Ultimate vs. proximate causes

A mental framework that I have found useful is the distinction between proximate and distal causes – or, if you prefer, immediate versus ultimate explanations for things. The best way to illustrate the difference is to consider the following question: Why do we have sex? A proximate (or near) explanation is simply to say ‘becauseContinue reading “Ultimate vs. proximate causes”

The Hedonic Threadmill

In the scientific study of happiness, a particularly interesting finding is that people quickly adjust to new-gained wealth – even major increases in income or life quality have only a passing effect on your basic happiness level. Lottery winners are in heaven for a month or two, and then it’s back to feeling averagely happyContinue reading “The Hedonic Threadmill”

The Science of Happiness

Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile Author: Daniel Nettle Genre: Popular Science Happiness is an interesting concept – we spend much of our lives chasing it, yet very few people define themselves as being 100 percent happy, no matter the level of their material wealth. Actually, there is a reason for that, and the ideaContinue reading “The Science of Happiness”

The Book of Illusions

The Book of Illusions Author: Paul Auster Genre: Fiction I actually don’t like Paul Auster’s books too much. Acclaimed literary wunderkind or not, I generally find his writing overly artificial (this impression based on having read the New York Trilogy and The Music of Chance, which may be too small a sample to judge him).Continue reading “The Book of Illusions”

Why People Are Polite Towards Their Computer

Did you ever talk to your television? Have you ever given your computer a good angry whack because it didn’t behave? Fear not. You are not alone. In general, people treat media like computers and televisions as if they were dealing with other people, not dumb electronic devices. This is because media are complex enoughContinue reading “Why People Are Polite Towards Their Computer”

Talking to Your Television

The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places Authors: Byron Reeves & Clifford Nass Genre: Academic Readability: Good Two researchers, Reeves & Nass, did an interesting thing: they took a number of established theories from the social sciences and tested them on computers. Or rather, they testedContinue reading “Talking to Your Television”