The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2009

Willpower

Apologies for the light blogging: I’m enjoying a little vacation from my computer. But here is a recent little article about willpower in the WSJ: Willpower, like a bicep, can only exert itself so long before it gives out; it’s an extremely limited mental resource. Given its limitations, New Year’s resolutions are exactly the wrong…

The Neuroscience of Screw-Ups

My latest Wired article is now online and on the newsstands. It’s about the messiness of experimental science, the blind-spots created by knowledge, Thorstein Veblen, European Jews and the background static created by the Big Bang.

Free Will and Ethics

Earlier this week, I wondered if all of our new knowledge about the brain, which is too often presented in a lazy causal fashion – if x lights up, then we do y – might undermine our sense of self and self-control. I’ve since riffled through the literature and found some interesting and suggestive answers.…

Tiger Woods

James Surowiecki has the smartest take I’ve read on the Woods sex scandal: Woods’s appeal was based, ultimately, not on his physical abilities but on his mental toughness, his extraordinary capacity for focus and discipline. He was the man who always made the key putt, who never cracked under pressure. That’s why Gatorade, introducing a…

The Placebo Effect of Biology

The always fascinating Ed Yong, over at Not Exactly Rocket Science, highlights a recent study on testosterone, aggression and the placebo effect. If ever a hormone was the subject of clich├ęs and stereotypes, it is testosterone. In pop culture, it has become synonymous with masculinity, although women are subject to its influence too. Injections of…

ADHD and Time

I recently learned that many professional graduate schools – law schools, business schools, even medical schools – continue to provide “test accommodations” to students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. These accommodations usually take the form of extra time on the exam, when time is a crucial resource. Of course, it’s not just grad…

Why We Travel

The latest McSweeney’s production is a marvel. It’s in the form of a daily newspaper – The San Francisco Panorama – and is yet another reminder that the newspaper remains an essential literary form, a potent mixture of breaking news and obscure stories. (If your local indie bookstore stocks the Panorama, be sure to buy…

Social Status

In the latest Mind Matters, Adam Waytz (an old college friend, co-author of my favorite book on basketball, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, and now a post-doc at Harvard) writes about a fascinating new paper by PJ Henry on social status and aggression. If you’ve read Gladwell’s excellent Outliers, then you’re probably familiar with the…

The Middle Way

I found this minor anecdote, from Peter Baker’s authoritative NY Times article on Obama’s decision-making process for Afghanistan, to be quite fascinating: On Oct. 9, Mr. Obama and his team reviewed General McChrystal’s troop proposals for the first time. Some in the White House were surprised by the numbers, assuming there would be a middle…

Science and Climategate

Jon Stewart on the stolen Climategate emails: I have two responses to the release of these admittedly unflattering emails. Firstly, they shed virtually no light on the actual climate science. Tyler Cowen says it best: I see science, including climate science, as very much a decentralized process, based on the collective efforts of thousands of…