Blog Log #7

Talent Code

Similar to the popular Freakeconomics Blog published in the New York Times, the Talent Code Blog is dedicated to expanding on and maintaining the relevance of a bestseller, the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.  The thesis of the book—and, in turn, the theme of the blog—is that extraordinary talent is not (merely) innate, but can be unlocked through training, motivation and coaching—that is, by learning and by practicing an identifiable and discrete pattern of behavior.  Practice doesn’t make perfect; rather, perfect practice makes perfect.

The blog is especially entertaining to those interested in sports, music, and entertainment.  (After all, when we think of the “extraordinarily talented,” athletes and artists come to mind more easily than Nobel Prize winners.)  Take this weekend’s blog post, for example: Coyle analyzes whether the iPad will make us dumber or smarter.  On the one hand, the iPad will expose us even more to the Internet: “a warm bath of information and entertainment—and warm baths, while they feel fantastic, are an absolutely terrible way to built high-speed neural circuits.”  On the other hand, technology “gives us new and immersive ways to grow our skill circuits.”  To explain his point, Coyle offers two seemingly incongruous stories: 1) the story of Magnus Carlsen, a young chess wizard who trained solely against chess computer software, which offered him the opportunity to play millions of games; 2) the story of Mark Sanchez, quarterback of the New York Jets, who played thousands of Madden games.

As the post reveals, the most engaging aspect of the blog (and, maybe, the book) is the story-telling.  Coyle offers countless stories of real people—at times famous, like LeBron Jones, but other times more obscure—who developed their extraordinary talent through “deep” and “perfect practice.”  Yet, despite his use of anecdotal evidence, Coyle’s writing is rigorous.  He supports his arguments with neuroscientific, psychological, and cross-cultural evidence.  Therefore, although the typical neuroscientist or cognitive scientist might be wary of the extent to which Coyle downplays innateness, Coyle’s invocation of “hard,” natural science should placate even the expert.

Perhaps, though, the most moving aspect of the blog is self-serving: It makes the reader want to buy the book!

Two Minds

This blog highlights discoveries in neuroscience and psychology.  Yet, the blog does much more than summarize: it takes current debates and explores the neuroscientific or psychological angle.  One blog post analyzes the extent to which the availability heuristic plays a role in the swine flu hysteria.  Note, however, that the blog has not been updated since July 2009.

Us and Them

This now semi-defunct blogs analyzes the intersection between science and ethnicity, race, religion, caste, and class.  By David Berreby, the blog was dedicated to the expansion of his book, Us and Them: The Science of Identity.  Berreby now blogs exclusively on Big Think, the blog dedicated to his new book, Mind Matters.  The book analyzes the death of the “rational man”—our acceptance of the truth that we are not cool, rational optimizers—and the impact this “sea change” has on our institutions.

Warren Reports

This blog—to which Professor Elizabeth Warren is a frequent contributor—focuses on current economic, financial, and fiscal issues (e.g., the credit crunch, the financial crisis).  Although some of the posts do not invoke psychology, many of them do, including a recent post on credit card payments and psychological anchoring.

We’re Only Human

By Wray Herbert, this blog studies “the quirks of human nature”  The blog is a straightforward application of social psychology—including recent findings—to common occurrences (that the author wishes to write about) or current events.

What Sorts of People

This blog represents a cross-disciplinary approach to the phenomena of “human variation, normalcy, and enhancement.”  As an arm of the “What Sorts of People” Project, the blog is geared toward creating a more inclusive community by stimulating debate about the nature of human variation and our ability to influence such variation.  The blog is sprawling, but a common thread is subject matter involving the mentally or physically disabled or handicapped.

Whose Law?

This blog explores the intersection between law, social psychology, and political marginalization.  The blog’s concern is the extent to which the law is crafted without an informed understanding of the psychology and situation of a particular underrepresented group—an occurrence which could exclude the group from society altogether.  The subject matter is varied, from the effect of fraud on the elderly, to the impact of healthcare reform on the disabled.

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