The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2008

Sex, Evolution and Sweden

One last note on the whole Spitzer affair. The reason I think it’s dangerous to use the sexual habits of other species (or even other human cultures) as a baseline when discussing prostitution is that the evolutionary argument has very clear policy implications. If, as David Barash argued, sexual infidelity is not only natural but…

Spitzer, Ethics and Evolution

Evolutionary psychologist David Barash excuses the behavior of Eliot Spitzer on the grounds that monogamy is unnatural, an artificial construct of bourgeois civilization: One of the most important insights of modern evolutionary biology has been an enhanced understanding of male-female differences, deriving especially from the production of sperm versus eggs. Because sperm are produced in…

Meat

Words of wisdom from Dario Checcini, the famous Tuscan butcher: “The most important thing is what the animal eats and that it has a good life . . . just like us,” Cecchini says. “My philosophy is that the cow has to have had a really good life with the least suffering possible,” he says.…

How To Think Under Pressure

I’ve always been morbidly fascinated by examples of choking. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 British Open, or Shaq at the free-throw line, there’s something unbelievably poignant and nightmarish about watching a world-class performer get sabotaged by their own brain. I can’t bear to watch, and yet I can’t…

The Psychology of Power

This whole Spitzer affair got me thinking about the psychology of power. When you look around the world, it’s clear that so many of our problems are due, at least in part, to abuses of power. From Mugabe to Putin, Chavez to Cheney, there’s obviously something deeply intoxicating and dangerous about positions of power. (Especially…

Moths and Memory

This is crazy stuff: A new study finds that moths can remember things they learned when they were caterpillars — even though the process of metamorphosis essentially turns their brains and bodies to soup. The implications of the PLOS study extend far beyond the world of moths and butterflies. For instance, one of the fundamental…

Cognitive Daily has a typically great review of some recent research connecting blood glucose levels and self-control: Matthew Gailliot, along with Baumeister and six other researchers, asked 103 psychology students to fast for three hours before watching a video [the video required subjects to ignore salient stimuli, much like the stroop task]. Half the students…

Paying Students to Learn

It’s a new pilot program in a few dozen New York City schools: students are given cash rewards in exchange for higher test scores. Jennifer Medina reports: The fourth graders squirmed in their seats, waiting for their prizes. In a few minutes, they would learn how much money they had earned for their scores on…

Jeff Tweedy on Migraines

The NY Times group blog on Migraines just posted a really fantastic article by Jeff Tweedy, leader of Wilco (one of my favorite bands), on his chronic migraine condition: There are a lot of different ways migraines have affected my music, and vice versa: being a musician has allowed me — for lack of a…

The Lying Brain

Radio Lab delves into the mystery: Yang and her colleagues put all 49 people, both the liars and the non-liars, into a magnetic resonant imaging scanner and took pictures of their prefrontal cortex. They chose to focus on this area of the brain because previous studies had shown that the prefrontal cortex plays a role…