Sunday, October 14, 2012
I plan to publish the results and will link to them.
Friday, August 17, 2012
- · At least in the film, the manager was portrayed as clearly identifying with “authority”—the (supposed) police officer. The caller played this up, explicitly joking that she was his eyes on the ground. She was more focused on being a good “assistant” to him, rather than a good, thoughtful person viz her employee. (When the manager’s boyfriend was enlisted to watch the young employee, the manager very much wanted her boyfriend also to be a good assistant to the caller.)
- · The restaurant was very busy that night, and the store was already short-staffed, and earlier in the day had a problem with food refrigeration and so were running out of some foods. The manager was very stressed, and had a heavy “cognitive load”—had many things she was juggling in her head. This would make her likely pay less attention to challenging the police officer or thinking critically about what he was asking her to do.
- · The young employee did not overtly “fight back” (though she did ask to be allowed to leave the room in which she was being detained); it seems clear in the film that she was experiencing some degree of learned helplessness—a situation in which no matter what she did, she couldn’t “escape” from the situation. At the start of her detainment, she had been told that if she cooperated with the strip search it would all be over soon. But it wasn’t over then, and it just kept getting more intense and outrageous. At some point, she likely felt that no matter what she did or how much she protested, it wouldn’t make a difference.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
- My The Dark Knight Rises film review for Esquire magazine
- My interview with Wynne Parry, posted on Huffington Post and elsewhere
- My interview on NPR
- My opinion piece in Huffington Post
- My brief piece in Science and Religion
- Two articles in Slate (here and here)
- A New York Times article providing an overview of the academic presence at San Diego Comic Convention
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
Monday, June 25, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
- one rich incredibly smart industrialist (Tony Stark/Iron Man),
- one Norse God (Thor),
- one supersoldier out of his era, and who grew up a small weakling (Steve Rogers/Captain America); he probably still has at least a partial view of himself as a weakling (just was someone who was “fat” as a kid but slim as an adult still feels “fat,” and someone who grew up poor but becomes rich never quite feels he or she has enough wealth),
- one emotionally scarred spy who can lie flawlessly and take down multiple guys simultaneously (Natasha Romanov/Black Widow),
- one humble scientist who prefers to be alone and who has been working to master anger management techniques (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), and
- one guy who’s a fantastic archer (Clint Barton/Hawkeye).
Friday, May 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Comic Con on the Couch: Psychoanalyzing Superheroes
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I previously wrote a post about one of the themes from the film Limitless: the idea that some pills can make us smarter. That they can enhance our cognitive abilities, such as our ability to pay attention, to learn, to remember, to be creative or think "out of the box." In essence, such pills-cognitive enhancers-hold out the promise of intellectual superpowers, at least for some of us. The film (and the book, The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, on which it is based) portrays a glimpse of what it would be like to have such seemingly limitless enhanced powers.
In a recent article, psychologists Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig suggest that there may well be limits on how enhanced our cognitive abilities can become, or how enhanced they can become without some significant cost or "side effect." As an example they hold up caffeine intake, which can help us focus and stay alert (and so makes caffeine a cognitive enhancer), but too much caffeine can make us anxious or impair our fine motor coordination. In this case, more isn't necessarily better.
Even when a more enhanced ability might be even better, Hill and Hertwig suggest that humans haven't evolved to be more enhanced without a cost. They point to "S," the man with a famous memory. S could remember lists of words or numbers of astounding length, and could recite them from memory backwards as easily as forwards. Once reading or hearing something, S never forgot it. However, S couldn't remember faces very well. He also couldn't shut out the associations and memories that were triggered by things he read and heard. His extraordinary memory came at the cost of other "normal" abilities. (You can read more about S in The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book About a Vast Memory by Aleksandr Luria.)
This seemingly built-in compensation for extraordinary abilities is highlighted in an article by Allan Snyder in which he discusses people who are savants-who have extraordinary pockets of knowledge or skills that contrast sharply with the rest of their abilities. Dustin Hoffman's character in the film Rain Man is an example of a savant. Because of how the brains of savants work, they can access information that most of us can't, but in turn they are less likely to understand the information. Metaphorically, they can see the trees in detail but don't understand that together they create a forest. Snyder proposes that it is the lack of the ability to see the whole-to process that many trees indicate a forest-that gives rise to their being able to see the trees in such detail.
Researchers have temporarily been able to induce savant-like skills in "normal" participants through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a procedure in which a coil placed on the scalp emits magnetic pulses into selected areas of the brain, briefly inhibiting those brain areas, and allowing other brain areas to become more active. Using TMS in this way, researchers have found that "normal" non-artist participants can temporarily draw better (and are able to pay more attention to detail), become better proofreaders, and become better at guessing the number of elements in a container (e.g., akin to the number of marbles in a jar), among other abilities. The specific ability that improves depends on the exact position of the TMS coil.
The fact that TMS can temporarily enhance a specific ability by briefly disabling another ability is part of the point Hill and Hertwig make: A given ability is only a plus in certain contexts, and the "side effects" or costs of that ability can, in other contexts, create deficits. Being able to remember everything you read is great for law school and being a lawyer, but it creates problems if you can't recognize the presiding judge from last year's case (but she recognizes you!).
It appears that our ability to be enhanced may not be limitless after all.
Copyright 2012 by Robin S. Rosenberg. All rights reserved. Robin S. Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist. Her website is DrRobinRosenberg.com and she also blogs on Huffington Post.Her most recent book is The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Hills, T., & Hertwig, R. (2011). Why aren't we smarter already: Evolutionary trade-offs and cognitive enhancements. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 373-377.
Snyder, A. (2009). Explaining and inducing savant skills: Privileged access to lower level, less-processed information. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences. 364, 1399-1405.