Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some cool research.

Alright, so I've been hellaciously busy these past few weeks, what with finals and all. I also presented at the SRA (Society for Research of Adolescents) conference here in Chicago a week ago. It was quite nice. I got a lot of good response to my presentation (personality correlates of video game players), and am planning on expanding the database when I can get to work with my adviser. I want to focus mostly on MMORPGs and the kind of social persona that people create while in these environments. I'll probably detail this more later.

There was a helluva lot of good psychology-related science going on at this conference! It was so refreshing to get out of the classroom and talk with actual researchers who are doing really, really interesting stuff. I'm getting in touch with some of them, and I'll update you on some of the findings, especially in regards to a few poster-session presentations that I saw while there. A lot of people are doing some really great stuff right now, especially in the cognitive neuroscience field. There's an ongoing argument about how much genetics/biology affects human behavior, and depending on exactly what you mean by "genetics or biology," I can understand either side of the argument. I'm one who would favor a deeper and better understanding of the biological aspects of behavior, and I'll explain why in a future post. I feel like I've been falling down on my general "spread the science!" mission, so, some related science articles below the fold...

Virtual Gaming is no replacement for real exercise. This one actually answers a question I was thinking about while I was at the SRA conference. I was wondering if anyone had done work on the physicality of some new Wii games, and apparently these people have. What's striking is the suggestion that only 60 to 70 calories are burned during some of these games. I know I usually burn around 600 in about a 45 minute period on a cross-trainer, or, at least, however accurately those things calculate such things. The question I have is what kind of games or level of activity are these kids engaged in, and does it depend on social situation? That is to say, I know I've watched friends playing Wii games, and if they're playing single player, most of the time they just sit there and hardly make any movements at all. As soon as you load up Wii boxing or something, though, everyone gets up and starts really throwing punches. Something to think about.

Reasoning abilities in bots in Second Life
. Okay, I'm going to admit. This sounds pretty cool. And I use that heavily. Sounds. I'm not sure how much I buy it. Maybe I'm just an old fohgey and stodgy on AI in general, but I'm not entirely sure that I buy the argument that this is actual reasoning ability. If you want some (rather uninformative) videos, you can check them out here. I wonder how much of this is independent thinking and how much is programed, i.e. "you know where the gun is, but say the other one." Of course, I'm sure some AI proponent will say "well, what's the difference between that and the way the brain works? Programming versus neurons? Etc..." Let me say, I love the idea of AI, and I hope there's real progress in strong AI in the near future. It's just, I remain unimpressed by what I've seen.

Neural networks linked to contemplation are stronger in adults than children. I suppose this shouldn't be terribly surprising, but I do find it interesting, and, of course, I have a soft spot in my heart (brain) for cognitive neuroscience. The abstract is a little soft on actual findings and interpretations, heavy on method and discussion of future areas of research. That's okay, but, I really want to dig into the meat of this article. Now that I'm done with classes, I'll look it up. If there's anything good there, I'll post on it later.

Two very interesting articles on the social brain and the development of language. Looks like some promising areas of continuing research. A lot of articles are being published now about songbirds and language, it seems. Dig around on Science Daily. And, to go along with this, an interesting article on the level of meaning conveyed by primate signaling.

Lastly, for your science fix, the hand can't be fooled! It's too bad about the eyes though.

Lastly, two comics that really kind of sum up my feelings at the moment.

First, that moment of perspective we all have felt in class:

And secondly, would it really be so bad?

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