Multi-tasking is not good for you

Why the modern world is bad for your brain Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs … Continue reading Multi-tasking is not good for you

Seeing from other people’s point of view

Can virtual body swapping help fight racial prejudice? In the wake of massive #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations, the ugly implications of racism in the United States have come to the foreground. Prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, exists on a much wider scale than most of us would like to admit. In fact, you can glimpse into your own brain and measure its unconscious attitudes toward various objects and ideas by taking an implicit association test, or IAT. (The results might surprise you.) Virtual reality (VR) might help us overcome these implicit biases, according to a paper recently published in Trends in Cognitive … Continue reading Seeing from other people’s point of view

Educational nudge

Helping the Poor in Education: The Power of a Simple Nudge There are enormous inequalities in education in the United States. A child born into a poor family has only a 9 percent chance of getting a college degree, but the odds are 54 percent for a child in a high-income family. These gaps open early, with poor children less prepared than their kindergarten classmates. How can we close these gaps? Contentious, ambitious reforms of the education system crowd the headlines: the Common Core, the elimination of teacher tenure, charter schools. The debate is heated and sometimes impolite (a recent … Continue reading Educational nudge

Are biases good errors?

The benefits of cognitive limits Cleaning up some notes recently, I was reminded of another interesting piece from Gerd Gigerenzer’s Rationality for Mortals : “Is perfect memory desirable, without error? The answer seems to be no. The “sins” of our memory seem to be good errors, that is, by-products (“spandrels”) of a system adapted to the demands of our environments. In this view, forgetting prevents the sheer mass of details stored in an unlimited memory from critically slowing down and inhibiting the retrieval of the few important experiences. Too much memory would impair the mind’s ability to abstract, to infer, … Continue reading Are biases good errors?

Is behavioral economics overused?

Has The “Nudge” Meme Gotten Out Of Control? A tweet recently came across my feed that captures a problem with the popularity of the nudge meme. The meme took off with the justifiable popularity of Thaler and Sunstein’s eponymous book, in which they promote the idea of influencing people to behave in their own best interests in situations where unconscious and even irrational forces might lead them astray. Thaler and Sunstein specifically promote behavioral interventions that do not restrict people’s freedom. They illustrate that concept with the idea of a cafeteria owner who intentionally places unhealthy foods at the end … Continue reading Is behavioral economics overused?

What face cues teach us

Can Split-Second Micro-Expressions Help Employers Hire Smarter? Employers often learn only after hiring someone with impressive credentials that he or she is workplace poison: abrasive, self-absorbed, chasing personal glory rather than team priorities. But what if you could identify such flaws simply by observing the person over a brief period, catching the egomania or bad judgment in the contour of a smile or the cast of a sidelong glance? This would be a tremendous advantage when it came to selecting people not just for jobs but for political offices, jury duty, or countless other circumstances when we’d like to penetrate … Continue reading What face cues teach us

What makes groups smart

Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others Endless meetings that do little but waste everyone’s time. Dysfunctional committees that take two steps back for every one forward. Project teams that engage in wishful groupthinking rather than honest analysis. Everyone who is part of an organization — a company, a nonprofit, a condo board — has experienced these and other pathologies that can occur when human beings try to work together in groups. But does teamwork have to be a lost cause? Psychologists have been working on the problem for a long time. And for good reason: Nowadays, though we may … Continue reading What makes groups smart