Who wants to be a neurillionaire?

Seed Magazine has a fantastic article written by Ogi Ogas, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience who applied techniques from cognitive psychology to win a cool half-million on the show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’

Taking advantage of psychological processes such as priming and the structure of associations in memory, Ogas devised strategies to optimise his chances of winning.

The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar “connectionist” neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest….

I used priming on my $16,000 question: “This past spring, which country first published inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed?” I did not know the answer. But I did know I had a long conversation with my friend Gena about the cartoons. So I chatted with Meredith about Gena. I tried to remember where we discussed the cartoons and the way Gena flutters his hands. As I pictured how he rolls his eyes to express disdain, Gena’s remark popped into my mind: “What else would you expect from Denmark?”

The article is a fascinating insight into both the psychology of quiz shows, and how lab-based cognitive science relates to more pragmatic real-life situations.

Link to Seed Magazine article (thanks Paul and Candace!).

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