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Jonah Lehrer

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July 21, 2010
NOTE: This blog has moved. The Frontal Cortex is now over here. I've got some exciting news: Starting today, the Frontal Cortex will be moving over to the Wired website. Needless to say, the move comes with the usual mixture of emotions, as I've greatly enjoyed my four years as part of the…
July 20, 2010
Over at Gizmodo, Joel Johnson makes a convincing argument for adding random strangers to your twitter feed: I realized most of my Twitter friends are like me: white dorks. So I picked out my new friend and started to pay attention. She's a Christian, but isn't afraid of sex. She seems to have some…
July 19, 2010
I've got a new article in the latest Wired on the science of stress, as seen through the prism of Robert Sapolsky. The article isn't online yet (read it on the iPad!), but here are the opening paragraphs: Baboons are nasty, brutish and short. They have a long muzzle and sharp fangs designed to…
July 14, 2010
Over at Sciam's Mind Matters, Melody Dye has a great post on the surprising advantages of thinking like a baby. At first glance, this might seem like a ridiculous conjecture: A baby, after all, is missing most of the capabilities that define the human mind, such as language and the ability to…
July 13, 2010
Joe Keohane has a fascinating summary of our political biases in the Boston Globe Ideas section this weekend. It's probably not surprising that voters aren't rational agents, but it's always a little depressing to realize just how irrational we are. (And it's worth pointing out that this…
July 12, 2010
We can't help but talk to ourselves. At any given moment, there's a running commentary unfolding in our stream of consciousness, an incessant soliloquy of observations, questions and opinions. But what's the best way to structure all this introspective chatter? What kind of words should we whisper…
July 9, 2010
There's an absolutely fascinating new paper by scientists at Ohio State University in the latest Cell. In short, the paper demonstrates that mice living in an enriched environments - those spaces filled with toys, running wheels and social interactions - are less likely to get tumors, and better…
July 8, 2010
There's been lots of chatter about Pepsi lately, so I thought I'd run with the theme. I don't have much to add to the media commentary - I'm just sad to see some of my favorite bloggers leave this space - but I've got plenty to say about soft drinks. And little of it will please Pepsi. The first…
July 7, 2010
There's a fascinating article in the latest Vanity Fair (not online) about the prevalence of LSD (aka lysergic acid diethylamide) among movie stars in 1950s Hollywood: Aldous Huxley was one of the first in Los Angeles to take LSD and was soon joined by others, including the writer Anais Nin. The…
July 1, 2010
Brendan Koerner has a really fantastic article in the latest Wired on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It's a fascinating exploration of the organization, from its hallucinogen inspired birth (Bill Wilson was tripping on belladonna when he found God in a hospital room) to the difficulty of accurately…
June 29, 2010
Ever since Pac Man, video games have obeyed a few basic principles: A player sits down in front of a screen and presses a few buttons with his or her thumbs. Perhaps there's a joystick involved, or maybe the index finger has to do some work, too. But the body is essentially still. The only moving…
June 28, 2010
The intelligence test is badly named. The main problem is that we should be talking about intelligence tests in plural, so that the IQ test is merely one of the many measures we use to assess our innate mental skills. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg and…
June 24, 2010
I was a stuttering child. Whenever I got the slightest bit nervous, I had an annoying tendency to run out of air on vowel sounds, so that beginning a phrase with "A" or "eee" or "I" was all but impossible. I would choke and sputter, my eyes blinking in mad frustration. This minor affliction led me…
June 22, 2010
I have a complicated relationship with my GPS unit. On the one hand, it rarely works. Here's what happened the last time I turned it on. First, there was a five minute delay while it searched for the satellite signal. Then, it couldn't find the street I was searching for. Then, it found the street…
June 21, 2010
Clive Thompson has a wonderful article in the NY Times Magazine on Watson, the supercomputer programmed to excel at Jeopardy. Thompson delves into the clever heuristics used to generate singular answers to ambiguous questions. (Watson relies on massive amounts of parallel processing, so that "he"…
June 18, 2010
Over at the Barnes and Noble Review, I have a short review of Cognitive Surplus, the new book by Clay Shirky: Cognitive Surplus, the new book by internet guru Clay Shirky, begins with a brilliant analogy. He starts with a description of London in the 1720s, when the city was in the midst of a gin…
June 15, 2010
Sam Tanenhaus has an interesting essay on the relationship between age and literary genius, which was prompted by the new New Yorker fiction issue, featuring a list of 20 accomplished writers under the age of 40. Tanenhaus argues that the purpose of the list - "to offer a focused look at the talent…
June 14, 2010
The Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written an excellent new book, How Pleasure Works, that I had the pleasure of blurbing. The book elegantly refutes the idea that our pleasures are mere sensations, or that our delight can be neatly reduced into some ingredient list of superficial perceptions.…
June 10, 2010
I'd like to tell you a story about a routine of modern life that is really bad for your brain. Everybody performs this activity - sometimes multiple times a day! - and yet we rarely realize the consequences. In 2008, scientists at the University of Michigan did a very clever study illuminating how…
June 8, 2010
I recently had a short article in Wired on the danger of getting too enthralled with our empirical tools, which leads us to neglect everything that our tools can't explain: A typical experiment in functional magnetic resonance imaging goes like this: A subject is slid into a claustrophobia-inducing…
June 6, 2010
I've got a review of The Shallows, a new book by Nicholas Carr on the internet and the brain, in the NY Times: Socrates started what may have been the first technology scare. In the "Phaedrus," he lamented the invention of books, which "create forgetfulness" in the soul. Instead of remembering for…
June 4, 2010
Over at Slate, William Saletan has finished a wonderful series on the distortions and dishonesties of memory. Although our memories always feel true, they're extremely vulnerable to errant suggestions, clever manipulations and the old fashioned needs of storytelling. (The mind, it turns out, cares…
June 3, 2010
Jet lag is an annoyance of modern life for which our pleistocene brain is completely unprepared. This ability to zip around the globe, to trapeze from time zone to time zone, is an invention of the late 20th century. Unfortunately, the brain is an organ of routine, equipped with a stubborn…
June 1, 2010
This oil spill sure is getting depressing. We've become extremely talented at hiding away the ill effects of our consumption decisions. We don't see the inhumane chicken farms behind our chicken McNuggets, or the Chinese factories that produce our shoes, or the offshore oil rigs that extract our…
May 26, 2010
In the last few months, the globalized world has endured two very different crises. First, there was the ash cloud over Europe, which paralyzed air travel for millions of passengers. Then, there is the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, which continues to spew somewhere between 5000 and 60,000…
May 25, 2010
The Allen Brain Atlas just launched their first set of gene expression maps in the adult human brain, based on microarray data from over 700 different anatomical locations. It promises to be an invaluable resource for scientists trying to figure out how a text of base pairs constructs the most…
May 25, 2010
I've got a short feature on the Pixar creative process in the latest issue of Wired. This is one of those magazine spreads that really benefits from a glossy paper layout, so I'd recommend not following this hyperlink, and instead picking up the dead paper edition. (It's a really great issue.) As a…
May 24, 2010
Benedict Carey summarizes a new UCLA study that documented the life of middle-class families, videotaping their dinners, conversations and leisure activities: The U.C.L.A. project was an effort to capture a relatively new sociological species: the dual-earner, multiple-child, middle-class American…
May 18, 2010
Mo over at Neurophilosophy has an excellent summary of a new paper on near misses and addictive gambling: Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way…
May 17, 2010
Since I've been traveling in a foreign country for the last week - I was sipping sugary tea all over Turkey - I thought this article, published last year in McSweeney's Panorama newspaper, was slightly relevant. If nothing else, it's my personal attempt to justify both the annoying burdens of…