Daily Archives: April 7, 2011

Researchers argue that multitasking is merely an illusion

KUSA-TV (Denver, CO) reports:

n a new study, researchers say the world’s best magicians are so successful because they’ve discovered how to manipulate an audience’s attention.The husband and wife researching team of Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Gonde work at the Barrow Neurological Institute and they studied magicians, magic tricks and how an audience reacts to the tricks.

“We realized that magicians were the artists of attention and awareness,” Macknik said.

The researchers say they discovered multitasking is a myth. People can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

“If multitasking wasn’t a myth, if we could truly do multitasking, multiple things at the same time, then magic wouldn’t work,” Macknik said.

The team showed magic tricks to study participants while recording their eye movements and scanning their brain waves.

“We actually have tunnel vision,” Macknik said.


“Mars Needs Moms” and the ‘uncanny valley’ theory

ABC News reports:

Computer animation has a problem: When it gets too realistic, it starts creeping people out.

Most recently, moviegoers complained about the near-realistic depiction of humans in Disney’s 3-D flick “Mars Needs Moms.”

A theory called the “uncanny valley” says we tend to feel attracted to inanimate objects with human traits, the way a teddy bear or a rag doll seems cute. Our affection grows as an object looks more human. But if it looks too human, we suddenly become repulsed.

Instead of seeing what’s similar, we notice the flaws — and the motionless eyes or awkward movements suddenly make us uncomfortable.

“Mars” may have plunged to the bottom of this valley of fear.

“People always comment on things feeling strangely dead around the eyes,” said Chuck Sheetz, an animation director of “The Simpsons” and a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If it gets too literal, it starts to feel false or has a strange effect.”

Adolescent males and females react differently to their first sexual encounters

Discovery News reports:

Both male and female adolescents experience shifts in overall satisfaction with their appearances after having sex for the first time, according to a study published in the journal Adolescence.

Researchers found that in the short term, male subjects were more satisfied with their body image after having sex for the first time, while female subjects were less satisfied with their appearance in the same situation.

This trend wasn’t apparent in the long run, though, as women maintained a better body image over time than their male counterparts.

Research suggests bilingualism benefits cognition

NOTE: This update is cross-posted with my Education Blog.

NPR reports:

Research suggests that the growing numbers of bilingual speakers may have an advantage that goes beyond communication: It turns out that being bilingual is also good for your brain…

The idea that children exposed to two languages from birth become confused or that they fall behind monolingual children is a common misconception, says Janet Werker, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia who studies language acquisition in bilingual babies.

“Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual,” said Werker, whose own research indicates babies of bilingual mothers can distinguish between languages even hours after birth.

“There is absolutely no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to confusion, and there is no evidence that bilingual acquisition leads to delay,” she said.

Werker and other researchers say the evidence to the contrary is actually quite strong. Instead of holding you back, being bilingual, they say, may actually be good for you.