The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2008

Mules are Smarter

A mule is a biological hybrid, an offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. According to a new paper, all of this cross-pollination has real benefits: mules are significantly smarter than either of their parents. No regression to the mean here: Six of each animal were shown sets of two food buckets, each…

Big Brain, Little Brain

One of the lessons of my article on insight (based largely on this research) is that mind wandering isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least if you want to tap into the obscure associations prevalent in the right hemisphere: Schooler’s research has also led him to reconsider the bad reputation of mind wandering. Although we…

Lotteries

The devious slogan for the New York State lottery is “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” Such state lotteries are a regressive form of taxation, since the vast majority of lottery consumers are low-income. As David Brooks notes: Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The…

Language and Cultural Evolution

Ed Yong has an excellent summary of a new experiment simulating the natural evolution of an artificial language as it’s passed from one person to another. Every time we use a language we are subtly bending the rules and words to fit the contours of the brain: Together with Kenny Smith at Northumbria University, they…

Excessive Choice

Sheena Iyengar has done some very cool studies on the debilitating effects of excessive choice. In one experiment, she ushered some undergraduates into a room with a variety of Godiva chocolates on a table. The students were then given vivid descriptions of each candy. They learned, for example, that the “Grand Marnier Truffle” consists of…

The Takeaway

I was on The Takeaway this morning talking about irrational voters, Peter Jennings and why trying to multi-task is like running Microsoft Vista on an old computer.

Do you scoff at those pale Tofu dogs in the health food aisles of the supermarket? Are you one of those people who taunt vegans by talking about Big Macs? A new study suggests that you should think about biting your tongue: According to the researchers, how we feel about a sausage, regardless of whether…

Loss Aversion and Real Estate

The latest report on home sales is bleak: Sales of new homes fell in June for the seventh time in the past eight months, more proof that the worst housing slump in decades is getting deeper. The Commerce Department reported Friday that sales of new single-family homes dropped by 0.6 percent last month to a…

A new paper in one of my favorite journals, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, tries to reverse-engineer the tricks of magicians to learn about the blind spots of the brain. Wired Science explains: Magic tricks may look simple, but they exploit cognitive patterns that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now some psychologists are considering how…

John Donne and Genetics

John Donne, in this stanza from The Ecstasy, seems to anticipate the double helix: Our hands were firmly cemented By a fast balm which thence did spring Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread Our eyes upon one double string; So to intergraft our hands, as yet Was all the means to make us one, And…