September 13, 2012

Can Recalling Childhood Memories Make Us Behave More Ethically?
In a series of experiments done by Francesca Gino and Sreedhari Desai of Harvard University, participants were more likely to help the experimenters with an extra task, judge unethical behavior harshly, and donate money to charity when they had actively remembered their childhood (as opposed to their teenage years). The effect held whether the memories were positive or negative—although, notably, the study subjects did not have traumatic histories. (Jessica Gross, Scientific American Mind)

Force of Magic
In magic, choices are rarely what they seem. Magicians know how to manipulate us into a false sense of free will while really holding the puppet strings. (Alex Stone, Discover)

On Neuroscientism
Steven Poole: An intellectual pestilence is upon us. Shop shelves groan with books purporting to explain, through snazzy brain-imaging studies, not only how thoughts and emotions function, but how politics and religion work, and what the correct answers are to age-old philosophical controversies. The dazzling real achievements of brain research are routinely pressed into service for questions they were never designed to answer. This is the plague of neuroscientism—aka neurobabble, neurobollocks, or neurotrash—and it’s everywhere. (New Statesman)

Social Networks and Real-World Mass Behavior
About 340,000 extra people turned out to vote in the 2010 U.S. congressional elections because of a single election-day Facebook message, estimate researchers who ran an experiment involving 61 million users of the social network. The study, published in Nature, is the first to demonstrate that the online world can affect a significant real-world behavior on a large scale, say the researchers. But the closest Facebook friends exerted the most influence in getting users to the ballot box. (Zoe Corbyn, Nature)

More on the Effort to Re-Create the Woolly Mammoth
Scientists who found well-preserved woolly mammoth remains in a remote part of Russia hope they might contain the necessary material to clone the long-extinct beast. (Nastassia Astrasheuskaya, Reuters)

Category: Field Notes

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