People entertain many illusions and misconceptions about themselves. Some think they are more or less desirable than they really are. Most people also think they are more intelligent than the average – statistics would not allow that, as indeed only about 50% of the population may be more intelligent than the average, due to the very definition of an average (and the normal distribution of IQ). Continue reading
What do we mean when we say someone is intelligent and is there any scientific basis for defining intelligence? These questions have been at the center of a more than century-old debate in psychology. Intelligence is, first and foremost, a judgment. He’s intelligent, he’s not intelligent, those are quick ways of saying that some behaviors of an individual observed in the past somehow predict how brilliant his next actions will be. Intelligence is an estimate of the quality that we attribute to the decision-making and abstract thinking of people around us. Although it may be practical for people to think of intelligence as something that exists, whether science should consider intelligence and how it would define it remains very controversial. Continue reading
Political arguments, moral judgment and social conflicts are among the most complex social behaviors that humans engage in, yet we perform these things with a brain that is not so much different from that of a chimpanzee. There is definitely an interest in understanding what happens in the brain when people argue, fight, judge, stereotype or segregate, but scientific advancement on this controversial issue is rather slow1,2,3,4. Continue reading
People act and decide with varying confidence levels.
As they explore novel environments, people try options before fully committing to them; testing if that wooden bridge is solid enough, inspecting the tires of a car or trying a limited version of a product before buying it. Tracking and improving the confidence that we have on what surrounds us allows us to explore and exploit features of the environment successfully. Confidence is likely a major determinant of the economical decisions that we make, but the brain mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. Continue reading
Passwords are private pieces of information that protect important aspects of our lives. They lose their main function when known by others, and they need to be complex enough not to be guessed too easily. A fascinating study published in Current Biology suggests that a species of birds has developed a system of communication between parents and offspring that resembles passwords. Families of Superb Fairywren use this system to recognize each other as a defense against an intruding parasite species. Continue reading
Like many animals, we thrive to repeat the behaviors that have paid off in the past and avoid those that did not. This principle is at the heart of most learning theories. It is also one of the most important functions of the brain: to adjust behaviors according to our experiences. Continue reading