Monday, October 29, 2007

Your Heart Tells What Your Brain Knows

One of the academic groups to which I belong, the Society for Psychophysiological Research, started as the Society for Polygraph Research.

It follows that much of the technologies that we use in the lab have some foundation in lie detection.

An important tenet of lie detection is that your body reacts differently depending upon what you know.

Although media portrayals frequently portray lie detection as catching someone telling an untruth, it is more reliable to use the guilty knowledge test.

In this test, an individual is told various aspects of a crime, for example. Some of the details are untrue, and some of the details are things that only someone who had been at the crime scene would know. Thus, if you respond to the proper location of the murder weapon, it suggests that you saw it in that location.

For the first time, my lab is attempting to correlate physiology and memory. I will avoid the details of the experiment here, but we tested memory following presentation of a media-related stimulus. During the memory test, participants heard sound clips that they previously heard during the experiment, and they heard sound clips that they did not hear.

Their job was to say "Yes" they had heard it during the earlier experiment or "No" they hadn't.

We recorded their physiology while they were listening and for several seconds afterward while the screen was black.

We wanted to compare the physiological results based upon their memory performance. Now, I had no idea how much work this would be. Really, it was an insane data analysis. It took forever. There are now more than 12,000 variables in the heart rate data set alone.

In the end, it was worth it, if only for the "cool" value.

The figure above shows a cardiac response curve (CRC) for trials where participants correctly recognized a sound clip (i.e., hits, shown in blue). The second cardiac response curve is for trials where they correctly failed to recognize a clip (i.e., correct rejections, shown in green).

At first, both CRCs show an initial deceleration at the beginning of the trial. This is an orienting reflex elicited by the onset of the trial. However, for the correct rejections, there is sustained cardiac deceleration. We typically associate this sustained deceleration with continued cognitive effort. As your brain tries harder, your heart slows down. Cool, huh?

This makes sense, and it fits with our (and others') model(s) of memory. In a recognition task, you can stop trying as soon as you find a match. That is, when the recognition prime matches a memory, you can confidently feel that you recognized it. Since these trials were correct recognitions, we can assume that the match occurred relatively quickly.

Conversely, when there is no recognition, the brain has to keep trying for matches until you give up. This takes longer, obviously, and should require more cognitive effort. This is the exact picture that we see.

In each case, after we stopped collecting data (which went on for 2 seconds after this figure), participants used a computer mouse to make their recognition decision. Thus, these physiological data precede the recognition decision.

To early lie detectors, these data must seem trivial. Of course there is a difference. To me, however, it is fascinating that your heart beats differently when you recognize something than when you don't.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thanks to Director Andy Fickman

Not much blog activity as I try to catch up from the NMSU reunion weekend and get ready for ICA conference deadline.

The highlight of the week was Hollywood director -- and Texas Tech alumnus -- Andy Fickman speaking to my class on Thursday. If I teach another 40 years, I may never have a guest speaker this good.

He was hilarious, and his success shows how far a Tech grad can go even with no previous connections in Hollywood.

Fickman directed The Game Plan, which was the number one movie in America for two consecutive weeks this month.

This morning our college honored Fickman as one of five 2007 college of mass communications outstanding alumni. The honor is well deserved.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Still Enchanted by New Mexico

About six and a half hours ago, I crossed the state line from New Mexico into Texas. At the end of a road trip, I am always glad to be home. But I'm always sad to see that yellow rectangle with the red zia symbol in the rear-view mirror.

This weekend marked a wonderful reunion with friends from New Mexico State University.

We all worked together at the Round Up, which we and the "flag" atop the front page always called the "Student voice of Southern New Mexico since 1907." For 2 years, we lived together in those offices in Corbett Center. For somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 a month, we gave our all.

I was lucky enough to be the editor. That means that I got a lot of credit for the hard work of others. It was a talented group of people who worked hard. But, man did we have a lot of fun.

With a few other exceptions, Emily and I were the outsiders of the bunch. Both born in Missouri, we were not native New Mexicans like the rest of our friends. Many of them longed for something bigger than New Mexico.

You see, New Mexico is the fifth largest state in square miles. But it's 39th in population. And not a wealthy 39 either. So most of our friends dreamed of something much bigger. Indeed, the reunion brought people in from Chicago and the Bay Area.

You never know what you've got until it's gone, they tell me. Most days those words sound about right. I bought into much of that. They joked about the "Land of Entrapment," a play on the state's motto. I thought I understood the joke. I certainly bought into it.

Many of us graduated in May 1997. We received our degrees at the Pan American Center. You can see a small piece of the roof just below the foam red pistol and the pom-pom in the picture above. A decade ago, we couldn't wait for something bigger.

About a week after walking across that stage, I was off to intern with the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in California. It felt "big time." Circumstances brought me back to the Las Cruces Sun-News about three months later. Emily and I had a kid. I was promoted to sports editor. A few months later, the Albuquerque Journal called. The flagship newspaper of the state. As big time as it got in the Land of Enchantment.

With that, I said good bye to Southern New Mexico. Less than a year after that, I said goodbye to New Mexico altogether for the adventure known as graduate school. I've written about this journey before, so I'll skip some of the details here.

Suffice it to say that my friends have heard me talk about my love for the land of green chile many times. It's one of those things that if you don't get it, you may never understand it. But I have a pretty deep relationship with those rocks and sand that people call a desert. It's more than a place.

Other than my wife, I've never loved a woman as much as I love New Mexico. It became a part of me. And it's a part that does not let go.

Fifty-eight years ago, another man named Sam Bradley moved to the desert Southwest from Kansas City. He had just finished school as a radio engineer (really television but that's a story for another day) and accepted a job at KCHS-AM in Hot Springs, N.M., now known as Truth or Consequences.

T or C, as its called, is about as different as one can get from Kansas City. But my dad had already been to the South Pacific thanks to the army, so he had seen a bit of variety. When dad arrived in Hot Springs, someone encouraged him not to judge the city until he had "worn out a pair of shoes on the desert."

It was good advice for him in 1949, and it was good advice when I moved there in 1994 (the transposition of numbers surely just a coincidence).

As I wore out that pair of shoes, however, the dry air worked a sort of magic on me. The mountains. The dark blue sky. The ability to see forever. The dry air. The planet does not get much more big time than that.

So, New Mexico became a part of me. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would call a New Mexico real estate agent on Tuesday. It's just that great. And then I'd go about figuring out just which foods really cannot be served with green chile. In New Mexico, that's a pretty small list.

Working at Texas Tech is a blessing for my New Mexico habit. I've made 5 trips west this calendar year, and one more is planned. But it's not the same as being there every day.

Wherever you live, I hope you love it as much as I love New Mexico. I hope it brings as big a smile to your face. And I hope you have a bunch of friends who live there who are still great people, great smart asses, and who you cannot see for 8 years and never miss a beat.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cool Visual Branding Concept Idea

"Built by the Kolbrener, branding experts"

Thanks to Tim Laubacher, brand evangelist.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Attention Boosters: Sam Bradley for Hire

Normally I am a sports jinx. Unless I work for a university. And then for some reason I am untouchable in rivalry games.

Roughly three years ago I accepted a job at Ohio State. Since that day:

Ohio State 37, Michigan 21, Nov. 20, 2004
Ohio State 25, Michigan 21, Nov. 19, 2005
Texas Tech 31, Texas A&M 27, Sept. 30, 2006
Texas Tech 35, Texas A&M 7, Oct. 13, 2007


Scenes from Indiana: Hoosier Hysteria

Photo copyright 2007 by the Indianapolis Star.

Ah, I miss those 5 championship banners in Assembly Hall.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ah, the Warm Heat of October

I'm sitting here watching ESPN. Reporter Tim Kurkjian just reported live from Boston's Fenway Park.

He was wearing a leather jacket on top of his suit coat.

What? It's 87 darned degrees here.

I headed to It's 56 degrees in Boston with a 21 mph wind.

Ah, fall.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Thanks Kids: All I Can Say Is 'Wow'


In a particularly stimulating study, researchers have found that lap dancers--women who work in strip joints and, for cash, gyrate in the laps of seated men--earn more when they are in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. The finding suggests that women subtly signal when they are most fertile, although just how they do it is not clear.
I, however, ran across this on, which my productivity regrets that I learned about today.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Make Memories: Spend Time with Your Kids

The Kansas City skyline and Union Station as observed from atop the Liberty Memorial in 1980.

Kansas City's Liberty Memorial as observed from the south in 1980.

A surprise package arrived this week. It was from my father, who lives about 6 hours southwest of here, in Las Cruces, N.M.

In the package were some slides and a CD of the scanned slides.

On the outside of the unmistakable Eastman Kodak yellow slide box is my dad's unmistakable handwriting, "Sam III -- 110 slides Oct 1980."

By my calculations, I have been alive 12,496 days. A lot of those days are lost in my neural network.
I can tell you nothing about them.

But I remember that day so well. I had forgotten that it was in October -- or even 1980 for that matter. I had forgotten that they ever made 110 film, although I vaguely remember that camera.

What I do remember is my dad spending the day with me. I remember driving around downtown Kansas City. I remember one-way streets. I remember looking for places to park legally. And I remember my dad telling me stories about when he used to work downtown.

I was 7 years old.

That is a humbling kind of feeling for a parent. I happen to have a 7-year-old. I took her to the Texas Tech football game last weekend. We tailgated with some friends before the game. It was fun spending the time together. But never did I consider the possibility that she might remember that day forever.

I've thought about these pictures from time-to-time. Something small will happen, and it will cause me to think of that day. And I'd wondered where the pictures were. I knew that they were somewhere, as, like me, my father keeps everything.

And then the package arrived unannounced. And the power of visual memory took me down memory lane.

Of course I remember the time with my dad. But I also remember a lot about Kansas City, my home. I've always loved the Liberty Memorial. The top picture was taken from the top looking north. Absent are the two new buildings that are now the trademark of the Kansas City skyline, One Kansas City Place and Town Pavilion.

The bottom picture is looking at the Liberty Memorial from the south. In the upper right portion of the picture, you can see the Hyatt Regency hotel. In this photograph -- and others on the roll of film, you can see that the revolving restaurant is not finished. Given that the Hyatt opened in July 1980, this suggests that it took several months for this roll of film to be processed.

Still, more than 27 years later, I am amazed at the way this day imprinted upon me. Why did this .008 percent of my life make such an impression?

The thing is, you cannot choose which days will imprint upon your children. That is up to them and the idiosyncrasies of human memory. Many times I have heard my dad tell the story of taking his twins (from his first marriage) to see the Kansas City A's. Mickey Mantle hit a home run that day, and dad tried to impress upon the girls the history of the moment to no avail. Years later they do not remember the day.

I suppose that the answer is to simply try to give your kids as many memories as possible. I don't do that enough, although this posting was interrupted for an hour or so as we went to the park to feed the ducks and play on the equipment.

A view of the ducks and geese taken by my 9-year-old moments before the birds mobbed us in a fashion that would have made Hitchcock proud.

Perhaps I will never know what motivated my dad to take me around town that sunny Kansas City day in 1980. I just know that he did.

It's funny how this roll of film is at the intersection of so many childhood memories. That incomplete revolving restaurant, Skies, in the bottom picture became my favorite. It would become a birthday tradition.

Less than a year after these pictures were taken, 114 people died in that Hyatt hotel. It was a Friday night, and we were driving around buying a bunk bed as my 8th birthday present. I can still remember the chilling radio report.

Twenty-three years later, I would return to the Hyatt as a guest. In 2003, the hotel hosted the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Here is a picture of me with colleague James Angelini at that conference.

I always had a love for Downtown Kansas City, even though it never really revitalized during my lifetime. I think that love may have started this 1980 day. I don't know why it happened, but I am glad that it did.

If you're a parent, I hope you take some time with your kids to make a memory that will last a lifetime.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

E-mail: Not Entirely Unlike Heroin

I love e-mail. I loved e-mail when e-mail wasn't cool.

I remember sitting in our house in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1993 with a Compuserve account and no one to e-mail. There were weird things called Jughead and Archie. I was confused and mad. It was like having a car and no roads.

Today there is no such problem. Scads of messages clog my inbox every day, and luckily for today at least, the vast majority of those do not involve male enhancement. I cleaned my inbox yesterday, so I am down to 813 messages.

So I check my e-mail approximately 8,321 times a day. Which I -- of course -- know is insane.

When I go out-of-town, I feel like some sort of drying out smack addict when I cannot check e-mail. Which is, of course, also insane.

Thanks to colleague Dr. Rob Potter, the audio professor, for posting a great audio podcast on this very topic. Well written and eerily close to home.

Time to check my e-mail.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Trust Me, You Will Like Starbucks Coffee

According to an international survey by Nielsen BuzzMetrics, 78% of respondents trust other consumers' personal recommendations for products and services, making it the most trusted form of advertising. The survey also found that 61% trust consumer comments posted online.
Source: International Herald Tribune

(Thanks to my American Advertising Federation SmartBrief)

Labels: ,