The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2007

Homosexuality, Iran and Identity

In light of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s recent comment about there being no gay people in Iran, Matthew Yglesias links to this really interesting article about homosexuals in Saudi Arabia: What seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many…

Are Men Happier than Women?

From David Leonhardt: There appears to be a growing happiness gap between men and women. Two new research papers, using very different methods, have both come to this conclusion. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania (and a couple), have looked at the traditional happiness data, in which people are simply…

Irrational Fears and Global Warming

Fear isn’t our most rational feeling; the amygdala is an inherently inscrutable bit of brain. Tyler Cowen makes a good point about how the irrationality of fear manifests itself with global warming: I believe, for instance, that ocean acidification will, in the long run, be the most dangerous consequence of carbon emissions. (And by saying…

Religion and Morality

Here’s Drake Bennett: In a set of experiments carried out in 2005 by the economists Nina Mazar and Dan Ariely, of MIT, and On Amir, a marketing expert at the University of California at San Diego, subjects were given a timed test of general-knowledge questions and paid for each correct answer. They varied the setup…

The Perfect Yawn

Can you engineer a yawn to become perfectly contagious? A number of studies found that a medley of ordinary yawns on video played to a classroom for five minutes would induce a responsive yawn in 55 percent of the audience. So that was his starting point: could he design a yawn powerful enough to move…

Two Recommendations

1) Away, by Amy Bloom. The prose is perfect. It’s the best written new novel you’ll read this year, and that’s saying something, since Ian McEwan also came out with a new novel. Another interesting thing about the book is that I almost didn’t buy it because the cover is so terrible, or at least…

Supply and Demand

Loss aversion is so easy to understand – it can be explained using a coin flip in ten seconds – and yet it manages to explain so many anomalies of modern life*, from the 4th down habits of football coaches to the collapsing real estate market: The professors gathered data on almost 6,000 Boston condominium…

The Morality of Sports Fans

Like many Patriots fans, I’ve been suffering from an acute case of cognitive dissonance ever since I learned about Bill Belichick’s taping habits. On the one hand, I know cheating is wrong. On the other hand, winning sure feels good. The end result is that I deftly rationalize away the sin, and come up with…

Chat Rooms

Context is everything: Sana Klaric and husband Adnan, who used the names “Sweetie” and “Prince of Joy” in an online chatroom, spent hours telling each other about their marriage troubles, Metro.co.uk reported. The truth emerged when the two turned up for a date. Now the pair, from Zenica in central Bosnia, are divorcing after accusing…

Market Bubbles and Human Nature

Alan Greenspan seems to have discovered the irrationality of human nature. In his recent appearance on the Daily Show, he lamented the stubborn persistence of financial bubbles, from junk bonds to dot-com stocks to real estate. (For a thorough history of bubbles, from tulips to today, check out this book.) John Stewart confessed that Greenspan’s…