Cognitive Daily

Archives for August, 2008

I’ve always been a fan of literary studies — I was an English major in college and I continue to blog about literature on my personal blog. But when I first learned about the concept of alliteration (I must have been in middle school), I was unimpressed. Obviously making a poem rhyme requires some serious…

“Impossible objects” like the etchings of M.C. Escher have fascinated adults for centuries. You can’t help but stare and wonder at a drawing like this, which seems to defy the laws of nature: The drawing seems strange to us because our visual system tells us that when an object or part of an object occludes…

Take a look at this short video — it’s a list of animals. Try to remember as many animals as you can. If you’re like me, you’re pretty confident that you will remember the entire list, even after ten minutes or so. In my case, that’s not so much because the list names animals that…

As a child (and like most children, I imagine) I used to think conducting an orchestra entailed something like what Bugs Bunny does in this video: Waving the hands, as conductors frequently do, seemed largely for show. The conductor appeared to me to be more dancing along with the music than actually leading the musicians…

The current issue of WIRED reveals an interesting quirk of the human perceptual system: Can you spot what’s wrong?

One of the first things I did after my 90-mile hike with Nora in the North Cascades was play some music on the car stereo. We’d been in the wilderness for seven days, and other than birdsong, we hadn’t heard so much as a note for the entire time. Matching our intuitions about music, researchers…

[This article was originally published in December, 2006] As parents of a 1516-year-old, Greta and I are very interested in what causes people to behave aggressively. We know a lot about specific causes of aggression — violent media, testosterone, guns, and personal insults can all lead to aggressive behavior in certain circumstances. But kids and…

Over at Sciam’s Mind Matters blog, Greta and I have written a guest post about tone deafness and bad singing: Although there have been many studies of perceptual tone deafness, or amusia, few have compared people’s ability to hear differences between musical notes with their ability to produce good music. This fact is what makes…

[This article was originally published in December, 2006] Take a look at these two images. Do they belong in the same category or different categories? You say the same? Wrong — they’re different! The one on the right is a little blurrier. What about these two? These are in the same category. Sure, the one…

[This article was originally published in April, 2007] There is a considerable body of research showing that eye contact is a key component of social interaction. Not only are people more aroused when they are looked at directly, but if you consistently look at the person you speak to, you will have much more social…