Van Gogh’s Ear

Interesting news about Van Gogh — he didn’t cut off his own ear? It seems most great artists have interesting biographies, Van Gogh is certainly one of them. The alternative account of Van Gogh’s mutilation makes the artist more respectable, albeit at the expense of the mad-man appeal his legacy now enjoys. The fact he presented the severed ear to a prostitute named Rachel is not disputed (i.e. he’s still a mad-man).

-Posted by Tyler


Time Capsule

The Time Capsule column I submitted has come out in the Monitor on Psychology! Print copies of the magazine came out last week and the online version was posted a day or two ago. You can check out the column at:

Unlike, a peer-reviewed experimental paper, my column went directly to the editorial staff for them to make revisions. While the content is wholly mine, a few revisions were made that I didn’t recognize. For example, the title “Putting Children in the Spotlight” was not mine. One of my original titles was “Blame it on Jimmy Carter,” apparently they didn’t care for that one.

I’m writing on Kurt Lewin, Alan Funt, & Candid Camera for the series next.

-Posted by Tyler

UPDATE: Freedom in Academics

I’ve long known that university professors enjoy Academic Freedom but did not know what freedoms it allowed or rather from what persecution did it protect. Early on, I was sure academic freedom meant something like the joy of having summers off and a long winter break or not having a traditional 8-5 Monday thru Friday work week. Later I thought maybe it related to living the life of the mind, being an intellectual, and being free from more physically demanding laborious occupations. Today, I know academic freedom as it is conceptualized by the American Association of University Professors, is “the free search for truth and its free exposition.” [1]  The AAUP outlines academic freedom as a) Freedom of research and publication; b) freedom to discuss one’s research and express opinions in the classroom; and c) freedom from institutional censorship when speaking or writing as a citizen.

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Veteran Suicide

Tonight on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer there was a segment on the alarming new statistics on the rate of suicide among returning United States soldiers (1) . The Army has recently confirmed suicide rates have doubled in recent years for active personnel, almost 700 cases since 2000. Furthermore, attempted suicides and self-injurious behaviors have quardrupled. The Army’s top psychiatrist thinks multiple deployments are to blame.

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I’m switching areas…

…to football.

-Posted by Tyler


Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.

— Charles Darwin, 1871

Per my request for a “productive” summer my new advisor at A&M sent me a data set to figure out. After some preliminary analyses, our data looks like what is already found in the literature. Let me explain, Dr. Geraci asked her post-secondary students to predict what they would earn on each of 5 exams immediately before taking the exam. As an incentive to be as accurate as possible, she gave them a few points extra credit if they were close. What I found was that people are not good guessers, or they have poor metacognition. However, this is not a new idea. Furthermore, there seems to be interaction, where the bottom quartile performers grossly overestimate their performance, and top quartile performers underestimate how well they think they’ll do. The question is, why are people so poor at guessing? Is it because (a) the information necessary to make accurate guesses is not available or (b) the information necessary to make accurate guesses IS available and participants choose to ignore it?

Not surprisingly, there is evidence that supports both theories. Recenlty Gramzow and colleagues 2008 found overestimation feels good per vagus nerve activity (i.e. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia) which supports theory (b). Our data supports (a) simply because their is an incentive to be correct and people are still not guessing well. However, the gravity of a “few points extra credit” is suspect. Sounds ripe for more work. 🙂

-Posted by Tyler