"Leadership is hard; it needs discipline, concentration, and an ability to ignore what's irrelevant or needless or personal or silly," Pullum says. "There is no sign of it from Trump. This man talks honestly enough that you can see what he's like: He's an undisciplined narcissist who craves power but doesn't have the intellectual capacity to exercise it wisely."

That's the verdict of a comprehensive review of the science on the subject recently published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. The team behind the research looked at decades of studies focused on all manner of techniques and apps that promise to help you devour words at an incredible clip. Sadly, what they found is that what looks too good to be true almost certainly is.

A large proportion of the public – over a quarter according to a Gallup survey in the US – believe that humans have psychic abilities such as telepathy and clairvoyance, even though mainstream science says there is no evidence that these powers exist. It might be tempting for sceptics to put this down to a lack of intelligence or education on the part of the believers, but in fact past research has failed to support this interpretation.

Now a paper in Memory and Cognition has looked for differences between believers and sceptics in specific mental abilities, rather than in overall intelligence or education. Across three studies – this was one of the most comprehensive investigations of its kind – the researchers at the University of Chicago found that believers in psychic powers had memory abilities equal to the sceptics, but they underperformed on tests of their analytical thinking skills.

Surely one of the best ways to generate motivation in ourselves and others is by dangling rewards?

Yet psychologists have long known that rewards are overrated. The carrot, of carrot-and-stick fame, is not as effective as we’ve been led to believe. Rewards work under some circumstances but sometimes they backfire. Spectacularly.

Here is a story about preschool children with much to teach all ages about the strange effects that rewards have on our motivation.

An investigative reporter chronicles the progression of his own disease.

In this essay, I’m going to try to convince parents that it is possible, and may be beneficial, to teach their children to read even while they are babies or toddlers. I also have remarks for researchers throughout. First, I will explain how I taught my own little one, beginning at age 22 months, and introduce some of our methods. Then I will answer various general objections to the notion and practice of teaching tiny tots to read.

Hawkins and Ahmad now say they know what’s going on. Their new idea is that distal and proximal synapses play entirely different roles in the process of learning. Proximal synapses play the conventional role of triggering the cell to fire when certain patterns of connections crop up.

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But distal synapses do something else. They also recognize when certain patterns are present, but do not trigger firing. Instead, they influence the electric state of the cell in a way that makes firing more likely if another specific pattern occurs. So distal synapses prepare the cell for the arrival of other patterns. Or, as Hawkins and Ahmad put it, these synapses help the cell predict what the next pattern sensed by the proximal synapses will be.

Acting in a way that isn't considered stupid is a goal shared by most reasonable people, but many of them likely overlook one key attribute that might allow them to better achieve it: modesty.

"If you don't want to do something stupid, you probably don't want to have higher expectations of your abilities than you should," Balazs said. "The worst thing someone can do is act confidently, and seriously, and still not act rationally. That's as stupid as it gets."

Near death isn’t required for a near-death experience. They can be triggered by severe illness and even fainting (from lack of oxygen to the brain). Though my coma-dream shared many similarities with typical NDEs, my experience was different because I’m a skeptic. The reason I didn’t see dead relatives is I don’t believe in life after death. Likewise, I didn’t see Jesus’s rainbow-hued horse because I’m Jewish and not a four-year-old imagining Jesus with a gay Little Pony. I did, however, dream of ice cream. Indeed, while my life didn’t flash before my eyes, childhood elements figured prominently in the revolving segments of the coma-dream. On my Brain TV, some shows were repeats, while others had advancing plots like soap operas. I had a lot of time to kill.

The past 15 years have witnessed an overwhelming amount of research on the bilingual mind, with the majority of the evidence pointing to the tangible advantages of using more than one language. Going back and forth between languages appears to be a kind of brain training, pushing your brain to be flexible.

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