How Novels Make Me a Murderer

When we read a story, literary folk say that we "identify" with robbers, killers, thieves, and all kinds of vicious types. Why? What is it about stories that induces us to share criminal impulses?

Who Says Film Is Dead?

Some reviewers fear that video, DVD, Blu-Ray may never equal the past's great films. But not because film has changed. It isn't the grain of the image or the noise of the projector that's lacking—it's the audience. Thinking about the technology is looking at the wrong end. The real issue is, Who's in control?

All about Brain Scans

Find out all about brain scans. Or almost all. This site is useful for learning about neurology or if your doctor has prescribed one of these neuroimages. Check them out, and note that two of the commonest pose risks—slight risks, but you want to know about them.

Moneyball: The Behaviorist Movie

You think it's about two different ways of hiring baseball players. But Moneyball points up the usefulness of behaviorist thinking and a fundamental issue in psychology.

Stories and the Mirror Inside You

When you read a story, you think you think your way into the minds of the characters. But actually you embody your way in. What does that mean? To understand how we read other people, we need to understand mirror neurons, said by some to be the most important discovery since DNA.

Literary Darwinism, the Deer Mouse, and the Three-Spine Stickleback

Literary Darwinists claim that literature makes us humans fitter, and literature therefore became universal across all times and cultures. But how a species becomes fitter is tricky, and obvious stories deceive us. We need better genetic evidence for that kind of far-reaching claim.

How to Pick a Movie

Can you pick a movie with confidence that you'll enjoy it? Despite the hype, despite the critics? Yes. You can use the popularity ratings from online sites and, if you make some statistical assumptions, you can be 70% sure that you'll enjoy the movie you're considering.

Freud on Obama

If Freud were alive today, he would have something to say about the Obama presidency. He said it in 1926 in an essay, "Those Wrecked by Success." He would find an oedipal clue to the predicament President Obama finds himself in with his adamant opponents cheerily threatening financial disaster for America.

Does the Market Have a Brain?

Economists like Alan Greenspan suggest that it does, that by means of some "invisible hand," the market will guarantee stability. Baloney! If you believe that, I have some shares in a bridge in Brooklyn I can offer you at a bargain price.

The Arts "Supervene on" the Brain

There are works of art and there are experiences of art in brains. What's the relation between them? That's really a version of the old mind-brain problem. Here's an answer, courtesy of a Harvard neuroscientist/philosopher: supervenience. The work of art "supervenes on" your response in your brain.

Seeing Movies Now--Alas!

iPad, iPhone, and all their kindred just take us back to Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, the old, old way of seeing movies when they were first being invented. We're losing the wonderful experience of having our emotions freed up by having our motor systems shut down and by turning over part of our mental functioning to the rest of the audience.

We're Still Boss, Watson

Watson is a magnificent accomplishment, but don't get drawn into the pop media's game of scaring you with images of Terminators and HALs taking over. Watson is missing the most important brain circuitry required for human intelligence and its achievements.

Museumgoing in the Brain

For a long time people thinking about the arts have said there was a special state of mind, call it "aesthetic distance" or "disinterestedness." You don't have any special plans about the work of art. You don't plan to act on it. You just let it happen to you. You just enjoy. Now we know something about the brain state that that involves.

Trouble in Myth-Land: Campbell and Moyers

Joseph Campbell, interviewed by Bill Moyers, uses myths to hype a two-valued self-help psychology that doesn't fit either anthropology or brain science or real psychotherapy. The tv interviews make it sound easy: follow a trail to your inner self and find freedom, creativity, power, and your "real" mind. Uh-huh.

Crosswords, Video Games, and Literature

 Can it be that the brain circuitry that lures us into doing puzzles is the same system that entices us to read fiction, go to plays and movies, or read poetry?  Yes.  We are SEEKING creatures, like other mammals.

The Social Network, Asperger's, and Your Brain

Mark Zuckerberg may have been a case of Asperger's, but that didn't stop him from changing your and my brain.  Facebook in real life is making us like the Zuckerberg of the movie.

Literature and the Brain

This posting leads to a key review of a key book, Literature and the Brain. 

How the Literary Darwinists Got it Wrong

Literary Darwinists' claims just won't stand up to common sense.  But there is a way in which evolutionary psychology demonstrates a real adaptational value for literature and literary criticism.

How You Are Who You Are--in Chaos Theory

How you are who you are--the you that others see--the habitual you--the style of you--   That you exists as procedural memories in your brain, and mathematical chaos theory than picture the "strange attractors" that give your style of being its special shape.

How You Are Who You Are--in the Brain

You develop who you are the same way you learn to swim or ride a bicycle: slowly, with lots of repetitions. And it's just as hard to change the way you are as to change the way you walk or talk or write. All are procedural memories.

How You Are Who You Are--Styles

As the '60s button pictured says, Who you are is how it is is who you are is how it is is who you . . . I'll be posting three blogs on this theme. Of these, the first says how a persistent you-ness of you determines how you see the world and act on it and how others respond to you. The second says how that you-ness is embodied in your brain. The third says how we can think about it mathematically.

Can the MBA Brain be changed?

Can we reform business by reforming the M.B.A.?  Some business theorists have plans for teaching ethics.  And some brain science says we can build ethical training on an evolutionary foundation, our brains' bias against harming others and for fairness.

Jeff Koons' "Rabbit," the Brain, and Postmodern Art

Postmodern art doesn't fit neuroscientists' notions of what makes art.  It doesn't draw on perceptual laws of beauty.  It doesn't draw on an emotional feeling of beauty.  It does draw purely on frontal lobe thinking.

Happiness, Jacques Tati, and the Substantia Nigra

Somehow, Jacques Tati, one of the great comic artists of the last century knew something about our brain systems and how they can make us feel happy.  

3 Simple Rules for Writing That Match the Human Brain

 These three simple rules make brain sense. That is, if you follow these, when you write,  you will be taking advantage of the way your brain works. You won't sound like Faulkner or Henry James, but your readers will understand what you're trying to say. 

Psychology has a spaghetti model of mind

Psychology has a spaghetti model of mind, and that turns "scienfific" psychology from a science into one of the humanities.

Why iPads Will Finish Movies

There is a very good reason iPads (and SONY readers, cell phones, DVD players, television and all these new ways of viewing them) will kill movies.  It's because our brains test the reality of what we are perceiving if and only if we can act on it.  Since, in a theater, we can't change what we're watching, we don't test its reality.  We believe in Iron Man or Spider-Man or Superman.  We escape.  We are "transported."  But watching a movie on an iPad?

Spike Jonze' Psyche

Talk about creativity! Spike Jonze is surely one of the most brilliant filmmakers around. Yet his creativity comes from something most psychologists would raise their eyebrows at. He tries--and succeeds--in being childish. At the age of forty, he acts like a teenager, and, by doing so, he opens the floodgates to a torrent of creativity. He's a case study for anyone thinking about artistic creation, a case that needs to be explained.

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