Well, I turned 29 once again yesterday...it's getting a lot harder to pull off! Anyway, I was so touched by all the birthday wishes I got, in particular from really old friends (not age-wise, of course!). Thanks a bunch. You made my day. Fabian and I went to a play at City College (Mrs Dally has a lover, by William Hanley, a contemporary New Yorker), and had a feast of sushi and sashimi afterwards. Fabian had left Ohio extra early to celebrate with me, yeah!
(Orginally posted at Complexity and Social Networks Blog)
Some days ago I attended a talk on human information processing by Thomas Mussweiler from the University of Cologne who spoke at the Columbia Business School. Mussweiler and colleagues conducted an impressive number of experiments on the mechanisms and influences of individual information processing. A simple example would be to ask you to determine your best athletic performance. You have two basic options: 1) You think of every single athletic moment in your life, i.e. you engage in absolute information processing, or 2) you compare what you recollect as some of your best performances to a given standard, e.g. a famous athlete’s performance (or a famous couch potato’s performance). Not surprisingly it turns out that comparison allows to process information in a more efficient manner.
Mussweiler went on to talk about various factors that influence the comparisons we make, most importantly the standards we employ for comparing information. His experiments used a technique called “priming” to activate certain standards – for example, subjects were asked to judge a trait in a person. The result shows that priming a trait concept (such as aggressiveness) will induce the subject to judge the target person according to that trait. In other words, once activated, standards are spontaneously compared to the target person.
While I was listening to the talk, I kept asking myself how the way we process information relates to how we search for it. Some possible bridges might be that the search itself is the result of some form of information comparison (my search is triggered by a comparison of the information I have to a “standard”, which is the knowledge I believe I need to possess), and/or that we subconsciously use standards to determine the source to turn to when searching for information. I don’t know if there’s literature out there that links cognitive psychology to advice networks, but it's definitely something useful to look into.
I'm in Cambridge for three days, and life is good. Wow, I didn't realize how much I've missed this place! Apart from the kick I get out of collaborating face to face with David and Ines (and the nice side effect that work gets done), I just love to wander around and revisit all my favorite spots. Although the face of the Square is rapidly changing (what's with those antiseptic glass buildings replacing brownstones??), I feel like set back in time. Yup, same guy asking for change in front of CVS, same complex system to get your coffee at Peet's, and same good Weissbier at Grendel's. Last night it got *pretty* late there (and, I believe, the House of Blues at some point, Liz?), so today I'm taking it slow, hanging out at the Coop and enjoying every minute of it. It all just made me think...oh well.
Ele turned one today - that's really hard to believe! Thanks to everyone who sent her presents, she had a great time unwrapping them. Pictures will be on flickr soon (you will have to sign in and add me as a contact to see all pictures).
Siamo in partenza per le Bahamas! Un sogno per noi da tanto tempo, lo realizzeremo come prima vacanza in tre. Staremo al Port Lucaya Resort and Yacht Club. Non vedo l'ora! L'unico problema sara' un' attesa di varie ore ad Atlanta - speriamo che Ele non si annoiera' troppo.