The Frontal Cortex

Archives for June, 2007

So the Times is reporting that online sales are starting to stall/ (Jack Shafer disagrees.) This trend certainly jives with my own shopping experiences. While I still buy most of my things online – the only thing I will never buy online are pants – I’ve grown disenchanted with the vast majority of online retail…

The Psychology of Blogging

n+1 nails an important psychological aspect of blogs: Imagine a grandfather clock that strikes at random intervals. You can’t tell time by it and yet you begin to live in constant anticipation of the next random chime. Pavlov was there first. He realized that there was something especially alluring about random reinforcements. When the reward…

Hydrogen Peroxide Doesn’t Work

It was one of those unquestioned rituals of childhood: after getting a little scrape or cut (generally in the knee or elbow area), your mother dutifully applies some hydrogen peroxide to the injury. The peroxide burns, but the pain is just evidence that the peroxide is working. The cut is being cleaned. That, at least,…

Mental Care for Veterans

Another heartbreaking tale of improper medical care for veterans from The Washington Post. This time, the article is about the lack of mental health care for mentally troubled veterans, especially when it comes to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While the Army excels at providing emergency trauma care for veterans injured in the body – only…

Dennett on Rorty

I’m a fan of both Dennett and Rorty*, and I thought this touching anecdote from Dennett really captures a crucial difference between the two philosophers: At one three-hour lunch in a fine restaurant in Buenos Aires, we [Dennett and Rorty] traded notes on what we thought philosophy ought to be, could be, shouldn’t be, and…

Finding Altruism

Given recent inane comments about the immateriality of altruism by a certain neurosurgeon, I thought this recent article on the neural underpinnings of “pure altruism” might be of interest: You don’t need to donate to charity to feel all warm inside. Researchers have found that even when money is taken from some people involuntarily, they…

Inequality and Injustice

Over at the Economist, Jason Furman worries about the long-term implications of growing societal inequality: Regardless of the cause of rising inequality, lefties, utilitarians, Rawlsians and anyone with a deep-seated reverence for markets and the capitalist system should all be concerned. As Alan Greenspan memorably stated, “income inequality is where the capitalist system is most…

The Emotions of Chronic Pain

Imagine you are a doctor, and a patient comes into your office with a serious case of back pain. You begin by performing all the standard diagnostic tests, including an MRI and X-ray. Then, you perform an extensive interview. You ask about his psychological history, and rate his level of depression, fear and anxiety. You…

Solitary Commuting

If people were rational creatures, you might expect them to respond to rising gas prices by doing less solitary commuting. The cost of filling up the tank would provide an incentive to either carpool or use a heavily subsidized mass transit system. But that hasn’t happened: Despite high gasoline prices, the share of commuters driving…

Felice Frankel and Data Overload

Felice Frankel is a model of consilience: When people call Felice Frankel an artist, she winces. In the first place, the photographs she makes don’t sell. She knows this, she says, because after she received a Guggenheim grant in 1995, she started taking her work to galleries. “Nobody wanted to bother looking,” she said. In…