Tag Archive for problem solving

Neuro-Parasites & Problem Solving Errors

Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. He started his career studying baboons, charting the relationship between stress hormones and an individual animal’s social ranking in the baboon society hierarchy. The lower the rank, the more stress the animal experiences, the more consequences there are to the health outcomes and longevity of the baboon. Making a parallel to human society, the conclusions of Dr. Sapolsky’s study is that it sucks to be at the bottom of the social order. In his books “Primate’s Memoir” and “Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” Dr. Sapolsky provides copious details of his work and his conclusions. (see Recommended Books for details) But residing on the bottom of the social ladder is not the only problem a mammal like us can experience. In his video interview with Edge (www.Edge.org), Dr. Sapolsky describes the adventures of Toxoplasma–a protozoan parasite carried by cats which causes an infection Toxo–in our amygdala. Post an active infectious state, Toxo is able to manipulate human dopamine levels. People with the post-Toxo infection have higher than normal dopamine levels, resulting in some interesting cognitive consequences. There’s been solid research that documents a high level of Toxo infections in schizophrenic patients. There…

Understanding Complex Visual Information…

US Military PowerPoint slide designed to explain Afghanistan strategy.

…or not comprehending it, as the case may be. A few years ago, I wrote a paper about people’s ability to comprehend complex visual information such as graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and so on. Intuitively, we are culturally-trained to believe that it’s much easier to extract information from a picture than from text. But upon testing this belief (p-prim, for those in the know), I found that contrary to the notion “a picture is worth a thousand words,” it’s much more difficult to get data from an illustration than from a story. While emotional impact might be larger with a picture, it’s not true for comprehension. You can read the results of my study at http://www.pipsqueak.com/pages/papers.html “Visual Symbolic Processing in Modern Times” paper presented at AACE ED-MEDIA Conference in 2008. Since then, I’ve collected more data, and the results are similarly aligned: problem-solving requiring higher level visual symbolic processing skills is difficult and results in communication failures. A secondary, and surprising, finding was a gender discrepancy in performance outcome testing of visual symbolic processing skills. Higher level and lower level visual symbolic processing are defined in the paper. And anyone interested in testing their visual processing skills are welcome to…

How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect.

Article: Carey, B. (2006). “How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect.” New York Times. Retrieved on 13 October, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/health/06mind.html This article discusses the idea that when the mind comes across something that is completely unfamiliar and baffling at the same time, the mind goes into high-alert mode soon after. Creative juices may begin to flow where none existed before and the person may be able to solve logical problems with greater accuracy, as the mind looks for patterns to “recover” from the “nonsense” it just encountered. This study, of course, is still its infancy and conclusive proof seems to be a long way off. It is possible that the mind “lights up” when there is something so illogical just because as human beings, we seem to crave and “respect” newer, unexplained phenomena? The mind loves a problem, and one that can’t seem to be solved or explained quickly, even better. Hence the mind may seem to go into a sharper mode to try uncover the hidden meaning, any meaning of the nonsense it just encountered, and when immediately faced with a more “mundane” problem, the mind recognizes the solution to the mundane problem very quickly. It could be happiness, or fear, or puzzlement…