Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Brain Who Mistook A Joke For A Fact

I've got a new piece at the American Academy of Political and Social Science blog on how our brains form false beliefs. As examples I use the recent New Yorker cover and a false belief about John McCain. I also talk about the larger question of how current journalistic practices can be improved to reduce such problems. An interesting question!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coming soon on Here And Now

Today I did an interview with Robin Young of WBUR Boston. She's the terrific and charming host of Here And Now, an NPR program that's broadcast nationally. [find affiliate] It will probably air next week - I'll post the exact date soon.

We talked about false beliefs, with the current example being rumors about Barack Obama. As many of you know, we had a recent NYT editorial about false beliefs. Of course, this week's new example is the now-infamous cover of this week's New Yorker.

I'm only reproducing the caricature of Michelle Obama. Generally, repeating an image like this would only increase the possibility that you'll recall the falsehood as being true. Dan Gilbert and colleagues have shown that if people aren't given enough time to think, they tend to automatically accept a statement as being true. And what's more immediate than a caricature?

Monday, July 14, 2008

European translations of Welcome To Your Brain

The US and UK edition have been out for a few months. Now we're starting to talk about the book in Europe - not just the English-language version, but translations in Spanish, Italian, German, and Dutch, all of which are available now. And in Asia, Chinese (Complex)!

In interviews I often talk about current events in the US: the neuroscience of false beliefs and of left-handed presidents. Today I'm on Radio 1, Italian national radio. Last week I was on the BBC World Service NewsHour and Radio Europe Mediteranneo with Maurice Boland. In the near future I'll be on Radio Free Europe.

There are many more translations planned: Albanian, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified), Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (in Brazil and Portugal), and Swedish. Tag so mycket!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Southpaw presidents - and their brains

In today's Washington Post we have a piece on left-handed presidents. [Original article as PDF] The next president will be left-handed, since Barack Obama and John McCain are both southpaws. They are the latest in a long run. Since 1945, five of twelve presidents have been left-handed: Truman, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton. Yet only one in 10 people in the general population is left-handed. We wrote about the question of whether there's something about the brains of left-handers that qualifies them for leadership. The answer is maybe - and in a way that may help explain Barack Obama's way with words.

The piece was condensed quite a bit - partly to accommodate a picture of Ned Flanders's Leftorium. If you're interested in a fuller version, complete with links to PDFs of supporting literature, it's here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

You'll be the hit of the party!

"If you've ever been at a loss for small talk, Welcome to Your Brain offers a wealth of information that might make you the hit of the party." That's from the latest review, which appeared yesterday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

We've found this to be the case as well. We often have a great time slipping people nuggets of information. A few months ago I got to sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 767 on takeoff - great fun. I was just about to leave, but the pilots and I started talking. I ended up staying an hour. It turns out their tricks for fighting jet lag are quite similar to ours.

Some more reviews can be found here.