The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2010

Psychopaths and Rational Morality

Here’s a new interesting new paper on the emotional deficits of the psychopathic brain, via sarcastic_f: The understanding that other people’s emotional states depend on the fulfilment of their intention is fundamentally important for responding adequately to others. Psychopathic patients show severe deficits in responding adequately to other people’s emotion. The present study explored whether…

Enculturation and Wall Street

The process of enculturation doesn’t just afflict middle-aged scientists, struggling to appreciate a new anomaly. It’s a problem for any collection of experts, from CIA analysts to Wall Street bankers. Let’s stick with Wall Street, since Goldman Sachs is in the news. The question for senators and regulators is why some very smart people (and…

Youth and Paradigm Shifts

I just discovered (via Tyler Cowen) a fascinating economics paper on the changing dynamics of scientific production over the 20th century. A few months ago, I wrote about the tangled relationship of age and innovation, and why different fields have different peak ages of creativity. In general, math, physics and poetry are for the young,…

Poker Face

I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with professional poker players while writing How We Decide. For the most part, these players have exquisite control over their facial expressions, so that those micro-muscles around the eyes and mouth rarely betrayed their inner thoughts. (The players reacted with the same look of unflappable boredom…

Dreaming and Remembering

Ed Yong has a typically great post on a new Current Biology paper that investigates the link between dreaming and memory consolidation: The last decade of research has clearly shown that sleep is one of the best aide memoires that we have. During this nightly time-out, our brain can rehearse information that it has picked…

Prozac and Plasticity

Prozac (aka fluoxetine) is one of the most successful drugs of all time. Since its introduction as an antidepressant more than 20 years ago, Prozac has been prescribed to more than 80 million people around the world. Currently, approximately one in ten Americans are on an anti-depressant, with the vast majority taking SSRI’s like Prozac.…

Expertise and Anger

Experience changes everything. That, at least, is the lesson of a new study of Navy SEALS led by scientists at UCSD. Their experiment was an investigation into the anatomy of emotional perception, or what happens inside the brain when we glimpse angry, fearful or happy faces. The results were straightforward: Navy SEALS are exceptionally good…

Thinking About Tomorrow

The lure of instant gratification is hard to resist: when we want something, we want it right now. Of course, maturity and reality demand that we learn to wait, that we postpone our pleasures until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. And so we stash money in our savings account, and forgo the SUV for the…

Optimism Bias

I’m pretty fascinated by this chart from the McKinsey Quarterly, which is a great demonstration of the optimism bias. The chart captures the earnings estimates of equity analysts for S&P 500 companies. The downward slope of these yellow lines is what happens when our hopeful projections meet dismal reality: Needless to say, these estimates come…

Touch and Basketball

A forthcoming paper by Michael Kraus and Dacher Keltner at UC-Berkeley investigates the correlation between “tactile communication” and success in the NBA. In essence, the paper demonstrates that “touchier” teams – and this includes everything from pats on the ass to high-fives – are also more likely to win. (The two touchiest teams during the…