The Frontal Cortex

Archives for September, 2008

Herd Behavior

What a vivid example of human irrationality: An erroneous headline that flashed across trading screens Monday, saying United had filed for a second bankruptcy, sent the airline’s stock plummeting. United Airlines shares fell to about $3 from more than $12 in less than an hour before trading was halted, wiping more than $1 billion in…

Without Salt

The great Laurie Colwin, on learning to cook and eat without salt: After a few weeks I felt I had gotten the hang of my new regime. I had discovered saltless bread, smoked mozarella, green peppercorns and fresh sage. I felt I might venture out into the real world for a meal. I did, and…

Identity Politics

We shouldn’t be surprised when every presidential election – even an election between two candidates committed to some vague post-partisan future – veers into identity politics and the culture war. I can’t help but watch these conventions through the lens of Jane Goodall, as a gathering of social primates affirming their role within the tribe.…

Rationality, Science, Rorty

Razib makes an excellent and obvious point: I do not believe scientists are particularly rational people as compared to the normal human. Because the average scientist has a higher IQ than the average artist I am willing to grant marginally higher rationality to an average scientist. Their ability to decompose and abstract any given conceptual…

Football

Is it football season already? It seems like I just got over the epic disappointment of the Superbowl. (Yes, I’m a Pats fan) So, in honor of football season, I think it’s worth highlighting one of the major trends to affect the sport over the last few decades: the ascent of the passing game. Since…

Going with the Gut – McCain Edition

So there’s been a lot of talk about how John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for VP demonstrates the danger of trusting your instincts and making important decisions with your gut. But I think such a conclusion is unfair – not to McCain, but to our very own brain. After all, one of the major…

Begging for Sympathy

Panhandling is a surprisingly lucrative profession: Anecdotal surveys by journalists and police, and even testimony by panhandlers themselves, suggest that begging can yield anywhere from $20 to $100 a day–though police in Coos Bay, Oregon, found that local panhandlers were taking in as much as $300 a day in a Wal-Mart parking lot. “A panhandler…

Strawberry Yogurt

I love these experiments, if only because everyone assumes that the basic finding doesn’t apply to them. It’s only these other simpletons who can’t tell the difference between red and white wine, or cheap plonk and fancy Bordeaux, or strawberry and chocolate yogurt: In one recent test, psychologists asked 32 volunteers to sample strawberry yogurt.…

Referee Bias

On the last day of every golf tournament, Tiger Woods insists on wearing a bright red polo shirt. Woods says the habit is merely superstition, but new research suggests that his fashion sense might actually come with athletic benefits. A paper published this month in Psychological Science reports that referees and umpires subconsciously favor competitors…

Teens and Sex

You’ve got to feel very sorry for Bristol Palin. The poor teenager isn’t running for political office and yet she’s the subject of two front page stories in the NY Times today. All of a sudden, every talking head on the cable news is wondering how her pregnancy will influence the election. Is this what…