December 3, 2012

How Our Brain Responds When We See Someone Being Harmed
It only takes a split second for a human being to detect if a hurtful action witnessed is intentional or accidental, U.S. researchers say. Lead author Jean Decety and Stephanie Cacioppo, both of the University of Chicago, said the findings help explain how the brain is hard-wired to recognize when another person is being intentionally harmed. “Our data strongly support the notion that determining intentionality is the first step in moral computations,” Decety said in a statement. (UPI)

Creativity, Sleep, and Smell
In a first-of-its-kind study, a research team led by Simone Ritter of the Radboud University Behavioral Science Institute in the Netherlands reports the beneficial effect of sleep on creativity can be enhanced by an evocative scent. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

The Attraction of People With Dark Personalities
People may assume they’re drawn to danger or risk taking. But in fact, people with dark personalities may look hotter when they try harder than do those with more stable character traits. (Christie Nicholson, 60-Second Mind, Scientific American)

Does Murder Spread Like Infectious Disease?
The researchers relied on the same techniques public-health officials use to track the spread of diseases, but applied them to the spread of homicide in Newark, New Jersey, over a 26-year span from 1982 to 2008. And just as in other epidemics, certain neighborhoods were more susceptible than others. Diverse, immigrant-rich communities looked to be protected against homicide’s spread in the research, while the poorest neighborhoods were more vulnerable. (Tia Ghose, LiveScience)

What Neuroscience Really Tells Us
Gary Marcus: The real problem with neuroscience today isn’t with the science—though plenty of methodological challenges still remain—it’s with the expectations. The brain is an incredibly complex ensemble, with billions of neurons coming into—and out of—play at any given moment. There will eventually be neuroscientific explanations for much of what we do; but those explanations will turn out to be incredibly complicated. For now, our ability to understand how all those parts relate is quite limited, sort of like trying to understand the political dynamics of Ohio from an airplane window above Cleveland. (The New Yorker)

Category: Field Notes

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