What if you could see inside someone’s mind? It’s not possible to know exactly what another person is thinking, but neuroscientists from UCSD and UCSF are on their way. They created a “glass brain”: software that shows a person’s brain reacting to stimuli in real time. The implications for virtual reality and digital communication are tremendous, according to Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life, who has been collaborating with the neuroscientists.
“We’re trying to identify which critical factors can most help people feel like they’re face to face,” says Rosedale, whose new company, High Fidelity, is currently working on a next generation virtual world.
Neuroscientist Bevil Conway believes scientists can learn a lot from examining the strategies artists use to clarify color. “The best access we have of what color is and what it does to us is by studying the work of people who have studied it obsessively. Matisse is one of those people,” he says. “I think it’s extremely valuable, and there’s been very limited work treating that corpus as the sort of scientific evidence that it will turn out to be.”
Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about story’s persuasive effects. But over the last several decades psychology has begun a serious study of how story affects the human mind. Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.
“A similar phenomenon occurs with the curved red roofs that are commonly found at McDonald’s. In fact, those slanted roofs generate 54% more business than more ordinary ones and, astoundingly, this is regardless of whether they’re topped with the golden arches or not. Now, if a few bubbles or a curve in a roof can make such a remarkable difference, there must an almost unquantifiable number of other signals that we’re subconsciously taking in every day.”
The Brainstorming Process Is B.S. But Can We Rework It?
People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this “the pain of independence.”