How experts recall chess positions

In 2011, a computer (Watson) outplayed two human Jeopardy champions. In 1997, chess computer Deep Blue defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov. In both cases, the computer “solved” the game—found the right questions or good moves—differently than humans do. Defeating humans in these domains took years of research and programming by teams of engineers, but only with huge advantages in speed, efficiency, memory, and precision could computers compete with much more limited humans. What allows human experts to match wits with custom-designed computers equipped with tremendous processing power? [...]

Seeing the world as it isn't

When we look at the world around us, we feel that we are seeing it completely and accurately. What accounts for that [...]

Remarkable false memories

You might think you remember how you heard about the attacks on September 11, 2001, but you might well be wrong. A reader sent a remarkable example of memory distortion for a much earlier experience which illustrates how easily memories can [...]

change blindness and courtroom testimony

A friend referred me to a wonderful case of a lawyer taking advantage of the limits of memory to try to get his client out of a traffic violation. It’s almost hard to believe this actually happened — it’s easier to imagine it happening on a television show as a critical plot twist. After [...]

witnessing a staged crime

The BBC apparently has conducted a remarkable study looking at how eyewitnesses remember a staged crime. Although this sort of stunt has been pulled many times in studies of eyewitness fallibility, this one took the approach and realism a step further than previous [...]

When less is more (memory limits and correlations)

A series of articles by Yaakov Kareev from the mid-late 1990s showing something remarkable: People with less working memory capacity are better able to detect moderately strong correlations (Kareev, 1995; Kareev et al, 1997; Kareev, 2000). Understanding why requires a bit of a digression into statistics. [...]

Cracking up about patterns and cause

I just received an email from a contractor in Austria who described a legal problem that many contractors face. Apparently, demolition crews are sued regularly by homeowners for damage to nearby homes. After a blast that causes vibration in a house, homeowners search their house and discover big cracks. They then blame [...]