‘Dry Cleaning Effect’ Shows Why People Forget

Yale researchers, led by psychiatry professor Christopher Pittenger, have shown how competing brain systems can cause people to forget to do small tasks like dropping off the dry cleaning — and may explain the behaviors of substance abusers and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. One area of the brain, the striatum, encodes landmarks that lead to a familiar destination, while a second area, the hippocampus, is involved in spatial learning. In a task like remembering to drop off dry cleaning, these two systems need to interact, but can collide to cause forgetting. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug addiction, which both involve destructive habits, may result from the disruption of these interactions — making habits stronger and less flexible.

Literal Warmth May Influence Judgment of ‘Metaphoric’ Warmth

Yale psychologists have shown that people judge others to be more generous and caring if they are holding a warm cup of coffee than if they are holding an iced coffee. They are also more likely to give something to others if the person is holding something warm, whereas they are more likely to keep it for themselves if the person is holding something cold. The study follows work by the authors that shows that the physical distance between individuals can influence their judgments about the other person. The research suggests that turns of phrases such as calling someone warm or saying you feel distant to someone are more than simple metaphors. The article, lead-authored by Psychology professor John Bargh, is included in the current issue of Science.

Yale Celebrates 20 Years of Neuroscience Research

Scientists, members of the Veterans Administration, paralyzed veterans and Yale and West Haven officials will gather Oct. 30 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Yale Center for Neuroscience and Regeneratio Research. The celebration will double as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new research wing build at the center, which will house cutting-edge research in nerve repair and pain. The day-long event, which will be held in the Donaldson Room at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System at 950 Campbell Avenue, will include laboratory demonstrations and tours of the Center.