Browsing: Cognition

The latest news about cognitive psychology, brain development and neuroscience research

Eyes make faces appear alive

The face of a doll is clearly not human; the face of a human clearly is. Telling the difference allows us to pay attention to faces that belong to living things, which are capable of interacting with us. But where is the line at which a face appears to be alive? A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that a face has to be quite similar to a human face in order to appear alive, and that the cues are mainly in the eyes.

Past experiences subconsciously influence behavior

Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory report for the first time how animals’ knowledge obtained through past experiences can subconsciously influence their behavior in new situations.

Skill in recognizing faces peaks after age 30

Scientists have made the surprising discovery that our ability to recognize and remember faces peaks at age 30 to 34, about a decade later than most of our other mental abilities. Researchers Laura T. Germine and Ken Nakayama of Harvard University and Bradley Duchaine of Dartmouth College will present their work in a forthcoming issue of the journal Cognition.

Emotional intelligence peaks as we enter our 60s

Older people have a hard time keeping a lid on their feelings, especially when viewing heartbreaking or disgusting scenes in movies and reality shows, psychologists have found. But they’re better than their younger counterparts at seeing the positive side of a stressful situation and empathizing with the less fortunate, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Positive mood allows brain to think more creatively

People who watch funny videos on the internet at work aren’t necessarily wasting time. They may be taking advantage of the latest psychological science—putting themselves in a good mood so they can think more creatively.

Fewer synapses, more efficient learning

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology and the Yale University studied the adhesion protein SynCAM1, which glues synapses together. When they increased the amount of SynCAM1 in neurons, the number of synapses grew. This would offer the neurons more routes for transmitting information. However, a behavioral experiment showed that mice without SynCAM1 learned better than animals with normal levels of the protein.

Are all movie viewing experiences enjoyable?

We’ve all been there: we are watching a movie with a parent or relative when a steamy love scene appears. A new study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology shows that all of that squirming and averting of eyes is normal, especially when you are accompanied by your parents.

Imitating someone’s accent makes it easier to understand them

In conversation, we often imitate each other’s speech style and may even change our accent to fit that of the person we’re talking to. A recent study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that imitating someone who speaks with a regional or foreign accent may actually help you understand them better.

Writing exercise helps women overcome sexist stereotypes

According to a new study, a brief writing exercise can help women in college physics classes improve their academic performance and reduce some of the well-documented differences between male and female science students. The writing exercise seems particularly beneficial to female students who tend to subscribe to the negative stereotype that males perform better in physics, the researchers say.

Architecture can bias your cognitive map

Some people always know which way is north and how to get out of a building. Others can live in an apartment for years without knowing which side faces the street. Differences among people that include spatial skills, experience, and preferred strategies for wayfinding are part of what determines whether people get lost in buildings—and psychological scientists could help architects understand where and why people might get lost in their buildings, according to the authors of an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Scientists report molecular structure of dopamine receptor

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has solved the structure of one of the receptors that responds to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Although dopamine transmission is essential to normal brain functioning, the biological assembly of the molecules involved in this crucial neuronal interplay had not been known—until now. The work was reported in the November 19, 2010, issue of the journal Science.

Perceptual changes are key to our consciousness

Our brain usually combines the two slightly divergent images of our eyes into a single consistent perception. However, if the visual information does not match, only one image is seen at a time. This phenomenon is called binocular rivalry. Researchers around Andreas Bartels at the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neurosciences (CIN) and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany used this phenomenon to decipher a key mechanism of the brain functions that contributes to conscious visual perception.

Being faced with gender stereotypes makes women less likely to take financial risks

omen are generally thought to be less willing to take risks than men, so he speculated that the banks could balance out risky men by employing more women. Stereotypes like this about women actually influence how women make financial decisions, making them more wary of risk, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Hearing colors, seeing sounds: New research explores sensory overlap in the brain

New research indicates that the integration of senses and functions in the brain is common. About two percent of the population has a condition called synesthesia, in which two different sensations, like color and sound, are experienced at once. Although this condition is rare, the new findings suggest the brain is wired in complex and sometimes overlapping ways to help people interpret and understand their environments.