Gary Marcus is a professor of psychology at NYU, an MIT graduate and a juggler, unicyclist and photographer. A few years ago he set out to conquer one field that had eluded him his whole life: music. “I had no musical talent whatsoever,” he described to me from his office, which sets a few blocks east of Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, “and was at one point gently told to stop taking recorder lessons when I was younger.” With a sabbatical coming up, and a growing interest in whether people could pick up an instrument in their adult life, Marcus did what anyone else would do. He picked up a guitar. Not any guitar though, a Guitar Hero guitar.
As someone who has spent most of high school and college playing this beloved game, this was music to my ears.
His latest book, Guitar Zero, now available, is the culmination of his work as a student of guitar, music enthusiast and researcher of learning. It joins the ranks of some excellent psychology of music books including Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music and John Ortiz’ The Tao of Music.
But Guitar Zero is different. Yes, Marcus delves into the academic side of things, but he is also personal. He devotes several chapters to explain his struggles with congenital arrhythmia, learning music theory, playing instruments and he shares wonderful stories from his adventures at Day Jams, “a summer camp where kids ages eight to fifteen learn to play and compose rock and roll,” with his band “Rush Hour.” What comes out is a lighthearted memoir filled with wonderful insights about music and the human mind. Compared to popular psychology books written from the expert’s point of view, Guitar Zero is a refreshing glimpse into the mind of the amateur.
Posts tagged ‘scientific american guest blog’
My latest at the Scientific American guest blog.
Chimpanzee research is a hot topic this summer; it has been discussed on the big screen, in the New York Times, and in the science blogosphere. The debate is complicated; there are government funding issues, several ethical dilemmas to consider, and potential benefits to human health at stake. However, all of the discourse boils down to a simple question: what are the moral parameters of chimpanzee research?
It is a riveting debate, no doubt, and I think that addressing moral questions head-on is necessary. But as a philosophy major, I also know that pondering and arguing the moral qualifications and conditions of an action can be endless, tiring, and dry. That is why I am interested in a much deeper, and much more fascinating question: Why are human beings so moral?
For those who have not seen, I had an article featured on Scientific American’s guest blog today. Here is the gist of it.
If we are defining confirmation bias as a tendency to favor information that confirms our previously held beliefs, it strikes me as ironic to think that it is almost exclusively discussed as a hindrance to knowledge and better decision-making, or as an aid to argumentation and persuasion as reinforced by Mercier and Sperber. With such a broad definition, I think it also explains our aesthetic judgments. That is, just as we only look for what confirms our scientific hypotheses and personal decisions, we likewise only listen to music and observe art that confirms our preconceived notions of good and bad aesthetics. Put differently, confirmation bias influences our aesthetic judgments just as it does any other judgment.
Really great piece! At least that’s what my confirmation bias tells me….