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…

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…

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…

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…

A duck and a rabbit walk into a book….

Every now and then, you find psychology in the children’s section of the bookstore. I don’t mean in the books that teach children how to control their emotions, or teach parents how their children think. Sometimes, psychology sneaks in an unexpected ways, as in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Duck! Rabbit!, which is animated in this video: The…

Why “Smart” Girls Don’t Do Math

Sometimes, usually about halfway through a stack of student papers, I close my eyes and dream of teaching without grades. Not without reading papers, or breaking out the colored pen to mark and comment, but without the one single letter that they look for first, and that takes the focus off the other hundreds of letters…

A Stegosaurus and Octopus Get Into a Brain Fight

One of the young boys in my family is currently all about dinosaurs (and monster trucks, living up to all little boy traditions). He is knowledgable enough about them to name the lovely specimen with the incredibly long neck an Apatosaurus, not Brontosaurus, putting his knowledge a caliber above mine at that age. But he…

The Ethics of Obedience

There are few studies in psychology as infamous as Milgram’s study of obedience to authority, which, simply put, found that ordinary people were surprisingly willing to administer larger and larger shocks to a fellow volunteer who incorrectly answered memory questions, just because a man in a white lab coat insisted that they continue. It’s worth…