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Seth RobertsRSS Feed of this column.

I am a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and author of Read More »


My observations:

1. The first task I used to measure my mental function at frequent intervals (e.g., every 30 minutes) resembled an typical cognitive psych task. It wasn’t fun and I had to push myself to do it.

2. I made another test to do the same thing based on the lessons I drew from bilboquet. It consisted of tracking circles around the screen. It was mildly fun.

After I saw that flaxseed oil probably affected my circle-game performance, I wondered how to make its effect clearer. One possibility was to change the input device. I was using the trackpoint on my Thinkpad to move the cursor; what about the touchpad? Might be a more natural task. So I played the game several times using the touchpad. I was a lot slower, presumably because in ordinary usage I’ve used the trackpoint.

I wondered: Could I get better on the touchpad? I made a little game to practice. Here is the initial screen.

Drug addiction, sure. The first pleasurable drugs were probably discovered hundreds of thousands of years ago, if not much earlier. All cultures use drugs. Drugs physically reach the brain. But video game addiction? Video games are a millisecond old, compared to drugs. How did they get so potent so fast?

From an article in Rolling Stone about mercury and autism:

The CDC “wants us to declare, well, that these things are pretty safe,” Dr. Marie McCormick, who chaired the [Institute of Medicine’s] Immunization Safety Review Committee, told her fellow researchers when they first met in January 2001. “We are not ever going to come down that [autism] is a true side effect” of thimerosal exposure. According to transcripts of the meeting, the committee’s chief staffer, Kathleen Stratton, predicted that the IOM would conclude that the evidence was “inadequate to accept or reject a causal relation” between thimerosal and autism. That, she added, was the result “Walt wants” — a reference to Dr. Walter Orenstein, director of the National Immunization Program for the CDC.

Continued from Part 7:
I interviewed Gary Taubes by phone a few weeks ago, shortly after he gave a talk about the main ideas of his new book — Good Calories, Bad Calories — at UC Berkeley. The interview lasted about 2 hours. This is part 8.

SETH: Marc Hellerstein thought that the obesity epidemic was caused by people being sedentary?

I asked a friend of mine why she was a good boss. “I was nurturing,” she said. A big study of managers reached essentially the same conclusion: Good managers don’t try to make employees fit a pre-established box, the manager’s preconception about how to do the job. A good manager tries to encourage, to bring out, whatever strengths the employee already has. This wasn’t a philosophy or value judgment, it was what the data showed. The “good” managers were defined as the more productive ones — something like that. (My post about this.)

The reason for the study, as Veblen might say, was the need for it. Most managers failed to act this way. I posted a few days ago about a similar tendency among scientists: When faced with new data, a tendency to focus on what’s wrong with it and ignore what’s right about it. To pay far more attention to limitations than strengths. Here are two examples: