Cognitive Daily

Archives for May, 2005

How music affects language

The allure of music has been a recurring question for psychologists. Why do we see the need for music? Is music like language, or is it something entirely different? The attempts to answer the latter question have generated mixed results. Musicians with brain damage have retained musical ability while losing language ability. Some patients with…

Heinz’s green ketchup nothwithstanding, we generally like our foods to be predictable colors: milk, white; bananas, yellow; oranges—well, you get the idea. But when foods are the “right” color, do they actually taste any different? We all know that food coloring is tasteless, so what happens when we dye foods different colors? The results so…

Take a look at the following maps of brain activity: The maps were made using ERP recordings of volunteers’ brains as they were tested for memory of pictures. The ERP (event-related potential) records electrical potentials using a variety of electrodes (primarily EEGs, or electroencephalograms) placed on the scalp. The white regions of the diagrams represent…

Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist and surgeon of legendary ability (his Nobel prize is for medicine), was perhaps most famous for his experiments with dogs. Performing a tricky procedure to implant a saliva-measuring device in dogs’ necks, he then trained them to recognize when food was coming. First he’d ring a bell and bring the…

Some people—even people who really know their stuff—just don’t “test well.” You can talk to them face to face, and they seem perfectly well informed and intelligent, but when the money’s on the line, when they’ve sharpened their number 2 pencils and it’s time to sit down for the big exam, they just crumble. Of…

We know that video games can help us learn, but what exactly is it about the games that does it? Is it that fact that we’re in control—for example, the way drivers in a car seem to learn the roads better than passengers? Or is it something else? Paul Wilson of the University of Leicester…

One of the oldest questions in the study of language involves how it influences our thought. One of the most controversial answers comes from Benjamin Whorf, the student of renowned anthropologist Edward Sapir: language not only influences thought; language determines thought—thought cannot exist without language. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, at least in its strongest form, has…

Who still believes in magic?

Yesterday we discussed the difference between children’s and adults’ beliefs in magic. Today we will continue that discussion, with two more experiments from the same article by Eugene Subbotsky. Adults generally claim they don’t believe in magic, but they seem to have a different set of rules for fictional objects. While they understand that a…

Who believes in magic?

Babies love to play peek-a-boo. This simple game can entertain them for hours, even if all you do is hide your face behind your hands. Part of the reason is that for babies, it is really something of a surprise that you return. For most of their first year, babies don’t understand that objects exist…

The Stroop effect is a well-documented phenomenon that shows how easily we can be distracted from a simple task. In the classic Stroop experiment, we are shown a word, such as GREEN, and asked to indicate the color it is printed in. When the meaning of the word itself conflicts with the word’s color, the…