The Frontal Cortex

Archives for February, 2009

Out of Our Heads

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who came to one of the events on my book tour, from Seattle to The Strand. Thank you for listening and for your questions. It’s been such a deep pleasure to meet so many people interested in dopamine, Proust and Cheerios. Also, a sincere thank you…

Bubbles

In case you were wondering how you should invest your retirement savings (assuming you’re fortunate enough to still have some), yet another study demonstrates that low cost index funds are the way to go: Basic stock market index funds generally aspire to nothing more than matching the returns of a market benchmark. So in a…

Reason, Emotion and Consumption

One of the frustrations with writing a science book is that you keep on bumping into brand new research that you want to include. That’s precisely what happened to me when I read this just published paper in the Journal of Consumer Research by Leonard Lee, Dan Ariely, and On Amir. The behavioral economists were…

Smell

For the last week, I’ve been suffering from one of those head colds that won’t go away. The worst part of the cold isn’t the raw nose, or the sinus headaches, or the scratchy throat – it’s not being able to smell. I really hate not being able to smell. A world without scent is…

Even More Voodoo

Over at Mind Matters, I recently interviewed Matthew Lieberman, a social neuroscientist at UCLA. The previous week I asked Ed Vul, lead author of the “Voodoo Correlations” paper a few questions, and I wanted to make sure I gave some of the scientists he criticized a chance to rebut the accusations. (Here’s some excellent background…

March Madness

Being on book tour means that I watch way too much SportsCenter, since that’s what I do when I can’t sleep. And so, because it’s mid-February, I’ve noticed that the ESPN anchors are already talking endlessly about March Madness, college basketball and brackets. (Of course, this is also because they have little else to talk…

Microexpressions

Paul Ekman, the eminent scientist behind micro facial expressions, dissects the unconscious tics of deceit used by A-Rod: Ms. Couric asked Mr. Rodriguez if he had ever been tempted to use illegal drugs. He answered with a simple “No” accompanied by what might be a microfear expression, according to Dr. Ekman – a horizontal stretching…

The Color of Creativity

The brain is like a Swiss Army knife, stuffed full of different mental tools that are well suited to different situations. Sometimes, we want to flex the prefrontal cortex, and really exert our rational muscles. And then there are other situations (like picking a strawberry jam) where thinking too much can be a real problem,…

Book News

Self-promotion alert! If you’re allergic to self-aggrandizing blog posts, then you’ll probably want to stop reading now. But just a quick note to remind interested people that I’ll be in the Bay Area this week, talking about decision-making, before returning to the East Coast and holding events in NYC and Boston next week. Also, there…

Diet Soda

One of the perverse pleasures of spending too much time in airports is getting to people watch. I put on my “anthropologist from Mars” glasses and pass the time by staring at strangers, watching what they eat, read and how they struggle to nap in uncomfortable positions. This morning, while waiting on a very delayed…