Meet distinguished neuroscientist, Cordelia Fine. Dr Fine is a research fellow at the centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University. I’ve recently read her book, A Mind of Its Own, which is both witty and insightful. I highly recommend it.

mind_UK.jpg In her article on page 28 of the HIGHER EDUCATION of today’s THE AUSTRALIAN, entitled Boys set adrift by dud science, Dr Fine is drawing attention to those greedy reductionists who use science to “explain” brain and cognitive functions and related matters.

The article discusses how many commentators present research in a way that is “shockingly careless, tendentious and even dishonest. Their over-interpretation of scientific research is so extreme that it becomes a form of fabrication”.

In her article Dr Fine says, “Recently, for example, well-known Australian child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg claimed emotion and language parts of the brain that are one and the same in girls are completely different in boys. According to Carr-Gregg, this “fact” about boy and girl brain structure “explains so much”, including, apparently, why girls like pink and cuddle trucks and boys rip the heads off Barbies.”

She goes on to say that not only do claims like this make no sense but “saddest of all … these crowd-pleasing neuroscientific explanations can also subtly change the way we see our own nature … and may result in doing boys and men a great disservice”.

Dr Martin Seligman is Director and founder of the Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania.

This is a new branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.

His research has demonstrated that it is possible to be happier – to feel more satisfied, to be more engaged with life, find more meaning, have higher hopes, and probably even laugh and smile more, regardless of one’s circumstances.

Positive psychology interventions can also lastingly decrease depression symptoms. The research underlying these rigorously tested interventions is presented in the July/August edition of the American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychology Association.

There are some useful resources here including the Signature Strengths Questionnaire …

The Year of the Idea aims to shine the spotlight on ‘ideas’ as the first step towards innovation.

The initiative is being driven by the Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) and was launched on Australia Day 2007.

A range of initiatives are planned throughout the year with the support of individuals and organisations such as former Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer who want to:

    • create a national push to change our ideas culture, to take ideas seriously
    • recognise Australian innovations that have changed our lives, and their origins as an idea
    • motivate Australians to appreciate the value of ideas and their effect on their everyday lives
    • encourage individuals, industry, research institutions and governments to turn their ideas into action
    • inspire collaboration towards the development of solutions to local, national and global challenges.

What is Cognitive Science?

Wikipedia: Cognitive science is a rapidly evolving field that deals with complex cognitive processes, intelligent systems, and the emergent behavior of large-scale real-world computational systems. It is an interdisciplinary study. It draws from converging evidence and methodology of diverse fields, including psychology, physics, neuroscience, philosophy, information science, computer science, anthropology and linguistics.

The term cognitive science was coined by Christopher Longuet-Higgins in 1973.

Rendering of human brain

Who are the Celebrities in Cognitive Science?

Here are writings by and about leading thinkers in cognitive science, and critics and observers of the philosophy of mind.

Some of the great thinkers in this field are:

Charles Babbage

Noam Chomsky

Antonio Damasio

Daniel Dennett

Howard Gardner

Douglas Hofstadter

Marvin Minsky

Seymour Papert

Alan Turing

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