How long is a piece of string? It’s as long as it makes the object appear big

How long is a piece of string? We all know this proverbial and largely rhetorical question. We also probably assume that it has no right answer—indeed, that’s the point of this rhetorical question in the first place, namely to indicate that the issue under consideration does not have a meaningful answer. Enter the venerable BBC. […]

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Looking at Toto or Kansas: The Tyranny of Film versus Top-Down Cognition

What are your favorite, best-ever movie quotes? Is it “I’ll have what she’s having”? Or “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”? What about “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”? If you are unsure, here is a list of the best 100 movie quotes of all time according to Hollywood. But […]

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The Unbearable Distraction of Being Sweet: Performing in the Presence of Candy

Think eating is easy? Think again. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight worldwide in 2016. Of these, over 650 million were obese—a number equivalent to roughly twice the population of the United States. And most of the world’s population lives in countries in which obesity kills more people […]

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Preparing for Nate and Ophelia: How People Process Hurricane Forecasts

Harvey, Irma, Jose, … and now Maria. Hurricanes have been wreaking havoc in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic for much of the past few months. Their power and consequences fueled by climate change, we can expect more hurricanes that are followed by the retirement of their names: When a named storm was particularly destructive and […]

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Explaining how The Processes of Explanation Live On

Our digital event on the processes of explanation came to a conclusion on Friday. The series of 6 posts covered various aspects of the special issue of the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, guest edited by Andrei Cimpian and Frank Keil, that was dedicated to the psychology of explanations. However, this does not mean that the […]

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It’s Tricky to Build an Explanation Machine – Let’s Fix That

What’s stopping scientists from building a machine that provides sensible explanations? Let’s be clear: what we need is a machine that explains simple matters, not free will or the plot of Inception. For instance, how would you respond if I asked you why apples don’t grow underground? Perhaps you’d say, “Because apples are a type […]

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The Process of Explanations: Context For This Week’s Digital Event

Explanations are crucial to our cognitive lives because they inform our understanding of the world, structure our concepts, and guide our actions. Yet, the processes that underlie explanation remain largely unknown: How do people generate, evaluate, and use explanations? Answering this question is a major challenge, since even a rough specification of the processes involved […]

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