This tag is associated with 6 posts

Why human sciences studies are so hard to replicate

One of the touchstones of what makes an experiment a good experiment is that one be able to replicate it. The fact that something happened once tells us next to nothing, at least in scientific terms. But in the human sciences, replicating the results of a study can be tricky business. This article¬†by Jay Van Bavel in the New York Times sheds some light on why.… Read the rest

Can science help us to understand art?

Over the past 50 years science has made incredible advances in understanding the workings of the human mind. With technologies such as FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) we now can actually watch brain activity in real time, which puts us well ahead of the days when psychiatrists and philosophers were limited to extrapolating theories of human motivation from observing behaviour and asking questions of participants in studies. But can such technological advances. The following article in the New York Times¬†explores the intersection of brain science and visual art.… Read the rest

Aliens on Mars – after all, seeing is believing.

Our brains spend an inordinate amount of time looking for patterns. It’s something we are profoundly good at, and we should be glad. Meaning, after all, is simply finding a pattern, a system in what would otherwise be simply the white noise of sense data. Among other things, it gives us the possibility of art, reason, and philosophy.

The problem is that we ar e a little too good at it. So determined are we to find meaning in the bewildering storm of data that floods our brains every second that we have developed a tendency to spot patterns even when they aren’t there.… Read the rest

Book Review: The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt

I know what you’re thinking – the last thing the world needs is yet another self-help book telling you to be nice to people, love yourself and ask the universe for stuff. And generally, I’d agree.

But The Happiness Hypothesis is different. Haidt is a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Virginia, and his book his a well-written, fairly dense synthesis of the latest research on happiness expressed in laymen’s terms. Haidt organizes his discussion around ten pieces of “ancient wisdom” – one might be forgiven for suspecting that his publisher forced him to put it this way – but the result is a broad exploration of things that studies have consistently shown contribute to human happiness, along with a certain amount of speculation on the evolutionary advantages of certain behaviors and inbuilt reactions.… Read the rest

Daniel Kahneman on bias, reason and the human sciences

In this recent interview with Nigel Warburton, pioneering psychology researcher Daniel Kahneman discusses how we think vs. how we think we think. We like to believe that we come to conclusions – about politics, for example – by applying our capacity for conscious reasoning. After all, we’re reasonable people, aren’t we? Kahneman explains the more common process of coming to conclusions subconsciously, largely emotionally, and then applying reason to ratify our decisions.… Read the rest

Synthesizing happiness (without a prescription)

Of all the primary emotions, happiness is the one we’re all aching for more of. And how do we get more? We go out and grab it, right? If we’re lucky enough to have a sufficient degree of freedom, we make our choices, act carefully, get what we want and happiness follows.

Or maybe not. The following talk by Dan Gilbert questions not only our ideas of where happiness comes from, but even the role freedom plays in acquiring it. Is happiness – I mean the lasting kind – more about making the best of our lot in life than about getting what we want?… Read the rest

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