Livia Blackburne Livia's Comments (member since Feb 13, 2011)

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Apr 03, 2011 12:12PM

44031 John -- haha, mostly I eat with my dayjob income. My publisher will probably also raise the price at some point. the 99 cent is a promotion to get it out there.

I may have to check out the Hawkins book...
Mar 24, 2011 01:25PM

44031 Ruth,
it's true that people have a harder time with the second language, but that disadvantage is much less noticeable when reading. I'm guessing in your case then it might just be a matter of practice. You studied French for 12 years, but how long have you been speaking and reading English?
Mar 24, 2011 01:22PM

44031 John,
I'm afraid my answers might be kind of disappointing. For consciousness, it has to do with many things. First, the definition as you mentioned. Also, it's just not really clear how to do experiments about it. You would necessarily need something that is not conscious, but you can still do experiments on, and somehow compare it to something that's conscious. And it's not clear how that would work. But there's some interesting stuff out there. Check out
For intelligence, again what is intelligence. Problem solving ability? Ability to carry on a conversation? Ability to adapt to the environment? Creativity? All of these are slightly different things and require different approaches. As of now, we don't really know how people think, or how neurons transform into a conscious, intelligent being. People often compare neuroscience to the field of genetics before the discovery of DNA. We're still waiting for that breakthrough to understand things. We're just scratching the surface right now, and nobody has really come up with a satisfying theory. At least none that I know of. Sorry I can't give you a more enlightening answer :-)
And my essay is in fact available on Amazon for $.99. Just search for livia blackburne. You can read Amazon Kindle essays on your computer through the Kindle app. We also have epub available at smash words
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Mar 18, 2011 08:15PM

44031 John – we're making some headway on intelligence and self, but we still know next to nothing about consciousness.

Terry -- thank you for sharing. It's really inspiring to see how books can bring hope.
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Feb 25, 2011 12:17PM

44031 Julie -- when I was younger, I would find all my books just by browsing the library bookshelves. When buying books, however, it's the most always by recommendation or from an author I have faith in. I guess, since money is at stake, I'm a little less willing to take risks.
Tracy -- any good recommendations?
Feb 21, 2011 08:49PM

44031 I love the discussion here! I wonder if it has to do with memory augmentation. We have all these thoughts in our mind, but it's hard to keep track of them. Putting them on paper grants them more clarity, as some have said, and also makes them more vivid. And this "memory aid" also helps us communicate our ideas with others.
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Feb 21, 2011 08:43PM

44031 No need to apologize for sociology, Robin. I find it very hard to separate the study of humans in groups from the study of the individual. And I've also had the experience of starting to talk about books and suddenly everybody really gets into the conversation. I tend not to get as invested in conversations about movies or TV shows, but I was never sure if that was just me, or something about the medium.
It's really interesting reading about how people choose their books, and as traditional publishers become less influential, it will be very interesting to see whether social media can function as the new gatekeeper.
It would be absolutely fascinating to see how books move by word-of-mouth. I wonder how good Goodreads is at tracking that. I could see people analyzing Goodreads data just like some research groups analyze Facebook data. Unfortunately, the good reads data doesn't seem to be as rich.
Feb 21, 2011 08:27PM

44031 Russ -- good point about the prefrontal cortex

Michael -- I wish I could've seen that dance! I remember how Oliver Sacks described patients with Tourette's syndrome who would lose their creativity after being treated for Tourette's. The link between creativity and mental illness is both fascinating and disturbing. Have a good trip!
Feb 19, 2011 08:34PM

44031 robin - about brain differences and long/short attention spans. Interestingly, there is no clear brain marker for ADHD. The diagnosis is very subjective, which frustrates many clinicians.
Feb 19, 2011 08:30PM

44031 Julie -- I agree. You spend more time with the characters in books, and you get deeper inside their heads

Zabeth - Now if only writers can levitate stuff too while they're writing...

Bill - College and grad has been great for me for learning about new cultures. I've met interesting people from all over the world. And gotten a good education in Pho as well :-)
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Feb 19, 2011 08:25PM

44031 robin -- Interesting what that says about voice then, if it carries though to translations

Bill - 50 weeks is nothing to sneeze at. I'll have to check it out.
Feb 17, 2011 08:53PM

44031 Tamara wrote: "For me, reading and writing have always been about exploring the world - either my immediate world, or worlds that I have not known except through books. I want to learn and expand my horizons when..."

Tamara - I'm just discovering nonfiction reading for pleasure myself. I love it, it's like plugging into the matrix.
Feb 17, 2011 08:52PM

44031 Kari -- regarding concentration. I think computers and internet are a double edged sword. On the one hand, I think you're right that we're losing attention span, being less able to concentrate on things without constant distraction. On the other, there is some evidence that playing video games actually increases your capacity for other types of attention. Video gamers are able to process things they see more quickly, which makes sense when you think about what they do all day. The brain tries to adapt itself to whatever environment it's exposed to, which may make it less suited for other environments.
Feb 17, 2011 08:47PM

44031 Naomi wrote: "This stuff sounds so super interesting. I have only recently read anything about neurology (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks) and I find it so fascinating."

Naomi --
Oliver Sacks is great. Steve Pinker also has some interesting stuff. I've heard that Dan Ariely has some good books too, but I haven't read them yet.
Feb 17, 2011 08:45PM

44031 Michael wrote: "PPPS

There is a great RSA Animate with Steven (apologies for the mis-spelling in my post above) Pinker talking about "Language as a Window into Human Nature""

Hey guys, I just checked out that video. It's really interesting. Go take a look .
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Feb 17, 2011 08:39PM

44031 Tamara -- I'm all for the enjoyable stuff too :-) Life's too short to read what other people like.

Carlos -- That's really cool. I wish I could have been there. I enjoyed his conference talk, though it was more about his personal publication journey than writing advice.
Feb 16, 2011 04:19PM

44031 Michael – I don't know of any direct experiments that test communication methods and their effect on simplification, but I can speculate a bit. I will say that simplification serves a useful purpose when used correctly. It encapsulates groups of concepts so we can communicate and think about things efficiently. For example, if we all have the concept of a kitchen, then we don't have to go into details about a stove, pots and pans, etc. The problems arise when there are complexities in the encapsulated concepts that are glossed over. It's important then, to know your audience. What concepts do they know, what complexities are they aware of, and what needs to be pointed out to them? Experts will know more of the terminology so you can explain things to them in fewer words. They will also be familiar with the complexities, so you may not have to give as many caveats. Beginners on the other hand, do not know as much. You'll have to feed them in smaller chunks and point out complexities as you get to them. But this is a problem that psychologists have not yet been able to solve. We face it ourselves when we teach classes like psychology 101 . You want to explain all sides of every study, but it's impossible within the limitations of one course. On the other hand, oversimplifying feels like you're lying to the students sometimes. So it's a delicate balance.
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Feb 16, 2011 04:01PM

44031 Carlos – if you like medical thrillers, have you ever read Michael Palmer? I never read his fiction, but I heard him talk at a conference once.

Kari -- some of my colleagues do autism research. It's very complicated and the research is in its infancy, but hopefully we can make some progress.

Robin – any particular foreign authors that you like?

Ann – did you read the narrative escape by Tom Stafford? I really enjoyed that essay
Feb 16, 2011 03:56PM

44031 Bill – I was hoping you would weigh in on the number of societies. That's very interesting. Do you know how someone becomes a storyteller? I imagine it would be some kind of apprenticeship. And I do think you're right that there's some kind of relationship between words, communication, and synthesizing concepts. It seems to fall on the same spectrum of skills. (Although that's just my guess, I don't have any incredibly solid data to back it up)

Shveta - yes, I definitely think stories from other cultures need to be told. Keep up the good work!
Feb 14, 2011 08:51PM

44031 Wow, what a great discussion! Responses to this thread will take a bit more thought than responses to the others, so I won't be able to get to all of these tonight, but I will start at the beginning and gradually work my way down.

Robin – that's a very interesting link. Thanks for pointing it out. It's funny because when researching my essay, I ran across some research on interrupted events that's almost the opposite of the first link. Some researchers found that people have worse memories for events in TV shows that were interrupted by a commercial break -- ie, the cliffhanger before a commercial. I believe the article is here:

While this research and Carr's research may seem to contradict the Psyblog results, I don't think that's necessarily the case. The Psyblog results talk about what is happening when you're in the process of being interrupted. When that happens, you're still holding things in your working memory. Therefore, it's foremost in your mind until it's resolved. It's more of a short-term type of memory.

The other two articles take a longer-term to point of what happens after the interruption ends. In this type of research seems to suggest that long-term research and long-term recall of events is worse when your initial processing or encoding of it is interrupted. And that fits in with older psychology research showing that deep thoughtful processing improves memory formation.
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