The Frontal Cortex


That was fun!

A few random notes:

1) I can’t bring myself to watch the clip. Which reminds me of my brilliant idea for an fMRI experiment: show people videos of themselves in a scanner and see what brain areas turn on. Presto: you’ve found the neural correlates of self-loathing. I’m betting on the insula.

2) It was totally surreal being on the set of a show you watch every night. Like walking into your television or falling down a rabbit hole or something.

3) Am I allowed to say that Stephen Colbert – the person, not the character – is the nicest guy? And that he gives every guest a gift card to DonorsChoose, which allows you to buy pencils and paper and books for individual teachers?


  1. #1 Sida
    February 6, 2009

    You were fantastic! Most charming and really interesting. Made me order the book!

  2. #2 Molly
    February 6, 2009


    So good. Even better were the parts when he let you complete your sentences 😉

  3. #3 Lisa
    February 6, 2009

    Great interview! going to buy the book.
    P.S you are cute!

  4. #4 Melissa
    February 6, 2009

    I must say you did a great job with Colbert- this comes from my emotional brain which is now madly in love with you!

  5. #5 Onkel Bob
    February 6, 2009

    Interesting… Contrary to the popular acclaim, Colbert is a truly bad interviewer. I understand it’s schtick, but his relentless interruption never allow the viewer to come to their own conclusion.
    The Plato chariot versus the modern elephant was an interesting bit.

  6. #6 jim in austin
    February 6, 2009

    Well done. I can hear the cash registers at Amazon ka-chinging from here…

  7. #7 Shannon
    February 6, 2009

    I thought it was a fun interview and as soon as it was over I went to Amazon to check out the book, so obviously it served it’s purpose. You were very likeable in the interview and appealing to everyone. Sometimes when you get someone really scientfic minded on there it can be a snoozefest, but your interview wasn’t at all.

  8. #8 Jessica
    February 6, 2009

    I WAS SO EXCITED when it was announced at the beginning that you would be on.

    It didn’t disappoint!!
    Only, I was kind of hoping Proust Was a Neuroscientist would come up, since it’s kind of the inspiration for my senior thesis… 🙂

    Still, excellent-e!

  9. #9 Barry
    February 6, 2009

    What was most interesting to me was that I thought I could see you engaging in a bit of metacognition at the beginning of the interview. Colbert came on so aggressively, it almost seemed like you had to decide how to handle this barrage of relentlessly mischievous questions. I thought I detected just the briefest look of a deer in the headlights before you processed what he was doing and shifted gears to handle him appropriately, which you did with aplomb.

    p.s. I’m on chapter 3. Hot stuff!

  10. #10 Sachman
    February 6, 2009

    I was going to go to bed without watching the rest, and then suddenly it was you, and I sat back down! Great interview, I look forward to reading your latest book [ordered it last week]. You are my primary source for new information on cognitive biology, you are very serious and sincere about understanding and sharing your comprehensions – thanks!

  11. #11 sharon malcolmson
    February 6, 2009

    Saw the Colbert interview and finished the book this a.m. Best read while endorphins engaged during exercise–encodes better. I highly reco the book to any readers curious about brain function, no matter how much of a layperson you are vs. science geek. JL and editors weave it all together in a very engaging mix of stories and neuroscience. Strong ref and biblio too for further reading.

  12. #12 scicurious
    February 6, 2009

    YAY JONAH! You were great. And yeah, you ARE totally cute. 🙂

  13. #13 from chicago
    February 6, 2009

    haha this was great

    i subscribed to your blog recently and im a big fan, sir – you’ve got some jewels in your archives. ill check out your book soon. i actually accidentally confused you with a different author i had read – alain de botton? who wrote, how proust can change your life.

  14. #14 MattXIV
    February 6, 2009

    I caught the interview last night – nice work condensing some rather complicated ideas into digestable chunks, especially given Colbert’s spastic interview format.

  15. #15 Marin
    February 6, 2009

    I really like being able to put a voice to the person.

  16. #16 Phineas
    February 6, 2009

    Beats a poke in the eye with a sharp tamping rod, if you know what I’m sayin’

  17. #17 Guy
    February 6, 2009

    I don’t watch the show much, but it’s easy to see what he’s up to. I think you were awesome, as usual. It does take a bit of nerve to step into that arena. I think it was a good decision. The book is excellent

  18. #18 Anibal
    February 6, 2009

    Good Jonah!
    I still wait for your membership on facebook, and of course, i recomend your book to every body.

  19. #19 Rachael
    February 6, 2009

    “Pure reason is actually a disease.”

    So interesting!

  20. #20 Remis
    February 6, 2009

    With the “Colbert Bump” your book will become a best-seller !!!

    Great work there, as usual. Greetings from Chile!

  21. #21 bee
    February 6, 2009

    omg – how did you not flick him between his eyes? Colbert is so incredibly annoying – as if he’s desperately trying to mask his lack of intelligence to even remotely relate to the subject of your expertise…

  22. #22 Angela Anthony
    February 6, 2009

    I love what you are telling me about myself. I read your book and loved the stories of the Korean pilots who would not listen to their underlings to the point of risking their lives by not getting the pertinent information. I remember being stunned by a British professor who, when unable to answer a question I asked, looked sternly at me and accused me of insubordination.

  23. #23 Liz
    February 6, 2009

    My husband was watching the show while I was listening and knitting, and then he commented that you were a newlywed. I gave him a confused look, since I didn’t hear that come up in the interview and my husband said you kept touching your wedding ring. I looked up and could notice it too. Of course, I had to find out if he was right, and it seems he was! My husband could relate: we’ve been married less than a year. Congratulations!

  24. #24 Lucy Garrick
    February 6, 2009

    I watched the interview on my Mac. You can’t take it too seriously, after all, it’s Colbert Report. You seemed very serious about your work. I had not heard of you or your book, but now I’m interested – Good job and good luck. I’ll try to catch you at Town Hall Seattle.

  25. #25 Lucy Garrick
    February 6, 2009

    I watched the interview on my Mac. You can’t take it too seriously, after all, it’s Colbert Report. You seemed very serious about your work and I can relate. It is important, after all. I had not heard of you or your book, and now I’m interested.

    I’m a org psychologist. The hardest thing I encounter is helping people to understand that changing ineffective behaviors is about balance and practice. If you are able to popularize those notions, it’s good for the world.

    Good job and good luck. I hope you sell a zillion copies. I’ll try to catch you at Town Hall Seattle.

  26. #26 Rachael
    February 7, 2009

    I agree with the other commenter who noticed that Colbert came on super strong in the beginning. I saw him in person once and he is so damn quick to come up with witty comebacks – I can’t even imagine being on the other side of his interview table.

    All in all, you did a great job with the banter and in advertising your new book. Congratulations on such good press!!

  27. #27 M. Williams
    February 7, 2009

    Colbert really is not an interviewer, but he opens his stage for some very interesting people, and ideas.

    I have suffered from panic attacks for over forty years, and
    I have tried to explain my method of dealing with them similarly to your emotional/rational theory. I think about how I am thinking, and try to move my decision making to the side that best will function for that issue.

    Rationally, I have to go to the grocery store for food. Emotionally, I have to choose which food appeals to my senses. I have stood for many minutes rationally trying to choose orange juice, but it is the emotional appeal of taste, texture, fragrance, that can decide.

    Will be ordering your book and following your articles with great interest.

  28. #28 Gen
    February 7, 2009

    Have you brought yourself to watch the clip yet? Or still waiting for an MRI on loan…?

    As someone above mentioned, Colbert actually let you finish your sentences! (Most of them, anyhow). In fact, while watching it occurred to me that you may have actually been the first guest of his to get as many words in as you did 😉

    The mention of issue with pure-reason (sociopath) was very well placed. Will you ever write a book on that subject?

  29. #29 Iris
    February 8, 2009

    I am a new fan — Kathy P introduced me, I am part of her academic family. Great interview!! I am buying the book today– can’t wait!!

  30. #30 Matthew Cornell
    February 9, 2009

    Fantastic job – very well done. What great questions he had. To go onto his show, with his intellect, humor, and wit? That takes guts!

  31. #31 maya
    February 9, 2009

    please come to chicago on your book tour! i’m going to cambridge the wrong weekend and won’t be able to catch you.

    Proust was a Neuroscientist inspired me to start writing again. thanks.

  32. #32 Julia Udell
    February 9, 2009

    I’ve been following your work for quite some time and I must say, I was thrilled to see you on The Colbert Report! I think you did a wonderful job and I’m so glad your book is getting some good media attention. I’m ordering it off of Amazon right now!

  33. #33 lee pirozzi
    February 11, 2009

    Wow – from page 186 of your book “How We Decide”, re: autism – 1st paragraph, last sentence – “A face generated no more emotion than a chair.”

    I dropped the book – in 2003 I painted a real chair an antique blue and then did a portrait of a woman’s face and head falling upside down out of the seat of the chair and the hair spilling down the front leg of the chair. I’ve never shown it before, but your descriptive words brought it back to mind as it sits in a corner of my studio.

  34. #34 janevalenz
    March 16, 2009

    I think part of me cried a little (on the inside of course, as I love reading the science blogs at work) after noticing the ring on your left ring finger.

    Still, awesome job with the interview/book/blog/everything. I love reading your commentary (and am sad about not finding out about your books until after your reading at Powell’s).

  35. #35 margaret dodds
    June 15, 2010

    Hi Jonah,
    A professor assigned your book to me and my 11 year old son remembered your interview on the Colbert Report-you have indeed gotten the Colbert Bump. I enjoyed your interview very much and am also enjoying your book (I am almost finished). Your book has really opened my eyes to a new way of looking at my thoughts. I wish you would have written it twenty years ago (you would have been a toddler though)as I think it would have helped me make some better decisions, I will try and metacognate from here on though.

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