Reading a horse’s mind and brain

I cannot say that I have ever given horse brains much thought. Monkey brains, rat brains, even sea slug brains have played a much greater role in our understanding of modern neuroscience. Horses do make at least one appearance in psychology, in the form of the cautionary tale of Clever Hans, who demonstrated that horses are at the very…

Why children are tempted by marshmallows

The most famous, and controversial, food in developmental psychology is the marshmallow. This humble creation of sugar and gelatin was raised to fame by Walter Mischel, who many years ago plunked marshmallows in front of preschoolers and instructed them not to eat them. The immediate results, dramatized in the video below, are not exactly surprising: Children…

The animated default network

Some days I think I must live in the golden age of teaching, because I am spoiled for choice in most of my demonstrations. Pop over to YouTube, enter a few search terms, and find an incredible assortment of possible videos to show, many of which have surprisingly high production values. My most recent find…

Do we really prefer shocks to thoughts?

If you found yourself left in a bland room for 15 minutes, with instructions to remain in a chair and just think, and the only alternative to just sitting and thinking was to deliver a mild electric shock to your ankle…would you shock yourself? Does the thought of being alone with your thoughts for just 15 minutes…

Women, science, stereotypes, and Star Trek

At the start of the semester, my mind always turns to matters of gender and sex differences. Not because I teach at a women’s college, or because one or two students out themselves as being transgender or gender fluid, but because virtually every course I teach touches on the nature-nurture issue in our opening weeks, and…

A battle over the link between strep and OCD

Today I introduced a class of students to the notion that a strep infection could give a child obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The idea was first widely publicized in the memoir “Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD“, and briefly recapped in this clip from the Today Show: I am already on record as identifying this…

Awe and the Supernatural

Majestic mountains, vibrant vistas, stunning scenery – and, perhaps, the transformation of a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse – these are sights that can truly be awe-inspiring, generating those feelings of reverence and wonder. They make time seem to slow down. But do they also make it seem more likely that there must be…

Obstacles to meditation in the college classroom

Imagine, if you will, this scene: just under two dozen first-year college students have, somehow, dragged themselves out of bed at the near-crack of dawn, eschewed changing out of nightclothes in favor of shoving bare feet into flip flops or possible Uggs, and slouched into a third-story classroom. They rest their heads on their tables…

Can children learn language from television?

My nephew is currently snuggled up with a Curious George plushie he got for his birthday. Let’s revisit what his love of the cartoon character might have meant for his language, in this post from July 11, 2013 originally called “Life imitates art: Child imitates monkey”. Imitation of television is certainly dangerous…to my sister’s sanity.…