Category Archives: Scientia

Of course that is typically psychology, so far as I’m concerned.

The Origins Of Language

I’m surprised I haven’t seen this research appearing with the headline “Humans Running Out Of Sounds, Linguists Report“.


Amnesiacs Form Impressions Of Their Own Personalities

Recently, I’ve been listening to John Kilstrom’s UC Berkeley Social Cognition course (available through iTunes U) during my commute. One incidental fact jumped out at me during a recent lecture.

Amnesiacs continue to have impressions of their own personality–if asked, they can describe what they’re like, despite not having the episodic memories necessary to do that. Moreover, it’s not just based on memories from the period prior to acquiring amnesia–even patients whose personalities changed over time or as a result of the damage that gave them amnesia were able to give assessments which matched their current personality. That suggests that one’s representation of one’s own personality is not entirely based on episodic memory.

What I’ve Learned From Cosma Shalizi

Ignore all social scientific results based on statistical inference.  That’s even if you’ve read the underlying research, so that you know you’re not getting snookered by careless popular journalism.

Of course, the three posts I linked to are a bit, ahh…complicated, and I may have oversimplified or overgeneralized them.  Maybe we’ll call my version a layman’s heuristic?

Do I have it right, Cosma?

Sleep Deprivation and False Memories

Neurophilosophy, a psychology blog I’ve followed for some time, posted about recent research that ought to heighten concerns that our nations policy of torturing detainees doesn’t actually do anything to get us valuable information.  The research suggests that the production of false memories may become more common when subjects are sleep deprived.  Sleep deprivation is, of course, officially one of the least questionable aspects of our treatment of detainees–waterboarding and stress positions receive the greatest scrutiny.

I do admit, based on his summary, I’m not 100% convinced it would be relevant to the treatment of detainees.  The task in the experiment involved discriminating between words with similar meanings, some of which had been part of a presented stimulus, and some which hadn’t.  One wonders whether that sort of memory failure extends to contaminating the sort of information that we’d look for from terrorists.  Nonetheless, it’s not as if this effect couldn’t lead to false memories, and there’s already reason to worry about any information we do get.

David Brooks

I seriously hope to god that David Brooks is not writing a book about “the brain, neuroscience, sociology, politics, and the intersection thereof,” because the ensuing internet discussion will probably make me want to stab myself repeatedly. Let’s not even mention that the anecdotes about the unconscious mentioned in Ross’s post are only arguably instances of unconscious thought–they sound more like unrecognized habits of conscious thought.

Underexplored Research Topics

Jamelle’s post on Clinton running on an independent ticket raises some interesting questions:

Richard Thompson must be high on some potent chronic if he thinks Hillary Clinton could mount a successful third-party run:

Variations in Cannabis Induced Political Psychosis sounds like the sort of work that could win an Ignoble prize.  Who’s in?

Plastics Bleg

I’m in coffee tree, and a woman just came in and asked about whether their water bottles were blah-blah-blah free (the specific acronym she used didn’t register with my limited google-fu).  Anyway, I am reminded that I’ve never succeeded in tracking down authoritative information on all these various health risks that are attributed to plastic water bottles, plastic tupperware and plastic everything elses.

So, does anyone know any credible information about the subject? I’m not necessarily looking for peer-reviewed articles–I ain’t so good at readin’ the scientific ones anyway.  But something more convincing than a bunch of posts by some dude on a forum somewhere?