Motivation, Visual Perception, and Brains

Why do we have brains? To sur­vive (and per­pet­u­ate our genes). Not to be right, or make sense, or be log­i­cal. Which is the whole point behind evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gy, a very fun field. Any­way, 2 pieces today made me think of this.

One, Could our big brains come from Nean­derthals?, say­ing that “Nean­derthals may have giv­en the mod­ern humans who replaced them a price­less gift — a gene that helped them devel­op supe­ri­or brains, U.S. researchers report­ed Tues­day. And the only way they could have pro­vid­ed that gift would have been by inter­breed­ing, the team at the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical Insti­tute and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go said.”

Two, Cog­ni­tive Dai­ly has a great post on how Moti­va­tion Affects Visu­al Per­cep­tion, sum­ma­rized with “These stud­ies pro­vide pret­ty strong evi­dence, then, that par­tic­i­pants’ object per­cep­tion was affect­ed by their moti­va­tion to eat or drink some­thing that tastes good, or at least by their moti­va­tion not eat or some­thing that looked like it would taste real­ly bad.”




  1. Neal Cohen on November 9, 2006 at 10:10

    What is the next step? Are we in the ear­ly stages of “breed­ing” with technology?

  2. Robert Prioleau on November 9, 2006 at 11:00

    Fol­low­ing up on the com­ment about evo­lu­tion of human brain since the Nean­derthal man, is there any evi­dence that the size or poten­tial capa­bil­i­ty of the human brain has increased since ear­ly civ­i­liza­tion (e.g. 3000–2000 BC) ?

    Is there any evi­dence that the brain size or capa­bil­i­ty of “high intel­lect” indi­vid­u­als (e.g. sci­en­tists, musi­cians, philoso­phers, etc) are greater than the aver­age person ?

  3. Alvaro on November 11, 2006 at 8:02

    Neal and Robert: Hmmm, Sat­ur­day morn­ing, not cof­fee yet, news­pa­per wait­ing, and you real­ly want me to exer­cise my brain…thanks for your comments! :-)


    Neal: we will learn how to deal with new tech­nol­o­gy, using it in our favor, with care (have you heard of deep brain stim­u­la­tion for clin­i­cal­ly depressed peo­ple?). But I don’t think biochips and oth­er “enhanc­ing arti­facts” will be around for a good while.


    Robert: I am not an expert in aver­age “brain sizes” over time, let me ask around. Now, what I find more inter­est­ing is that “A new study pub­lished in the jour­nal Nature finds that learn­ing to jug­gle may cause cer­tain areas of your brain to grow.”



    The sci­en­tists also found part of the hip­pocam­pus grew larg­er as the (Lon­don) taxi dri­vers spent more time in the job


    In gen­er­al, yes, there is evi­dence that brain exer­cise can increase brain weight (more neu­rons, synaps­es and den­drites, all of which are phys­i­cal struc­tures), which would sug­gest Yes to your ques­tion, but am not aware of a good study that com­pares brain sizes of top per­form­ers in dif­fer­ent fields with aver­age cit­i­zens. And, who knows, they may have been dif­fer­ent to start with.


    Prob­a­bly anoth­er exam­ple of Nature and Nur­ture danc­ing as a nice couple.


    Your thoughts?

    Keep the com­ments coming

  4. Alvaro on November 16, 2006 at 1:13

    Robert: you can read an inter­est­ing post on Ein­stein’s brain here

    includ­ing the quote:
    It was Witel­son’s 1999 study of Albert Ein­stein’s brain that made head­lines by reveal­ing some remark­able fea­tures over­looked by oth­er neu­ro­sci­en­tists: the pari­etal lobe, the region respon­si­ble for visu­al think­ing and spa­tial rea­son­ing, was 15 per­cent larg­er than aver­age, and it was struc­tured as one dis­tinct com­part­ment, instead of the usu­al two com­part­ments sep­a­rat­ed by the Syl­vian fissure.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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