Do we mimic emotions?

Creepy Study Shows Facebook Can Tweak Your Moods Through ‘Emotional Contagion’ The good news: a study found evidence that good news seems to make you feel better.The creepy news: if you have a Facebook account, you could have been an unwitting research subject in that study — or you could be one now. The study, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” included nearly 700,000 Facebook users as subjects and the results were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. By analyzing three million Facebook posts over the … Continue reading Do we mimic emotions?

Our brains favour convenience more than we realise

How Can Convenience Drive Healthy Behaviour? Changing human behaviour can be complex. No mathematical equation can determine how we will act from one situation to the next and this uncertainty presents an obvious challenge for marketers, policy makers and employers alike. Common practice has been to rely on assumptions about how people make decisions, based on what we intuitively know about human thinking. If there is one take away from social psychology though, it’s that your intuition, whether or not you’re a marketer with 15 years’ experience, can be extremely biased. Research in this area goes beyond just telling us … Continue reading Our brains favour convenience more than we realise

Better ways of getting information

How You’ll Get Organized In the late 1970s, I was thrilled by the ability to send and receive messages through the revolutionary medium then known as “electronic mail.” At about the same time, I began to write my letters, notes, articles, and books—we didn’t yet call all such things “documents”—on a computer and store them electronically rather than on cards or papers stuffed into filing cabinets. Since those days I have thought of the information aspects of life as an unwinnable race. With each new year and each new Moore’s Law–enabled boost in processor speed, transmission rates, storage capacity, and … Continue reading Better ways of getting information

How a new memory is formed

How the Brain Stores Memories Neuroscientists record activity of individual neurons to show how memories are stored in the living brain. Imagine you had a tiny device inside your brain that could ‘see’ the moment a new memory was formed. What would it record? Since the brain is made up of neurons linked together in a vast network, it seems reasonable to suppose that some part of that network would activate when you, say, saw your first child being born. But how big a network? Is that memory contained in a handful of neurons or is it distributed widely across … Continue reading How a new memory is formed

The vices and virtues of brain imaging

The power of a well-chosen image; EEG measures of brain activity and exercise This picture occasionally does the rounds on Twitter, often spurred by tweets from the kind of evidence-phobic accounts that publish whole lists of mind-blowing ‘facts’, at least 50% of which are made up. This picture has also spurred about a billion blog posts (like here, here and here), somewhat unsurprisingly, written by the kind of people who like to get their scientific evidence from a single image on Twitter. So what’s the problem here? What the image appears to suggest at face value is that brain activity … Continue reading The vices and virtues of brain imaging

Is compassion for women?

Are Women More Ethical Than Men? Are females more ethical than males? Some studies point in this direction. A Newsday opinion piece wrote that they were. The author points to a study by Roberta Bampton and Patrick Maclagan, which states that women tend to justify actions based on an ethics of compassion while men adhered more to proper procedures or law and rules. Two examples are given: women find it unacceptable for a company to manufacture equipment used by police and military to extract information from prisoners, while many more men didn’t object to the practice. Given the choice of … Continue reading Is compassion for women?

How to use your limited rationalty

Don’t Be “Rationalist” This blog is called “Overcoming Bias,” and many of you readers consider yourselves “rationalists,” i.e., folks who try harder than usual to overcome your biases. But even if you want to devote yourself to being more honest and accurate, and to avoiding bias, there’s a good reason for you not to present yourself as a “rationalist” in general. The reason is this: you must allocate a very limited budget of rationality. It seems obvious to me that almost no humans are able to force themselves to see honestly and without substantial bias on all topics. Even for … Continue reading How to use your limited rationalty