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).
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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.”
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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!
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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!
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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.

Darkness, therefore, equals danger.
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Herbert commented briefly on the concept of different races having different reactions to the colors black and white, but he did not mention different cultures. In China, for example, white is the color of death (or mourning) rather than purity. Brides do not wear white there. I wonder if the Chinese—or people from other cultures for whom black and white are not so clearly related to stain and purity—would behave differently on the psychological experiments described in this article.
Suzanne Hillman
via e-mail

Obviously the body’s perception of itself must be plastic, as Frederik Joelving reports in “Evolving Mental Maps” [Head Lines]. If it were not, we would be in dire trouble when as teenagers we undergo a growth spurt.
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Michael Manchester wrote to Ask the Brains to wonder why most of his customers are confused by his instructions to swipe their credit card with the magnetic stripe “toward me.” In the face of repeated failure, can anyone explain why he hasn’t simply changed his instruction to something like “swipe the card with the magnetic stripe facing away from you?” It is my gut feeling that such an instruction would result in far less confusion, which would not only relieve Mr. Manchester’s stress at work but also poke a hole in the “phonological loop” versus “intelligent interpretation of meaning” theory given in your magazine. If, on the other hand, the same customers who fail to intelligently interpret “stripe toward me” also misinterpret “stripe away from you,” the failure rate would not change, and I would be proved incorrect.
Wayne Keyser
Eldersburg, Md.

Why are people proposing a variety of social solutions, such as the store clerk giving the directions differently, to what is simply a technical problem? This issue is simply the result of a design fault in the user interface of the card reader. The card reader should be designed to accept the card in either direction.
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Neuroscientist Terry Sejnowski’s explanation of mental calculations in Ask the Brains got me thinking. A long time ago I noticed that if I watched a movie or television with only one eye I would get more of a sensation of depth than when watching with both eyes. This seemed to make sense to me because I figured that the brain uses many variables to determine depth (including size, occlusion, movement, and so on), but it probably gives priority to stereo vision.

Closing one eye removes stereo vision from the equation, thereby reducing the impact of seeing the flat two-dimensional screen and allowing the other depth cues in the moving images to come to the fore. Try it sometime—especially when there is a scene with a lot of relative movement, such as a swimming school of fish.
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ERRATA “Why We Worry,” by Victoria Stern, incorrectly states that antianxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax inhibit the neurotransmitter GABA. In fact, these drugs increase the activity of GABA, which itself acts as an inhibitor, thereby quelling anxious arousal.

“What Does a Smart Brain Look Like?” by Richard J. Haier, misstated the order of the authors on one paper for the Further Reading. The correct citation is “Brain Imaging Studies of Intelligence and Creativity: What Is the Picture for Education?” by Richard J. Haier and Rex E. Jung, in Roeper Review, Vol. 30, No. 3, pages 171–180; 2008.