuroscience from the very beginning of our understanding of the brain up to our present levels.

His narrative takes rather personal turns at times with personal remembrances of departed colleagues or reference to life events (including a fairly frequent reference to a sexual encounter he had with his housekeeper at a very tender age - which was somewhat disturbing and of questionable utility to the overall narrative in my mind), but overall the frequent forays into personal history and feelings add a sort of charm to the narrative. The text remains lucid and his historical/personal discovery approach provide the perfect setting for being able to grasp the complex subject matter from general principles by building from the ground up.

He's a living scientific legend and a legend in the psychological community.

Gender Stereotypes

Proof that men and women activate stereotypes of competence and sociability respectively

Seems like this falls on the heels of the "categorization" post about the NYTimes article.

More on stereotypes, including a rather brilliant analysis of stereotypes in science here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Can language change your thoughts?

When Language Can Hold the Answer - New York Times

Great article in the NYTimes on the Whorfian debates, summarized rather nicely in the article:
Does language shape what we perceive, a position associated with the late Benjamin Lee Whorf, or are our perceptions pure sensory impressions, immune to the arbitrary ways that language carves up the world?
The article goes on to look at some recent research that seems to emphasize the primacy of the idea that language can indeed shape what we perceive - or at least help us to learn by assisting in more rapid categorization.

More thoughts on this research here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pay Attention! Brain Scanners Detect Slip-Ups Before You Do

Pay Attention! Brain Scanners Detect Slip-Ups Before You Do

Research following along the lines of the "free will" stuff, but this one seems to be actually potentially useful. Of course, it would necessitate monitoring of the brain on a constant basis to actually be useful, so I don't see this as something that college students will be using any time soon.

More on this research here.

Nurture over nature

Nurture over nature

Seems that the interaction between the two is more the argument here. I'm beginning to think that the two cannot be isolated very well if at all. As with most things, the truth probably lies in the middle between the two extremes, and even in an interaction model there will be those who will weight one side stronger than another. However, I do think that there should be more interaction studies like this one to see how one is influenced by the other.

Video gamers have Asperger's syndrome?

Discovery News : Discovery Channel

That's not what the article is saying, but it is saying that the two groups exhibit the same characteristics, which is pretty much the same thing from a certain perspective.

I'm not buying it though. I need to know how old the 'gamers' were - teenagers, for example, are notoriously difficult to diagnose, especially regarding social interactions. Also, how soon after (or during?) the playing of a game were they interviewed? Did they bother to do the same test to people playing sports? What about musicians? Or how about actors?

The information in the article is limited, but I would be very, very cautious about making statements like they did without first being a little more exhaustive in my research.

UPDATE: More research on the effects of violent video games here.

Virtually the same comments I made above apply to this research.

Numb your brain

Discovery News : Discovery Channel

Do something dull.

Hey, challenge yourself and attempt to watch c-span for more than 5 minutes and you'll wish you weren't just numb....

Craving money, chocolate and… justice

Craving money, chocolate and… justice « Neuroanthropology

Greg Downey makes some incredible points in this article. Primarily one that I've been espousing for years, namely that it is just sickening how the popular media (and pop culture in general as a consequence) take research results that are narrow in scope and difficult to interpret, much less apply outside an extremely narrow experimental realm, and blow it out of proportion and even assign new interpretations that fit the popular conceit of the day.

I've recently been getting a slew of "election" based e-mails telling me a whole bunch of "important" things about the candidates that I "need to know" (!) - so far for every single one of them I've gone to snopes.com to do a search if they are truth or fiction and every one (every one) so far has been completely false. Think about that....not only am I getting sent "important" information that is false, but apparently it's so widespread that it is appearing on snopes.com and it STILL keeps going around.

My point is that once people get a wrong interpretation of things it tends to stick for a very long time despite abundant evidence to the contrary. The snap interpretations made of rather complex research can be damaging to additional similar research over time.

I'm not saying that the research is beyond understanding of lay-persons, I'm merely suggesting that the reporters who pass along the message could do with a little expert opinion to make sure that they're interpreting the research correctly.

The really sad part is that no matter what your area of expertise, I guarantee that if you've ever seen a journalist report on something of consequence in your field, you probably rolled your eyes and reacted with disbelief about how wrong they were or how they missed key points about the information, and you were probably just as irritated as I am about reporting on brain science.

Them's the breaks I guess.

Procrastination: State-oriented motivation

“It’s just not me”: Projects that won’t get going | Psychology Today Blogs

Are you state or action oriented? Lots of good stuff here.

More on procrastination as a personality issue. And more thoughts on the same subject here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mr. Rogers Was Wrong

Mr. Rogers Was Wrong | Psychology Today Blogs

Well, when you're talking about "self-esteem" and the absolutely unfounded and ridiculous way that it is approached by the touchy-feely, PC, pop-culture mavens then we've known about that for years. Yet somehow motivational researchers have been unable to penetrate the fog that surrounds the pop-culture interpretation of "self-esteem" that has existed since easily the 70's and really became omnipresent in the 90's.

There is a ton of good research that says trying to boost "self-esteem" through positive reinforcement or acceptance simply does not work. At all. Ever. But it keeps getting pushed on us because its an easy way out. It's a "one size fits all" approach. You can make the same analogy to punishment in general. It is by far the least effective method in almost every way for effecting change in an individual - but it's easier to do than to try and find the highly individualized things that will motivate a single individual and provide them with it. Punishing someone is much easier because there are a bunch of punishments that are universally disliked by people, so we do that and hope for the best.

Same thing with "self-esteem" - taking the MUCH more effective individualized approach is much more difficult and time consuming, so we take an "easy" way out and look for universal ways of boosting "self-esteem".

It makes me want to scream sometimes.

Music Has Its Own Geometry, Researchers Find

Music Has Its Own Geometry, Researchers Find

This article is so far beyond my ability to truly grasp, and yet it speaks to me as a musician and one who is interested in mathematics as a sort of hobby.

I'd like to see more research on this and see how and which shapes are generated by specific pieces of music.

Nothing to do with brains or psycholgy - it's just freaky cool.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Fun illusion

Cognitive Daily: The anatomy of an illusion -- and what it tells us about the visual system

Another good site that is devoted to this stuff is mightyopticalillusions.com - I'm fascinated by illusions.

Forgiveness and procrastination

Forgiveness | Psychology Today Blogs

Or rather, does self-forgiveness for procrastination reduce our procrastination the next time?

Working memory has limited 'slots'

Working memory has limited 'slots'

Sort of an update to Millers 7 +/- 2 research.

How Neuroscience Can Help You Get Smarter

How Neuroscience Can Help You Get Smarter | Psychology Today Blogs

For fans of Motivational theory Carol Dweck is a big name, and I'm going to have to buy her new book to see what it has to say, although the principles that it speaks about have been known for some time now with the results of her research being published over the last few years.

Mindfulness Meditation: Thoughts on paying attention

Mindfulness Meditation: Thoughts on paying attention Psychology Today Blogs

There are some fantastic thoughts here on how to increase your ability to pay attention. And since attention is the key to nearly every aspect of cognitive development, I'd say that the more you know about how to pay attention, the better.

The social cognitive neuroscience of business organizations

Deric Bownds' MindBlog: The social cognitive neuroscience of business organizations

More on how various business organizations are looking to incorporate neuroscience into their practices.

Psychology first entered the business realm in advertising and marketing, but Jerome Bruner made some fantastic inroads for psychology into some new and unexpected arenas when he began his work on the Psychology of Law with New York University.

I see only good things coming from all the new collaboration.

How to Deal with Approach Anxiety

How to Deal with Approach Anxiety | Psychology Today Blogs

Or, how to hit on that hottie you've been eying.....

Are humans hardwired for fairness?

Are humans hardwired for fairness?

So, an argument that humans are basically good at heart. Good to hear.

A little more on the subject with attendant brain imagery here.

Sharing Notetaking Secrets

Black Belt Productivity » Blog Archive » Sharing Notetaking Secrets

Here it is, tips for taking notes. It's more directed at writing notes for productivity (read: business), but the tips can work quite well in many applications.

Against peer review

Cognition and Language Lab: Against peer review

I could not agree more with the sentiments expressed in this article. The comment he refers to at the start is absolutely stunning to read. It's not science until it's peer reviewed and published? Are you kidding me?

That commenter needs to learn a lot more about the peer review process, and needs to learn even more about the inherent bias that exists in human minds.

Not to mention that you need look no farther than the Sokal affair to see the flaws in the peer review process.

"E-breakers" are more likely to be procrastinators

"E-breakers" are more likely to be procrastinators | Psychology Today Blogs

Bad news. I'm an e-breaker - and this is right on the money for me, I'm also a horrible procrastinator when I've got the e-break mood on my mind.

Bummer.

Or there's Structured Procrastination....yeah, that's the ticket!

More thoughts on procrastination and self-regulation here.

Drug adverts full of unsupported claims

Mind Hacks: Drug adverts full of unsupported claims

This is probably the least surprising news this decade.

Even brief stress can zap your brain...

Deric Bownds' MindBlog: Even brief stress can zap your brain...

We know that stress is bad for your brain, but now it turns out that even brief amounts of stress can have significant negative effects.

10 Mind-Myths

PsyBlog: 10 Mind-Myths: Do Any of These Catch You Out?

These are actually quite good - I can't tell you how many students in my class ask some of these exact questions.

Pop-culture perception of the brain is just amazingly wrong sometimes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Why do boys and girls prefer different toys?

Why do boys and girls prefer different toys? | Psychology Today Blogs

The study of gender differences fascinates me to no end. Mostly because of the philosophical debates behind the research - and in front of the research for that matter. See the Harvard/Summers brouhaha as a prime example.

That's why this research is so cool. It bypasses humans and moves onto primates where there appears to be some differences in the genders there as well that go beyond the "nurture" argument that is so prevalent as to why differences exist.

The Two Wars in Iraq

The Jawa Report: The Two Wars in Iraq & Mistaken Republican Support for Obama

There is a great deal out there currently on how we view politics, generally the answer is that politics is not rational by any stretch of the imagination. The post linked above is an extremely lucid argument about one of the more salient points of this current election cycle - the war in Iraq.

His argument is that there are/were two wars in Iraq. The first war was the war to topple Saddam's regime. Whether right or wrong, that war is over - Saddam is now dead, as is his regime. The second war is the war we are currently fighting: the war against terrorism and specifically against Al Qaeda.

The main point is that despite your feelings about the first war, or any arguments of legitimacy in support or non-support of it, they are now irrelevant since that war is finished. What counts are your feelings about the current war against a group of terrorists causing havoc across an entire nation (Iraq).

I highly recommend reading it.

Disclaimer: I don't like posting about war or politics very much, but this was such a unique point of view, and so lucidly put together, that I couldn't resist. I found the link from Instapundit.com.

The emerging moral psychology

Web exclusive: 'The emerging moral psychology' by Dan Jones | Prospect Magazine April 2008 issue 145

Worth a read.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are teenage brains really different?

Are teenage brains really different?

This has been another topic of intense research recently. Piaget would be so proud.

Preschool kids do better when they talk to themselves, research shows

Preschool kids do better when they talk to themselves, research shows

So, let your child babble to his/herself.

Meditating makes the brain more compassionate

Meditating makes the brain more compassionate « Neuroanthropology

For those that participate in meditation (including the concept of prayer) on a regular basis this is no surprise.

Temporal Motivation Theory: Formula or Folly?

Temporal Motivation Theory: Formula or Folly? | Psychology Today Blogs

Motivation is an interest of mine - I haven't read much about temporal motivation theory, so after reading this post I am feeling the need to do a little more study on it.

Graphology: Connections Between Handwriting and Personality are Illusory

PsyBlog: Graphology: Connections Between Handwriting and Personality are Illusory

My mother was a BIG proponent of graphology - to the point of annoyance for a few years when I was in high school. I'm fairly certain she still firmly believes in it.

I need to show her this - but it won't make any difference I'm sure.

The science behind cross-linguistic psychology

Running words together: The science behind cross-linguistic psychology

This is one of the great weaknesses of most brain research. Most experiments involve elements of communication (written or spoken) and very little of that research is replicated across different cultures or languages. This is a great step in the direction of finding if those differences actually make a difference.

An excellent example of how cross-cultural research could be very interesting here.

Nothing is funnier than someone else's pain.....

BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Other people's misfortune alleviates our own regret

Not surprising really given that we find so much humor in the pain of others.

Neuroscience of religion

Mind Hacks: Where angels no longer fear to tread

This is a subject that I've been intensely interested in for some time, and I'm glad to see that there is some serious research going on about it.

Makes me wish I had my PhD right now so I could look at the potential of working with the researchers. (which is not the only reason I wish I had my PhD right now, but still...).

UPDATE: Or possibly you'd like to read about the statistics of religion: God is a Type I error. There has actually been a lot of discussion on this subject and I posted on it earlier, but I'm too lazy to find that post just now.

UPDATE: Then again, maybe I need to find it. Here is some more on the original subject of the post - the emerging field of the psychology of the soul.

UPDATE: still more here.

Family wealth may explain differences in test scores in school-age children

Family wealth may explain differences in test scores in school-age children

This is something that has been debated for some time (SES - Socio-economic status - being a classic element to look at when doing statistical analysis on a population). This most certainly won't resolve anything, but it is interesting nevertheless.

Brain TV and Online 3D Images

Brain TV and Online 3D Images « Neuroanthropology

This post has a link to 3 different sites - and I cannot recommend The Visible Body enough - absolutely fabulous.

Music and intelligence

Intelligence and rhythmic accuracy go hand in hand

For some reason this brings to mind the scene in "The Jerk" when Steve Martin ("I was born a small black child") finally manages to get rhythm.

Please don't ask why that was brought to mind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Male brain vs. female brain

Male brain vs. female brain I: Why do men try to figure out their relationships? Why do women talk to their cars? Psychology Today Blogs

Lots of good stuff here.

More related thoughts here.

Part 2 of the same post is here.

Top 100 cognitive science papers

Cognitive Science and the Advance of Ideas « Neuroanthropology

Anytime you get a "Top 100" list, I'm pretty sure it's a requirement to link to it.

Cost of Gas vs. Cost of Education

CARPE DIEM: And You Thought Gas Prices Were High?

This is seriously depressing - although I'm not quite convinced that his "gas quality is the same and the same cannot be said for education" comment. That's a pretty bold statement to make when the jury is still out on that one and different results appear depending on how you look at the data.

Prozac for the Long Term?

Prozac for the Long Term? | Psychology Today Blogs

This is exactly the type of long-term research that I want to see in regards to brain enhancement drugs over which there is so much current debate.

How Much Progress Have Psychology and Psychiatry Really Made?

How Much Progress Have Psychology and Psychiatry Really Made? A Freakonomics Quorum - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog

Absolutely spectacular article. Long, but well worth the read.

More thoughts here.

Fold your arms to boost your performance

BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Fold your arms to boost your performance

A little more on the idea of "embodied cognition" that I've posted about previously.

Procrastination is a good thing?

Procrastination: A strategy for change | Psychology Today Blogs

Read the article - the author really does make an excellent point.

More here.

UPDATE: still more here.

Why do some battered women stay in their abusive relationships?

Why do some battered women stay in their abusive relationships? | Psychology Today Blogs

The arguments here go beyond the normal "entity vs. incremental" motivational theories and tries to get at underlying motives. The most interesting element for me was to find out that studies often show that most women don't really know why they stay in abusive relationships, they attribute it to "I just love him" - which I've seen again and again through friends, and I will never, ever understand.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Magical Thinking

The Mouse Trap: Magical Thinking

Another excellent post that is worth reading. Essentially the article is arguing that the commonly held (in many scientific corners) belief that "mystical" thinking (the type of thinking that leads to a belief in mysticism or attributing supernatural causality for events) may actually have merit in todays digital age.

More here and here.

How to Give a Bad Science Presentation

Of Two Minds : How to Give a Bad Science Presentation

Brilliant stuff - every "presenter" should read/listen/watch this.

New research on the "Self"

The Splintered Mind: Selfless?

Worth a read.

Brainy muscles

Brainy muscles « Neuroanthropology

The gist of this article is that if you're preparing for a specific type of activity, the best training is to actually DO the activity. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Weight training could potentially enhance certain aspects, but the best results are if the weight training reinforces the same type of movements that you encounter in the actual activity.

In other words, you don't just train your muscles, you train your brain for the movements as well.

Paying Students to Learn

The Frontal Cortex : Paying Students to Learn

And yet, studies show that monetary bonuses for adults actually reduce job performance. I'm not quite sure, however, why Jonah (the author of the post) feels like this is "offensive" as a bribe. What the heck does he think a paycheck is? No. Difference. At. All.

Somehow if we're dealing with children pay for performance is offensive, or pay for performance in an educational setting is offensive, but pay for performance in a job is okay.

Whatever.

Categorical color perception: the language effect

The Mouse Trap: Categorical color perception: the language effect

Interesting research, which also can help to unravel the confusion around the Piraha people and the strange linguistic anomalies that occur there.

More about this research here.

Blue Brain - success?

Conscious Entities » Blue Brain - success?

I have been, and continue to be skeptical with any and all AI attempts. The claims have been made since at least the 1970's that a true AI would happen inside the next 10 years (or 20, or 30) - and the target keeps shifting.

I may be alone in my thinking, but we will NEVER have a computer that we program that will truly be intelligent, meaning that it will achieve self-awareness, creativity, and other "human" thought characteristics. We may be able to create a program that could out "think" a human in certain constrained circumstances (see "Big Blue" and the Kasparov chess match) and we may even be able to create a computer that could pass the "Turing Test" - but all of that is merely a result of programming that is complex enough that the computer works through those problems through brute force. We will not ever be able to create "intelligent" life in a machine.

Yes, I'm a technological heretic.

Resisting temptation is energy intensive

Mind Hacks: Resisting temptation is energy intensive

Self-restraint takes some real energy - no wonder self-mastery is one of the hardest things to accomplish.

Brain doping

Brain Enhancement: Beyond Either/Or « Neuroanthropology

This is the scholastic "steroids" argument - if you could "dope" your brain, would you? There have even been a few online pols recently and it seems that a solid majority (around 60%) say: yes, they would take cognitive enhancers.

It sounds tempting, but, like steroids, I don't think we understand the long-term effects of such cognitive tampering yet.

Here's some more on another method of enhancement: brain implants.

And here is a little more on the subject.

And even more here.

The results of an informal poll of potential intellectuals here.

Psychology doesn't make sense

PsyBlog: Why Psychology is Not Just Common Sense

Seems that, for untrained individuals, the "common sense" approach to diagnosing yourself or your friends doesn't work very well. We just don't do well as closet psychologists.

More here.

Does experience make a difference?

Mind Hacks: Are you experienced? Does it matter?

There has been a large amount of research on novice vs. expert abilities, so this research is new information for me, and seems to contradict a lot of the older research.

Class size

Does class size matter?

This has been a contentious issue for a long time so this is interesting, in-depth research. It probably won't convince the naysayers, but still, I like the overall look of the research.

Goodbye insomnia

BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Goodbye insomnia, hello warming body-suit

Mmmmmm.....warming body-suit......

Happiness and Children

The Frontal Cortex : Happiness and Children

The research is interesting, but I think they leave out quite a bit in finding conclusions. Happiness isn't the end-all-be-all of life. What about fulfillment? Immediate happiness rests mostly in the idea that you are fulfilling your immediate concerns and/or desires - but what about long-term happiness? Do people who have children have a more fulfilled and happy later life once the children are grown and grandkids (long-term posterity) start to come along.

While I don't dispute the findings of the research, I think the overall conclusions are a bit off and more longitudinal studies would be required to get a better understanding of the dynamics.

Math and the Brain

The Frontal Cortex : Math and the Brain

Fun research. More here.

Improve Concentration with Mind Exercises

Concentration: Improve Concentration with Mind Exercises

Not a research article, the blog that links to it is more of a "tips and tricks for life" type of thing, still - this is good advice.

Behavioral Economics

The University of Chicago Magazine

So, if you're looking for some type of job to apply for after you get your degree: this could be an emerging field to consider.

UPDATE: applying behavioral economic research to public policy? Wild.

And here's some application research about whether or not bonuses actually enhance performance.

Children's under-achievement could be down to poor working memory

Children's under-achievement could be down to poor working memory

This seems like a pretty simplistic take on what could be a highly complex interaction of a bunch of different cognitive and behavioral constructs.

Creativity - act it out

PsyBlog: Creativity: Action is Everything

This also goes in line with some of the more recent research and thinking that cognition is more than just mental and in fact is enhanced by action and motion.

And it works with math too!

Jazz in the brain

In jazz improv, large portion of brain's prefrontal region 'takes 5' to let creativity flow

Great article. More here and here (including some imagery)

The Power of Expectations

The Frontal Cortex : The Power of Expectations

As with the previous post, expectation play a larger role in our behavior and interpretation of reality.

More here.

PsyBlog: New Study: SSRI Antidepressants 'Clinically Insignificant' For Most People

PsyBlog: New Study: SSRI Antidepressants 'Clinically Insignificant' For Most People

Lots of news about this recently. There is more to study about this, not least of which are things like the "placebo effect."

More on the "chemical imbalance" idea here.

Prediction and Object Recognition

This is some pretty cool stuff.

Dying in video games

Turns out that some gamers actually enjoy dying in video games.

I'd love to see more in-depth research on this. Positive emotions linked with what is, essentially, failure. I also wonder if this is something that occurs only in multi-player battles or if this also occurs in solo game-play.

I can see a whole bevy of psychological testing that could be based off of this small beginning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Violent video games are relaxing

VGChartz.com | News

This is an article I can get behind. I find playing video games to be wonderfully stress relieving. Especially games where I get to put the hurt on a bunch of baddies (Castle Wolfenstein was always a favorite cause you get to blow up Nazis with considerably satisfying frequency, gusto).

The only caveat: if you're losing to the game. Then it's just an exercise in frustration and annoyance.

Not that it has ever happened to me. That's what God-mode was invented for!

Where is inteligence

The Dana Foundation - Where in the Brain is Intelligence?: From autopsies of famous Russians to a new model based on imaging studies, scientists keep looking

Seriously? This is a question? How about: it's domain specific! Is it just me or does this seem like a big crock of BS?