How Low Will I Stroop?

Okay, I admit that this is a somewhat lazy post. I’m still farily wrapped up in the Gordon Conference on Visualization, so you could interpret this as a less than stellar edition. My apologies. But after a day of more organic chemistry than I thought I could bear, I need to take a break!

So today’s post concerns a perennial favorite, the Stroop Effect, which is the cognitive delay that occurs when you try to read a color name printed in a different color—e.g., green or blue. (The above image comes from a Taiwanese web page about the effect, and I just found it rather amusing compared to the more obvious choice of listing words in English. “Look, ma, no stroop!”) Anyway, one of my fellow attendees pointed out that the Neuroscience For Kids site hosts a spiffy Stroop Effect Java Interactive that allows you to time yourself in reading off color names. Great stuff!

BTW, you can read Stroop’s original paper, if you’re interested, too.

And I’ll end with a shout out to the folks at GalaxyGoo! I show up in Kristin’s blog for today, so y’all can consider this just a wee bit of blogrolling…

Oh, and you can also listen to my podcast from the conference, hosted on the CalAcademy website.

Tools and Language

Seed Magazine’s Daily Zeitgeist pointed to this post on the Frontal Cortex blog, which is where I found the video I link to above.

Um, wow.

Visualizing another person’s mental state is basically impossible; one can only approach by suggestion and by analogy. And the eight-minute video above, created by an autistic woman, presents a deeply moving and profound glimpse into her world—a statement that is at once scientific, aesthetic, political, and passionate. I had read textbook descriptions of autism that I thought gave me a superficial understanding of the condition, but Amanda’s video transformed my thinking.

Furthermore, the use of (in fact, reliance upon) technology fascinates me. It provides the toolset that allows Amanda not just to create, but also to communicate, via everything from voice synthesis to widescale distribution online. It thrills me to think that we live in a time when such things can happen, when silenced people can speak, when otherwise unarticulated ideas can find expression.

Face Off

Another brief posting. I ran across an article on EurekAlert claiming that “facial composite systems falling short” that got me looking for a representative image. The one above comes from a 2002 CNN article that implies that such software ives us an “edge over bad guys.” The new study suggests something different, as you might guess.

“In one particular study, only 2.8 percent of participants correctly named a well-known celebrity that had been created by other participants using the face-composite software. In a separate study, participants were unable to discriminate composites of their classmates from composites of students at entirely different schools.”

Doesn’t bode well, eh?

What this underscores is the difference between how the brain processes imagery verus how computer software (for example) processes imagery. As one researcher is quoted, “faces are generally processed, stored and retrieved at a holistic level rather than at the level of individual facial features,” which contrasts with a generally reductionist scientific perspective.

Hmmm. Maybe I noticed this story because of my recent experience in S.F. and because I’ve been warned by several people to watch out here in New Orleans (as one friend put it, “think port city in Victorian England”).