Letters to the Editors, March/April 2010

Letters to the editor about the November/December 2009 issue of Scientific American MIND

RegardingRational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking That IQ Tests Miss,” by Keith E. Stanovich: I have been teaching at the college level for more than a dozen years, and I’ve often wondered why some of my best and brightest students utterly fail in certain tasks that less “intellectual” students are able to excel in.

Thank you for the introduction to “dysrationalia,” a phenomenon that seems to explain a lot. I look forward to more insightful articles like this one in your pages.
Ryan G. Van Cleave
Sarasota, Fla.

Dysrationalia! Finally, there is a diagnostic term to describe the all too prevalent affliction that we commonly refer to as “lack of common sense.”
Debra Grob
Belmar, N.J.

Most of the research on decision making and cognition in general has essentially shown that we are not rational decision makers. The best option, therefore, is to work on honing our gut instinct to increase the probability that the outcome of a choice will be rational.

Business psychologist Robin Ho­garth summarizes this counterintuitive idea in Educating Intuition (University of Chicago Press, 2001).
adapted from a comment at

In regards toLove the One You’re With,” by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, my mother could have saved you a lot of ink. Back in the 1960s when I was a teenager, she often told me, “Who you love depends on who’s around.”
adapted from a comment at

I found Why We Worry,” by Victoria Stern, to be interesting and well written. The article hit home with me because I suffered from that kind of extreme anxiety when I was six years old and my grandmother died. No one would tell me she was dead—they just kept saying she “passed away.”

This led me to believe my mother would “pass” and be gone forever. I took to following her everywhere, including hiding under the couch when I was supposed to be in bed. I ended up on phenobarbital for several months, supposedly to help me get over my night terrors—at the age of six!

I am heartened to see that serious and productive research continues to be done for those who suffer from a disorder that can be crippling. Kudos!
adapted from a comment at

Thank you for “Dangerous Liaisons,” by Ophelia Austin-Small. A childhood friend of mine recently became an unbearable drama queen. I now believe her behavior is actually a symptom of postpartum depression, but simply knowing the cause does not help me deal with her. This article’s tips were very enlightening. Thanks again!
adapted from a comment at

ConcerningThe Color of Sin,” by Wray Herbert [We’re Only Human], I believe the association between morality and whiteness (and evil and blackness) is as clear as night and day. Night is a time when human beings’ main survival sense—vision—is weakened or nullified. Other animals with a better sense of smell or hearing have the advantage.

This article was originally published with the title "November/December 2009 Issue."

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