To Notice and to Learn

Observations on ideas, human mind, and the world around us

Society and Culture

Group-ism: the larger problem behind racism, nationalism, and many other -isms

Most reasonable people nowadays acknowledge that prejudice is a bad thing. But it is such a strong, persistent force that we need to constantly guard ourselves against it. It is so natural, this desire to identify with a group and disparage non-group members. We’ve learned more about this aspect of human behavior (via findings from psychology and cognitive science that are finally reaching the mainstream), and so many of us […]

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Summary: The Stuff of Thought, by Steven Pinker

In a Part I of this post, I summarized what I thought were the most interesting points in Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct.  Now, I’d like to continue on to his, in some ways, more impressive book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (link on  Since they are both related to language, how might I characterize the relationship between these two books?  Here’s what I […]

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Nudge Idea: Conserving paper napkins

In my last post, I described the power of nudges and categorized them into two types, those that reduce effort and those that increase motivation, in ways that take advantage of how our minds work.  Here is an example of the second type of nudge. Goal: To reduce the use of paper napkins used at fast food restaurants and other food outlets in order to conserve natural resources and reinforce […]

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The Power of Small ‘Nudges’ – Applied Psychology in Action

The field of psychology has advanced a great deal since it gained a rigorous footing after WWII, and is starting to yield practical dividends in our society and in everyday life (See my prior blog post on cognitive psychology).  One very fruitful intersection has been psychology and economics, with the founding of behavioral economics, a hot new field.  The interesting thing is that while many of the findings of behavioral […]

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What Vampires in Pop Culture Highlights About Us

In the U.S., there have been many books and movies about vampires over the past few decades, and it seems in popular culture there is a fascination with them, evidence Twilight, Underworld, True Blood, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is one aspect of the vampire mythology that I find very interesting and I think highlights a cultural difference between Western and Eastern (Asian)  society.  In […]

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The Rise of the “New Atheists”

I recently discovered a fantastic resource, freely available, Talks at Google (, which are recorded brown bags given at Google offices by famous authors, academics, political figures, etc.–which draws very distinguished presenters (usually on a book tour).  Each talk is nearly an hour in length, and they conveniently summarize he main points of their book in that hour. It was while browsing these talks (after sorting them by popularity) that […]

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