Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flash Brain!

Check out this extremely cool interactive educational graphic of the brain.
Brain, Brain Information, Facts, News, Photos -- National Geographic

Do yourself a favor and "stimulate" the brain with the feather. Hilarious.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Improving on Maslow (from the evoluitonary psychologists)

Evolutionary psychologists have made some changes to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Essentially the top "Esteem" and "Actualization" needs are replaced with stuff related to sex. Pretty typical for evolutionary psychologists. It's all about passing on the old genetic material!

Consciousness: the debate rages on

An interesting discussion on consciousness if for no other reason than it reference a number of other theories on what is or is not consciousness.

This is currently one of the biggest active debates in psychology and science in general. The current iteration is revolving more around free will (see any of the numerous prior entries), but make no mistake, the experimentation and debate over free will has direct impacts and is rooted very firmly in the debate over consciousness.

Language is not logical [/Spock]

Despite language theories to the contrary it seems that a little experimentation has determined that language itself is not the root of logical thought.

Do you want to succeed, or simply not fail?

Fear of failure is a surprisingly common motivational behavior. Here are a couple of articles that do an excellent job explaining about the two poles of the motivational spectrum: motivation for success or fear of failure.

Part 1 and part 2.

Don't forget the Glial cells!

Our brains are actually made up of mostly Glial cells - and yet they are some of the least studied neural cells. I like the analogy of the article of Glials being the "dark matter of the brain" - even though the analogy breaks down when you consider that dark matter is still theoretical, but we can definitely see Glial cells - we just don't know a lot about them.

Seems like a ripe area for research if you are looking for a PhD in neurobiology.

How good is your teacher?

The problem of measuring the quality of a teacher is similar to almost any effort to measure "quality." Simply deciding on what your definition of quality includes can be controversial at best. Then deciding how to measure your definition can be even more problematic. Quality, as with nearly any subjective term, is often distinguished by each individual's interpretation. Therein lies the problem: how do you reconcile the varied preferences of individuals to create a collective measure?

Not. Easy.

How to motivate someone....

The science behind motivation is actually a bit counter-intuitive from what we traditionally understand as motivation in the popular culture. The biggest problem with most peoples understanding of motivation is a lack of understanding the difference between short and long-term motivation. Short-term motivation can be pretty easy to achieve (how motivated would you be with a gun to your head?) - but getting someone to be self-motivated over the long term (the ultimate goal of most motivational efforts) is far, far more difficult to achieve.

Are you a multitasker? You probably stink at it.

There was a lot of news about this earlier in the year, but this is an excellent article that does a little more of explaining how self-proclaimed multi-taskers are really very horrible at it (along with a very heavy percentage of the population).

More fat = less brain

More bad news for the long term effects of an increasingly portly populace.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Am I being vague?

Vagueness seems to be structured into the very fabric of language. And this can be a good thing. Just imagine having to live life exactly like a computer and having to have unbelievably precise language just to accomplish the simplest tasks. I mean, have you seen the amount of code it takes to do even the simplest actions in, say, MS Word? It would take you a few weeks to read it.

So, be happy that our brains and our language can handle a bit of vagueness and are capable of interpreting things based on vagueness.

How many books are on your shelf?

It seems that the more books you have at home the better chance your children have of being successful. Even more interestingly that is a result that holds true across all the countries in the world that were studied.

Exceedingly. Cool.

What is fMRI analysis?

Here is your answer in 1000 words or less.

Fantastic introduction to what is actually an incredibly difficult and complex process that produces those pretty images we all love to look at of which areas of a brain "light up."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Correlation is not causation

I tell this to my students over and over: correlation is NOT causation. Never was, never will be. While the effects that correlate could potentially be related through causation, linking two or more things through correlation cannot show causation.

Mind-map your behaviors

Here is an interesting idea: use a mind-map of your behaviors in order to find better ways of altering your "bad" behaviors.

Self-esteem - not what you think it's about

The pervasive movement in education and general child psychology for "boosting" self-esteem in children leaves a lot to be desired. Looking at the various "self-esteem" efforts and practices through the lens of strong motivational theories (such as Banduras Self-efficacy theories, or Self-determination theories) basically tells you that the practices may be worthless at best and actually detrimental in the long term at worst.

Here is a good article describing some of the problems in specific.

Talk therapy is trending downward

The prevalence of medication seems to be having an effect on the frequency of talk therapy usage.

Positive Psychology

A fun new trend in psychology, rather than trying to find and fix what's wrong, emphasize the positive. I need to do a little more research on it, but the basic premise is something that really resonates with me.

Here's a good website that explains the basics. And here is another.