The Human Brain’s Bandwidth for Visual Images is Severely Limited

All too much; Ikea shoppers overwhelmed in the showroom, 6 July 2014, Beijing, China. Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty By Dr. Rebecca Keogh / 12.18.2017 Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience University of New South Wales Imagine you are at Ikea to pick up a sofa for your new flat. You see one you like, a wine-coloured two-seater[…]

How the Orchestra is Arranged by the Biology of the Brain

Charlie Nguyen/Flickr/Creative Commons By Richard Kunert / 04.20.2016 PhD Candidate Donders Institute Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics Imagine yourself at a concert hall looking at a symphonic orchestra on stage. Have you ever noticed that high-pitched strings sit left of low-pitched strings? Going from left to right, one usually sees violins, violas, cellos and double[…]

Why Sad Songs Can Be Feel-Good and Noise Music Can Be Nice

Lauren C/Flickr/Creative Commons By Princess Ojiaku / 01.14.2016 Adele’s heartbreaking ballad Hello, about a lost lover, has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks, while 25, the album from which it comes, broke records for the highest number of album sales in its first week (3.48 million). Sad songs can be immensely popular, often moving us in a more memorable way[…]

Earworms: How and Why Music Gets Stuck in Your Head

By Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos / 09.10.2016 Sociologist Have you ever had a song playing in  your mind that you just can’t tune out? The social science term for this is “involuntary musical imagery” (IMI) otherwise known as an “earworm.” In this post, I’ll discuss research about IMI, focusing on data from a study by Victoria Williamson and colleagues tracing[…]

Blocking the Noise in a Seemingly Senseless World

By Gilbert Ross / 01.05.2018 Is Loss of Sense-Making Threatening Our Existence? We are living in a point in time of our evolution where the amount and quality of problems we are facing are existential in nature or, that is, they are pointing towards gloomy scenarios of auto-destruction. From the accelerated degradation of our biosphere, overpopulation,[…]

Schizophrenia’s Tangled Roots

Symptoms of schizophrenia and related disorders likely arise from a perplexing interplay of social, environmental, psychological, and biological factors. / Apfelshaft123, Flickr, Creative Commons As an increasingly complex picture of schizophrenia emerges, researchers are recognizing that a more individualized and humane approach is needed to better understand and treat the condition. By Michael Balter /[…]

Would Life Be Worth Living if Work Dominated Your Every Moment?

Workers Leaving the Factory Lithograph, 1903 by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen. Image courtesy www.famsf.org By Andrew Taggart / 12.20.2017 Trainer Banff Creative Arts Center Imagine that work had taken over the world. It would be the centre around which the rest of life turned. Then all else would come to be subservient to work. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly,[…]

The Holiday-Suicide Myth and the Intractability of Popular Falsehoods

James Stewart and Donna Reed in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA By Dr. Dan Romer / 12.21.2017 Research Director Annenberg Public Policy Center University of Pennsylvania For years, the media have reported that more suicides occur during the holidays than at any other time. Many of these stories, no doubt, are meant to help people cope[…]

Why a Grateful Brain is a Giving One

By Dr. Christina Karns / 12.19.2017 Associate Researcher Brain Development Lab University of Oregon When you think about gratitude and its place in our culture, you might not immediately think about morality—that is, matters of right and wrong. Often, we make gratitude sound like it’s all about you. In the domain of self-help, we hear that gratitude[…]

During the Holidays, Giving Gifts to the Dead Can Help You Cope with Grief

A toy truck left at a tombstone in a Montreal cemetery. Marc Bruxelle/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Jenna Drenten / 12.20.2017 Assistant Professor of Marketing Loyola University Chicago Every December, my family decorates two Christmas trees: one for our living room and one for the cemetery, where my sister is buried. She died when she was 15 years[…]

Why Do We Wrap Presents?

Buppha Wuttifery/Getty Images Wrapping paper is a striptease that hides and reveals, transforming otherwise ordinary objects into gifts. By Chip Colwell / 12.19.2017 The holiday season is here. That means presents under Christmas trees, next to menorahs, accompanying Kwanzaa candles, traded at white elephant parties. All of these gifts, despite the sweeping breadth of beliefs[…]

‘Let the Soul Dangle’: How Mind-Wandering Spurs Creativity

Detail from The Red Balloon Paul Klee, 1922. Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Wikimedia      By (left-to-right) Dr. Julia Christensen, Dr. Guido Giglioni, and Dr. Manos Tsakiris / 12.05.2017 Christensen: Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychology, Newton International Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience, City University, London Giglioni: Cassamarca Lecturer in Neo-Latin Culture and Intellectual History (1400-1700),[…]

The Biology and Psychology of Good and Bad Behavior

Tipping the balance of behavior: Social neurons and asocial neurons / Image by ZEISS Microscopy (Creative Commons) In Behave, Robert Sapolsky offers an inspired synthesis of how biology shapes human behavior—both the good and the bad. By Dr. C. Brandon Ogbunu / 12.01.2017 Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Biology University of Vermont The re-emergence of Neo-Nazi ideology; crowd-funded[…]

Death and Dying 101

Students from the author’s class on death and dying explore Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. / Photo by Anita Hannig A study of cross-cultural attitudes toward mortality can help young people accept death as a part of life. By Dr. Anita Hannig / 10.03.2017 Assistant Professor of Anthropology Brandeis University Back in February, on[…]

The Pedagogy of Feeling Bad: A Desire for Catharsis in Cinema

Nikolaj Lübecker argues for the ethic of “feel-bad” films, movies in which desire for catharsis is built up but ultimately denied in a variety of ways. He draws on directors such as Lars Von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Michael Haneke, and many others. By Roman Friedman PhD Student in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership (EPOL)[…]

Porridge is Funnier than Oatmeal, and Booty is Funnier Still

Ha! Photo by Getty Images    By Dr. Thomas Hills (left) and Tomas Engelthaler (right) / 11.20.2017 Hills:  Professor of Psychology Engelthaler:  PhD Candidate in Psychology University of Warwick ‘Which word is funnier: porridge or oatmeal?’ This is the question one of us recently posed to the other. Clearly, the notion was insane. Surely finding something funny requires context[…]

Where the Beauty Lies

Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons By Dr. Mark English / 11.26.2017 The neurologist treating my mother’s Parkinson’s disease, an old-school physician with a heavy Afrikaans accent, first suggested using music as part of her treatment some ten years ago. We probably would have got around to it anyway, as she had had some early training[…]

Social Media as Masochism

Using social media can be a masochistic means of escaping the self By Rob Horning / 05.15.2016 When I read anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll’s book on gambling, Addiction by Design, it started me thinking of how machine gambling works as an analogue for social media: Both facilitate an escapism through engagement, an immersion in immediate risk-taking routines that obscures[…]

The Age of Disruption

TV control room in Toronto / Photo by Loozrboy, Wikimedia Commons Technology is changing society at breakneck speed but considerations of human impacts lag far behind. Dinyar Godrej sketches out some of the key political battles ahead. By Dinyar Godrej / 11.01.2017 We are always at the threshold of the future. But whereas in the past, the path[…]