Cognitive Daily

Archives for October, 2006

Any grown-up would be surprised to see SpongeBob Squarepants show up in a Batman movie. Clearly, these characters inhabit two different fantasy worlds: one lives in a fabulous mansion near bustling Gotham City, while the other inhabits an underwater pineapple. Grown-ups divide fantasy worlds into non-intersecting sets: If Batman has even heard of SpongeBob, he…

Face recognition is a task which humans do with little effort, even though in fact it’s a tremendously difficult problem. To recognize a face, we need to be able to ignore traits that change over time, while focusing in on details that remain constant. A simple computer program, for example, would have difficulty recognizing that…

Yesterday I spent a delightful several hours having lunch with Chris Mooney (of Seed, Scienceblogs, and war on science fame) and attending his talk in Durham, NC. I also got to meet fellow ScienceBloggers Abel Pharmboy and Coturnix. At lunch, the conversation centered on a favorite topic here at ScienceBlogs, Science Journalism. Chris made what…

On Monday, I posted a recently-discovered visual illusion with a quick poll to see how many of our readers could spot the illusion. As it turned out, not very many of them did. This was surprising to me, because the team that discovered the illusion, led by Ladan Shams, found that the illusion was very…

New York Times on Stereotype Threat

The New York Times has an article on the most recent stereotype threat research: Women perform worse on math tests when they are first told that men are better at math. When they are told that men and women are equal, they perform equally. Unfortunately, the report in Science on which the article is based…

Actually, a picture is worth 1.5 words

Everyone knows the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Bound by that axiom, magazines, newspapers, and most of all, TV, bombard us with pictures every day. The latest hot internet properties aren’t text-based sites like Google but picture-based sites like Flickr and YouTube. Psychological research backs this up: we do remember pictures more…

Do deadlines help procrastinators?

The Social Science Statistics blog (new to me, but it’s been around for a while) has a good writeup of a 2002 study by Dan Ariely and Klaus Wertenbroch which systematically examines the effectiveness of deadlines in preventing procrastination: They randomized participants into three categories: three evenly-spaced deadlines every 7 days; an end-deadline after 21…

The Best Science TV Show of All Time

This week’s “Ask a ScienceBlogger” question is easy: The best science TV show is Mythbusters. Let’s face it: most TV science programming is downright awful. It dumbs down the content, and tends not to explain the really interesting part of the question at hand. As I wrote recently over on Word Munger, Whether it’s Nova…

There was plenty of interest in yesterday’s audio-visual illusion. In case you missed it, I’ll post it again here: Play the movie with the sound turned up. If the illusion works, then you’ll see a dot flash twice, accompanied by two beeps. But actually the dot only flashes once. Unfortunately, we’ve had a hard time…

There’s nothing cooler for a perception researcher (or writer) than a new visual illusion. When I learned about this one, I spent half the day Thursday trying to recreate it, but I couldn’t get it to work. Finally, in five minutes on Friday morning, I think I figured it out. (Update: Actually, as it turned…