Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your Brain: It May Be Outsmarting You Again

This NY Times column about willpower and brain chemistry is a couple of years old, but it's new to me. (See, discovering this kind of stuff can be the perk of an otherwise exasperating manuscript.) The takeaway is that willpower (which is to say, planning and self-control) is a scarce mental resource that can be tapped out from unrelated tasks that require it. On the plus side, exercising willpower gives you a bigger reserve of it in the future. Also, it's easier to exert willpower if your blood sugar is at a good level.

It's probably safe to assume that, being a popular report on brain chemistry, things are simplified and smoothed around the edges. But I'm struck by how unintuitive the broad answers here are. And this stuff matters to all of our lives in an immediate way!

Speaking of brain chemistry, this short YouTube video on the placebo effect isn't too information-dense, but it entertainingly conveys its theme (and it's narrated in an Australian accent, which, admit it, is fun). Read a fresh report about a kind of reverse placebo effect from the BBC here.

Ah, brains. Can't understand 'em.


Blogger Pete said...

You call that a placebo? (Pulls out bigger placebo.) Now this is a placebo!

2/18/2011 9:42 AM  

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