The Sweet Kisses of Embodied Cognition

Best lollipops
I wandered into a session on embodied cognition at last week’s Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference, and I walked away thinking what I heard can’t possibly be true.

I mean, it just can’t be. Can it?

Research on embodied cognition—the idea, basically, that the body strongly influences the mind in multiple ways we’re not aware of (though not everyone agrees with that definition)—is a fairly new field, and in the last few years it has produced a number of head-scratching resu…


Gaming vs. God



Whether violent video games make you more aggressive has been much debated. Much less discussed is whether video games make you an atheist.

OK, not make you an atheist—that’s too strong. But a new study in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion does find that playing video games reduces a sense of the numinous, i.e., the feeling that there is a force out there beyond ourselves and the physical world.

In the study, two Canadian researchers first had 56 undergraduates ta…


Wait, So Does Meditation Actually Work or Not?

Depending on which news account you read, a recently published meta-analysis of meditation studies either confirmed the therapeutic value of the practice or proved that it’s not so great after all. For example, Time reported that the studies reviewed showed we need to take meditation “more seriously as medicine,” while an Australian news site emphasized that meditation “lacked evidence of leading to better health.”

So should we all assume the lotus position or what?

First, some context. The an…


A Deaf Linguist Explores Black American Sign Language


Students were required to wear hearing-assistance devices in schools like the Southern School for the Colored Deaf and Blind, in Scotlandville, La. The school was established in 1938. (Image courtesy of Joseph Hill, Black ASL Project)

Joseph Hill, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, believes he is the only black, deaf, Ph.D. linguist in America, and maybe in the world. “Just me,” he told an audience of about 40 people on Sunday at the Linguistic Society …


Does Familiarity Breed Contempt or Fondness?

Two Male FriendsYou meet someone new. You have lunch, maybe see a movie. Along the way you discover things about the other person. It’s not as if you’re keeping a list of this person’s habits and traits—that would be weird—but you’re accumulating information nonetheless.

So here’s the question: As you get to know each other, will you generally like this other person more or less?

Assuming that you don’t discover something unexpectedly awful, like a fondness for hurling bricks at squirrels, the answer is proba…


A Victory for Psychological Research

Researchers are encouraged by newly released results of a project that successfully replicated 10 of 13 psychological studies. The project, conducted by a large international consortium, was set up in response to findings in recent years that many psychological studies, including classic experiments, were flawed.

Ten of the effects were consistently replicated across different samples. These included classic results from economics Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University in New Jersey, such as gain-versus-loss framing, in which people are more prepared to take risks to avoid losses, rather than make gains. . . .
Of the 13 effects under scrutiny in the latest investigation, one was only weakly supported, and two were not replicated at all. Both irreproducible effects involved social priming.

Read more at:


Major Fraud Plea Has University Scientists Regretting Journal Article

Just days after federal prosecutors concluded one of the nation’s largest fraud settlements involving a single drug, at least some university researchers are retreating from a medical-journal article that helped sell the medicine to children.

Denis Daneman, a professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, said he had asked the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which published the 2003 article evaluating the schizophrenia medication Risperdal, to remove his name from it.

And one of…


A Disease Ecologist and His Discontents

The white-footed mouse, a favored home of the Lyme bacterium. Copyright John White

The white-footed mouse, a favored home of the Lyme bacterium. Copyright John White

If we save the animals, do we, in the end, save ourselves?

There is so much nature can do for us. It can clean our water. Absorb our carbon. Inspire us. Each of those benefits can be quantified, in the language of modern conservation, as an “ecosystem service,” as I describe this week in The Chronicle Review.

The stories behind some services are more alluring than others: Few people become environmentalists out of…


In Vancouver, a Young Science Confronts Its Limits

Black rockfish

Consider, if you will, the black rockfish.

Its skin a mottled black-gray, its belly white, and its dorsal fin spiny, the black rockfish is a saltwater species of unremarkable size and value. It’s a common catch off Vancouver Island, but only a blip in British Columbia’s commercial fishing haul. Sport fishermen, many from First Nation tribes, catch the rockfish occasionally, sure, but if you were appraising a fishery solely on the monetary value it provides—a strategy at the core…


Critics Say Sting on Open-Access Journals Misses Larger Point

Perhaps months from now, when the dust settles and academics really look back at it, they’ll find some hard lessons in the elaborate Science magazine exposé this week by the journalist John Bohannon.

After more than a year of work, in which Mr. Bohannon, who has a Ph.D. in biology, crafted a fraudulent cancer-research article and painstakingly tracked the responses to it from more than 300 journals, he gave his industry the embarrassing news that 157 of them had agreed to publish it.

“The data…