New SciAmMind on play, placebo, lies and illusion

The new edition of the excellent Scientific American Mind has just hit the shelves and several of the feature articles are freely available online – covering the psychology of play, some fascinating new research on the placebo effect, the quest to build a brain scan lie detector and several other fantastic reports.

I found the article on the cognitive benefits of free play particularly interesting. In this instance ‘free play’ is where kids are playing without set rules or requirements, as are needed when playing structured games or doing tasks.

The article is full of intriguing studies that indicate the immediate and long-term benefits of imaginative play. Even rough-and-tumble seems to be associated with better social skills:

Play fighting also improves problem solving. According to a paper published by Pellegrini in 1989, the more elementary school boys engaged in rough-housing, the better they scored on a test of social problem solving. During the test, researchers presented kids with five pictures of a child trying to get a toy from a peer and five pictures of a child trying to avoid being reprimanded by his mother. The subjects were then asked to come up with as many possible solutions to each social problem; their score was based on the variety of strategies they mentioned, and children who play-fought regularly tended to score much better.

As well as checking out the latest issue of SciAmMind, you may also want to have a look at a fantastic online gallery they’ve put together which captures numerous visual illusions that have been realised as 3D sculpures, some of epic proportions.

If you want to see some of M.C. Escher’s impossible staircases rendered in lego, or several impressive sculptures that change depending on the light or viewing angle, do have a look.

Link to Feb 2009 SciAmMind with plenty of freely available articles.
Link to visual illusions sculpture gallery.

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