Cognitions about cognition (and other science)
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(ht @texasinafrica)

Some patients have requested Ebola tests even though they aren’t ill, Harnett said. He told the story of one patient who had recently traveled to Mobile, Ala., and requested that he be screened for Ebola, despite having no symptoms nor any interaction with someone who was sick. The patient had grown concerned because of Mobile’s position as a port city and felt that he might be vulnerable to exposure.

If you are still concerned you have Ebola, try this flowchart.



Decision making is the worst. Maximize your productivity by trying these steps. (Now, if only I could take my own advice.)

Some key points from this great article about neuroscience myths:

  • You totally use more than 10% of your brain. (I also wrote something about this awhile back, if you’re interested in learning why this is baloney.)
  • Some people believe that you learn better with a certain learning style - e.g. “I’m a visual learner” vs “I’m an auditory learner” - but there is no research that supports this myth.
  • There is no such thing as being left-brained or right-brained. You use both sides of your brain.
  • Many of these myths are based on incorrectly-interpreted research. For instance, re: the right- vs. left-brain myth, there are some brain functions that rely more heavily on certain brain areas, but this gets blown out of proportion by saying a person is right- or left-brained.
  • Jargon doesn’t help! While scientists use terms to refer to highly specific concepts, nuances are lost on people outside the scientific community.
  • Education during ages 0-3 is important, but is not the be-all end-all for brain development. There is no “race against time” to stimulate synapses, and no need to inundate kids with fancy toys.
  • The common belief that adolescents have little self control suggests that their biology is in charge, and that they are somehow not responsible for their actions. Letting kids be kids because their brains are “different” during this age does nobody favors.


I accidentally watched some CNN at the airport today.


From VanderBorght & Jaswal (2009). Kids are pretty great.

NPR just ran this fun piece about James Pennebaker’s work on pronouns and filler words, and how they signal status and romantic interest. Turns out we can learn a lot from the words we never think about: pronouns like I or you, fillers like “uh” and “um,” and “verbal ticks” like “like.” Word nerds, if you want to read up on the topic, check out these papers:

Clark, H. H. & Fox Tree, Jean E. (2002). Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking. Cognition, 84, 73-111. — “Uh” signals a minor delay in your sentence, whereas “um” signals a more major delay.

Arnold, J. E., Tanenhaus, M. K., Altman, R. J., & Fagnano, M. (2004). The old and thee, uh, new. Psychological Science, 15(9), 578-582. — “Uh” signals that the speaker will probably be referencing something new in their sentence that hasn’t yet been mentioned in that conversation.

Fox Tree, J. E. (2006). Placing like in telling stories. Discourse Studies, 8(6), 749-770. — Using ‘like’ isn’t always vapid! An overview of the different ways ‘like’ is used in speech and what it signals.

Kidd, C., White, K.S., & Aslin, R.N. (2011). Toddlers use speech disfluencies to predict speakers’ referential intentions. Developmental Science, 14(4), 925–934. — Kids use people’s “um”s and “uh”s to learn new words.

I first learned about “genius apes” Koko and Kanzi in intro psych, and you might’ve too. (You might’ve also heard about Koko mourning Robin Williams’s death.) But did you know that Kanzi’s foster mom has been banned from seeing him, or that Koko gets homeopathic treatments from a telephone psychic? Read on for the scoop about the dark side of research.

PINE MOUTH. This is terrifying.

If you love science, put your money where your mouth is and support these UConn researchers who are raising funds for their project studying the immune system of Hawaiian Bobtail Squids, who grow camouflaging glow-in-the-dark bacteria in their bellies. (Want to know how glowing could possibly be camouflage? Head over to their page to learn more.)