JULY

7–10 Upon winning a gold medal, most Olympic athletes have identical emotional reactions—tears of joy, passionate hugs and glowing smiles. Psychologist David Matsumoto of San Francisco State University noticed, however, that after the initial rush wears off, athletes exhibit a range of emotional expressions. He attributes this variation to cultural differences. For instance, Americans are more likely to maintain their jubilant demeanor, whereas Japanese athletes will try to cover up their emotions—say, by neutralizing their joy with a straight face. At the 20th Congress of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, Matsumoto, who is the keynote speaker, and other presenters will explain how and why expressions of emotion differ among cultures.
Melbourne, Australia
www.iaccp2010.com

28 A devastating earthquake hit Tangshan, China, on this day in 1976, killing more than 242,000 people and disabling 164,000. Thirty-four years later, to the day, Chinese film director Feng Xiaogang is releasing a drama about the event, The Aftershocks, in Imax theaters. The film, adapted from Zhang Ling’s novel Aftershock, centers on the trauma experienced by a seven-year-old girl who survives the incident. The film depicts the girl’s life for 32 years following the quake, as she copes with untreated anxiety and painful flashbacks, suffering from what is probably undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nationwide and China
www.imax.com

AUGUST

24 Join hundreds of cyclists in the 2010 Memory Ride, organized by the Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. By doing so, take charge of your health—ex­ercise can lessen the risk of developing Alz­­heimer’s disease. Moreover, a study published in March by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that people who felt more purpose in life reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. The investigators defined a sense of purpose as a “psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality,” which can arise by increasing a social network, making plans with friends and trying new activities. You might have a chance to do all three at the Memory Ride, which has raised more than $2 million for Alzheimer’s research in its 14-year existence.
Devens, Mass.
www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=332880

30 Recently psychologists have demonstrated that excess worry can weaken the heart muscles [see “Why We Worry,” by Victoria Stern; Scientific American Mind, November/December 2009]. At the 15th World Congress of Psycho­physiology, which spans six days, Ohio State University psychologist Julian Thayer will discuss the neural pathways associated with worry and how they affect cardiovascular health. Conference-goers will also learn about new neuroimaging techniques and explore whether brain scans can accurately detect lies or diagnose brain ailments such as bipolar disorder and seasonal mood disorder.
Budapest, Hungary
www.world-psychophysiology.org/iop2010

SEE, HEAR, TOUCH
Explore your sensory world at museum exhibits on human perception.

Through September 6
How do magicians convince audiences that a metal spoon has turned to rubber? Many familiar tricks exploit shortcuts the brain uses to process information more efficiently. The spoon ploy works because of an anomaly in the visual cortex that causes two sets of neurons to produce different estimates about the spoon’s movement, making it appear to bend. Visitors to Magic: The Science of Wonder, a new show at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, will deconstruct some of the most infamous tricks of greats such as Harry Houdini and Penn & Teller.
Houston
www.magician.org/portal/node/925

Ongoing
In the Hall of Human Origins exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, visitors learn how humans evolved unique characteristics such as storing decades’ worth of in­form­a­tion and creating ­abstract images. The exhib­it houses ancient ­artifacts and fossilized bones dating back 350,000 years and ­explains how our brain development has helped us acquire complex abilities.
Washington, D.C.
http://humanorigins.si.edu

Which one of these yellow lines is longer? If you’re familiar with this illusion, you’ll know that the lines are the same length. Even so it may be hard to override your impression that the “railroad tracks” are receding into the distance—suggesting that the upper line is farther away and, therefore, must be bigger. This optical trick demonstrates that the brain judges (or misjudges) an object’s size based on its context. At Seeing Is Deceiving, an exhibit at the Museum of Science, visitors can delve into the cognitive principles that underlie such tricks.
Boston
www.mos.org