Would You Recognize a Mind When You See One?

This was one of my very first blog posts on Contemplating Cognition, originally published September 13, 2012. The Chinese Room continues to be one of my favorite philosophical puzzles. Human beings see minds everywhere. In one classic experiment, Heider and Simmel showed people simple animated shapes and asked people to describe the events afterward. Most…

Positive emotions may reduce racist perception

As tempting as it can be to dismiss the fanciful sounding ideas of “the power of a positive attitude”, every now and then a scientific study will show that positive emotions reach into unexpected corners of our brains to tweak our thoughts and actions in small yet significant ways. As one example, simply being joyful or…

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…

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…

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…

Meditation may not be for epileptics

In epilepsy, a seizure begins with just a few neurons that – for reasons that still elude medical professionals –  get overstimulated. That excess stimulation then gets passed through the synapses to other neurons, which become overstimulated in turn, and the spread of that intense chaotic activity produces the behavioral features of a seizure. These…

Getting into the mind of the Chinese Room

My nephew has recently rediscovered his love of Wall-E, and inspired me to rediscover one of my very first blog entries, exploring the Chinese Room and how we decide who has a mind and who doesn’t. Originally posted as “Would you recognize a mind when you see one?” on September 13, 2012. Human beings see minds…

The Mechanics of Mindful Improvements

Every now and then, just when I start to get comfortable thinking I understand how something works, some new evidence or theory is presented that makes me call into question the things that I thought I knew. After years of following the latest developments in contemplative science, I thought I had a handle on how…

In meditation, does 3 x 5 = 15?

A few years of following contemplative science research has given me a feel for many of the benefits of meditation, some of which I anticipated (improvements in attention and changes in the emotional processing) and some of which would never have occurred to me (light hallucinations and improvements in balance). Once we’ve settled on a benefit, the…