The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2009

The Art Instinct

In yesterday’s Washington Post, I reviewed The Art Instinct, a new book by Denis Dutton that uses evolutionary psychology to explain the odd human obsession with making art: The list of cultural universals — those features that recur in every human society, from remote rainforest tribes to modern America — is surprisingly short. There’s language,…

Economics and Groupthink

Uwe Reinhardt, an economist at Princeton, has a thoughtful explanation of why macroeconomists were so blindsided by the economic downtown of 2008: Fewer than a dozen prominent economists saw this economic train wreck coming — and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, an economist famous for his academic research on the Great Depression, was notably…

Back Pain

In November 2007, I had a longish article in Best Life Magazine on the psychology of chronic back pain. Apparently, the version of the article on the Best Life website no longer works, and I regularly get emails from people asking to read the actual text. So in order to establish a future reference and…

Urban Driving

You’d never know it from my recent article on the urban brain (and the cognitive benefits of nature) but I love walking in cities. In fact, a leisurely stroll in a metropolis is one of my favorite things to do. Sure, it might tire my prefrontal cortex a bit – there’s just so much to…

Amateur Science

In the latest Seed, Steven Shapin has a great essay on the state of modern science. We take the current setup, in which science is a professional activity, shaped by peer-review journals and the priorities of funding institutions, for granted. But it was not always so. Once upon a time, scientists were curious amateurs: Well…

Washington D.C.

A quick programming note: I’ll be speaking at the Corcoran Gallery of Art next Monday, January 12. The lecture begins at 7 and, unfortunately, costs money. (I always get very insecure at the prospect of having people pay to hear me speak.) I’m currently in the process of developing my stump speech for the new…

Neuron Culture

Just a quick note to welcome back David Dobbs to the blogosphere. He’s a fine, fine journalist and I’m thrilled that he’s realized that long-form reportage can co-exist with blogging. I look forward to reading his future posts over at Neuron Culture. Also, a quick endorsement that’s long overdue: if you’re looking for a way…

Competition

Here’s an interesting finding, which is summarized by Kevin Lewis in the Boston Globe Ideas section: If you’ve ever had to take a test in a room with a lot of people, you may be able to relate to this study: The more people you’re competing against, it turns out, the less motivated and competitive…

Voodoo fMRI

I just wanted to draw attention to two fantastic blog posts that describe a new paper by Edward Vul, a grad student at MIT, and colleagues at UCSD. The first post comes from Vaughan over at MindHacks: I’ve just come across a bombshell of a paper that looked at numerous headline studies on the cognitive…

The Urban Brain

I had a longish article in the Boston Globe Ideas section yesterday exploring some recent research on how living in a city affects the brain: The city has always been an engine of intellectual life, from the 18th-century coffeehouses of London, where citizens gathered to discuss chemistry and radical politics, to the Left Bank bars…