To Notice and to Learn

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

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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Summary: The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker

There has been a revolution in the field of linguistics over the past 50 years, initiated by the work of Noam Chomsky.  Prior to him, social scientists thought, consistent with the dominant Behaviorist perspective of the day (and also with common sense), that children picked up language from those around them through simple exposure, imitation, and reinforcement.  Chomsky was the first to question this, and raised as counter-evidence the rather […]

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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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Summary: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

The field of psychology has only had a solid experimental basis after WWII, with the advent of randomized controlled experimentation (which also led to the rise of modern medicine, by the way).  In the past couple of decades, it has had a boost from brain imaging technologies, which can objectively indicate differences among experimental subjects. As part of the social sciences, psychology has been thought of as a “soft” science, […]

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The Rise of the “New Atheists”

I recently discovered a fantastic resource, freely available, Talks at Google (http://www.youtube.com/user/AtGoogleTalks), 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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Innovation in Education: Online MOOCs

MOOCS – An Exciting New Trend in Learning MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) are a major recent trend in online education, and something that I’m very excited about.  These are modeled on college-level classes taught by leading professors at elite universities–all for free and available online for anyone to take.  The major providers are:  Udacity (www.udacity.com), Coursera (www.coursera.com), and edX (www.edx.org), the first being for-profit and the latter two not-for […]

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