Cognitive Daily

John Tierney wonders whether doctors should be prosecuted for prescribing too much pain medication. Tierney makes some good points. One “warning sign” that a patient may be abusing drugs is that they come back for a refill early because their medicine has run out. Couldn’t this also be a sign that the patient is in pain and needs more medication? There’s tons of individual variation in sensitivity to pain. If the doctor believes the patient to be earnest, why is the doctor the one being prosecuted?

Another good New York Times article. This one is about the limits of multitasking ability. The point is, you can’t concentrate on two things at once. If one task doesn’t really require your full attention, then it’s probably okay to add another. For example, I pay my bills while watching golf. Golf is boring if you’re not doing anything while you watch, and paying bills is always boring. It’s relatively easy to switch attention from one task to another. Plus they replay all the really great shots. Basketball and football require more attention; it’s too much to try to pay bills while watching these sports.

No matter how attractive your body is, looking at a thin model makes you feel worse about your body. I wonder if a similar result can be found with respect to men and watching sports — i.e. no matter how fit / athletic you are, watching professional athletes makes you feel worse about your athletic ability.

Is email or face-to-face communication more persuasive? When I ran a business, I always found it worthwhile to travel and meet with my clients face to face. But now that I think about it, most of my clients were women. This study suggests that businesses with mostly male clients might be able to save a bundle on travel costs.


  1. #1 acm
    March 28, 2007

    oh come on — football has plenty of replays too! plus you have crowd sounds to tell you when an exciting play happened. I think there’s almost no television I watch without doing something else (sorting mail, playing an online computer game), with the possibile exceptions of the most engrossing of shows, like Heroes or Lost…


  2. #2 Dave Munger
    March 28, 2007

    You may have a point with football, but generally watching football I’m watching my favorite team, and I’m too engrossed in the action to do anything else. I’ll stick to my guns in basketball. They often don’t have time to replay exciting plays.

  3. #3 Seth
    March 28, 2007

    Football is only properly watched when there is someone else there you can discuss the game with. At that point, there is no place for further distraction!

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