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jim davies

  • Davies_HERO-1

    Our Conflicted Feelings For R2-D2

    Lucas’ droids are halfway between human and inhuman, so we can both love and ignore them.

  • 081815_BR

    Why You’re Biased About Being Biased

    In a classic experiment in 1953, students spent an hour doing repetitive, monotonous tasks, such as rotating square pegs a quarter turn, again and again. Then the experimenters asked the students to persuade someone else that this mind-numbing experience was in fact interesting. Some students got $1 ($9 today) to tell this fib while others […]

  • Bullfight Picasso

    Why the Dark Side of the Force Had to Be Dark

    You don’t have to look very hard to see that our culture has some pretty powerful associations between colors and feelings. As a recent example, the new Pixar film Inside Out has characters representing emotions, and the color choices for these characters—red for anger, and blue for sadness—feel right. Red, specifically, is one of the […]

  • egg face pareidolia

    Why Facebook Is the Junk Food of Socializing

    Have you ever been walking in a dark alley and seen something that you thought was a crouching person, but it turned out to be a garbage bag or something similarly innocuous? Me too. Have you ever seen a person crouching in a dark alley and mistaken it for a garbage bag? Me neither. Why […]

  • friends and music

    Some Music Is Inherently Bad—But People Can Be Convinced Otherwise

    Artistic appreciation is a deeply subjective process, perhaps the most essentially personal thing that humans do. But are there some explanations for why we like what we do? Why, for instance, does a particular song get popular? Some of it has to do with the quality of the music—and by quality, I mean that there’s […]

  • conformity

    The Death of Hundreds Is Just a Statistic—But It Doesn’t Have to Be

    Imagine that tomorrow I were to show you a newspaper article describing a deadly wildfire. Do you think you’d be more upset upon reading that 10,000 people died than if you read that five people died? This scenario makes people engage in affective forecasting—predicting their future emotional states. We expect that hearing about 10,000 deaths […]

  • The Abduction of Europa

    Finding the Perfect Amount of Creativity in Cars & Religion

    The Abduction of Europa (1716), by Jean-Francois de Troy, depicts one of the many Greek myths in which Zeus transforms into an animal.Wikipedia Creativity is an important driver of innovation, and in the arts and industry people work hard to be more creative, sometimes shelling out lots of money for creativity consultants. But is more creativity always better? Is […]

  • lucy walking skeleton

    Why Are You So Smart? Thank Your Mom & Your Difficult Birth

    A reconstructed skeleton of Lucy, the famous human ancestor. By 3.2 million years ago, Australopithecines were walking upright, imposing strict limits on the size of the female pelvis.Cleveland Museum of Natural History Looking around our planet today, it’s hard not to be struck by humanity’s uniqueness. We are the only species around that writes books, […]

  • marshmallow_BREAKER

    New Year’s Resolutions and the Science of Willpower

    The “marshmallow experiment” has become a famous way to measure the self-control of children. (This is a version of the test made for entertainment, not research, purposes.) Every year since 1988, my friend Lou and I have picked a New Year’s resolution together. We meticulously keep to each promise for exactly one year. The 2014 […]

  • Santa Claus lotus position

    Is Santa Claus a God?

    InnervisionArt via Flickr Santa Claus occupies a strange place in Christian belief. On the one hand, only children seem to really believe he exists; on the other, he gets a great deal more attention than many other purported supernatural beings, such as angels or Satan.  Does Santa Claus count as a god of the Christian […]