Understanding Cognition

Quite simply, cognition refers to thinking. There are the obvious applications of conscious reasoning—doing taxes, playing chess, deconstructing Macbeth—but thought takes many subtler forms, such as interpreting sensory input, guiding physical actions, and empathizing with others. The old metaphor for human cognition was the computer—a logical information-processing machine. (You can’t spell cognition without “cog.”) But while some of our thoughts may be binary, there's a lot more to our 'wetware' than 0's and 1's.

Recent posts on Cognition

Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on August 29, 2016 in Animal Emotions
Dr. Nathan Emery's new book "Bird Brain: An Exploration of Avian Intelligence" is a gold mine of information and surprises about the latest research on bird smarts.

Dissecting the Clean-Eating Meme

By Emily T. Troscianko on August 29, 2016 in A Hunger Artist
At the heart of 'clean eating' is a potent metaphor. It's worth taking a long hard look at its threats and promises and the rest of its dangerous box of cognitive tricks.

Numerologic Puzzles

By Marcel Danesi Ph.D. on August 28, 2016 in Brain Workout
Arithmetic may be frustrating, but figuring out how numbers form relations is stimulating. These puzzles will activate inferential and reasoning processes in tandem.
K. Ramsland

What If Jack the Ripper Lived With You?

By Katherine Ramsland Ph.D. on August 27, 2016 in Shadow Boxing
An early tale based on Jack the Ripper shows the subtle way in which people see what they need to see.

Neuroscience Suggests That We're All "Wired" for Addiction

By Christopher Bergland on August 26, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
New research suggests that everybody has the neurobiological potential to become an addict.

Are Conservatives More Anti-Science Than Liberals?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on August 26, 2016 in Talking Apes
Skepticism about scientific findings depends on your core beliefs, not your level of science literacy.

News From the 2016 Annual Dreams Conference

This year's IASD conference included talks on jihadi dreams, emotional processing, gender differences, social cognition, and existential dreams of "sublime disquietude."

The Problem With Positive Thinking

By Joel Minden, PhD on August 25, 2016 in CBT and Me
Does positive thinking lead to greater happiness? If only it were that simple. When negative thinking gets you down, here’s what to do instead.
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Cognitive Biases Ruining Your Diet

By Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. on August 25, 2016 in Science of Choice
Cognitive biases lead to craving and overeating thereby contributing to weight gain and obesity

Muscle Memory—It’s in Your Head, Not Your Limbs

Don’t believe promises of “accelerated learning.” Four proven practices can boost retention and give you peace of mind instead.

To Bribe or Not to Bribe

Reading incentive programs, where students get points or prizes, and sometimes even grades, for reading “fun” books, are a ubiquitous feature of many literacy programs.

Weird Beliefs

By Eric Dietrich Ph.D. on August 24, 2016 in Excellent Beauty
You have some weird beliefs, beliefs that do not fit well with all your other everyday beliefs. To you, though, these beliefs are not weird at all. What explains this?

One Question You Need to Ask Yourself About Your Syllabus

Are you a college teacher? A small question might make you want to make big changes. It did for me.

Two Minutes to Wapner

"If our son isn't doing what he wants, when he wants, than all bets are off." What to do when the problem is not "disobedience," but cognitive rigidity and anxiety.

Do Dogs Prefer Food or Praise?

A new study looks at whether dogs prefer food rewards more than social interaction with their owners by monitoring what goes on inside the dogs brain.

Why a Drained Brain Makes Bad Decisions

By David DiSalvo on August 22, 2016 in Neuronarrative
The brain is an energy hog that uses 15-20% of the body’s circulating blood glucose each day, and that energy isn't insignificant when it comes to making sound decisions.

Seduced by Abandon

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on August 22, 2016 in A Swim in Denial
"Throwing caution to the winds" can be exhilarating or dangerous. In politics the idea manipulates us in wild ways.

5 Ways a New Approach Can Improve Your Life Today

Studies show how humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Here's how you can fix that.

Impure Replications

By Rolf Reber Ph.D. on August 21, 2016 in Critical Feeling
A new replication failure in social psychology caused hype in social media. But is the failure real?

The Lessons of Homelessness

Are you tired of the same old rhetoric about homelessness? Here is a different way to view the problem of homelessness.

The Neurobiology Behind Breakups

By Rhonda Freeman Ph.D. on August 19, 2016 in NeuroSagacity
The brain's process of detaching from a romantic relationship.

Can You Learn a Second Language After Childhood?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on August 19, 2016 in Talking Apes
While it’s true that that it’s easier to learn a language when you’re young, adults can still learn languages with the right motivation.

The Man Who Tastes Time

By Maureen Seaberg on August 18, 2016 in Sensorium
Time is tasty for Hamrick Walters, a very unique synesthete
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/4984060658

Who Blames the Victim?

By Laura Niemi, Ph.D. on August 18, 2016 in Morality in Language
Moral values constitute a core framework that organizes psychological processes to motivate predictable patterns of condemnation toward victims. Still, language matters!

Should You Share Your Cocktail Hour With Your Dog?

Evidence shows that sharing alcoholic beverages with your dog is a bad practice.

Why Theological Waywardness Is Inevitable

Natural penchants of mind, such as anthropomorphism, dispose people to think about gods in ways that often conflict with their religions' doctrines.
https://pixabay.com/en/brain-think-human-idea-20424/

Alluring Brain Science: Stale, Creative Ferment or Both?

Brain science is complex and fast developing. Is it providing the answers we need quickly enough?

The Practical Benefits of a Wandering Mind

The next time you’re trying to concentrate and find your mind wandering off task, you might just want to let it go. New research suggests it may be helping you achieve your goals.

George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” at 70

Seventy years ago, between Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell published his famous essay, Politics and the English Language—a work that has relevance for our upcoming election.

Learning the New Language of Racism

Language influences how we feel and how we react to things. Language is the foundation of change. Rather than avoid and deny, we need to start learning.