Category Archives: Perception and Performance

Social Presence

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Are there specific attributes in an environment that make you feel more present? Not necessarily that enable you to navigate the environment better or communicate with another person better, but something more subtle than these?

Nothing beats talking to another person face-to-face, but a group of researchers are considering whether a life-size projection of a person who appears to be sitting across from you in an actual chair might be a close second.othing beats talking to another person face-to-face, but a group of researchers are considering whether a life-size projection of a person who appears to be sitting across from you in an actual chair might be a close second.

cigarettes

Neuro of Habits

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For this week’s installment of our neuropsych series, we decided to revisit a favorite topic – habits.

Taming that sweet tooth for your New Year’s resolution might be harder than you think. New research suggests that forming a habit leaves a lasting mark on specific circuits in the brain, which in turn seems to prime us to further feed our cravings. The research deepens scientists’ understanding of how habits manifest and may suggest new strategies for breaking the bad ones.

anxious women

Anxiety Moves You to the Left

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A study by Mario Weick and his team at the University of Kent conducted a study that looked at two variables you might not think are related. He blindfolded his participants and instructed them to talk in a straight line towards a target that he had showed them just before putting on the blindfold. (kind of like pin the tail on the donkey).

Scientists have discovered that feeling anxious makes people begin veering to the left because their right hand side of the brain is so active.
Dr Mario Weick of the School of Psychology at the University of Kent has for the first time linked the activation of the brain’s two hemispheres with shifts in people’s walking trajectories.

strawman

Strawman Fallacy

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The latest episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast touches on a great example of self-delusion that we haven’t covered here yet. In this episode, David McRaney interviews Jesse Richardson of “Your Logical Fallacy Is”, a site that I am definitely going to have to check out about the strawman fallacy.

     Person A: Soup is delicious
     Person B: I tried soup once. It was terrible. Therefore you are wrong.

pattern

Industry Level Pattern Recognition

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I find the concept of an industry becoming “dematured” to be intriguing. I came across it in this paper in Strategy + Business. The basic idea is that many industries become disrupted not because of the stereotypical sudden change but an accumulation of gradual, prevalent, multifaceted, dynamic, interacting factors. These are just as hard to predict, even though they occur slowly, because we don’t notice them until our industry has been disrupted. It is a question of pattern recognition and change blindness, similar to what we see with banner blindness and the curse of expertise.

Dematurity is what happens to an established industry when multiple companies adopt a host of small innovations in a relatively short time. Those seemingly trivial moves combine to rejuvenate the old mature industry and make it young again.

teddy bears

Compliance with Social Norms

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Compliance with social norms has both a bright side and a dark side. On the positive, having some basic behaviors that people follow to get along with colleagues and neighbors helps teams perform more fluidly. It keeps society organized and helps us enforce the rule of law. It keeps meetings orderly. It pressures students to pay attention in class.

So how do we know when to promote compliance and when to promote non-compliance? I am not talking about defiance and outright rebellion, just maybe some moderate nonconformity. As individuals, are we well calibrated to know when to conform and when to stray? In our work teams, do we know how to balance the two poles? As a society, are we creating a culture that has a happy mix? The proverbial middle path?

Theater Masks

Cognitive Dissonance

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Cognitive dissonance is when you have two conflicting ideas and yet you have reasons to believe both. There are many many many reasons that appealing ideas can conflict, so we are constantly facing the prospect of cognitive dissonance, or more importantly how to resolve it.

What is the neural explanation for this common type of psychological stress? Thanks to advances in imaging methods, especially functional MRI, researchers have recently identified key brain regions linked to cognitive dissonance. The area implicated most consistently is the posterior part of the medial frontal cortex (pMFC), known to play an important role in avoiding aversive outcomes, a powerful built-in survival instinct. In fMRI studies, when subjects lie to a peer despite knowing that lying is wrong—a task that puts their actions and beliefs in conflict—the pMFC lights up.

My life in 10 years

Goal Setting

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In anticipation of all of your New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I would share with you some new ideas on setting goals.

The first example comes from Jeffrey Davis in the Creativity Post. He calls this a radical alternative, but I think his approach makes perfect sense. First, he warns against using a long time horizon for your goals. Not that long term thinking is bad – in fact it is best. But the problem is that long term goals are too easy to forget about or put off for later. And even easier for us to delude ourselves with false progress. Instead, he recommends using vision goals that add meaning instead of milestones. Imagine where you want to be in the long term, and then set a goal for what you can do right now to move yourself towards that vision.

Edible Containers

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Last month, there was a piece that caught my eye because of its implications for user experience. They highlight the great convenience of the packaging on this delicious looking meal of spaghetti with basil and buffalo mozzarella. We have spoken before about why convenience is such a powerful feature. It is amazing how much we will give up in product functionality and efficiency for a little bit of convenience. Face it, we are lazy.

To hold up to the hustle and bustle of New York streets, owner Emanuele Attala and his partners developed a sturdy, no-spill carrier with a lid. The curved sides help guide the strands of spaghetti around the fork, facilitating twirling and lessening the risk of losing even a single caper on the ground, Attala says.

2 Figurines Talking

Receptivity to False Profundity

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Many of you might have already seen this article making the rounds on social media. But unlike your typical sources, EID is dedicated to giving you the deeper truth about the world. So how can we resist a take on profundity, pseudo profundity, and utter bulls**t?

Although bulls**t is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Here we focus on pseudo-profound bulls**t, which consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.