The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2008

Football and Violence

Economists parse the stats and find the correlation: We find that college football games are associated with sharp increases in crime. For instance, assaults increase by about 9% when a community hosts a college football game, vandalism increases by about 18%, and DUIs increase by about 13%. We also find evidence that upsets result in…

American Idol

I’m definitely ready for the writer’s strike to be over. I actually watched two hours of American Idol last night. I haven’t watched many of these pre-competition shows before, when Paula, Randy and Simon sit through the auditions of strangers off the street, but I couldn’t help but notice that the show seemed to feature…

The Future of Science is Art

My recent article in Seed is now online. Here is the nut graf: The current constraints of science make it clear that the breach between our two cultures is not merely an academic problem that stifles conversation at cocktail parties. Rather, it is a practical problem, and it holds back science’s theories. If we want…

Where Are the Surprises?

I was talking to a neuroscientist the other day and he started complaining about fMRI studies. They are too easy, unreliable, etc. (This is a surprisingly common complaint among neuroscientists who rely on the techniques of molecular biology.) But then he asked me a question that I couldn’t answer. “Tell me one brain imaging study,”…

Killing Chickens on Television

I’ve got a big man-crush on Jamie Oliver. And I really appreciate his latest stunt: Last Friday, in front of 4 million television viewers and a studio audience, the chef Jamie Oliver killed a chicken. Having recently obtained a United Kingdom slaughterman’s license, Mr. Oliver staged a “gala dinner,” in fact a kind of avian…

You Are An Illusion

So I’m reading about the latest cosmological absurdity and feeling pretty smug. It turns out that, according to the equations, your existence is simply “some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space…Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.” Aren’t those physicists funny? Once upon…

Expensive Wine Tastes Better

I’ve written about our wine biases before, but now we have anatomical evidence of why, exactly, expensive wine seems to taste better. The experiment, led by researchers at Cal-Tech and Stanford, was simple. [A free version of the study is here.] Twenty subjects tasted five wine samples which were distinguished solely by their retail price,…

More on Sexual Fluidity

After posting on some new research that suggests we are more sexually fluid than we typically assume – in other words, our strict sexual categories are largely cultural – I got a fascinating email from a reader: I thought you may find my own experience, having lived in both eastern and western societies, interesting. I…

Embodied Cognition

It took a few centuries, but it looks as though psychology and neuroscience are finally moving beyond the dualisms of Descartes. Here is the always interesting Boston Globe Ideas section: The brain is often envisioned as something like a computer, and the body as its all-purpose tool. But a growing body of new research suggests…

First Impressions

How universal are our first impressions of people? Test yourself against this piece of video art: Do you agree with most of the descriptions? The art is surprisingly riveting, no? Via kottke