Memory and Perception Articles

Anger Detection and the Brain

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

angry woman screaming man 2When Greta gets angry, Dave has noticed that she tends to be quiet, almost stoic. Greta can detect slight changes in Dave’s tone of voice that signal to her he is angry. Couples like us can learn to be extremely sensitive to signs of anger in their partners, because understanding your partner’s emotional state helps you decide how to respond.

It’s also important to be able to detect anger in strangers — in some cases, your very life might depend on it! Over the years, lots of research on anger has focused on facial expressions. While “anger” does have a characteristic facial expression that is readily detected, there’s plenty of other evidence we can use to decide if someone is angry, like Dave’s tone of voice and Greta’s silence. Until the past decade, however, very little research had been conducted on another important component of anger detection: Body position and movements.

How to Be Happy

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

How to be HappyHappiness is a tough one.

We spend a lot of our time and billions of dollars trying to obtain happiness. Inevitably, though, we find ourselves back in the grind: dreading going to work, dreading doing the myriad errands and responsibilities it takes to live as a human being in this multifaceted world.

The thing about happiness, though, is it’s not supposed to be constant.

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in Psychosis

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Letting Go of Imagined Symbolism in PsychosisIn the midst of a psychotic episode, whether the result of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, one of the main motivating factors in our jilted decisions is the imagined symbolism in meaningless circumstances or objects.

I can remember when I was out on the streets of New York and Boston, deep in the midst of a major psychotic episode. I was convinced I had a mission to bring peace to the world, and though I was destitute, I wandered around following signs and colors and motions of passersby convinced there was some deeper symbolism or meaning in these insignificant things.

3 Tips to Change Your Perspective on Nearly Everything

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

ways-combat-overthinking

Recently I took drastic measures to shift my perspective and conjure up some new ideas, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

You see, I’ve been talking a lot lately with activist allies about climate change, or global warming, or climate chaos if you prefer. Like so many earthlings, we are deeply concerned about the safety of the food we eat, our air and water, our farms and gardens, our health and that of the pollinators, soils and seas, and the impact a changing climate will have on them all. And despite lots and lots of studies of how best to talk about these issues with others, it still seems as if we are all a little bit stuck.

Body Position, Learning and Memory

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Seeing ThingsLots of factors can influence how well you can learn, remember, and perceive the things around you — even the position of your body. For example, if you see someone pinch a fake hand near where your hand is positioned, you may think you feel real pain in your hand. We naturally pay more attention to objects close to our hands, too.

Christopher Davoli, James Brockmole, and Annabelle Goujon wondered if the location of our hands can also affect how we remember and learn visual information, so they designed a task to test that question.

The Best Way to Learn a Foreign Accent

Monday, July 28th, 2014

One common way to improve foreign-language skills is to watch videos in the foreign language. But if you’ve ever tried watching a foreign film, you …

Suspicious Things Really Make Us ‘Smell Something Fishy’

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

cbs_news_nose_jobWhen we say “Fred is a warm person,” we don’t usually mean his body temperature is hotter than average. We use metaphors such as “warm”, “high”, and “clean” to describe more abstract concepts like “friendly,” “powerful,” and “morally sound.”

So we mean that Fred is friendly, not that he has a fever. But these metaphors can actually have a powerful effect on behavior and attitudes as well. Research has shown that holding a cup of warm coffee makes people more affectionate, and portraying people in physically high locations makes them seem more powerful.

Now newer research is beginning to find that these metaphors are much more common than we might imagine — and that they work in both directions, from abstract emotions and concepts to concrete things, and back.

Leaving a Legacy Behind

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Leaving a Legacy BehindI recently saw “The Fault In Our Stars,” based on the novel by John Green. This heartbreaking film portrays two teenagers, Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, who fall in love as they both battle cancer.

Though I’m not interested in reviewing the film (quite frankly, it was a bit too emotionally disturbing for my taste), I do wish to highlight one crucial aspect that “The Fault In Our Stars” emphasized — the concept of legacy.

Music Speed and Exercise

Monday, July 14th, 2014

self care, exerciseIf you’re like us, you try to exercise to improve your health and fitness. Maybe you’ve tried one of our least favorite exercises: the dreaded plank. In this form of torture, you face down and balance on your toes and elbows, keeping your trunk rigid and horizontal, suspended above the ground for a specified period of time (Dave can manage 60 seconds).

It’s so excruciating that we’re always trying to figure out how to make the time pass quicker while we do planks. For years, researchers and marketers have known that playing music in waiting rooms can make visitors feel like time is passing faster. So listening to music while you do planks would probably make them (slightly) more bearable.

Identifying Illness Through Scent

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Identifying Illness Through ScentIt’s been known for some time that rats and other animals can detect illness in others of their species based on scent. Rats will actively avoid sick packmates shortly after they fall ill, when there are few visible symptoms. Most people might believe that humans don’t notice sick friends quite so quickly and certainly not based on their scent. But is that belief really true?

It’s easy to identify someone with an illness if they show physical symptoms such as fever, sneezing, or exhaustion. It’s another matter to notice that person has just contracted a disease.

Research Suggests Holistic Exercise Can Help Dementia Patients

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

woman meditating older bigst

Do you know someone who suffers from dementia? Witnessing a loved one slowly lose their memory and reasoning skills can be a very painful experience.

Dementia is a persistent syndrome that tends to get worse over time — affecting memory, thinking, and behavior. It is distinct from Alzheimer’s in that Alzheimer’s is a specific disease, but general dementia can stem from a variety of unrelated brain illnesses.

Natural and holistic remedies are gaining in popularity as they continue to prove themselves capable of offering relief to sufferers of mental ailments. The knowledge that the body is a whole system (not just a group of unrelated parts) is growing in popularity, and people are noticing that when one part of the body becomes ill, it affects all the rest. And when the whole body is strong, the parts don’t break down as easily or as often.

4 Ways Dreams Can Help You

Friday, July 4th, 2014

4 Ways Dreams Can Help YouI tend to have bizarre dreams. Perhaps they feature sporadic compilations of the day, current happenings, abstract symbols or completely random montages. But sometimes, my dreams assist me; my land of nod attempts to tie up a few loose ends from waking life.

If you look closely enough, dreams could serve as a portal to resolution.

Here are four ways dreams can help:

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