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Take a listen to this brief audio clip of “Unforgettable.” Aside from the fact that it’s a computer-generated MIDI performance, do you hear anything unusual? If you’re a non-musician like me, you might not have noticed anything. It sounds basically like the familiar song, even though the synthesized sax isn’t nearly as pleasing as the…

Synesthesia and the McGurk effect

We’ve discussed synesthesia many times before on Cognitive Daily — it’s the seemingly bizarre phenomenon when one stimulus (e.g. a sight or a sound) is experienced in multiple modalities (e.g. taste, vision, or colors). For example, a person might experience a particular smell whenever a given word or letter is seen or heard. Sometimes particular…

Does watching TV really kill you?

Today I had to put off my normal morning run in order to make time to be interviewed on a radio show at 7:30 a.m. As I waited on hold for the interview to start, I could hear the hosts joking back-and-forth about what the “latest TV controversy” is. “Is it the Jay Leno /…

It’s football season in America: The NFL playoffs are about to start, and tonight, the elected / computer-ranked top college team will be determined. What better time than now to think about … baseball! Baseball players, unlike most football players, must solve one of the most complicated perceptual puzzles in sports: how to predict the…

The TV show Lie To Me focuses on the exploits of an expert in lie-detection as he solves perplexing crimes in his high-tech Washington laboratory. It’s actually fun to watch, especially since it appears to make some effort to get the science right (a real-life expert on lie-detection, Paul Ekman, serves as a science adviser…

[Originally published in November 2007] Both Greta and I are big wine fans. Despite Jonah’s recent extremely popular post, I, at least, believe that I can tell the difference between good and bad wines. I’m still convinced that a good wine is more than just an attractive label (though I’m a sucker for labels with…

[Originally published in January, 2006] Clicking on the image below will take you to a short Quicktime movie. Make sure you have your sound turned up, because I’ve recorded a few sentences that play along with the movie. Your job is to determine, as quickly as possible, if each sentence is grammatically correct — while…

Suppose your organization is interviewing candidates for an important job. Would it be better for one trusted person to have an extended interview with them, or for several people to talk to them for less time? How many people would you need to conduct the interviews? Would three be enough? Would ten be too many?…

I attended an unusual middle school. It was designed on an “open concept,” with the idea that there should be no walls between classrooms. Social pressure would keep the noise levels down, because if kids got too loud, then their peers in other classes would encourage them to hush up. This actually worked most of…

Nalini Ambady has become famous for her research on “thin slicing,” the idea that ordinary people can make accurate judgments about others amazingly quickly. We’ve discussed work from her lab showing that people can accurately predict teaching ability by watching just six seconds of video of a teacher at work. Other judgments, like gender, race,…