Cognitive Daily

Archives for September, 2005

As early as 2002, 60 percent of the total Japanese population (this includes infants, the elderly, and the infirm) subscribed to a cell phone service. Though the phones are banned in public schools, parents were buying them for their kids anyway—mainly, they said, to control their behavior and build closer bonds. Naturally, the kids soon…

How do we keep from getting lost?

There are two different ways we might navigate from place to place: we either remember landmarks along the way, or we note how far we go in each direction, and what turns we’ve made along the way. The landmark system doesn’t work very well in nondescript landscapes or in the dark, and the second system—which…

All this talk about stereotypes can get you thinking. Perhaps some stereotypes reflect actual differences. Take color vision, for example: men often refer to themselves as “color-impaired,” letting the women in their lives make home design decisions and even asking them to match clothing for them. Maybe they’re just behaving in accordance with traditional stereotypes…

Gender and racial differences in standardized test scores have received a lot of coverage in the popular press. An article in yesterday’s New York Times discussed how simply combining populations with different economic status can result in increased test scores—apparently just being around kids with different educational expectations can have an impact on performance. We’ve…

There is considerable evidence that using a cell phone impairs driving ability. The research has even reached the popular consciousness: hosts of radio call-in shows ask cell-phone callers to pull over before making their comments; drivers give wide berths to people who are obviously talking while they drive. All this knowledge begs the question: If…

We know that “average” faces are judged to be more attractive than the faces of the individuals making up the average. But this doesn’t tell us what the mechanism for judging attractiveness is. Do we judge faces to be attractive because they are potential mates, or is there some other reason for perceiving attractiveness? Jamin…

Do kids recognize emotion in music?

Music can be used to convey a range of emotion, from sadness to happiness, from anger to fear. We use music to help fall asleep at night, and to wake up in the morning. Its effect on our mood may be enough to improve our performance on a range of intellectual tasks. But where do…

Click on the image below to be taken to a quicktime movie showing 9 different faces. When the movie is finished playing, drag the slider back and forth to pick the face you think is the most attractive. The faces are composite images—”average” faces made by morphing together 48 different photos. Previous research has shown…

Athletics and drug abuse

My favorite bike shop has a photo of bicyclists lighting up cigarettes for each other as they rode along during a 1920s stage of the Tour de France. After getting over our astonishment that they can actually manage to light cigarettes without even getting off their bikes, we look at the photo today and think…

Taste and texture

Taste is a notoriously difficult sense to study. My son Jim can’t stand baked potatoes, but I can’t get enough of them. I don’t like watermelon, but the rest of my family gobbles it up. Even more perplexingly, I do like watermelon candy. With all the individual differences in taste, how can scientists learn anything…