Archive by Author

You Are Not So Smart

19 Apr

This great post by Rachel the week before last reminded me of an excellent blog I came across recently and thought meshed really well with the themes we address here. Over at You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion, a self-described “journalist who loves psychology, technology and the internet” is summing up all manner of ways that our own brain doesn’t work the way we like to think it does.

For instance, in a recent post called The Sunk Cost Fallacy, the author gives a great explanation for something I’ve always wondered: what exactly is the appeal of Facebook games like FarmVille? He explains how humans experience loss more acutely than gain, so when we’ve invested time or money in something, we are extremely reluctant to abandon it even after we’ve quit having fun, earning profits, or whatever else led us to the activity in the first place. We routinely throw good money in after bad, as the saying goes.

After the jump: my thoughts on the legal implications of this and other You Are Not So Smart topics. Continue reading


Three Scholars Worth Your Time: Part 7

9 Mar

Rebecca Bigler

Rebecca Bigler, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

I once heard Dr. Bigler, who leads the Gender and Racial Attitudes Lab at my alma mater, at a training I attended as a Resident Assistant in the university dorms. I was blown away by her account of the numerous subtle forces shaping children’s perceptions of traits like intelligence, kindness, and leadership among different races and sexes and how easily these perceptions can be manipulated through simple changes. Her amazing “red shirt, blue shirt” experiments are especially worth attention.

Amy J.C. Cuddy, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

I saw Dr. Cuddy’s presentation at this weekend’s Law and Mind Sciences Conference, and I would love to learn more about the “ambivalent stereotypes” and “warmth and competence” dichotomy she described. And as a Texas-friendly girl at a competitive East Coast law school, I couldn’t agree more with the title of her recent Harvard Business Review article, “Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb.

Terrie Moffitt, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University

Earlier this month, I was fascinated by an NPR story featuring recent findings that self-control in children is highly correlated with positive outcomes later in life. Dr. Moffitt headed the team of researchers who saw those results in a group of 1,000 people from New Zealand. As she told NPR, “Children who had the greatest self-control in primary school and preschool ages were most likely to have fewer health problems when they reached their 30s.” In addition, “Identical twins are not identical on self-control…. That tells us that it is something they have learned, not something they have inherited.” I think Dr. Moffitt’s research could have major implications for the law and think we should all think and talk about those further.

The Shape of Things to Come!

7 Mar

In the last iteration of the Law & Mind Sciences Seminar here at Harvard, the students did some fantastic interviews with different scholars in the legal and mind science fields. We’re hoping to do something similar in coming weeks, so I wanted to post a couple of their videos as a preview of what’s ahead!

In this first video, an HLS student conducts an in-person interview Professor Joshua Greene of the Harvard Psychology Department.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


More info about Dr. Greene and a remote interview with Tom Tyler after the jump…

Continue reading

Using Images to Say “Born Gay”

11 Feb

Of all the ways the Internet is used for humor and commentary, an especially successful format is the photo blog populated with reader submissions around an interesting theme. For instance, Awkward Family Photos became a sensation in mid-2009 for its priceless arrays of dated clothes and questionable poses, while My Parents were Awesome celebrates contributors’ relatives in their attractive, fashionable younger years.

Isaac, age 7, Western Australia

A new site, Born This Way, is now using the same format to address the important mind science question of whether homosexuality is a choice. As the article that alerted me to Born This Way puts it, the blog “pairs a snapshot of a gay person as a kid with a personal essay about what he or she sees when looking at the photo,” yielding results that are both “totally delightful… often thoughtful and funny” and “wading in contentious waters.” In multiple contexts now, from its own comments section to those of the NPR and articles about it, the site has sparked debate over the influences of choice, nature, and nurture in the development of homosexual adults.  Continue reading

Mind Science Blogs, Part One

1 Feb

Another great blog on the mind science topic is BPS Research Digest, where the British Psychological Society reports on recent studies in psychological publications.

The featured studies are chosen with an expert eye for interest level, relevance to current events, and accessibility even to readers relatively unversed in psychology, like myself. That editor Christian Jarrett describes each study in vivid, catchy language adds to the appeal.

A good example is a recent post on climate change. Jarrett highlights a study by Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer in Psychological Science, which suggested that apocalyptic warnings may be more likely to evoke skepticism about the existence of global warming than more upbeat descriptions of potential technological solutions.

The post does a great job of pairing simple explanations of psychological phenomena:

Many people believe implicitly that the world is fair, that bad things by and large don’t happen to good people. When presented with evidence to the contrary, they ignore or downplay it.

With concise summaries of the results:

Those participants with stronger just-world beliefs were actually made more sceptical about global warming by the more shocking newspaper article. By contrast, the more upbeat article reduced participants’ scepticism regardless of the strength of their just-world beliefs.

Jarrett also makes connections to related studies, one concerning fear-based messages in the context of smoking, and another related to the framing of environmentalism as patriotic.

Other posts I recommend are “Other people may experience more misery than you realize” and “Coffee helps women cope with stressful meetings but has the opposite effect on men.” A particularly law-related one is “What makes revenge sweet?

Some other excellent mind sciences blogs are:

Advances in the History of Psychology, where a doctoral student explores developments related to her program in the history and theory of psychology at York University. A memorable recent post discussed “Autism’s First Child,” an October 2010 story in The Atlantic discussing the first individual to be diagnosed with autism, now age 77.

Blind Taste, a great blog linking food, wine, and popular culture with economics and cognition, looks not to have been updated in several months. But interesting posts concerning counterfeit wine, wine value mogul Robert Parker, and California’s Proposition 19 leave us hoping author Robin Goldstein will start up again soon.

Brain Blogger, an “official initiative of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation (GNIF),” reviews news and research in the fields of neuroscience and neurology, psychology and psychiatry, and health and health science. The blog’s diversity of posts includes “The Beauty of First Impressions” and “Daytime Napping Improves Memory.” Of particular salience to lawyers: “Free Will is NOT an Illusion.”

Channel N, meanwhile, exclusively features online videos related to brain and behavior. A subdivision of PsychCentral, “the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health and psychology network,” Channel N is currently highlighting videos on pediatric bipolar disorder, addiction, “why online dating is so unsatisfying,” and retired and rescued show horses being used in mental health therapy.

Do your brain a favor: check out some of these great blogs today!

%d bloggers like this: