Cognitive Daily

Archives for November, 2006

Caffeine and concentration

If you’re like me, sometimes you feel as if you couldn’t get anything done at all if it weren’t for coffee. I’m sipping from a cup right now as I write this (a double Americano, in case you’re curious). Caffeine seems to perk me up just enough to organize my thoughts into a coherent whole.…

Babel’s Dawn is providing coverage of the Cradle of Language conference in South Africa. Several presenters at the conference are challenging the idea that language arose from a single genetic mutation. Given the complexity of human language, such a finding would certainly be a surprise to me. It’s tempting to argue that since there appears…

The psychology of elections

Barry Schwartz has an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, where he claims that basic psychology leads us to choose bland representatives in government instead of fiery leaders. Schwartz argues that how we choose leaders depends on the framing of the question. If we focus on the positives of a candidate, we’re more likely…

Take a look at this video of a professional drummer playing the conga: It’s easy to see that the sound coming from the drum is perfectly synchronized with the motion of the drummer’s hands. Or is it? When a sound enters your ear, it takes less than 1 millisecond for the signal to be transported…

The science of charity

If I get a phone call from a solicitor asking me to support my local fire department or the search for the cure for cancer, I refuse to give. If a live person shows up at my door asking me to donate to a worthy cause, I nearly always give something. Am I behaving irrationally?…

Just about two weeks ago, I posted this visual illusion (if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to watch it with the sound turned ON): How many flashes do you see? In fact the dot only flashes once, but according to the study I report on in the post, the two beeps are supposed…

Although alcohol consumption plays a role in about 31 percent of homicides, only 1.4 percent of TV news reports on murders mention alcohol. Only 12.8 percent of TV news stories on traffic accidents mention alcohol, while 34 percent of accidents involve drunk drivers. I’ve often wondered why people who’ve consumed many drinks still drive at…

Conventional wisdom has it that giving young children chocolate will cause them to become fidgety. This belief is so pervasive that many parents won’t give their kids candy within several hours of bedtime, convinced their children won’t be able to sleep. After Halloween, many parents ration their kids’ candy consumption, again based at least partly…

When you’re out of work, or you’re so poor that you don’t have enough money for basic necessities of life, one of the most devastating effects isn’t so much physical discomfort, it’s mental anguish. If you’re not getting enough to eat, or don’t have a place to sleep, you can still survive for weeks, even…

As I was scanning the internet this morning for news articles and blog posts to comment on, I came up with four good candidates. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to decide whether to write a post discussing a single article (like this), or just write a sentence or two about each post, with…