The Frontal Cortex

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Arts Education

Reposted from last year: Michael Posner and Brenda Patoine make a neuroscientific case for arts education. They argue that teaching kids to make art has lasting cognitive benefits: If there were a surefire way to improve your brain, would you try it? Judging by the abundance of products, programs and pills that claim to offer…

The Endowment Effect

Here’s a post from last summer*: I went jean shopping this weekend. Actually, I went to the mall to return a t-shirt but ended buying a pair of expensive denim pants. What happened? I made the mistake of entering the fitting room. And then the endowment effect hijacked my brain. Let me explain. The endowment…

Lotteries

Here’s an old post from July 08: The devious slogan for the New York State lottery is “All you need is a dollar and a dream.” Such state lotteries are a regressive form of taxation, since the vast majority of lottery consumers are low-income. The statistics are bleak: Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players,…

Vacation

I’m going to be away on vacation for the next week or so. I’ll be putting up some old posts in the meantime. Here’s one from 2009 on “Boredom”: The great poet Joseph Brodsky, praising boredom: A substantial part of what lies ahead of you is going to be claimed by boredom. The reason I’d…

Patience

I’m always fascinated by the ways in which societal issues impact the research program of modern neuroscience. (After all, the virtue of studying the brain is that it can be made relevant to just about anything, from the formation of financial bubbles to internet searches.) We’re still living through the aftermath of the Great Recession,…

The Underdog

Over at Slate, Daniel Engber has a fascinating (and thorough) investigation of why we root for the underdog. There are numerous factors at work, from the availability heuristic to our deep desire for equality. But I was most intrigued by this research, which tries to explain why we associate underdogs with virtuous characteristics, like effort…

Self-Tracking

Gary Wolf has a fascinating and really well written article in the Times Magazine on the rise of the “quantified self,” or all those people who rely on microsensors to measure discrete aspects of their lives, from walking speed to emotional mood: Millions of us track ourselves all the time. We step on a scale…

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,…