Culture

The Frontal Cortex

Category archives for Culture

Epidemiology

Gary Taubes has a pretty damning takedown of modern epidemiology at the Times Magazine: In the case of H.R.T. [Hormone Replacement Therapy], as with most issues of diet, lifestyle and disease, the hypotheses begin their transformation into public-health recommendations only after they’ve received the requisite support from a field of research known as epidemiology. This…

Iraq and Loss Aversion

There was something sad yet slightly poignant about watching President Bush’s speech on Iraq last night. I thought Andrew Sullivan got the atmospherics exactly right: He seemed almost broken to me. His voice raspy, his eyes watery, his affect exhausted, his facial expression almost bewildered. I thought I would feel angry; but I found myself…

The Neuroscience of Kanye West

The new Kanye West album is solid, although it could use a dose of ironic humor. But that’s neither here nor there. What interests me about Kanye is his masterful ability to embed hooks and samples into the background of his songs. He’ll literally repeat the same three second acoustic loop over and over again,…

Flight and Disorientation

My vestibular system is totally confused: See James Fallows for the explanation. Movies like this make me glad that pilots rely on gyroscopes to guide them through the clouds.

The Political Brain

Just a quick note on the liberal/conservative psychological study that everyone is talking about. (Dave Munger has a thorough write-up here.) Color me dubious. My own bias is to distrust any experiment that tries to collapse extremely complex cognitive categories – such as political belief – into a simple and quantifiable experimental paradigm. The research…

The Body Has A Mind of Its Own

Boy, was Descartes wrong. His philosophy of duality divided our being into two distinct substances: a holy soul and a mortal carcass. The soul was the source of reason, science and everything nice. Our flesh, on the other hand, was “clocklike,” just a machine that bleeds. With this schism, Descartes condemned the body to a…

The Gendered Brain

There are so many stupid studies of the gendered brain that it’s easy to conclude that good research into psychological sex differences is impossible. But that would be a mistake. I think one of most interesting recent investigations into the cognitive differences of men and women comes from a clever neuroeconomics experiment, designed by Colin…

Yawning and Autism

Yawning is famously contagious. Except that is, if you’re autistic. Here’s Mindhacks: The study showed that children with autism were far less likely to yawn in response to watching others do the same. Often, autistic social difficulties are put down to a problem with ‘theory of mind’ the ability to understand other people’s beliefs, intentions…

Quote of the Day

From Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz: Sooner of later, everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is…

The Placebo Effect

In my post on warm milk and sleepiness – the dairy acts like a placebo – a commenter made an astute point: what does “placebo” mean in that context? If you have developed the pathways that insist on Warm Milk = Time to Sleep, that effect is very real… Whether purely conditioned, or based on…