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Crowdfunding research into memory and technology

Jason & Farah, cognitive science postdocs at Washington University, write, "We humans have always used our surroundings to extend our memory. But is the technology of today enhancing human memory, or replacing it? Help us do the research! We plan to gather survey data and run Internet-based psychology experiments to find out: How are people currently using technology for memory purposes? How well do people understand the technology and their reliance on it? Are there ways to improve the interplay between technology and human memory?"

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Why "connecting the dots" is the wrong way to think about stopping terrorism


Bruce Schneier has a great op-ed on CNN on why it's stupid to talk about whether the FBI should have "connected the dots" on the Boston bomber. As Bruce points out, it's only in hindsight that there's a neat trail of dots to connect, a narrative we can make sense of. Before the fact, it's a hairy, swirling hotchpotch of mostly irrelevancies, and it's only the "narrative fallacy" that makes it seem like a neat story in retrospect. The risk here is that intelligence agencies and the press will push this fallacy as grounds for taking away more rights and more privacy in order to "connect the dots" next time.

Rather than thinking of intelligence as a simple connect-the-dots picture, think of it as a million unnumbered pictures superimposed on top of each other. Or a random-dot stereogram. Is it a sailboat, a puppy, two guys with pressure-cooker bombs or just an unintelligible mess of dots? You try to figure it out.

It's not a matter of not enough data, either.

Piling more data onto the mix makes it harder, not easier. The best way to think of it is a needle-in-a-haystack problem; the last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through.

The television show "Person of Interest" is fiction, not fact.

There's a name for this sort of logical fallacy: hindsight bias.

Why FBI and CIA didn't connect the dots (Thanks, Bruce!)

(Image: connect-the-dots, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from whitneywaller's photostream)

Visual study guide to cognitive biases


"Cognitive Biases - A Visual Study Guide by the Royal Society of Account Planning" is a short slide-show aimed at helping you remember all the major types of cognitive bias. This might just be my favorite subject at present: it's so fascinating to remind myself that my brain doesn't know what it's doing most of the time, and to study that systematically and try to apply the lessons learned therefrom.

Visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases (via Josh Schachter)