As we turn the page on 2014, here’s a list of some of the year’s highlights in neuroscience – along with a heavy dose of speculation about what they might mean for the future of the brain.
What experiments do psychologists use to identify the brain areas involved in moral decision-making? Do moral truths exist? We discuss with Joshua D. Greene, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Moral Tribes. Continue reading
Are political preferences the product of our biology, our brain, or simply of the environment in which we are educated? In this series of articles cross-posted in French in the Québec version of the Huffington Post, I have a look at the studies that have explored these questions in recent years. Continue reading
A new study published by Izuma and Adolphs in Neuron asks what are the brain areas that undergo changes in activity when we modify our preferences to fit social context1. Imagine I show some people a shirt and ask them whether they like it or not. In some cases I tell people that this is the favorite shirt of a certain group of University students. In other cases I tell them that it is the preferred shirt of most criminals. What we get is a socially-manipulated preference – people tend to dislike the criminal’s favorite. Continue reading
If you’ve ever been backpacking you know the problem neuroscientist Mathias Pessiglione and his colleagues are interested in solving–when to take a break. This subtle question may seem trivial at first, until you realize that this decision-making process affects every one of us, every day, in everything we do, and yet we don’t know how we do it. Whether you are an athlete or a desk jockey, success in your endeavor hinges on allocating your effort and rest periods optimally. In the extreme, this decision can be perilous.
Sometimes, ethologists find behaviors in animals that evoke similarities with behaviors that were previously thought unique to humans. Those cases are interesting in two ways; they can show us that we underestimate what animals can do, and sometimes they also suggest that we might be overestimating the complexity of what we do as humans. Frans de Waal is one of the researchers who has pioneered the study of cooperation and aggressive behaviors in non-human animals. Continue reading
Our social environment is hierarchical and we can all guess roughly where we and others lie in this hierarchy. It rarely needs to be stated explicitly – a boss does not need to remind his employee that he’s the boss every day. Yet hierarchy acts in the background, like an invisible hand, modifying almost each of our interactions. It makes us more or less polite, familiar, or audacious with those people for whom each attitude is more or less appropriate. Continue reading