Cognitive Daily

Archives for October, 2005

One of the most difficult things to demonstrate scientifically is cause and effect. Often a study will show that two items—say, smoking and lung cancer—are associated with one another. But it’s another thing entirely to suggest that smoking causes lung cancer in humans. Only after hundreds of studies have been conducted do we now accept…

More and more human conversations are taking place online. While I don’t do instant messaging the way my kids like to, I’m much more likely to contact a friend via e-mail than to pick up the phone. Here at Cognitive Daily and at other online discussion forums, I’ve built relationships with commenters who I’ve never…

How being an expert improves memory

I had a friend in college who was a baseball genius. He could offer up the career stats of every player in the hall of fame; he knew which teams had won the World Series in each year since its inception—he was a great guy to have on your Trivial Pursuit team; the sports category…

Psychologists have known for decades that people perceive music as happier when it’s played faster, and in a major key (mode). Take a listen to the following sound clips I created using a synthesized flute. Each plays the same melody three times—first in a major mode, then a minor mode, then a “whole tone” middle…

I’m usually disappointed when I try to take a picture of a steep precipice—it never seems as impressive in the photo as it did when I was standing right there. Take this photo, for example. It’s a nice shot of my daughter Nora, taken on our hike in the Great Smoky Mountains this past summer,…

If you’re a perception teacher, a great way to show how the vision system adapts is to use prism glasses to shift a volunteer’s vision. While various types of glasses are available (the most common is designed to allow a person to read a book lying on her back), the most effective for this demo…

When asked to indicate their “deepest, closest, most intimate relationship,” thirty-six percent of college students name a friend (as opposed to a family member or boyfriend/girlfriend) Friendships are clearly important, but there have been many fewer studies of friends than family or marriage. Consider “locus of control” research (whether individuals blame problems or positive aspects…

Dozens of studies have confirmed both psychological and physical benefits of exercise. The results seem clear enough: a regular program of cardiovascular exercise has been shown not only to promote physical well being, but also to abate depression, decrease anxiety, and improve overall quality of life. But James Annesi noted that most of these studies…

Is forgiving good for your health?

When 64-year-old teacher Robert Davis was beaten by the New Orleans police for public drunkenness despite the fact that he hadn’t had a drink for 25 years, you might expect him to feel angry about it. You wouldn’t be surprised if he held a grudge against the police for many years thereafter. Yet instead, he…

When do babies learn to group shapes?

This weekend, robot cars competed in a challenge that most humans would find trivial: drive 132 miles in 12 hours without crashing. Yet crash, they do. The difficult part isn’t so much the steering and acceleration, it’s determining the difference between an obstacle you must navigate around and a benign shadow on the road; it’s…