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Posts from the ‘Psychology’ Category

The Secret Life of Pronouns

I just finished reading Jamie Pennebaker’s book, The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say about Us. Dr. Pennebaker is a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies how language relates to who we are and how we interact with others. This book provides an interesting look at the intersection between linguistics and, well, everything else. Here are 5 things I learned while reading this book:

  1. Reading this book has made me incredibly self-conscious about everything I write. This includes the number of I-words in an email to my boss and the manuscript revisions I’m working on with several colleagues. As I build this website and blog, I am hyper-aware of every first-person pronoun (I or we) and what information I’m conveying. It reminds me of the first time I read Sam Gosling‘s research on what our personal spaces say about us. Suddenly, you feel naked, like every word or action reveals who you really are. On the flip side, it makes me curious about who I “really am.” A quick analysis of journals, emails, and Facebook comments could be fascinating… Read more

The Milgram study

Ask any social psychologist what their favorite experiment is, and the Milgram obedience study is bound to come up—repeatedly. If I ranked my favorite studies, it would definitely be in the top 5. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve learned about it or taught undergrads about it. Every time, I feel like I come away with a new way to think about the findings.

The other day I was listening to Radiolab’s episode “The Bad Show,”which is about why people do bad things. Not surprisingly, they discuss the Milgram study. Read more

Language and executive functioning in the brain

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Angie Laird, a professor at UTHSCSA‘s Research Imaging Institute. Her work involves mapping pathways of neural activity using neuroimaging data and connecting these pathways to behavioral and cognitive processes. During our meeting, Dr. Laird shared with me some fascinating discoveries, which were recently published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Laird et al., 2011).

Let me just say that I am not a neuroscientist. I’d need a whole stack of books (and maybe some classes) in order to fully understand this paper. Still, this paper—specifically Figure 4—has stuck with me. Every so often, I come back to it, still trying to wrap my head around what it means. Read more

Losing time

If you haven’t heard of it, WNYC’s Radiolab is an excellent radio show/podcast. Radiolab describes itself as a show where “the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” I highly, highly recommend it.

The episode “In the Running” talks about Diane Van Deren, an ultra-runner who has won several 50- and 100-mile races. Because of a seizure disorder, a large chunk of her temporal lobe was surgically removed. Importantly, the temporal lobe helps us to understand time and space. After the surgery, Diane developed short-term memory loss. Spatial and temporal reasoning became more difficult for her. But when she started ultra-running, these deficits gave her an important advantage: she loses track of time. To listen to the episode, click the audio player below (episode starts 3 minutes in):

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