July 7, 2010

The Criminal Inside
Scientific research on brain scans and DNA provide new insight on what makes some kinds of criminals different than you and me, information that’s begun to be introduced as evidence in some trials. The data challenge how we think about right and wrong, about guilt and innocence, and about the penalty to fit the crime. (Neal Conan, Talk of the Nation, NPR)

One Big, Social Brain
Robert Wright: I personally don’t think it’s outlandish to talk about us being, increasingly, neurons in a giant superorganism; certainly an observer from outer space, watching the emergence of the Internet, could be excused for looking at us that way. (Opinionator Blog, The New York Times)

Rudeness Can Cause Mistakes
Professor Rhona Flin said studies had shown that being the victim of rudeness can impair cognitive skills, with students who were insulted by a professor performing worse on subsequent memory tasks. Even witnessing rudeness to other people affects performance, other experiments had shown, she said. (Rebecca Smith, Telegraph)

Dubitable Darwin?
John Horgan: Is it possible that some future genius will discover an alternative that supplants Darwinism as our framework for understanding life? Will we ever look back on Darwin as brilliant but wrong? (Cross-Check, Scientific American)

Court Agrees Children Should Make Their Own Religious Choices
The mother wanted her children to participate in their bar and bat mitzvahs—ceremonies that mark the beginning of boys and girls taking responsibility for their Jewish faith. But the father, a Catholic who irregularly attends church, wanted them to choose their own religion in a ”voluntary and informed” way, once they were of sufficient age and maturity. (Bellinda Kontominas, The Sydney Morning Herald)


Robert Feldman, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, argues that we all lie a lot of the time. He introduces a number of psychological principles to explain this, the most important of which is “Liar’s Advantage,” a tactical leg-up made possible partly by the difficulty of lie detection and partly by our own inherent gullibility. (Alice-Azania Jarvis, The Independent)

Category: Field Notes


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