The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2010

Costco

My uncle describes Costco as the place “where you go broke saving money”. That certainly describes my experience of the warehouse store – I walk in for some toilet paper and leave with a new television, a tub of cashews and a lifetime supply of chapstick. ABC News recently had an interesting profile of the…

Commuting

David Brooks, summarizing the current state of happiness research: The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year. In other words, the best way to make yourself happy is to have a short commute and get married. I’m…

Metacognitive Apes

I’ve always been fascinated by tip-of-the-tongue moments. It’s estimated that, on average, people have a tip-of-the-tongue moment at least once a week. Perhaps it occurs when you run into an old acquaintance whose name you can’t remember, although you know that it begins with the letter “J.” Or perhaps you struggle to recall the title…

Childish Creativity

Pablo Picasso once declared that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” The solution to Picasso’s problem is startlingly simple, at least according to the psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University: We just need to think like a little kid.…

Why We Dream

Over the weekend, I had a little essay in the Times on some new research on why dream at night. When I can’t sleep, I think about what I’m missing. I glance over at my wife and watch her eyelids flutter. I listen to the steady rhythm of her breath. I wonder if she’s dreaming…

Randomness and God

The world is a confusing place. Correlation looks like causation; the signal sounds like the noise; randomness is everywhere. This raises the obvious question: How does the human brain cope with such an epistemic mess? How do we deal with the helter-skelter of reality? One approach would be to ground all of our beliefs in…

Mayan Morality

Here’s a moral scenario: A man is sitting near the side of the road when he sees a truck speeding along. It is headed towards a group of five men, who do not hear or see it, and if nothing appears in the road, it will certainly hit and kill them. Across the road is…

Personal Narratives

It sounds like President Obama and his communications staff are getting to know the research of Paul Slovic: After weeks of making his case for the legislation in broad strokes — including two similar rallies last week in Philadelphia and St. Charles, Mo. — Mr. Obama used Monday’s appearance to pivot to the personal, as…

Online Status Anxiety

Now that the social web is maturing – the platforms have been winnowed down to a select few (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) – some interesting commonalities are emerging. The one shared feature that I’m most interested in is also a little disturbing: the tendency of the social software to quantify our social life. Facebook doesn’t…

Marijuana and Divergent Thinking

In response to my post on the effects of mood on cognition, which also referenced the possibilities of self-medicating ourselves into the ideal mood, Andrew Sullivan offered up the following anecdote: I was talking with a fine artist the other day and he was telling me how blocked he was on a piece, and how…