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Radiolab on Morning Edition

Friday, January 22, 2010 - 06:31 PM

Every once in a while, Radiolab has been waking up early and dropping by NPR's Morning Edition. This Tuesday, January 26th, Jad and Robert are going to be on the air talking about memory, the magic number seven, and a little experiment we like to call "Fruit or Cake" that we learned about from Baba Shiv and featured in our Choice episode.

If you missed it on air, you can listen to the story online HERE.


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Comments [8]

Steven G

I had the exact same thought that James did. If I were trying to memorize a bunch of numbers, I would have chosen a simple cake over the complex fruit salad. It would have nothing to do with the calorie content. Try the experiment again with a plate of different cookies vs a single apple.

Jan. 30 2010 03:54 PM
Skip Mendler

There's an interesting implication to your story, one that you might want to look into more deeply at some point. Capitalism, theoretically, only works if economic actors (eg consumers) are making *rational* and fully-informed decisions. Your story illustrates how easy it is to make people take actions that are not necessarily in their own best interest. I would submit this as a factor in establishing the ultimate unsustainability of capitalist economic systems...

Jan. 27 2010 10:46 AM

I was listening to your piece as I drove to work this morning. We had recently moved to a new home, but I have made the trip 5 times a week for the last two months. Today was the first time that I missed a turn. Are the same forces at work?

Jan. 26 2010 02:04 PM

great piece, very interesting (as always). thanks! i definitely hope to hear more from radiolab in the morning, especially since it's only run on the HD channel in my area now.

on a tangential note--while i was listening this morning, i was thinking about what my answer to the snack profferer would have been. i'm vegan, so i can rarely eat regular cake. i'd have chosen the fruit, or said no thanks. i'm curious to know if there might have been anyone in the study group who may have had similar issues (gluten intolerance, etc.) and thus skewed the results a little. or was the result dramatic enough that even a few funny food people like me wouldn't have had any effect?

(also couldn't help but think of eddie izzard's "tea and cake or death?" bit. hehehe.)

Jan. 26 2010 11:14 AM
Amy Martin

Hi guys,

I love Radiolab!

This morning's story about the 7 numbers and the cake -- fascinating. I'm so glad I heard it, and look forward to putting some of this information to use in the development of my own creativity.

I did notice, though, that early into the story the terms changed from conscious/unconscious mind to rational/emotional mind. That feels a bit sloppy to me. My understanding of our brains (admittedly based on personal experience, primarily, but I believe backed up by research) is that the dichotomy between emotion and rational thought is largely a false one. Emotion in its many neuro-chemical forms soaks our brain and bodies, does it not, and can be used as valuable information to our logic-centers just as easily as it can confuse us?

More to the point: the conscious mind is capable of a wide spectrum of emotional and rational experience -- as is the unconscious mind. So using, "emotion" as a short-hand for "unconscious," and "rational" as a short-hand for "conscious" is inaccurate. Do you agree?

Thanks for firing up my synapses this morning,


Jan. 26 2010 11:05 AM
James Reynolds

I have another explanation - the first that occurred to me. Fruit salad is composed of many kinds of fruit. Chocolate cake is one thing. If I am walking down the hall rehearsing my number and am presented with two visuals: a single thing and a multitude of things; I am going to pick the easier of the two so I can get back to my rehearsing. People are motivated to "pass the test." When we look at things we count. Pineapple, cherries, oranges, grapefruit. Repeat the test with a single piece of cake and a single piece of fruit and see if you get the same answer.

Jan. 26 2010 10:50 AM

Just heard it. Awesome! I knew it was coming when I heard the host say "coming up next, how stress can influence the decision-making processes in our brains." I kind of thought "meh. Radiolab already touched on that issue with that fruit-or-cake experiement in one of their shows.... oh wait... that's EXACTLY what they're about to play." Very neat to hear RadioLab as I was driving in to work. :)

Jan. 26 2010 10:19 AM
Douglas Johnston

Advocates of Science in public decision-making have another realm of science to employ. Along with efforts to increase the use of science knowledge and science processes by public officials, the lucky number seven now reminds us a special role for cognitive science and its marketing handmaiden. Cognitive science can show the limits of legislative reasoning and in doing so reveal means to keep our lawmakers from offering the public too much chocolate cake. Any concrete ideas about how to use this podcast with your city council or state legislature?

Jan. 26 2010 10:15 AM

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