The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2008

DFW

David Foster Wallace on the increasing specialization of knowledge, or what I call the acronym boom: Things are vastly more compartmentalized now than they were up through, say, the Renaissance. And more specialized, and more freighted with all kinds of special context. There’s no way we’d expect a world-class, cutting-edge mathematician now also to be…

Emotional Investors

Wall Street sure is moody. Forty-eight hours ago we were on the verge of a financial apocalypse. Now, traders are engaging in record breaking market surges. While there certainly has been lots of news that helps explain these dramatic shifts, I wonder if a significant part of the movement is actually rooted in the raw…

Is Porn Adultery?

In the new Atlantic, Ross Douthat argues that porn is a moral slippery slope, and is part of the adultery continuum: Yes, adultery is inevitable, but it’s never been universal in the way that pornography has the potential to become–at least if we approach the use of hard-core porn as a normal outlet from the…

Negational Identity

One of the most depressing things about an election cycle is the way it splits America into a series of demographic and ideological tribes. There’s red states and blue states, whites and blacks, liberals and conservatives, hockey moms and soccer dads. Cultural commonalities are replaced with partisan differences. It’s an ugly and unhealthy process, and…

Subprime

What a bleak day on Wall Street. Although the financial contagion long ago spread beyond subprime mortgages, it’s worth remembering that this all began when lenders decided that millions of people could afford loans that were actually unaffordable, at least over the long-term. Why did people accept these onerous loans? Why did they borrow more…

Stock Versus Water

Michael Ruhlman says to not waste money on store bought stock: I cannot say this strongly or loudly enough: DO NOT use canned stock/broth. Use WATER instead. I repeat. You DO NOT NEED to buy that crappy can of Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth! It will HURT your food. Use water instead. When that recipe…

Motivated Reasoning

In response to my post yesterday which argued that Democrats and Republicans are both vulnerable to what’s politely referred to as “motivated reasoning” – in other words, we’re all partisan hacks – some commenters objected. They pointed out that the actual study I was discussing found that conservatives, perhaps due to their rigid beliefs, were…

Cognitive Dissonance and Politics

Yesterday, we looked at some new research that found that when conservatives were exposed to evidence demonstrating the falsity of a partisan belief – such as a report demonstrating that Iraq didn’t have WMD, or that lowering taxes doesn’t increase government revenue – they became more convinced than ever that those beliefs were actually true.…

Skeptical Genetics

How much can we learn about disease from studying genetics? A few months ago, Nature published an interesting article on the possible impossibility of ever finding the faulty genes behind many mental illnesses. Today, Nicholas Wade in the Times had an interesting article on the skeptical geneticist David Goldstein: Goldstein says the effort to nail…

Why the Facts Don’t Matter in Politics

I think this experiment helps explains a rather disturbing amount of our political discourse. What it neatly demonstrates is that the main reason so many campaigns traffic in dishonest allegations and pseudofacts is that, when it comes to voters, the facts don’t really matter. Most of us are just partisan hacks: Political scientists Brendan Nyhan…