Pragma Synesi – interesting bits

Compendium of interesting bits I come across, with an occasional IMHO

How to perform better at sports

Simple trick worth trying.  From The Globe and Mail, September 21, 2012:

Don’t clutch … clench. You’ll per­form so much bet­ter

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition)
September 21, 2012

The next time you’re about to shoot a penalty kick with only sec­onds left on the clock, or need to smash a cross-court win­ner to fi­nally beat the ten­nis part­ner who al­ways bests you, con­sider this: Re­searchers may have dis­cov­ered a sim­ple way to help you avoid chok­ing un­der pres­sure.

Continue reading

April 3, 2013 Posted by | brain, neuroscience | , | Leave a comment

How to Avoid the Temptations of Immediate Gratification

Recent research linked  impulsivity with a lack of future thinking. Want to avoid a temptation? Focus on imagining a concrete, un-fuzzy future with positive attributes instead.  From Scientific American, January 15, 2013:

How to Avoid the Temptations of Immediate Gratification

Neuroscience hints at the power of imagining the future

Continue reading

January 19, 2013 Posted by | behaviour, brain, neuroeconomics, neuroscience, psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Neuroscience of What Makes People Trigger-Happy

Not just violence on TV and in games, but just having a weapon will increase the chances of violence.  Scary.  From Time magazine:

Trayvon Martin: The Neuroscience of What Makes People Trigger-Happy

Our brains are wired to be unreasonable when it comes to perceived threats
Continue reading

April 20, 2012 Posted by | neuroscience | , , | Leave a comment

“There is someone in my head, but it’s not me”

Most of the work in your brain happens unbeknownst to (or before your) conscious self.  Excerpts from David Eagleman’s excellent book Incognito, from September 2011 issue of Discover magazine:

Your Brain Knows a Lot More Than You Realize


Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the processes and skills of the subconscious mind, which our conscious selves rarely consider.

by David Eagleman

Continue reading

October 10, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, neuroscience, psychology | , , , | 2 Comments

The End of Morality

A neuroscientific look at morality incorporating the most recent research. Fascinating read. From Discover magazine, July-August 2011 issue:

The Vexing Mental Tug-of-War Called Morality

Would you kill a crying baby to save yourself and others from hostile soldiers outside? Neuroscience offers new ways to approach such moral questions, allowing logic to triumph over deep-rooted instinct.

Continue reading

September 12, 2011 Posted by | behaviour, brain, decision making, neuroscience | | 1 Comment

Grow your brain

A few good tips besides the well-known exercise and meditation. From The Globe & Mail, April 19, 2010:

How to grow your brain: It takes more than just math puzzles

By Wency Leung
A walk in the park or a game of Whac-a-Mole may hold the key to a thicker cortex, say the team behind The Winner’s Brain

Continue reading

April 30, 2010 Posted by | brain, neuroscience | , , | Leave a comment

The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

Failure can be good for you, if you let it.  This article explains the why and the how.  An illuminating quote:

“…we carefully edit our reality, searching for evidence that confirms what we already believe. Although we pretend we’re empiricists — our views dictated by nothing but the facts — we’re actually blinkered, especially when it comes to information that contradicts our theories.”

Check out the “How to learn from failure” part at the end of the article. From Wired, Jan 2010:

Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up

Continue reading

January 6, 2010 Posted by | behaviour, neuroscience | , | Leave a comment

How Much of Your Memory Is True?

As it turns out, you can’t always tell — just confirms how much you cannot trust your memories.

From the August 3, 2009 edition of Discover Magazine:

How Much of Your Memory Is True?

New research shows that memories are constantly being re-written by our minds.

Continue reading

September 23, 2009 Posted by | brain, neuroscience | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World

Humans have a tendency to see patterns in everything, even when there is none (“patternicity”);  there is also the tendency to assume there is an agent causing actions (“agenticity”), explained in the article below.  I am thinking that the “agenticity” could be an extension of our “patternicity” — since we see the pattern of  cause-effect so often, when we do not see the cause, we make it up (the invisible agents).  What do you think?

From Scientific American Magazine –  May 19, 2009

Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World

A Skeptic’s take on souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens and other invisible powers that be

By Michael Shermer

Continue reading

May 23, 2009 Posted by | behaviour, creationism, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, religion | , , , | 1 Comment

Irrational about money

Michael Shermer’s blog about money (“Why People Believe Weird Things About Money“) describes how people would choose less money over more as long as the less money is more than someone else would get.  The article also describes how this “irrational” trait has been observed in monkeys too, suggesting that it is a behaviour that evolved pre-humans.  A very worthwhile read.

I found one of the responses (reproduced below) questioning the “irrational” label of this trait, highly entertaining:

Continue reading

January 24, 2008 Posted by | behaviour, decision making, evolutionary psychology, neuroeconomics, neuroscience | Leave a comment