Muslims, Gays, and Vowels: Psychophysics Explains Biases in Demographic Estimates

What percentage of Americans are Muslim? What percentage of Americans are LGBT individuals? What percentage of Americans are Christian? Think about it and take real guesses. If you are like the average person, your guesses were likely overestimates of the real numbers for the smaller percentages (for Muslims; for LGBT), and underestimates for the larger […]

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Two languages and two worlds in America: Psycholinguistics and Donald Trump’s resonance with “common people”

You may have heard that the United States had a presidential election last year. You may have also heard that the winner of that election was an outsider, a “straight-talker,” and an anti-establishment candidate. Enough material to fill the Library of Congress has been written on the content of what (first candidate, and now) President […]

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Can you dig-it? Brain activity during one- and two-digit multiplication

Learning basic arithmetic is a foundation of early math education. Algebra, trigonometry, and calculus are built on, among other things, the ability to quickly and easily solve math equations. Being able to solve math problems is also important for more general life purposes, like tipping, or paying taxes. For that reason, students should be able […]

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It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it: sound cues help listeners parse words differently across languages

Hearing other people speak a foreign language can be dizzying. How can they speak so fast? Why don’t they pause between words, like we do? Actually, foreign-language speakers do pause: but despite how it sounds to us in our native tongue, spoken language is not neatly broken up by silence between words. Not convinced? Take […]

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Working memory workout: Training bench presses does not help you throw a ball

Few areas of psychology research are as controversial as ‘brain training’. For the last 10 years, we have seen an influx of apps and games that purport to improve users’ cognitive capabilities. The appeal is simple. Play a game, get smarter. The controversy, as we’ve covered here, is that unbiased research on whether brain training […]

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Sleeping on banara and the fate of banana: consolidation of new words in the lexicon

How do we recognize the written word? While this seems trivially easy to us, we need to remember that words that are quite close perceptually can be drastically different in meaning. Fin and fine, crew and crow, and deck and desk may look nearly the same but their meanings differ considerably. In the sentence “I […]

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Don’t think about the pink elephant you are reaching for: automaticity of reading and arm movements

Imagine your daily commute. Think about 2+2. Don’t picture pink elephants. These examples illustrate the automaticity of cognition. On highly familiar routes, people habitually and automatically navigate, sometimes taking a familiar route absent-mindedly even when they needed to run an errand some place else. I’d be willing to bet that most people reading this couldn’t […]

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Stand up comedy: bipedalism may be a laughing matter

Humans, to judge from the amount we laugh, are apparently the most comical species. We use laughter as the best medicine, we laugh all the way to the bank, and we laugh so hard we forget to cry. From “hahahas” and LOLs, to guffaws, chuckles, giggles, cackles, and snorts, humans do appear to be the […]

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When good data break bad: Data visualization and eye movements

Data is everywhere. Political campaigns, sports teams, and even music streaming sites rely on the collection and analysis of data to win, or to attain customers, and to sell targeted advertisements. Journalists use data to report the news and the public interprets data in consuming that news. Becoming data literate is no longer just a requirement of the scientist or the […]

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