Showing posts from January, 2011

Knowing without knowing

I have a new post over on the Scientific American Mind Matters website. It describes new research which suggests that tune deafness and face blindness - two examples of conditions known as agnosias, both of which can be genetic - are caused not by a failure of the brain to recognise previously seen faces or detect incongruous musical notes, but a failure to communicate these events to frontal brain regions where conscious awareness is triggered. In essence, your brain knows something but can't tell you. Read more...

Hotheads by nature

If some guy spilt your beer by accident, would you punch him in the face? If he was unapologetic, you might at least consider it – you might in fact feel a pretty strong urge to do it. What stops you? Or, if you’re the type who acts on those urges, what doesn’t stop you? New research has found a mutation in one gene that may contribute to these differences in temperament.

Self-control is the ability to inhibit an immediate course of action in the pursuit of a longer-term goal or to consciously override a base urge. Some people show far more inhibitory control than others. This trait is very stable – indeed, inhibitory control in children, which can be assessed using the famous “marshmallow test”, is predictive of their score on scales of impulsivity as adults. (The marshmallow test must go down as one of the cruellest experiments in psychology – it involves asking four-year olds not to eat a lovely yummy marshmallow for five minutes, after which they will be given another one…