Interviews

Conducted by David DiSalvo. Click on the title for full text.

Everything We Knew about Human Vision is Wrong: Mark Changizi Tells Us Why

For theoretical neurobiologist and author Mark Changizi, “why” has always been more interesting than “how.” While many scientists focus on the mechanics of howwe do what we do, his research aims to grasp the ultimate foundations underlyingwhy we think, feel and see as we do.  Guided by this philosophy, he has made important discoveries on why we see in color, why we see illusions, why we have forward-facing eyes, why letters are shaped as they are, why the brain is organized as it is, why animals have as many limbs and fingers as they do, and why the dictionary is organized as it is. [...]

gopnik150Changing Socrates’ Diapers: An Interview with Author Alison Gopnik

At different points in history, baby brains have been described as blank slates, balls of clay, and information sponges—and the debate about which is closer to the mark has smoldered for centuries. Today, the debate is more refined, though no less dynamic, and percolates amidst a commercial sea of products claiming to catalyze genius in [...]

Carl_Zimmer_S8I0005The State of Science Journalism: A Discussion with Science Writer Carl Zimmer

Science journalism is taking it on the chin lately.  Major news outlets are curtailing their science coverage, and in some cases closing down science departments altogether.  In a rough economy–when the overall future of print media is in question–it seems that science has been deemed expendable. In a sense, this is inexplicable, considering the fact that science [...]

brucehoodAre We Born Believers or Cultural Receivers? A Discussion with Author and Psychologist Bruce Hood

Few topics in psychology are gaining more momentum than the origin of religious beliefs. Questions of whether we’re born with neural apparatus that predisposes us to belief, or whether we learn to becomes believers, or some combination of both, are on the minds of researchers from all quarters.  Bruce Hood, experimental psychologist at Bristol University, is a groundbreaker [...]

alcabes-portraitDiagnosis: DREAD – Talking about Epidemics, Panic and the Revenge of the Germs with Philip Alcabes

It’s a huge understatement to say that panic is part of human nature. We’re all wired to anticipate threats and experience nervous system overdrive when they arrive – our species wouldn’t have made it this far if we didn’t. But what happens when the anticipation itself is enough to trigger heart pounding panic? [...]

nisbett1Can You Outsmart Your Genes? An Interview with Author Richard Nisbett

While the debate over intelligence rages on many fronts, the battle over the importance of heredity rages loudest. It’s easy to see why. If the camp that argues intelligence is 75 to 85 percent genetically determined is correct, then we’re faced with some tough questions about the role of education. If intelligence is improved very [...]

elliott_smith_bwPsychology for Dummies: An Interview with Authors Laura Smith and Charles Elliott

Depression for Dummies, Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Dummies- these are just a few of the titles penned by Dr. Laura Smith and Dr. Charles Elliott, a writing duo with a library of psychology and self-help books between them.  Tackling challenging topics with an accessible style is their specialty, and has allowed [...]

joe_hallinan

You, Me and Our Mistakes Make Three: An Interview with Author Joe Hallinan

Making mistakes is as human as breathing.  But if that’s true, why are most of us so unwilling to admit it? Maybe that unwillingness is itself one of our many little quirks, “design” flaws leading us to make decisions that in retrospect seem ridiculous, miss plain-as-day details right before our eyes, and comfortably consider ourselves [...]

cacioppo_colornormalWhy ‘Many’ Might be the Loneliest Number: An Interview with John Cacioppo

Right now we enjoy more ways to stay connected with people across the globe than at any time in history. What a remarkable irony, then, that “loneliness” is still a topic finding its way into headlines, perhaps now more than ever. How can oceans of distance no longer be an obstacle to communicating, and yet [...]

oct-2008What is Literary Darwinism? An Interview with Joseph Carroll

If you’ve heard the term “Literary Darwinism,” you may have been tempted to lump it in with the list of schools of thought conjoining evolutionary thinking with, well, almost everything. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I did the same. But the simple fact that this field has in the last couple of decades [...]

maggiejackson190Attention Under Siege: An Interview with Author Maggie Jackson

In his masterwork, Flow, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi tells us that the two major components affecting our ability to control and direct our mental resources are time and attention. On the first, time, most of our verdicts are the same: we don’t have enough of it.  In the case of the second, however, the analysis is [...]

teal-troutBridging the Empathy Gap: An Interview with     J. D. Trout

Renowned author and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has said of J. D. Trout’s latest book, The Empathy Gap, that it is “important and engaging,” and on both counts I agree. But I would also add one more word: sensible.  The topics Trout addresses–bias, free will, decision making, empathy–are not prepackaged, self-explanatory bits of knowledge, and understanding [...]

pincottTalking About the Science of Sex and Love: An Interview with Author Jena Pincott

Here’s a quick pop quiz: who makes more money, hookers on birth control or off?  During difficult economic conditions, are Playboy Playmates generally older or younger, heavier or thinner?  Why are men attracted to larger breasts?  And do gentlemen really prefer blondes?  (I’ll give you the answer to that last one: yes… sort of.) These and [...]

dewa-fransMusings on the Grape Loving Ape: An Interview with Dr. Frans de Waal

Dr. Frans de Waal, one of the world’s leading primatologists, is rare among scholars — both an accomplished researcher and an excellent communicator. In numerous books and articles he has vastly broadened what we know about primate societies, and this knowledge has in turn shed much needed light on human societies.  His ability to draw [...]

sonkin1Attachment Theory and the Brain: An Interview with Dr. Daniel Sonkin

Headline stealing advances in neuroscience are increasingly affecting the practice of psychotherapy. Major theories in the therapist’s toolkit are being altered and amplified by research shedding light on how the brain actually works. Attachment theory is among those theories undergoing such change, and Daniel Jay Sonkin, Ph.D. has been among the vanguard of psychotherapists integrating new [...]

frij004_p01The Laws of Emotion: An Interview with Dr. Nico Frijda

Professor Nico Frijda, psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Amsterdam, is regarded as a founding father of contemporary emotion research.  With the publication of his magnum opus, The Emotions, his work set a major benchmark for future research on both the substance and structure of human emotion.  The Laws of Emotion (2006) further pushed the [...]

“If you think our incessant use of the Internet, Blackberrys, iPods, text-messaging and video games has changed our lives and our children’s lives, here’s some breaking news: Technology has not only altered our lives, it’s altered our brains.” That’s the contention of Gary Small, M.D., Director of the UCLA Memory & Aging Research Center at [...]
The word doubt has gotten a bad rap in our time.  Widely considered the bleak counterpart of belief, that most cherished of virtues, it’s the Darth Vader of thought, decidedly on the dark side of the force.  But for those who dare to strip away the husk of pop culture platitudes, religious jingoism and revisionist history — the real [...]

jonah_lehrer_webTravels in Art and Science: An Interview with Author Jonah Lehrer

When C.P. Snow famously wrote in The Two Cultures that the humanities and sciences suffer from a communication divide–as if languages of two different species–he may have imagined someone like Jonah Lehrer as the sort of translator capable of spanning the chasm.  His first book, Proust Was A Neuroscientist, stands credibly in the culture gap that [...]

blackmore_2The Meme Machine Revisited: An Interview with Susan Blackmore

It has been nearly ten years since The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore was published. In this seminal book, Blackmore developed the idea–first proposed by Richard Dawkins in the The Selfish Gene–that culture, like biology, evolves through the processes of variation, selection, and replication.  From this beginning, Blackmore convincingly crafted a fully fledged theory of the [...]

maryroach3The Science of “What?!?”: Chatting with Author Mary Roach

You know from the first page of a Mary Roach book that you’re not in for a typical walk in the science park. Of course, when you picked up a book with the title Stiff, or Spook, or Bonk you were probably already hoping for something…different. And on that count, and many others, Roach’s books [...]

marcus_edge_bw_c250px1Kluge on the Brain: An Interview with Author Gary Marcus

If you’ve ever wondered why your mind seems to fail at the wrong times despite every earnest attempt to get everything right, or why following the most touted self-help program to a perfect T still doesn’t yield results as advertised - it’s time you got in touch with your inner kluge.  Fortunately, Gary Marcus, professor of psychology [...]

ritacarter_3All the People You Are: An Interview with Author Rita Carter

Rita Carter, award-winning science writer and lecturer, works like a major case detective of the brain, astutely tackling investigations spanning consciousness, memory, personality–and (perhaps most notably) the daunting task of mapping the mind itself. She approaches each of these subjects with a genuine passion in a series of critically acclaimed books, offering readers, as one [...]

zimbardo_2The Lucifer Effect: An Interview with Dr. Philip Zimbardo

Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has been studying the anatomy of human psychology for nearly four decades. In the summer of 1971, Dr. Zimbardo created the classic Stanford Prison Experiment, a simulation of prison life that investigated a provocative question: what happens when you put good people in an evil place?  The results were dramatic, and launched a [...]

robert_burton_neurologistCertainty Takes the Stand: A Discussion with Robert Burton

In On Being Certain, neurologist Robert Burton challenges his readers to ask one of the most basic—and crucial—of questions: how do we know what we know?  With an engaging, conversational style, he tackles the neuropsychological underpinnings of belief and certainty, carefully examining these ubiquitous dynamics in light of what is known about how the mind works.

murrayweb_14461On Real Education: An Interview with Author Charles Murray

Charles Murray, bestselling author of Losing Ground and coauthor of The Bell Curve, has written a new book focused on the transformation of our educational system: Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality (Crown Forum Publishers; 2008).  In it, he outlines the four simple truths that he contends must be addressed [...]

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