The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2010

Self-Control and Peer Groups

For the most part, self-control is seen as an individual trait, a measure of personal discipline. If you lack self-control, then it’s your own fault, a character flaw built into the brain. However, according to a new study by Michelle vanDellen, a psychologist at the University of Georgia, self-control contains a large social component; the…

Cable News

Cable news is not good for the soul. People make fun of Jersey Shore, but at least those randy kids don’t reinforce our deep-seated political biases. A new paper by Shawn Powers of USC and Mohammed el-Nawawy of Queens University of Charlotte looked at the effect of international cable news on the ideology of its…

Power

The Economist reviews an interesting new study that investigates the immorality of power: In their first study, Dr Lammers and Dr Galinsky asked 61 university students to write about a moment in their past when they were in a position of high or low power. Previous research has established that this is an effective way…

Musical Predictions

There’s an interesting new paper on how the brain makes sense of music by constructing detailed models in real time. The act of listening, it turns out, is really an act of neural prediction. Here are the scientists, from the University of London: The ability to anticipate forthcoming events has clear evolutionary advantages, and predictive…

Chess Intuition

Time Magazine has an interesting profile of Magnus Carlsen, the youngest chess player to achieve a number one world ranking: Genius can appear anywhere, but the origins of Carlsen’s talent are particularly mysterious. He hails from Norway — a “small, poxy chess nation with almost no history of success,” as the English grand master Nigel…

Charity is Social

There’s a new and very timely paper out this week that looks at the cortical mechanics of charitable giving. While it’s been known for a few years that giving away money activates the dopamine reward pathway – that’s why doing good feels good – this latest paper attempted to investigate the philanthropic system in detail.…

Haiti

The news out of Haiti this morning is hellish; the Earth slips and thousands die. The early reports have the same feel as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, in that every bulletin brings more awful news. I already find myself dreading tomorrow’s newspaper, which will outline the full scope of the tragedy. Here is more…

Falsification

In a recent New Yorker, John Cassidy spends time with a number of influential economists at the University of Chicago, home to the Chicago School and its emphasis on the productive efficiency of free markets. Obviously, the financial maelstrom of the last few years has led many to question this premise, at least in its…

How We Decide (Paperback Remix)

The paperback of How We Decide is now shipping from your favorite online retailers and should be in local bookstores. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I’d repost an interview I conducted with myself when the hardcover was published last year. If you’d like more, there’s also this interview on Fresh Air, and this interview…

Intelligence and the Idle Mind

I’ve written before about the importance of daydreaming and the so-called default, or resting state network, which seems to underlie some important features of human cognition. Instead of being shackled to our immediate surroundings and sensations, the daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings and interesting counterfactuals. As a result,…