Cognitive Daily

Archives for June, 2005

Most religions, from Anabaptism to Zoroastrianism, feature some version of Christianity’s “Golden Rule”: Do undo others, as you would have them do unto you. Aside from being a nice concept, how do we benefit from helping others? From an individual perspective, wouldn’t we be better off if we just let others help us out, without…

Music and IQ

Though you’ll never hear her tell you, Greta is an excellent musician. She’s a brilliant English horn and oboe player, and she can also handle the piano keyboard. When a nonmusician hears her play, they’ll often tell her how they wished their parents had made them practice when they were younger (unfortunately, our kids Jim…

I like rock music, but my father-in-law doesn’t. My son Jim likes horror movies, but his mom doesn’t. While some of our preferences can be explained easily—for example, we usually don’t like things that cause us pain—others are more difficult to understand. When there’s not an obvious reason for a preference, mere exposure to an…

Why do we forget our childhood?

Today’s research psychologists typically don’t think much of Sigmund Freud. His theories, which tended to be based on literary analysis and interviews with his patients rather than controlled experiments, have been largely discredited (though they continue to be influential in the field of—you guessed it—literary analysis). However, he did discover an important phenomenon which continues…

Nice kids become better students

Every parent wants his or her child to do well in school. They help the kids with their homework, volunteer in the classroom, do everything they can think of to help their children succeed. But what type of elementary school education actually leads to older kids who do better in school? Typically students are tested…

There’s been a great deal of research on appetite and satiation, both on animals and humans. For humans, of course, the motivation is often focused on how we can lose weight. Almost everyone believes they would look better if they could just lose a few pounds. Most of the research has focused on the taste…

It has been known for some time that cell phones can lead to driving accidents. After watching the behavior of some other drivers on the road, I’m sometimes surprised that there aren’t more cell-phone-related accidents than there already are. With well over 100 million cell phone users in the U.S. alone, the problem isn’t going…

Adults have been found cross-culturally to prefer blue to other colors. It’s a nearly universal preference. But does this preference occur naturally, or do children and infants have different preferences? Prior to 2001, there wasn’t a definitive answer to this question. In that year, Marcel Zentner of the University of Geneva conducted a study that…

When do we learn what colors mean?

When I was about twelve years old, I came up with an idea for a massive practical joke to play on an unsuspecting baby. For its entire childhood, everyone around the baby would conspire to convince it that the sky was green. Then at some point in the future, perhaps in front of the entire…

When I started work on a memoir about my childhood, I thought remembering what actually happened would be the easy part. I had very specific memories of very specific events, and I wrote them down exactly as I remembered them. One memory involved my stepsister winning Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy album at a pumpkin carving…