Memes are bad ideas because of the substantial differences between biological and cultural evolution. The lumping of all cultural entities together as memes neglects the variety and complexity of mental representations. The processes by which mental representations are generated and selected are very different from the ones that operate in biological evolution.
People succumb to motivated ignorance when their goals lead them to avoid learning potentially valuable information. Such avoidance of knowledge naturally happens with respect to important personal topics such as relationships and health. It is also common at the social and political level with respect to issues such as climate change.
Philosophy attempts to answer fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and morals. In contrast to the dominant approach that uses the study of language and logic to analyze existing concepts, I prefer an approach that is closely tied to scientific investigations and aims to improve concepts.
Being ethical requires good reasoning about rights, consequences, and principles; but it also requires caring about the people affected by actions. Ethical thought needs to be both cognitive and emotional.
There are good theoretical and practical reasons to
collaborate with people from other disciplines on projects
such as trying to understand how the mind works. Here is
some advice about how to collaborate productively.
Some critics of U.S. President Obama’s healthcare plan have argued that requiring people to buy health insurance is as illegitimate as requiring them to eat broccoli. A psychological theory of analogy clarifies where this reasoning goes wrong.
Making decisions about social issues, including scientific ones such as climate change and bioengineering, requires values as well as facts. One good way to make such values explicit is to diagram them using cognitive-affective maps, which display emotional attitudes as well as conceptual structure.
Intuitions in everyday life and especially in philosophy are often unreliable. Intuition should only be trusted when a thinker has had ample opportunity to acquire knowledge about stable regularities in an environment.
Many scientists have described the great joy that comes from making a discovery. Such emotions provide a major part of the motivation that keeps creative people working hard in the face of adversity. A new model of the Aha! experience provides a neural explanation of the joy of thought.
What do Blackberries, iPads, and brains have in common? All function well because of powerful integration of hardware and software, combining syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.
Embodiment is currently a hot topic in psychology and philosophy, for good reasons. Thinking is heavily influenced by physiological processes involved in perception and emotion. Embodiment is a useful extension to cognitive theories that explain thinking in terms of mental representations, but not an alternative theory.
Wireless access to the Web has become very common in universities, and the number of students using laptops in classes has steadily increased. So in my two classes on cognitive science in the fall I’m planning to ban laptop use. Here’s why.
The ancient philosophical debate about whether ethics is primarily a matter of reason or emotion has spilled over into psychology, where there is much current discussion about the nature of ethical thinking. But sufficiently rich theories of inference and emotion can clarify how moral judgments at their best should be both rational and emotional.