News from the Cocktail Circuit: Extracting useful information from the din

You are deeply involved in a conversation with someone at a party when suddenly you hear someone say your name, and, before you even know what happened, your attention is transported toward the voice that uttered it. This is an example of the cocktail party effect, first described in 1959 and recently extended even to visual stimuli. This […]

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If it’s not moving it’ll hit you: Perceptual biases in 3D motion detection

Much of civil aviation ultimately relies on the human perceptual system: Pilots must avoid each other by scanning the airspace around them and identifying aircraft that are in potential conflict. This is a skill that can be taught—and during the 15 years that I spent teaching people how to fly, there were a few basic ideas […]

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What’s your point? Sea lions can use human gestural cues.

If you see someone point to something over your head you generally look upwards. This is because humans understand that this type of referential communication is used to draw our attention to an object or place that the informer is attending to (we are extremely susceptible to this – the direction of human attention can even […]

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When opposites slow you down but don’t collide

When opposites slow you down but don’t collide: Negligible dual-task costs with stimulus incompatibility Doing two things at once is hard. But why?  Answering this question can give us key insights into how the human mind works. Everyday life in the 21st century is rife with attempts to multi-task (e.g., using a mobile device while doing […]

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Watching your brain wince: Empathic pain and psychopathic traits

Watching someone else feel pain is a painful experience. The ability to suffer not only your own pain but also that of others has “long been considered the distilled essence of our humanity” by some writers. Concern for the suffering of others has also been said to be central to moral decision making. Fortunately, this […]

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The road to intimacy is faster than a speeding bullet: Metaphors and social judgments

The clouds are pillows. Time is a thief. Life is a journey. According to Groucho Marx a hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running. And I wish I could write a Psychonomics post as fast as a speeding bullet—but because I can’t, all other commitments today will be delayed by virtue of the […]

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Trouble finding the red pen? Just say “tomato.”

Trouble finding the red pen? Just say “tomato.” High-level conceptual information can direct our attention during visual search. Wouldn’t it be handy if saying “metallic” made your keys pop out when you were looking for them? Or if saying “green” helped you find your beer on St. Patrick’s Day? Language is used to orient our […]

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