Cognitive Scientist Wins $500,000 With Cognitive Science

I meant to post this a long time ago, but forgot about it. Here's the story of a cognitive neuroscientist who, using what he's learned about cognition in grad school, won $500,000 on the show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" From the article:

The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar "connectionist" neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest. For example, hearing an old Madonna song may launch a cascade of linked memories: your high school prom where it was the theme song, your poorly tailored prom outfit, your forgotten prom date, the stinging embarrassment when you threw up in the limo.

Since the producers allow contestants unlimited time to work out answers (as long as they're not just stalling), I knew that I could employ the most basic of priming tactics: talking about the question, posing scenarios, throwing out wild speculations, even just babbling--trying to cajole my prefrontal neurons onto any cue that could trigger the buried neocortical circuits holding the key to the answer.

More like this

I was a citizen of New York when Mario Cuomo became governor. I've written before about the ethnic angle of that event, how Cuomo, who was Italian, was the highest ranking ethnic Italian in New York, Italian immigrants still being repressed and seen as lesser folk by many even at that late date.…
Ambiguity is a constant problem for any embodied cognitive agent with limited resources. Decisions need to be made, and their consequences understood, despite the probabilistic veil of uncertainty enveloping everything from sensory input to action execution. Clearly, there must be mechanisms for…
You are not the person you used to be. Two weeks ago, the surface of your skin was covered with a completely different set of cells, which have since died and flaked off. Four month ago, you had a wholly different set of red blood cells. Since birth, your body has grown tremendously in size…
I've spent the morning looking around the Web to bring you today's news snippets, but then I came back to ScienceBlogs and realized that the best posts on cognitive science are being made right here. Jonah Lehrer has an excellent analysis of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. Having just finished the book…

I think you actually did post this some time ago, (within the last 6 months) because I have read it before. Very interesting look at how to win. If only I could get through the initial screening!