Saturday, 22 November 2008

Practical Application Of Cognitive Neuroscience - Succeeding In Competitions

Ogi Ogas puzzles over the $1 million question.
[Who Wants to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist Millionaire?]
[Courtesy of Valleycrest Productions.]

This article in Seed Magazine by Ogi Ogas, describes how he used cognitive neuroscience techniques to win $500,000 (it could have been $1,000,000) on the American version of the television quiz show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" Ogas, at the time of this article, was in his final year of the Cognitive Neuroscience Ph.D. program at Boston University. He describes the 3 cognitive techniques of (1) priming, (2) intuition and (3) theory of the mind, which helped him reach the $1,000,000 question. Below are lifted excerpts from the article illustrating the 3 techniques. It is well worthwhile reading the whole article [Who Wants to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist Millionaire?].

"The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar "connectionist" neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest."

"Cognitive models developed by my advisor Gail Carpenter suggest that a more effective way to evaluate an intuition is to consider its mnemonic associations. If you can mentally trace some of the cognitive links of an intuition (through a process similar to priming), these links may suggest whether the intuition is meaningfully connected to the correct answer or whether the link is trivial, incidental, or wrong. For example, given the question "Bucharest is the capital of what European country?", you might have an intuition that the answer is Hungary, because the actual capital of Hungary—Budapest—sounds like "Bucharest" and is thus unconsciously linked. In this case, naively following your unexamined intuition would lead you away from the correct response: Romania."

Theory of mind:
"... I considered another cognitive capacity explored in my department: theory of mind, the ability to imagine other people's perspectives. I contemplated the show's writers themselves, imagining them sitting at their keyboards composing three fake but credible answers. "Stuffy head" struck me as resembling the kind of manufactured distraction I might come up with."

The techniques discussed here have wide application, including competitive games.

Tags: Cognitive Neuroscience - Gail Carpenter - Intuition - Ogi Ogas - Priming - Theory Of Mind
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