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I write about the science of the human mind and behavior, with a sprinkle of humor.

Microbrewers Must Cater to the Drinkers Who Bore Easily

As the popularity of craft beers has climbed over the past two decades, the offerings have become increasingly imaginative. Stop by any beer and wine shop and you’ll find ales, porters, lagers and other brews flavored with everything from jalapeno pepper to snickerdoodles.

Beers like this are not for the cost-conscious or risk-averse. Buying a six-pack of Boston cream pie Scotch Ale could either delight you or leave you ruing the $18 you spent.

Science has identified the beer-drinkers most open to a butterscotch IPA or a spearmint stout. Take a recent study at Penn State. Researchers there recruited more…

And a Perscription — er, Prescription — for Using the Right Ones

My late grandmother had a knack for inventing words through mispronunciation. She told us Santa comes down the chimley every Christmas Eve. She looked forward in the summers to watching the Pirates play in Pitchburgh. And she made a point of visiting relatives’ graves at the cementery.

I dearly loved the woman, and never felt compelled to correct her. But all that exposure to word mishaps did not build my tolerance for them. My blood boils when someone says irregardless or invites me to conversate.

And before I stand accused of pedantic sanctimony, I acknowledge that I’ve emitted my own…

A Look at the Most Preposterous Form of Gaslighting

Years ago I was crossing a street when a car speeding through a red light nearly struck me. The driver slammed on her brakes and her horn, rolled down her window and screamed at me for being in her way.

That’s right, the woman blamed me for impeding her right to commit a traffic violation.

I reflect on that incident as I watch the numerous QAnoners, Proud Boys and a recently departed president himself whine about their mistreatment. Like the woman who almost ran me over, they’re bullies playing victims. I call them bictims.

Examples of bictims abound. They’re white…

Struggling to Find Humanity in the Insurrectionists

It was the poop that sealed my sentiments.

Amid the coverage of the January 6 assault on the Capitol building were reports that some of the rioters took dumps in the hallways and smeared their feces on the walls.

This is what animals do.

In fact, I’m struggling to recognize anything human in the swarm of camouflage jackets and red MAGA hats that invaded the Capitol. They beat police officers (killing one), threatened journalists, vandalized a sacred building, tried to prevent lawmakers from performing their constitutional duty, and called for the vice president to be hanged. This is savagery.


The President-elect Faces a Nation Divided by Conflicting Realities

As a connoisseur of comic books and science fiction, I’m well versed in the concept of parallel dimensions and alternative realities. Cross the dimensional divide and you’ll find an evil Captain Kirk, a homicidal Superman, or a Spiderpig rather than Spiderman.

Over the last dozen years or so — and particularly the last four — the concept of multiple realities seems dangerously real. In an era of balkanized media, conspiracy theories, and rejection of science, planet Earth has become a virtual multiverse. …

We Have a New Word to Describe Everything Bad

I can point to several specific years of my past that I’d just as soon erase. There was 1991, the year I got laid off from a job. There was 2005, the year my basement flooded three times. There was 1985, the year Jefferson Starship released “We Built This City.”

But rarely is there a year that humanity can site as an existential calamity. 2020 has created an acute collective trauma that has a strong chance of becoming chronic — a global pandemic that has killed more than half a million…

An Online Game Teaches Players to Stop Spreading Disinformation By Learning How It’s Made

I like to think of myself as astute at distinguishing online fact from fiction. Over the past few years, I’ve learned to recognize dubious news sources on my Facebook feed and conspiracy theorists on Twitter.

But a free online game, the cornerstone of an ongoing psychological study, has bared my susceptibility to fake news — and my mind’s ability to fight it. Through a simulated disinformation campaign, I learned the tactics that trolls and zealots use to sway even the most savvy of social media users. …

Scientists Rejected These, But Why Not Try?

The media and scientific community are unfairly vilifying President Trump for suggesting disinfectant injections as a possible remedy for Covid-19.Why not disinfectant? After all, it kills all kinds of household germs, so why wouldn’t it work on a bug in our bodies?

Granted, Mr. Trump’s suggestion may start a run on Lysol at Costco, but disinfectant is a better potential remedy than anything else uppity scientists have sold us. It’s the president’s job to pursue every possibility to keep us safe, and he’s doing that diligently and brilliantly.

Okay, sure that hydroxychloroquine thing didn’t work out. But it was worth…

10 Ways We Lived That Will Seem Downright Disgusting

Grandparents enliven history. Mixing memoir with the event and trends of their day, they wow us with tales about what seems unbelievably primitive. I can remember the awe of learning that my grandparents, born at the dawn of the 20th century, grew up without cars and indoor plumbing.

Today, even the oldest of millennials will have a hard time remembering life without the Internet. And people born after 2000 can’t fathom how their parents survived dial-up Internet service. …

A Catch-22 in the Coronavirus Crisis

A little girl fell off her bicycle a few yards ahead of me as I strolled along a path in an atypically empty park near my house. As she began to cry, I immediately rushed over to help her up. She was uninjured, and as she rode away, I realized I had just breached the government’s social distancing guidelines.

Several questions bounced around in my mind. In the midst of the worst global plague in a century, did I just put her at risk by coming to her aid? For that matter, did I just endanger myself? …

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