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Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

Cognition, Brain, & Behavior

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Toward a Test of Rational Thinking

Why are we surprised when smart people act foolishly? Smart people do foolish things all the time. Misjudgments and bad decisions by highly educated bankers and money managers, for example, brought us the financial crisis of 2008. Smart people do foolish things because intelligence is not the same as the capacity for rational thinking. The Rationality Quotient explains that these two traits, often (and incorrectly) thought of as one, refer to different cognitive functions.

Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

Most of us will freely admit that we are obsessed with our devices. We pride ourselves on our ability to multitask—read work email, reply to a text, check Facebook, watch a video clip. Talk on the phone, send a text, drive a car. Enjoy family dinner with a glowing smartphone next to our plates. We can do it all, 24/7! Never mind the errors in the email, the near-miss on the road, and the unheard conversation at the table.

How Interaction (with Music) Shapes Human Empowerment

The expressive moment is that point in time when we grasp a situation and respond quickly, even before we are aware of it. In this book, Marc Leman argues that expression drives this kind of interaction, and he proposes a general framework for understanding expressive interactions. He focuses on the dynamic, fast, and pre-reflective processes underlying our interactions with music—whether we are playing an instrument, dancing, listening, or using new interactive technologies.

An Essay on the Content of Concepts

In cognitive science, conceptual content is frequently understood as the “meaning” of a mental representation. This position raises largely empirical questions about what concepts are, what form they take in mental processes, and how they connect to the world they are about. In Minds without Meaning, Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn review some of the proposals put forward to answer these questions and find that none of them is remotely defensible.

The Economics of Well-Being

Can money buy happiness? Is income a reliable measure for life satisfaction? In the West after World War II, happiness seemed inextricably connected to prosperity. Beginning in the 1960s, however, other values began to gain ground: peace, political participation, civil rights, environmentalism.

The Science behind a Musical Art

Voice leading is the musical art of combining sounds over time. In this book, David Huron offers an accessible account of the cognitive and perceptual foundations for this practice. Drawing on decades of scientific research, including his own award-winning work, Huron offers explanations for many practices and phenomena, including the perceptual dominance of the highest voice, chordal-tone doubling, direct octaves, embellishing tones, and the musical feeling of sounds “leading” somewhere.

Fifty years ago, neuroscientists thought that a mature brain was fixed like a fly in amber, unable to change. Today, we know that our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes. This concept of neuroplasticity has captured the imagination of a public eager for self-improvement—and has inspired countless Internet entrepreneurs who peddle dubious “brain training” games and apps.

Can there be such a thing as an impossible human language? A biologist could describe an impossible animal as one that goes against the physical laws of nature (entropy, for example, or gravity). Are there any such laws that constrain languages? In this book, Andrea Moro—a distinguished linguist and neuroscientist—investigates the possibility of impossible languages, searching, as he does so, for the indelible “fingerprint” of human language.

In this book, Frank Guenther offers a comprehensive, unified account of the neural computations underlying speech production, with an emphasis on speech motor control rather than linguistic content. Guenther focuses on the brain mechanisms responsible for commanding the musculature of the vocal tract to produce articulations that result in an acoustic signal conveying a desired string of syllables.

From Place Cells to Episodic Memory

There are currently two major theories about the role of the hippocampus, a distinctive structure in the back of the temporal lobe. One says that it stores a cognitive map, the other that it is a key locus for the temporary storage of episodic memories. A. David Redish takes the approach that understanding the role of the hippocampus in space will make it possible to address its role in less easily quantifiable areas such as memory.

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