SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Problem solving

500

Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Educational psychology, Problem solving, Attention restoration theory, Creative problem solving

248

Problem solving and innovation are key components of intelligence. We compare wild-caught individuals from two species that are close relatives of Darwin’s finches, the innovativeLoxigilla barbadensis, and its most closely related species in Barbados, the conservativeTiaris bicolor. We found an all-or-none difference in the problem-solving capacity of the two species. Brain RNA sequencing analyses revealed interspecific differences in genes related to neuronal and synaptic plasticity in the intrapallial neural populations (mesopallium and nidopallium), especially in the nidopallium caudolaterale, a structure functionally analogous to the mammalian prefrontal cortex. At a finer scale, we discovered robust differences in glutamate receptor expression between the species. In particular, the GRIN2B/GRIN2A ratio, known to correlate with synaptic plasticity, was higher in the innovativeL. barbadensis. These findings suggest that divergence in avian intelligence is associated with similar neuronal mechanisms to that of mammals, including humans.

Concepts: Brain, Species, Cerebrum, Mammal, NMDA receptor, Intelligence, Problem solving, Finch

232

To investigate cognitive operations underlying sequential problem solving, we confronted ten Goffin’s cockatoos with a baited box locked by five different inter-locking devices. Subjects were either naïve or had watched a conspecific demonstration, and either faced all devices at once or incrementally. One naïve subject solved the problem without demonstration and with all locks present within the first five sessions (each consisting of one trial of up to 20 minutes), while five others did so after social demonstrations or incremental experience. Performance was aided by species-specific traits including neophilia, a haptic modality and persistence. Most birds showed a ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and sensitively to alterations of the locks' sequencing and functionality, as expected from the presence of predictive inferences about mechanical interactions between the locks.

Concepts: Psychology, Future, Educational psychology, Sequence, Demonstration, Problem solving, Problem, How to Solve It

224

We present, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the “20 Questions” game. As in previous non-invasive BBI studies in humans, our interface uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect specific patterns of brain activity from one participant (the “respondent”), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver functionally-relevant information to the brain of a second participant (the “inquirer”). Our results extend previous BBI research by (1) using stimulation of the visual cortex to convey visual stimuli that are privately experienced and consciously perceived by the inquirer; (2) exploiting real-time rather than off-line communication of information from one brain to another; and (3) employing an interactive task, in which the inquirer and respondent must exchange information bi-directionally to collaboratively solve the task. The results demonstrate that using the BBI, ten participants (five inquirer-respondent pairs) can successfully identify a “mystery item” using a true/false question-answering protocol similar to the “20 Questions” game, with high levels of accuracy that are significantly greater than a control condition in which participants were connected through a sham BBI.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Electroencephalography, Visual perception, Mind, Transcranial magnetic stimulation, Problem solving, Neurotechnology

211

So far, conservation scientists have paid little attention to synthetic biology; this is unfortunate as the technology is likely to transform the operating space within which conservation functions, and therefore the prospects for maintaining biodiversity into the future.

Concepts: Time, Biodiversity, Evolution, Species, Ecology, Natural environment, Science, Problem solving

191

Creativity can be considered one of the key competencies for the twenty-first century. It provides us with the capacity to deal with the opportunities and challenges that are part of our complex and fast-changing world. The question as to what facilitates creative cognition-the ability to come up with creative ideas, problem solutions and products-is as old as the human sciences, and various means to enhance creative cognition have been studied. Despite earlier scientific studies demonstrating a beneficial effect of music on cognition, the effect of music listening on creative cognition has remained largely unexplored. The current study experimentally tests whether listening to specific types of music (four classical music excerpts systematically varying on valance and arousal), as compared to a silence control condition, facilitates divergent and convergent creativity. Creativity was higher for participants who listened to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music high on arousal and positive mood) while performing the divergent creativity task, than for participants who performed the task in silence. No effect of music was found for convergent creativity. In addition to the scientific contribution, the current findings may have important practical implications. Music listening can be easily integrated into daily life and may provide an innovative means to facilitate creative cognition in an efficient way in various scientific, educational and organizational settings when creative thinking is needed.

Concepts: Cognition, Science, Educational psychology, Idea, Thought, Problem solving, Creativity, Convergent and divergent production

175

As the volume, complexity and diversity of the information that scientists work with on a daily basis continues to rise, so too does the requirement for new analytic software. The analytic software must solve the dichotomy that exists between the need to allow for a high level of scientific reasoning, and the requirement to have an intuitive and easy to use tool which does not require specialist, and often arduous, training to use. Information visualization provides a solution to this problem, as it allows for direct manipulation and interaction with diverse and complex data. The challenge addressing bioinformatics researches is how to apply this knowledge to data sets that are continually growing in a field that is rapidly changing.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Bioinformatics, Genomics, Emergence, Logic, Problem solving, Functional genomics

171

The maximum clique enumeration (MCE) problem asks that we identify all maximum cliques in a finite, simple graph. MCE is closely related to two other well-known and widely-studied problems: the maximum clique optimization problem, which asks us to determine the size of a largest clique, and the maximal clique enumeration problem, which asks that we compile a listing of all maximal cliques. Naturally, these three problems are NP-hard, given that they subsume the classic version of the NP-complete clique decision problem. MCE can be solved in principle with standard enumeration methods due to Bron, Kerbosch, Kose and others. Unfortunately, these techniques are ill-suited to graphs encountered in our applications. We must solve MCE on instances deeply seeded in data mining and computational biology, where high-throughput data capture often creates graphs of extreme size and density. MCE can also be solved in principle using more modern algorithms based in part on vertex cover and the theory of fixed-parameter tractability (FPT). While FPT is an improvement, these algorithms too can fail to scale sufficiently well as the sizes and densities of our datasets grow.

Concepts: Graph theory, Problem solving, Optimization, Computational complexity theory, NP-complete, Clique problem, Bron–Kerbosch algorithm, Parameterized complexity

169

The KIPPPI (Brief Instrument Psychological and Pedagogical Problem Inventory) is a Dutch questionnaire that measures psychosocial and pedagogical problems in 2-year olds and consists of a KIPPPI Total score, Wellbeing scale, Competence scale, and Autonomy scale. This study examined the reliability, validity, screening accuracy and clinical application of the KIPPPI.

Concepts: Psychometrics, Reliability, Clinical psychology, Accuracy and precision, Problem solving, Problem

168

Particle swarm optimization is a popular method for solving difficult optimization problems. There have been attempts to formulate the method in formal probabilistic or stochastic terms (e.g. bare bones particle swarm) with the aim to achieve more generality and explain the practical behavior of the method. Here we present a Bayesian interpretation of the particle swarm optimization. This interpretation provides a formal framework for incorporation of prior knowledge about the problem that is being solved. Furthermore, it also allows to extend the particle optimization method through the use of kernel functions that represent the intermediary transformation of the data into a different space where the optimization problem is expected to be easier to be resolved-such transformation can be seen as a form of prior knowledge about the nature of the optimization problem. We derive from the general Bayesian formulation the commonly used particle swarm methods as particular cases.

Concepts: Scientific method, Probability, Problem solving, Optimization, Bayesian probability, Particle swarm optimization, Optimization problem, Ant colony optimization