The Frontal Cortex

Archives for February, 2007

Milgram and Prisoner Abuse

This is the Milgram experiment come to life. Eric Fair was a civilian interrogater in Iraq, working for the 82nd Airborne. The Washington Post published his op-ed today: The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell…

It’s just an n of 1, a small anecdote within a larger story, but it illuminates some of the perpetual controversies of the cognitive sciences, from the accuracy of the IQ test to the plasticity of the human mind. It occurs on page 189 of Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side, a gripping history of the…

The Prius Needs a Gas Tax

That didn’t take long. As soon as a gallon of gas stabilized around $2 and change, hybrid sales started to flatline. Now Toyota needs to use incentives to push the Prius: In April, Toyota will begin its first national advertising campaign for Prius since it began selling the hybrid in the United States in 2000.…

Unconscious Shopping

Another week, another fascinating seminar over at Mind Matters. The paper in question concerns a topic near and dear to me: decision making. Here’s the abstract: Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing. On the basis of recent insights into the characteristics of conscious and…

Harvard Goes Practical

It’s only fitting that Harvard, the birthplace of pragmatism, is trying to reform its pedagogy by making learning more practical and “active”. Here’s the Boston Globe: In his 2006 book, “Our Underachieving Colleges,” Bok cited a study that found that students remembered only 42 percent of what they heard in a lecture by the end…

Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular gastronomy, a movement of chefs devoted to the experimental tools of the modern science lab, now has its own Italian convention: For three days last week some of the biggest names in “molecular gastronomy” (Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne) were mixing and matching secrets with more traditional chefs from Italy, France, Scandinavia, even Japan. The…

Embracing Skeletons

It doesn’t get much more romantic than this: This pair of embracing human skeletons was found at a Neolithic archaeological dig site near Mantova, Italy, in this photo released by Reuters on February 6, 2007. Archaeologists believe the couple was buried 5000-6000 years ago, their arms wrapped around each other. Update: This is from the…

Cognitive Forensics

Nick Bostrom offers up a great suggestion for a new academic field: Perhaps we need a new field of “cognitive forensics” for analyzing and investigating motivated scientific error, bias, and intellectual misconduct. The goal would be to develop a comprehensive toolkit of diagnostic indicators and statistical checks that could be used to detect acts of…

The Talking Cure

Freud would be thrilled. Talk therapy seems to be effective, at least when it comes to panic attacks: Last week, a team of New York analysts published the first scientifically rigorous study of a short-term variation of the therapy for panic disorder, a very common form of anxiety. The study was small, but the therapy…

Insomnia and the Unconscious

I couldn’t sleep last night. As far as I can tell, there was no particular reason for my insomnia. I wasn’t stressed, or anxious, or caffeinated, or sick. My mind was tired, but my brain just wasn’t in the sleeping mood. For me, one of the most annoying parts of insomnia is the way I…