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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.”



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4 Responses

  1. Neal Cohen says:

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

  2. Robert Prioleau says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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.

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