Here is an interesting and novel example of the mimicry heuristic in action–and its psychological costs. The mimicry heuristic (discussed at length in chapter 5 of On Second Thought) is our deep tendency to intertwine our nervous system with others around us. It’s the source of human empathy, but according to psychologist Elaine Hatfield, it… Read more
Jonah Lehrer writes a nice column called “The Frontal Cortex,” for Wired magazine. His latest is about why we eat too much, and the answer is: Because we co-mingle sustenance and status in our minds. Lehrer covers some of the same territory I survey in On Second Thought, in the chapter called The Calorie Heuristic:… Read more
The following is from NPR’s Facebook page. Is this a legitimate way to report a story? It sounds like NPR editors have already decided that a significant number of employed people are playing it safe, avoiding risky investments etc. What if that’s not true? What if only a tiny minority are? Are they just seeking… Read more
This 1962 clip from Candid Camera is funny and frightening at the same time.
The unhappy trend toward neuroreductionism–the loose and inaccurate interpretation of brain scans as representing complex human emotions and behavior–continues with this silly op-ed piece in the New York Times on how we “love” our phones. So does the reasoned and important criticism of this trend, as in this letter to the Times signed by many… Read more
In the darkly funny film classic Harold and Maude, Harold is a 19-year-old who is obsessed with death and dying. He repeatedly fakes his own suicide, drives around in a hearse, and attends strangers’ funerals as a pastime. At one of these funerals he meets Maude, a 79-year-old with the same morbid hobby, and in… Read more
I’ve been doing more talks recently, on thinking and decision making, based on the ideas in On Second Thought. I’ve spoken to health professionals, psychology students, national security officials, and CEOs. I tailor my talks to each audience, but this one I gave at the Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC, captures the flavor.