Cognitive Daily

Archives for December, 2006

A couple new features for this week’s podcast. First, a new mic, which I think has a richer sound, but also probably needs a screen to filter out the harsh ps and ts. I’ll work on getting one in time for next week’s edition. As requested, we’re offering the podcast in both AAC and MP3…

CogDaily readers are certainly opinionated about email sign-offs. Last week’s Casual Friday study on the topic generated 343 responses, and our post on the study attracted 21 comments, some of them quite impassioned: When someone signs an email “Cheers”, I assume that they are either British or learned English in a British school. If I…

Tomorrow I’ll be running my first-ever (and possibly my last) half-marathon. I’ve been an amateur runner since high school, but the longest race I’d run in previously was a 10K race, less than half this distance, nearly 20 years ago. I haven’t run competitively since college, but I have consistently run around three miles a…

Very few of us can avoid stereotyping others. When we’re actively trying to avoid racial stereotyping, we often end up looking ridiculous. But the very fact that we can try to avoid it suggests that there’s something more to racial stereotypes than a “stereotype center” in the brain. If stereotyping was completely automatic, we’d be…

The Neurocritic has a fascinating report on recent research exploring memory interference. One of the primary problems with memory is deciding what to remember and what to forget. As an example of the scale of the problem, if we recorded every image we ever saw in its raw format, we’d soon exhaust our memory reserves.…

The notion that thinking faster could make you happy may seem on the face of it absurd. But consider some of the evidence. People with mania, who complain of racing thoughts, often find the sensation exhilarating. When you meet someone who’s in a manic phase, they often seem cheerier and more pleasant than anyone you’ve…

How to search a large area

When someone gets lost in the woods — or when a convict escapes from prison — finding them among the vast expanse of trees and other features can be a daunting task. Often search parties literally walk in lines just a few feet apart to scour the terrain for evidence. But perhaps there’s an easier…

The cafe wall illusion has the dramatic effect of making a straight line appear slanted: That’s right, the line is precisely horizontal. It was created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka, one of the world’s foremost authorities on visual illusion, who is also a wonderful artist. In addition to the hundreds of other illusions he’s created, he’s posted…

Steven Pinker points out in The Language Instinct that the potential ambiguities in any sentence makes programming computers to understand language quite difficult: humans can quickly determine the appropriate interpretation through context; computers are unable to understand context, and therefore they flounder, and so have difficulty translating texts. The sentence “Time flies like an arrow,”…

Over at The Quarterly Conversation, I’ve written a review of George Lakoff’s book Whose Freedom? In case my personal politics haven’t come through in my CogDaily posts (and I do make an effort to assume a neutral perspective here), you’ll get a good sense of my views in this review, where I point out that…