Monday, June 30, 2008

Pretty brain pictures!

Cognitive Daily: What's more convincing than talking about brains? Pictures of brains!

Yep - the brain images are sexy, that's for sure.

Thoughts on the strengths and limitations of brain imagery here.

More thoughts here.

What is the Internet doing to our brains?

A Blog Around The Clock : What is the Internet doing to our brains?

Short answer: Nothing. It is our behavior that changes our brain. If you regulate your behavior then the interenet is just one more thing to take into account. No different that television, or radio, or any other mass-communication media that has been developed through the centuries.

Heck, I could probably do a search and find similar reactions to the availability of calculators in the classroom.

Start school later

Delaying school start time by one hour positively affects adolescents' cognitive performance

A finding that has been proven time and again for several years actually.

Conservatives are Happier than Liberals Because...

Mixing Memory : Conservatives are Happier than Liberals Because...

Way to go with a liberal-leftist-political interpretation of things guys.

The whole piece (both the research and the article) stem from the premise that "liberal" viewpoints are inherintly correct and conservative viewpoints are outmoded at best and outright wrong at worst.

The findings only work if you work from the premise that the liberal viewpoint is the default or correct one.

Try it again and come from the other direction: Why are liberals less happy that conservatives? Because they are trying to impose unrealistic and inherintly destructive world-views onto people that don't want or need them and their frustration shows (a point which the authors concede, but again, with the clear tone that those are the right views to have and it is the conservatives who foil their attempts that cause the frustration).

Although I am a conservative, I don't bristle at the suggestions as to what motivates me (supposedly) as I do at the overt assumption that my views are just plain wrong, and we need to try and find justifications for why we conservatives exist in the world. Its a frustrating thing thing to be a conservative in an academic environment.

More thoughts here. And more here.

And for a look at how truly rare a specimine I am, take a look at these depressing (to me) numbers. This previous post speaks more about a similar phenomenon involving religious beliefs and addresses a broader academic perspective as well.

Guilt vs. Responsibility is Powerlessness vs. Power

Guilt vs. Responsibility is Powerlessness vs. Power Psychology Today Blogs

Guilt and responsibility seem to be areas of research that are not touched on sufficiently - or could use some more updated techniquest to bring it back to the forefront.

Placebo is not what you think

Mind Hacks: Placebo is not what you think

More thoughts on the famed "placebo effect"

Games with a purpose

Cognition and Language Lab: Games with a purpose

This is more like it. I've been an advocate of game-based learning for years. What is interesting to me is not developing a game to teach something specific - those are everywhere and are effective to greater and lesser degrees. What I am interested in is games that cause learning through hidden means: you play the game and learn without even realizing it.

Those, to me, would be the most interesting and chanllenging games to create.

More here, and here.

In the midst of the video game fury

Mind Hacks: In the midst of the video game fury

More thoughts on the video-game/violence controversy that is currently raging.

More thoughts here.

Contrasting Views on the Gender Disparity in Science

Pure Pedantry : Contrasting Views on the Gender Disparity in Science

Lots of discussion on this topic - what is the real reason for gender disparity in the sciences. Unfortunately, the highly charged nature of the argument will make it virtually impossible for a consensus to be drawn.

More thoughts here. And a little more in relation to the "math gender gap" here.

Parents' influence on kids' behavior: Not much

Cognitive Daily: Parents' influence on kids' behavior: Not much

While this rings true, it is nevertheless rather depressing.

Teacher: Laborer or Professional?

Affective Teaching » Blog Archive » Teacher: Laborer or Professional?

I would listen to arguments that in the current environment of more and more comprehensive tests that take over the curriculum, that this the pendulum is swinging more towards the "Laborer" side of things these days.

Why Your Future Self is an Emotional Mystery: The Projection Bias

PsyBlog: Why Your Future Self is an Emotional Mystery: The Projection Bias

Projecting towards the future is always a difficult and confusing thing from a motivational aspect - and that means that it affects emotion.

A positive kind of lying?

BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: A positive kind of lying?

If you exagerate your abilities, it can be self-fulfilling!

More thoughts here.

13 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Decision-Making

PsyBlog: 13 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Decision-Making

Everyone should read this.

Reframing Self Esteem as Self Worth

Reframing Self Esteem as Self Worth Psychology Today Blogs

HUGE pet peeve of mine. Pop-culture refers to the all-powerful "self-esteem" - and the pop-culture assumptions of that construct are as nebulous and inaccurate as you could possibly imagine.

I was, at first, a little annoyed when the study of motivation brought up ideas like: self-concept, self-worth, self-value, self-esteem(not the pop-culture version) and other various (and varied) definitions of the concept of our self-perception of our abilities across domains and within domains.

Now, after getting more understanding I'm continually peeved at the misperception of the general public.

Feeling powerless impairs higher mental abilities

Not Exactly Rocket Science : Feeling powerless impairs higher mental abilities

If you feel less personal empowerment, you tend to not perform as well with creativity and other higher brain functions.

More thoughts here.

Where there's a will, there's a . . . human

Where there's a will, there's a . . . Psychology Today Blogs

This article touches on what I just mentioned in the prior post about the chicken-egg conundrum involved with the recent spate of "free-will" experiments.

The Digital Resolution of the Mind: Discrete Precision in Working Memory

Developing Intelligence : The Digital Resolution of the Mind: Discrete Precision in Working Memory

A little more on something the Neurodudes touched on a few posts back.

Our brains can choose our actions 10 sec before awareness

Deric Bownds' MindBlog: Our brains can choose our actions 10 sec before awareness

More on the whole "free will" thing.

Someone still has to point out how this "negates" the idea of free will. It is very much a chicken-egg argument. Does awareness drive cognition and brain development or does cognition and brain development drive awareness?

Modeling the Diffusion of Information In Brain and Behavior

Developing Intelligence : Modeling the Diffusion of Information In Brain and Behavior

A treatise on "response time" in the brain and it's predictive capacity of performance on intelligence tests.

Evaluation threat and procrastination

Evaluation threat and procrastination Psychology Today Blogs

So, if you are a chronic procrastinator, if you have a low threshold of "supervision" for lack of a better term, you're more likely to get things done.

Juat pray that you also don't have hard deadlines.

Is "The Secret" Just a Giant Placebo Effect?

Is "The Secret" Just a Giant Placebo Effect? Psychology Today Blogs

Personally, if I ever hear one more word about "The Secret" - I'm likely to go postal.

Control of mental activities by internal models in the cerebellum

neurodudes » Blog Archive » Control of mental activities by internal models in the cerebellum

I like the Neurodudes blog - they definitely fill in the "neuro geek" element that's been missing from my blogroll.

A Computational Neuroanatomy for Motor Control

neurodudes » Blog Archive » A Computational Neuroanatomy for Motor Control

Let the link-dump begin. I have nearly 200 articles that I've been saving up on. Hopefully this won't take all day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Theophobia - religious bigotry?

This is something I have a little experience with. Start with Rick Hills' original post here: PrawfsBlawg: Theophobia. Once you've read that (and as always, with Prof. Hills' posts, the comments are absolutely worthwhile), check out Todd Zywicki's post at the Volokh Conspiracy about the subject (make sure to hit the links both within and at the end of the post to get to some good source and summary material, as well as some additional posts on the subject within the site).

As an aspiring academic I find this troubling on two fronts: 1) it appears that from a political and religious perspective academics are (typically) rather closed minded (which seems to refute the very bedrock principles of academic pursuit); and 2) I'm Mormon.

For those of you that have never experienced bigoted behavior - let me assure you that it is no fun. Religious intolerance is even more bizarre than normal bigotry. You can actually get to know someone, enjoy their company and they seemingly enjoy your company, then as soon as it is discovered that you're Mormon - it all ends. You suddenly become the elephant in the room at best, or a social pariah/enemy at worst. It's not an everyday occurrence, and it is certainly a small minority of those that I have met, but when it happens its absolutely fascinating to watch (and extremely depressing). You can watch their facial expression and see it all happen. You can actually see the "Oh, you're one of those!" looks drop over their features - and until you've experienced it, it's pretty hard to describe it. What will be completely unsurprising to anyone is to learn that the people that it happens most with are usually "extreme" devotees of some other opposing viewpoint, be it atheism or evangelical Christians.

So, as one of the groups that comes off as particularly disliked by the study - I can say that I've seen it, and in far more places than academic circles. I should also point out in a spirit of fairness that I attend Arizona State University which has a reasonably robust Mormon presence on campus. Most everyone at ASU knows someone that is Mormon, so I'm actually not in a position of being unique or unusual in my current location. But that hasn't always been the case. In High School, I was one of 3 Mormons in the entire school (a 5A Texas school - in other words, a huge school).

But, back to the original point - having experienced it, I can say that I'm not surprised by the existence of the phenomenon, but I am very surprised by the extent of the problem.

I have to say that it makes me a little wary for the future of my academic career (not that I wasn't already, this just enhances my fears). And the reasons for it are so very disappointing to me.

Friday, June 06, 2008


My wife has decided to start blogging in earnest, and she's doing a really good job of it so far. I've been helping her out by figuring out some of the more difficult parts. Unfortunately for me, I decided that I really liked the 3 column format better and decided to update my template. Foolish man that I am, I forgot to save my old template when I made the change.

Result: I lot my links list.

Which is a shame because I was quite fond of the sites I'd found and some of them will be rather hard to track down again.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll discover something else really cool in my search to build it back up.

In other news: I've been really busy lately, so my list of things that I want to blog about is seriously backlogged. It will likely result in another link dump - but hopefully this weekend I'll be able to catch up a little.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Are you anti-intellectual?

PrawfsBlawg: Why I am an anti-intellectual

This post by Rick Hills (who is a law professor) is absolutely fascinating. The original post alone is an interesting enough read, but the comments are where it gets really interesting. The "performance art" comment especially got me laughing.

I agree in general with the sentiment expressed by Professor Hill. I have a severe dislike for overly complex language. It's not that I don't understand it - I'm perfectly capable in the language/vocab area - I just don't understand the need to frame opinions or arguments in obfuscated and overly florid language. If you can't argue your point so that any layman could understand at least the basics of it, then your argument probably isn't worth listening to.

I guess I fall in the same school of thought as the late and greatly missed Richard Feynman. It was his philosophy that if he couldn't break something down to where it could be explained to a freshman physics student, then we really didn't understand it yet. I agree with that idea wholeheartedly. You may not be able to communicate the nuance or all the implications of a theory/idea/opinion/argument to a layperson who has not spent the time to gain all the needed background knowledge - but if you can't at least communicate the basic parameters of the same theory/idea/opinion/argument to a layman effectively, then you probably don't understand it well enough yourself.

To express the nuance of ideas to those with the proper background may indeed have to take the form of much more complex language, but I have found that I am more impressed by individuals who can write clearly and get directly to the point over writers who use a more intellectual tone.

And really, what better argument exists than to point to the Sokal affair. If that isn't exhibit A for why intellectually obfuscated language should cease and deist - then I don't know what is (although the Sokal affair could also be an indictment's over peer review publication - but I think it is equally damning to both sides of the equation).

Follow up post by Professor Hill here.