May 28, 2006

en vacances

Going to Montreal! Woo hoo!!

Then to Knoxville for the Ex Libris Users Group. Hmmm.

Anyway, probably no new posts until mid-June.

Happy trails!

May 26, 2006

Near to my heart ... but not technically cog sci or librarian

... is Entertainment Weekly's list of the 25 Best Music Websites. The CogSci Librarian likes music quite a bit, and this list includes some old favorites and possibly some new ones.

To wit:

iTunes Music Store quoting EW "well, duh."
EMusic $9.99 a month for 40 iPoddable downloads from independent bands such as Hem, Apollo Nove, and Josh Rouse. 2006 Emusic favorite is Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins.
Pandora (blogged here earlier as the Music Genome Project)


Radio David Byrne
Smithsonian Global Sound
BBC Radio

Happy long weekend (in the US)!

May 24, 2006

Memory: biography, essay, and podcast with Eric Kandel

Scientific American's podcasts are interesting. I heard an interview with Eric Kandel, recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine (for his work on memory) in the most recent podcast.

Scientific American editor and columnist Steve Mirsky interviewed Dr. Kandel, and the discussion covered Kandel's research, his personal background and their intersection. Kandel spoke "about what kinds of scientific investigation he [found] most interesting and worthwhile and where he would concentrate if he were beginning his research career today."

Synergy abounds, so Dr. Kandel is promoting his new book In Search of Memory / The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (review from J. Clin. Invest) , an excerpt of which you can read in the April/May issue of Scientific American Mind (online = abstract only).

May 21, 2006

Synethesia, the Stroop Effect, and ... Football?

According to last Wednesday's New York Times, NFL players might be able to choose jersey numbers beyond the numbering system devised in the 1970s. This requires, for example, that linebackers can have numbers in the 50s, and quarterbacks may select any number between 1-20.

This year, Reggie Bush, running back (destined for a number from 20-49), wants the numeral 5 as he starts his #1 draft pick career with the New Orleans Saints. This isn't new, as a few players in the past few years have questioned the system. John Branch's article talks about the details, and if you like football & numbers, you'll enjoy the article.

My questions are more of a cognitive nature. If a running back gets a quarterback's number (Kerry Collins, former NY Giants QB, wearing jersey #5, for instance), will the fans think he's a running back or a quarterback? The Stroop Effect suggests that if words are presented in colors that aren't the same (ie, the word "blue" in red letters), it will take a long time for you to realize that the color is red rather than blue. So, I predict that fans will be more likely to ... well, they'll be confused by someone wearing a number that's not "right."

This got me to thinking about how players choose numbers, which led me to think of synethesia, where people see letters as colors (a = red) or feelings as color (pain = orange) for example. Do (some) football players & other athletes "see" themselves as a certain color in the same way a synesthetes see colors when they hear vowels? Maybe Reggie Bush "sees" himself as number 5 and nothing else will do.

You can take the girl out of the Cog Sci department, but you can't take cognitive science out of the girl.

May 17, 2006

Chatting As A Girl ...

... can be scary. APM's Future Tense reports that chat rooms can be hostile to girls. In some ways this isn't a surprise, but the magnitude of the hostility is striking.

"A study by the University of Maryland's School of Engineering finds that female-name users of Internet Relay Chat are subjected to a barrage of sexually abusive language and violent verbal attacks. In the study, chatroom users with names like 'Kathy' or 'Irene' received 25 times more malicious messages than users with names like 'Bob' or 'Jack.'"

More info is at (*very* commercial, but interesting), which reports that the "results will be published in the proceedings of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers International (IEEE) Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN '06) in June."

You can listen to the Future Tense piece in RealAudio or as a podcast through iTunes.

May 16, 2006

More news from Com Sci

Here's another new article by two of my Communication Science colleagues:

Measuring State and Trait Aggression: A Short, Cautionary Tale (ebsco link). By: Farrar, Kirstie; Krcmar, Marina. Media Psychology, 2006, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p127-138. Abstract: Ample evidence exists suggesting that exposure to television and film violence (Paik & Comstock, 1994) and playing with violent video games (Sherry, 2001) contribute to increases in aggressive behavior; however, the magnitude of the effect ranges from small to moderate. In this study, we argue that in some cases, use of trait, rather than state, aggression can serve to attenuate effects. We report the results of a study in which a trait aggression scale is reworded slightly to create a state measure. The state and trait scales are then compared in high- and low-aggression priming conditions. Results suggest that though both scales are reliable and both have construct validity, the reworded state aggression scale responds more to the high prime than to the low prime. More important, it also responds more than the original trait scale does. Therefore, minor variations in studies of media's effect on aggression, such as variations in scale wording, can serve to attenuate effects. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

How do I find out about these articles? I'm glad you asked! I did a search in EBSCO's Academic Search Premier database for author affiliation = Department of Communication Sciences, University of Connecticut. They send me new articles weekly. I send a congratulatory email to the faculty member (s), along with the EBSCO blurb -- and if the article is available online, I tell 'em that, too.

This is good on so many levels!

      Good service to my faculty

      I keep up with what they're doing

      I promote the value of library databases to the (perhaps) uninitiated

Thanks to Qwest

This came through my ComSci mailing list & I thought others might be interested as well:

Say Thanks to Qwest!
"It’s not often these days that we have occasion to laud corporate behavior, but the stance taken by the telecom Qwest in resisting the Bush Administration’s covert program to ensnare every single American citizen in a vast web of telephone surveillance deserves our thanks.

"Every other telecom sold out the privacy of its customers – literally so, taking money to turn over their phone records to the National Security Agency – but Qwest alone insisted on having a court order before complying with Bush’s unprecedented and “indefensible” (as Newt Gingrich put it) invasion of Americans’ personal lives and business affairs."

Website created by Richard Kastelein
Text by Chris Floyd and Richard Kastelein

May 14, 2006

The Dread Zone

I encountered this research about the neurobiology of dread twice recently — in the New York Times and on Science Friday (mp3).

Science Friday interviewed Gregory Berns (professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory), who used fMRI to determine the areas of the brain that are activated when we experience dread — and then suggests that the anticipation of something unpleasant or painful (ie, dread) has an effect on the decisions we make. He's combining neurobiology with economic behavior theories.

The Emory press release quotes Dr. Berns: " 'Most people don't like waiting for an unpleasant outcome, and want to get it over with as soon as possible,' explains Dr. Berns, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine. 'The only explanation for this is that the dread of having something hanging over your head is worse than the thing that you are dreading. It is a commonplace experience, but standard economic models of decision-making don't deal with this issue. So, we decided to take a biological approach and see what happens in the brain that might cause people to make such rash decisions.' "

This is getting lots o' press:

Health: Study Points to a Solution for Dread: Distraction
by Sandra Blakeslee
New York Times, May 5, 2006.
Scientists have found that dread does not involve fear and anxiety in the moment of an unpleasant event, but rather the attention that people devote to it beforehand.

Is Dread Driving Your Decisions?
Study: Dread Roosts in Brain, Often Prompts 'Get It Over With' Attitude
by Miranda Hitti, WebMD Medical News, May 4, 2006.

And the article itself:
Neurobiological Substrates of Dread (no free access)
ScienceMay 5 2006:
Vol. 312. no. 5774, pp. 754 - 758
by Gregory S. Berns, et al.
Deciding between two choices can be difficult, particularly when they are separated in time. Economic theory accommodates the calculation by discounting the future outcome by the amount of time, most simply via a hyperbolic function. An additional factor is the cost of waiting, which can be represented clearly when the outcomes are unpleasant (electric shocks to one's foot), and the choice is between a stronger shock in a few seconds versus a weaker shock a half minute later. Many people will opt to "get it over with," primarily, one assumes, to avoid the anticipation of future pain, which is used as an operational definition by Berns et al. in examining the neural basis of dread. Areas within the cortical pain matrix respond in a fashion that can be associated with the extent of dread expressed across individuals.

Progress on hiring women science faculty members stalls at MIT

Bummer. Science magazine reports that "[t]he number of women faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge has declined or remained flat in five of its six science departments since 2000, whereas the number of women in other areas, such as engineering and architecture, increased significantly during the same period."

The rate for women in the brain / cognitive sciences fell slightly, to 8 / 33 — which is, according to this chart, the highest percentage of women in any of the science departments at MIT.

In his lecture (mp3 file) at Hamline University School of Law last fall, Malcolm Gladwell recounted a story of how more women got hired by symphony orchestras. It used to be that music auditions were face to face, and so the male orchestra leaders could tell the gender of the musicians. Oddly (snark), male musicians were consistently rated WAAAAAY better than female ones, and so they got hired in disproportionate numbers. However, in 1980, "blind auditions" were implemented (for privacy reasons, not to reverse gender bais) in which the conductor could not see the musicians. Shortly thereafter, the number of women in orchestras increased dramatically. (read more about that on Aaron's blog or in blink itself.

Would it be possible to conduct blind job interviews? Might that solve the problem? If there aren't women in science departments now, there won't be any more in 20 years ... just my humble opinion.

Rare for me to jump on my soap box, but sometimes it has to be done.

May 10, 2006

A Linguistic Anthropologist in Brazil

Heard an interview with linguistic anthropologist Dan Everett (mp3) on "Sci Pod", New Scientist's podcast.

Everett talks about the Piraha (pronounced "pita ha", best I can tell without a phonetic alphabet) people's lack of words for numbers and things that happened in the past or will happen in the future. They like to have concrete knowledge of events, Everett says, and they only have words for things like "small" or "relatively larger". Everett says, "the Piraha show us that you can get by just fine without numbers." Hmmm.

But does their language affect their culture? Or does their culture affect their language. A great debate!

See the article: Lost for words; They've no myths, no numbers or colours and few words for past or present. No wonder the Pirahã people defy our most cherished ideas about language, says Kate Douglas, New Scientist, March 18, 2006. Note: You can't get the full-text from the New Scientist web site, but it's on LexisNexis and InfoTrac's Business & Company Resource Center.

See also Everett's article in Current Anthropology: "Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language." Current Anthropology 46.4 (August-Oct 2005): 621(26). Note: You can't get the full-text from the Current Anthropology web site, but it's in InfoTrac OneFile.

May 08, 2006

Content -- TV & Scholarly Articles

Two seemingly-unrelated articles in the New York Times in the last two days.

The first, Digital Domain: Someone Has to Pay for TV. But Who? And How?, from the Sunday Times (May 7), talks about technology that prohibits TV viewers from skipping through commercials. It's more of a personal essay than a description (pro or con) of the technology, and it raises the issue of who pays for TV. Randall Stross asserts that if he were "... violating an implicit contract that ... exists between broadcaster and viewer of ad-supported television, I take comfort in the knowledge that no such contract exists." But that is the implied contract, isn't it?

Over at the publishing debate, where there is a contract (ie, sale) of journals to permit access to scholarly articles, today's Times reports on the "Federal Research Public Access Act (ARL link) of 2006, proposed last week by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, [which] would require 11 government agencies to publish online any articles that contained research financed with federal grants. If enacted, the measure would require that the articles be accessible online without charge within six months of their initial publication in a scholarly journal."

Publishers are furious, of course, much as the television companies dislike DVRs that permit ad-skipping. A publisher whines that if journal articles were available on the free web, there would be no way of telling how many people read an article, warning that "readership may be halved". I bet the folks running Institutional Repositories would have a different response; from what I can tell, having articles available on the free web actually *increases* their usage.

Interesting issues. I'm voting against the first and for the second.

May 05, 2006

Institutional Repository, Me?

Yes, it’s true! I have put my recent conference presentation into the University of Connecticut’s Institutional Repository. See for yourself, and let me know what you think. I may add more materials, but there are some issues to be worked out.

Should I put in a copy of the final article published in Computers in Libraries? Or the unedited version I originally submitted to them? I do own the copyright, so that is not an issue in this case. But, if I submit the final copy, where do I get the copy? The article is in Academic Search Premier as a pdf (access to ASP required).

I don’t want an unedited copy in the Repository. I don’t know why; maybe I’m just old fashioned. But I do want a record of my work there — both to promote myself, and to represent the library in the Repository. But I’m not sure I have the right to use the ASP copy (and I look at licenses in my day job, so I’m properly concerned).

It’s a muddle for the digital age. What say you?

May 03, 2006

Search the OED from your browser

... if you subscribe to the online Oxford English Dictionary, you can put a link to search it on your browser's toolbar.

Their instructions indicate that this is possible for the usual browsers like Internet Explorer, but also Firefox and even Safari.

Yay, Oxford.

Or, scrumptious.
2. a. U.S. Stylish, handsome. b. Used as a vague epithet of enthusiastic praise: First rate, ‘glorious’. Now esp. of food: delicious. So {sm}scrumptiousness, the state or condition of being scrumptious.

Counterintuitive, but True

Heard a podcast of Malcolm Gladwell (mp3 file) speaking at Hamline University School of Law last November. I suspect he was recounting many stories from Blink, and he is quite a storyteller.

His thesis is that quick decisions based on few bits of data are more accurate than decisions based which take a long time to reach and are based on multiple data sources. This sounds very intriguing. He points to some research (not footnoted in the podcast) where Emergency Department doctors are more accurate at diagnosing heart attacks with only 4 bits of data (none of which is patient age, prior heart attack history, or recent drug use).

This, he says, is counterintuitive, but true. It's fascinating, and he is a marvelous storyteller.

Being a librarian-to-scientists, I wanted more, um, scientific proof to support what he was saying. Still, since I am in the car for long stretches of time, I do like a good story, and this is one that made me think.

Spring Break in the Lower Ninth Ward

The editor of the UConn Daily Campus, Diego Cupolo (a journalism & communication science major) wrote a story recently called Spring Break in the Lower Ninth Ward. According to the UConn Advance, his article was picked up by the Associated Press.

Congratulations & good luck!

May 02, 2006

(Engineering) Success through Failure

Today's New York Times has an article about the engineer, Henry Petroski, who, they say, "seems strangely enthusiastic about failure."

For him, "... failures in design and construction present perfect teaching opportunities. They are object lessons in the history and practice and beauty of engineering. 'Failure is central to engineering,' he said in an interview. 'Every single calculation that an engineer makes is a failure calculation. Successful engineering is all about understanding how things break or fail.' "

You can read the introduction to Dr. Petroski's book at the Times' site. You can also listen to David Corcoran (a Times science editor) interview him for the Science Times podcast (podcast iTunes feed).

The podcast interview with Dr. Petroski reminded me of Donald Norman's "Psychology of Everyday Things" -- if you liked that book, or the ideas of how things are designed, then you might like this article or podcast.