Boing Boing 

Poverty is a tax on cognition

In an outstanding lecture at the London School of Economics, Macarthur "genius award" recipient Sendhil Mullainathan explains his research on the psychology of scarcity, a subject that he's also written an excellent book about.

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The life of an amnesiac

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In the New Yorker, my friend Dan Zalewski reports on Lonni Sue Johnson, a 64-year-old with profound amnesia—and new research into how her brain, and memory, works.

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Utilitarianism versus psychopathy

A classic thought experiment asks you to choose between doing nothing and letting an out-of-control trolley crash into a schoolbus, or pushing a fat man into the trolley's path, saving the kids but killing the bystander.

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Police interrogation techniques generate false memories of committing crimes


Psychologists terminated a study that showed the ease of implanting false memories of committing terrible, violent crimes in the recent past in their subjects -- the experiment was terminated because some subjects couldn't be convinced that they hadn't committed the crime after they were told the truth.

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How poker players’ language gives them away

Verbal Poker Tells reveals how players use words to bluff, intimidate, and probe the minds of their opponents.

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We listen to sad music to feel nostalgic

If sadness is an unpleasant emotion, then why are we at times so drawn to sad music? By Dan RudermanRead the rest

Why people believe things you don't believe

Why do Holocaust deniers, young Earth creationists, people who think they’ve lived past lives as famous figures, people who claim they’ve been abducted by aliens, and people who stake their lives on the power of homeopathy believe things that most of us do not? David McRaney investigates.Read the rest

Willpower as a rechargeable battery

In this episode of You Are Not So Smart David McRaney explores ego depletion and all the things that can cause it, from feeling rejection to holding back tears to avoiding the temptation of cookies.Read the rest

Oxytocin: "the biological basis for the golden rule"

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Here's the transcript at Medium of a deeply fascinating Aspen Ideas lecture by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule, about the chemical reason why the vast majority of us feel good helping others. Those who don't? Psychopaths, mostly.

Why do you sabotage yourself when trying to break bad habits?

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Why do we bite our nails?

Over at Mind Hacks, Tom Stafford looks at the scientific literature around onychophagia, aka nail-biting:

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Why did we blow on Nintendo game cartridges?

And what are the ramifications of rubbing a beard with an infected chicken before conducting lab work? Tune in to the latest episode of You Are Not So Smart to find out!Read the rest

Cognitive bias in software development considered harmful


Books like Predictably Irrational (and its sequel, Upside of Irrationality) painstaking document the ways that we fall victim to our own cognitive biases, tripping over our own brains.

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Study: People prefer electric shocks to being alone with their thoughts


Matthew writes, "A new paper in Science reports that when people are asked to entertain themselves with their own thoughts for 15 minutes, many resort to giving themselves painful electric shocks they'd previously said they'd pay to avoid."

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Why people have the urge to squeeze cute animals to death


When I was a kid my friend and I caught some little frogs. My friend liked his frog so much he smothered it to death in his hand. Lenny, the mentally challenged giant in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, squeezed living creatures to death because he loved them so much. Why do people do this? Two Yale graduate students, Oriana Aragon and Rebecca Dyer, are conducting experiments to find out.

Dyer's hypothesis:

Some things are so cute that we just can't stand them. We think it’s about high positive-affect, an approach orientation and almost a sense of lost control. It’s so adorable, it drives you crazy. It might be that how we deal with high positive-emotion is to sort of give it a negative pitch somehow. That sort of regulates, keeps us level and releases that energy.

"This aggression may be the brain’s response to the overwhelming joy incurred by such creatures (similar to how some people cry when intensely happy)."

Why Do We Smother Cute Things?

Facebook's massive psychology experiment likely illegal


Researchers from Facebook, Cornell and UCSF published a paper describing a mass-scale experiment in which Facebook users' pages were manipulated to see if this could induce and spread certain emotional states.

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Monitoring a computer transistor to understand why a YouTube video is funny

Even though we are learning more and more about what is "under the hood" of human consciousness, it might not tell us what we most want to know about ourselves. It could be like monitoring a transistor in a computer to better understand why a YouTube video was funny. David McRaney explores the dangers of reductionism in the You Are Not So Smart podcast.Read the rest