In recent years amphetamine, particularly METH (methamphetamine), has received considerable, negative media attention. You may read about police raiding a secret METH lab in your local newspaper, hear that METH is stealing our youth in a news report, or see anti-drug commercials portraying the dark and destructive forces of METH abuse. What you are unlikely to see are reports highlighting the benefits of METH. Yes, I used the words benefit and METH in the same sentence. While METH is relentlessly demonized in main stream media as the the devil’s drug, a less satanic perspective has been taken up by many neuroscientists.
A pregnant woman comes into an emergency room on a weekend evening. She reports that she fell on her stomach and is worried about her unborn child. The woman also has some minor bruising around her wrists and arms not consistent with this most recent injury. Is it the responsibility of an emergency room physician to screen this woman for interpersonal violence, more commonly referred to as domestic violence? Continue reading
Imagine several colored stars appear in front of you for 1 second, how many stars can you remember and tell its color based on that one glance? Do you know if you can perform better than a 6-month-old infant in this test? We may get an answer from this study in which psychologists for the first time measured infants’ iconic memory.
Iconic memory is the initial 0.2 to 0.5 seconds after you visually perceive an item. Have you ever tried to look at the list of side effects displayed so quickly in some pharmaceutical commercials? Without the ability to recall much, you only got a feeling that you have seen more than you could remember. That is a close example of the feelings of iconic memory.
What kind of children would you guess to be popular at school? You may intuitively assume children’s popularity is related to their being stylish, good looking, athletic, funny, or wealthy. One factor that you probably won’t think of is how many hours per week they spent in child care when they were little.
A recent study found that children with extensive experience of early child care tend to be popular when they are in elementary school. But before you rush to sign your child up for child care, please let me finish telling you the complete story: popularity also comes with aggression in children who spent a lot of time in early child care.
When you’re sitting in a public place, do you ever “feel someone looking at you” — and then turn around to find out it’s true? In the scientific community, people have investigated whether it’s possible to sense when a person is looking at you. The resounding answer from these studies is “no”. And still, plenty of people still post to sites like Yahoo Answers speculating that “brain waves” can cause it to happen. Why is the belief of a “sixth sense for staring” so hard to shake off?
Robert Sheldrake is partly responsible for this kind of belief sticking around. He published a book claiming that subjects in his experiments could detect staring better than if they were randomly guessing. Subsequently, several researchers tried to reproduce his results — and the majority of them weren’t able to. This back-and-forth was covered in a 2005 issue of Scientific American, and in the science blogging community. When the “staring sense” was debunked so publicly, why didn’t this become part of mainstream knowledge?
The problem is that although the unreliability of Sheldrake’s results was reported on, they were in Scientific American — not a magazine that everybody subscribes to. And while science blogging is aiming at educating people in a more accessible way, it’s not clear who the readers acually are. Scientists need to come up with more ways for communicating with the public when they *know* that they have people’s attention.
Another problem is that Sheldrake’s book is still out there for anyone to read. And people are reading it and being convinced by his arguments, as just one personal blog post shows. People have a hard time telling apart real science and pseudo-science — perhaps teaching this skill is something that should be emphasized more in school. And of course, people are much more impressed by a positive finding (like Sheldrake’s studies) than by people who aren’t able to reproduce that finding (an issue recently discussed at the science blog The Invisible Gorilla).
Perhaps the strongest reason for why many people still believe in a sixth sense for staring is that it’s such a widespread phenomenon. Of course, it can be explained by the fact that people who turn around after thinking they’re being started at actually get stares because of their head-turning. But who wants to listen to logic when there’s hope of a sixth sense?
Take a look at your desk—is it full of junk? If so, you may be thinking that, while it’s not an ideal situation, your messy desk isn’t so bad. Sure, it takes you a little longer to find stuff, but you know where the important things are, right? But when you stop and think about it, how do you actually feel when your desk or room is cluttered? Do you find it harder to focus, maybe even irritable? Even you “organized clutter” folks probably feel this way from time to time. As you might have guessed, these negative feelings may be related to how our brain responds when there’s just too much stuff—but how does this happen? And is clutter really that bad?