Triple-Decker Weekly, 81

photo by Olivia Locher

Over the past few years various researchers have made systematic attempts to replicate some of the more widely cited priming experiments. Many of these replications have failed. In April, for instance, a paper in PLoS ONE, a journal, reported that nine separate experiments had not managed to reproduce the results of a famous study from 1998 purporting to show that thinking about a professor before taking an intelligence test leads to a higher score than imagining a football hooligan. The idea that the same experiments always get the same results, no matter who performs them, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to objective truth. If a systematic campaign of replication does not lead to the same results, then either the original research is flawed (as the replicators claim) or the replications are (as many of the original researchers on priming contend). Either way, something is awry. [The Economist]

Variation in women’s mating strategies depicted in the works and words of Jane Austen. [PDF]

The prevalence of depression among those with migraine is approximately twice as high as for those without the disease (men: 8.4% vs. 3.4%; women 12.4% vs. 5.7%), according to a new study published by University of Toronto researchers. […] Consistent with prior research, the prevalence of migraines was much higher in women than men, with one in every seven women, compared to one in every 16 men, reporting that they had migraines. [University of Toronto]

Being ostracized or spurned is just like slamming your hand in a door. To the brain, pain is pain, whether it’s social or physical. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

Neurons communicate using electrical signals. They transmit these signals to neighboring cells via special contact points known as synapses. When new information needs processing, the nerve cells can develop new synaptic contacts with their neighboring cells or strengthen existing synapses. To be able to forget, these processes can also be reversed. The brain is consequently in a constant state of reorganization, yet individual neurons need to be prevented from becoming either too active or too inactive. The aim is to keep the level of activity constant, as the long-term overexcitement of neurons can result in damage to the brain. [Wired Cosmos]

“Brain training makes you more intelligent.” – WRONG. There are two forms of activity that must be distinguished: working memory capacity and general fluid intelligence. The first one refers to the ability to keep information in mind or easily retrievable, particularly when we are performing various tasks simultaneously. The second implies the ability to do complex reasoning and solve problems. Most brain trainings are only directed at the first one: the working memory capacity. So yes, you can and should use these games or apps to improve your mental capacity of memorizing.  But that won’t make you any better at solving math problems. [United Academics]

When you asked Molaison a question, he could retain it long enough to answer. […] The experienced present has duration; it is not a point but a plateau. For those few seconds of the precisely now and the just past, the present is unarchived, accessible without conscious search. Beyond that, we have to call up the fragments of past presents. The plateau of Molaison’s working memory was between thirty and sixty seconds long—not very different from that of most people—and this was what allowed him to eat a meal, read the newspaper, solve endless crossword puzzles, and carry on a conversation. But nothing that happened on the plateau of working memory stuck, and his past presents laid down no sediments that could be dredged up by any future presents. [The New Yorker]

The “good” partners’ faces proved to be represented differently in the brain from those of the “bad” partners.

What Happens When a Language Has No Numbers?

The explosion in music consumption over the last century has made ‘what you listen to’ an important personality construct – as well as the root of many social and cultural tribes – and, for many people, their self-perception is closely associated with musical preference. We would perhaps be reluctant to admit that our taste in music alters – softens even – as we get older. Now, a new study suggests that – while our engagement with it may decline – music stays important to us as we get older, but the music we like adapts to the particular ‘life challenges’ we face at different stages of our lives. It would seem that, unless you die before you get old, your taste in music will probably change to meet social and psychological needs. One theory put forward by researchers, based on the study, is that we come to music to experiment with identity and define ourselves, and then use it as a social vehicle to establish our group and find a mate, and later as a more solitary expression of our intellect, status and greater emotional understanding. [EurekAlert]

“Suppose that you are standing in a supermarket aisle, choosing between two packets of cookies, one placed nearer your right side and the other nearer your left. While you are deciding, you hear an in-store announcement from your left, about store closing hours,” write authors Hao Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Jaideep Sengupta (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). “Will this announcement, which is quite irrelevant to the relative merits of the two packets of cookies, influence your decision?” In the example above, most consumers would choose the cookies on the left because consumers find it easier to visually process a product when it is presented in the same spatial direction as the auditory signal, and people tend to like things they find easy to process. [EurekAlert]

What economists and marketers are learning from newly accessible consumer data.

French bank apologizes after posting picture of squirrel’s testicles on Facebook as part of a marketing campaign for a line of insurance.

12% of the respondents said they would pay a home’s full market value or more if they believed a house was haunted.

A handful of technology companies from Knack.it Corp. to Evolv Inc. are doing just that, developing video games and online questionnaires that measure personality attributes in a job applicant. Based on patterns of how a company’s best performers responded in these assessments, the software estimates a candidate’s suitability to be everything from a warehouse worker to an investment bank analyst. Welcome to hiring in the age of big data, an ambition marrying automation with analysis in the race to better allocate talent. […] Some 3.7 million U.S. jobs went unfilled in July, even though more than 11 million Americans were looking for work, according to Labor Department figures. “You have this enormous pool of people that’s being missed because of the way the entire industry goes after the same kinds of people, asking, did you go to Stanford, did you work at this company?” said Erik Juhl, head of talent at Vungle Inc., a San Francisco-based video advertising startup, and formerly a recruiter at Google Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. “You miss what you’re looking for, which is — what is this person going to bring to the table?” [Bloomberg]

Before going public, Twitter is already funneling money through shady Cayman Islands companies.

Today 4chan is more popular than ever.

Speed of light experiments measure the average speed to a destination and back, leaving open the possibility that the speed may differ over each leg. [The Physics arXiv Blog ]

Civil wars don’t end quickly. The average length of civil wars since 1945 have been about 10 years. This suggests that the civil war in Syria is in its early stages. […] Most civil wars end in decisive military victories, not negotiated settlements. [Political violence at a glance]

Whether a gallery discloses the price of a work can depend on who you are and why you want to know.

Keeping Breaking Bad on the air was a big investment. Shooting the show cost about $3 million per episode in 2010, and $3.5 million per episode in its final season. The Economics of a Hit TV Show.

The battle to destroy Wikipedia’s biggest sockpuppet army.

What do cats see?

A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia.