Tag Archives: neuroscience

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?


Social Strategies for Creativity

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My Take This article has a few great topics for us. I think the primary message is the first one. One of the best ways to be creative is to be open to all kinds of ideas and experiences (the Openness to Experience trait of the Five Factor model) and to frequently expose yourself to new and novel ones. It is possible to do this by following a diverse group of thought leaders who post intelligent content. Of course, it is also possible for social…

folded map

Sense of Direction

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I recently came across this article describing a study from a research team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their hypothesis was that the difference emerges from hormonal differences, specifically testosterone. Not brain wiring.

Using fMRI, the researchers saw that men in the study took several shortcuts, oriented themselves more using cardinal directions and used a different part of the brain than the women in the study. But when women got a drop of testosterone under their tongue, several of them were able to orient themselves better in the four cardinal directions.

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.

a slide of neurons

Mental Simulation

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There was a great paper in the Journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory that reminded me why I read some pretty diverse journals when I have a chance. In this case, a team of researchers are Harvard review the evidence on mental simulation from both the neuroscience field and the behavioral science field and come to a conclusion that is supported from both ends – establishing some good convergent validity for their ideas…

a pile of cigarettes

Addiction and Anhedonia

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I had never heard of the term before I read this article from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. When an addict is going through withdrawal, one of the symptoms of course is craving. Addicts physically and psychologically crave the drug they are withdrawing from. But anhedonia is the phenomenon in which addicts going through withdrawal also experience a generalized inability to enjoy other pleasures…

a man in a suit with clouds in place of his head

Attention Therapy

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A BBC Journalist with severe attention deficits of various undiagnosed kinds wrote an interesting piece recently about some augmented cognition coming out of the Boston Attention and Learning Lab.

I am about to be zapped in the head with an electromagnet, once a second, for eight minutes… I feel faintly ridiculous wearing a tight headband with what looks like a coat hook on the top. “All you need to do is relax,” says Mike Esterman, the researcher about to zap me. That’s easy for him to say – he’s holding the magnet…

Thync About App-Driven Consumer AugCog

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I have been reading about the potential for transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for a while now. Mostly, it seems to hold some promise as a treatment for depression by giving the brain a small jolt (nothing that the electroconvulsive shock therapy we saw in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) that interrupts the rumination that often accompanies depression. It takes several treatments over a regular schedule, but many medical research programs are working on it. I have also seen research looking into whether it…