Turn Your Blinker On! Too Much Eye Contact Leads to Poor Thinking (Scientific American)

Eye contact requires the same mental resources used for complex tasks, which explains why so many people look away when they’re speaking, particularly about something complex. “Eye contact can deplete your mental bandwidth,” reports Scientific American.

In an experiment, participants instructed to make direct eye contact were hindered in their performance on a verbal task. “So the next time you’re in a polite staring contest with an interviewer, take the time to look out the window while you ponder the hardest questions. They should forgive you the breach of etiquette if you come up with your best answers.” Read more.

Brain Scans Reveal Why Some People are Better at Learning Languages (Scientific American)

For those of us struggling to learn a foreign language, it is not heartening to learn that brain scans indicate that some people have an aptitude for picking up foreign tongues. Apparently, those with more spatially aligned fibers in their right brain hemispheres (which can speed up the transfer of information) are more successful at learning new languages.

But at least one researcher studying this topic has an optimistic take on these findings: by understanding this phenomenon, we might be able to help linguistically challenged people learn better. Read more.

The Limits of Reason: Why Facts Don’t Always Change Our Minds (New Yorker)

The New Yorker examines various Stanford experiments concerning perception and reality, particularly one’s ability to reason after facts change. The studies proved the limits of human reason and the futility of facts to change minds. Cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber analyze why reasonable people act irrationally in their book, Enigma of Reason.

Evolutionarily, reason developed to aid cooperation, rather than to solve abstract or logical problems. Thus, humans are prone to confirmation biases, dismissing contradictory evidence after opinions are formed. Read more in The New Yorker.

The Psychological Perils of Actually Going to Mars (Five Thirty Eight)

The imminent potential for a year-long trip to Mars would mean increasing isolation for astronauts from recreation, communication, and privacy. NASA has studied the psychological effects of long-term missions in extreme environments, but the trip to Mars is unprecedented.

Five Thirty Eight explores the voyage’s potential impairment of sleep-cycles, sensory stimulation, and mental health. Read more in Five Thirty Eight.