The Frontal Cortex

Archives for May, 2009

Judicial Empathy

Apologies for the radio silence – I’ve been traveling and away from a reliable internet connection. (Taking a break from Google is one of the true pleasures of travel. I’m afraid, however, that it’s an endangered pleasure, like train travel. I’m always impressed by all the places, from airplanes to remote beach hotels, that are…

Self-Control Questions

Over at the New Yorker website, I’ve answered a few questions from readers about the marshmallow task: Do you think the future results of success would be different for a sample of kids born in the twenty-first century considering the decades of behavioral, economical changes in the society? Hassan Patwary San Jose, Calif. I think…

Creativity and Living Abroad

The Economist summarizes a new study looking at the link between living abroad and increased creativity: Anecdotal evidence has long held that creativity in artists and writers can be associated with living in foreign parts. Rudyard Kipling, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Gauguin, Samuel Beckett and others spent years dwelling abroad. Now a pair of…

The Speed of Short People

Robert Krulwich has a fascinating piece on NPR about the binding problem and the speed of nerve transmission. In essence, it takes a split-second longer for sensory signals to reach the brains of tall people, which means that their “now” is actually a little less timely. (This explains a lot about the NBA…) Because for…

Team Loyalty

Matthew Yglesias advocates for the free movement of sports franchises, so that they can hop from city to city with ease and thus follow the movement of population: Right now, the New York City Designated media area contains 6.5 percent of households. LA has 5 percent. Chicago has 3 percent. Philadelphia has 2.6 percent. Dallas,…

Daydreams

An interesting new study on mind-wandering and the default network was recently published in PNAS. The scientists, led by Kalina Christoff of UBC and Jonathan Schooler of UCSB, used “experience sampling” in an fMRI machine to capture the moment of daydreaming: essentially, subjects were given an extremely tedious task and, when their mind started to…

Spending Money

One question that came up yesterday during the radio show was whether or not Americans can learn, once again, to delay gratification and save money. Can we get back the thriftiness of earlier generations? Or are we destined to be a nation with a negative savings rate? I certainly wouldn’t want to underestimate the malleability…

Things I Like

1) The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, by Freedarko. This book is perpetually on my coffee table, if only so I can read through it (again and again) every time there’s a commercial break during the NBA playoffs. It’s a really hard book to describe, but if you think you might enjoy Langston Hughes references in…

Marshmallows on the Radio

I was on On Point today with Walter Mischel, the subject of my recent New Yorker article. As usual, he was incredibly eloquent. One thing we both got a chance to emphasize was the plasticity of personality – as I mention in the article, Mischel has found a significant subset of subjects who, although they…

Creativity

I’ve got a short column for the Seed website on the neuroscience of improvisation. I begin with one of my favorite stories of improv, which is Al Kooper’s organ playing during the studio sessions for “Like A Rolling Stone”: Al Kooper didn’t know what to play. He’d told some half-truths to get into Bob Dylan’s…