Thursday, November 19, 2015

Learning Language by Eavesdropping

Reblogged from
via WikiMedia Commons.
Though kids seem to learn language without effort, scientists continue to puzzle over how children go from scream-y, pre-linguistic squooshballs to slightly-less-scream-y toddlers who can string a few words together (including “no!”) to older children who speak more or less like adults do. Researchers have learned a lot about how kids learn to talk—they know that children are in tune with their environment, with caregivers [1-2]. More recently, research suggests that when mom and dad direct their attention (and verbal labels) towards what a child is already engaged with, children might to learn more quickly [3]–that is, when mom says “doggy” and a child is petting the dog, the word is probably more likely to stick than if only mom was looking at the dog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Neu- way to Write, and Beyond

New post on the UCSD Cognitive Science Blog repping NeuWrite SD and other venues for science communication at UCSD:
Students in cognitive science, neuroscience, and other disciplines at UCSD look for new ways of communicating science, including 
As recent Pew Research polls indicate, views on key issues (like climate change and genetically-modified foods) often differ drastically between the public, in general, and scientists, in particular. Like the kids whose opinions changed after actually visiting a lab and speaking with scientists, it stands to reason that many people’s opinions of science (and scientists) might change given more experience communicating with scientists.
Read more here...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Language, memory and aging: The words to say it

Reblogged from my post on
"Few memories from my first course in cognitive psychology have stuck with me over time. There was the time the time the professor was appalled when he learned how many drinks the young fraternity member who always sat in the front row downed every weekend. More relevant to the course material, I also remember thinking that serial position memory curves—the idea that, when given a list of words to remember, people perform much better on the earliest items (primacy effects) and the most recent items (recency effects)—were fascinating. And I remember when my professor went to the chalkboard and plotted age vs. accuracy for serial memory tasks, telling us to enjoy our nubile brains now, because it only goes downhill from here."
Keep reading here...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Subtle sexism: Stereotypes and how they shape us

Reblogged from
Gender stereotypes are pervasive. Though Disney has recently come out with some kick-ass princesses (my personal favorites are the icy Elsa and fiery Anna, who don’t need a prince to save them in Frozen), enter any major toy store and you can still find row upon row of pink paraphernalia and sparkly tiaras.
Continue reading at

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A science of falling in love?

Reblogged from
“To fall in love with anyone, do this!” proclaimed the headline of a recent article from the New York Times’ Modern Love column. As a skeptic in everything (and what cognitive scientist wouldn’t be skeptical of such a statement?), it seemed shocking to discover that the secret to falling in love, according to the article, was to answer a series of 36 straightforward, yet personal, questions—with a stranger. And to gaze into their eyes (longingly?) for about four minutes.

Read more on ...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hearing voices: Social context influences psychosis

Reblogged from
“People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better.”
These are the words of John Nash, Jr., the Nobel Laureate who inspired the book and the movie A Beautiful Mind and who suffered from schizophrenia, including paranoid delusions of grandeur during which he felt he could intercept secret messages with important content instructing him on how to rescue the planet.

How individuals experiencing psychotic symptoms come to interpret such messages is a fascinating question. In a recent academic talk, Stanford psychological anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann addressed this question by arguing persuasively for the influence of culture on the symptomatology of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia (for a great recap of a similar talk by Luhrmann, see this blog post from PLoS). Strikingly, she claims, positive psychotic symptoms, in particular hearing voices, manifest differently in different cultures. 

Continuing reading here...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lithium: Wonder Drug? Part I

Reblogged from my post on
I’m so happy ’cause today
I’ve found my friends
They’re in my head
What comes to mind when you hear the word lithium? A drug used to manage life-threatening mood disorders? A potentially deadly toxin? A chemical found in trace amounts in many compounds in nature? (Or maybe just the Nirvana song?)

Any of these answers would be felicitous. A recent New York Times Sunday Review piece by psychiatrist Dr. Anna Fels touted the potential benefits of the naturally-occurring element, atomic number 3 on the periodic table. Dr. Fels’ primary argument was that lithium, widely known for its use as a mood stabilizer for individuals with severe mood disorders, also has a positive effect on mood and cognition in non-clinical populations in trace amounts.
Continue reading here...