Tania Lombrozo

A few years ago, I received an early career award at the annual meeting of a professional society.

Before the awards ceremony, the other recipients and I were herded together, placed in adjacent seats, and told to wait for the event to begin. The five or six of us had a lot in common. Though we worked in different areas of psychology, we were at similar career stages and had overlapping interests.

But we didn't spend our time together talking about science or ideas — the work that had won us the awards we were there to receive. What we talked about was childcare.

Consider two very different views about the human mind.

In the first view, people are like scientists. They go about the world gathering data, constructing theories and using those theories to guide their interactions with the world. As new evidence comes in, they revise their beliefs accordingly.

A 2014 Harris Poll found that U.S. adults rate being a scientist among the most prestigious occupations, topped only by doctors, military officers and firefighters.

When it comes to babies, people don't always think clearly. I don't mean that they erupt into baby talk and make funny faces, though that can happen, too. It's more that babies elicit a strong set of cultural assumptions and values that can influence our thinking, for better and for worse.

Last month, I wrote a review of Eileen Pollack's The Only Woman in the Room, a memoir about Pollack's experiences as a physics major at Yale in the 1970s.

I faint once every 10 years.

The first time, I was 16 standing in the sun early one morning. I thought I was going to pass out and immediately told my mother, who caught me as I fell.

The second time, I was in my late 20s. I was on vacation, up early for the views one hot morning. I thought I was going to pass out and stepped toward my husband, who caught me as I fell.

The presidential primaries are a great opportunity to test your skills in political prediction. Who will win which states, and by what margin? And if your predictions aren't all that good, how can you do better?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how to make better predictions in domains both big (world politics) and small (your breakfast), drawing on recent work in psychological science. Today, I'm going to revisit this question from a new angle.

We constantly make predictions about the unknown, at scales both large and small.

Which presidential candidates will win each party's nomination? Which stocks will go up in the next six months — and which down? Should I have a second child? Will I really enjoy the chocolate chip pancakes most, or should I order the pumpkin waffles instead?

As a physics major at Yale in the 1970s, Eileen Pollack learned about gravitation and quantum mechanics and ballistics. She also learned what it's like to be The Only Woman in the Room, the title of her new book, published by Beacon Press last September.

Voters and legislators are constantly confronted with decisions that would benefit from some understanding of the relevant science:

Is cap and trade a good approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions? Evaluating the pros and cons requires some understanding of economics and environmental science. Are standardized tests a good way to measure student learning? An informed answer requires some understanding of education and human psychology.

A friend from high school recently sent me this hilarious and heartbreaking video of twin baby girls fighting over a pacifier:

Suppose you're a 45-year-old woman living in the U.S. You have no history of breast cancer, nor worrisome symptoms. Should you have a mammogram?

What do the United States, Suriname, Papua New Guinea and Tonga have in common?

This weekend, Facebook's "Memories" reminded me of a post from Jan. 2, 2009: "Tania Lombrozo is generating New Year's resolutions...that look a lot like last year's."

I could, unfortunately, post the same again today. In fact, one of my resolutions for 2015 — to be smart about my smartphone — was shared here last year on 13.7, and I can report pretty imperfect success.

What makes for a truly merry Christmas? Is your time better spent picking perfect, personalized gifts and decorating your home, or enjoying holiday cheer with family and friends?

Confusion gets a bad rap.

A textbook that confuses its readers sounds like a bad textbook. Teachers who confuse their students sound like bad teachers.

But research suggests that some of the time, confusion can actually be a good thing — an important step toward learning.

Consider the following two statements:

"We are not an emergent property of a mechanical universe but the seasonal activity of a living cosmos."

"Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty."

Which is more profound?

Representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in France today to discuss climate change — and for good reason.

To quote President Obama's State of the Union Address from earlier this year: "No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change."

On Thursday, families across America will participate in a yearly ritual around the Thanksgiving table: expressing their gratitude. Some will be grateful for friends and family, others for health or material well-being, for safety, the natural world or the meal before them.

But what does gratitude look like in 2015, with Thanksgiving coming on the heels of significant loss of life in terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris and beyond? With Syrian families fleeing a bloody civil war? With international news that's anything but reassuring?

At last Tuesday's Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio advocated for vocational training, stating: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers."

At a press conference last Friday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson responded to allegations that he lied about various aspects of his past, including whether he received a scholarship to West Point (apparently he never applied) and whether he was violent in his youth. In turn, Carson exhorted the media not to lie in its coverage of him.

An article in The Guardian earlier this year declared: "A war is being waged within the cloistered world of academia." It pressed on, stating that "currently fixed in the crosshairs are the disciplines of the humanities."

Childhood is a time for pretend play, imaginary friends and fantastical creatures. Flying ponies reliably beat documentaries with the preschool set.

Yet adults are no strangers to fiction. We love movies and novels, poems and plays. We also love television, even when it isn't preceded by "reality."

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department Health and Human Services convene an advisory committee to develop dietary guidelines based on the latest scientific and medical research. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines won't be released until later this year, but they're already generating debate.

When discussing the Oregon shooting at Umpqua Community College last week, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush explained that "stuff happens," suggesting that such events can't be prevented and, by implication, that legislators — and gun control laws — are not responsible.

I forgot to schedule a haircut last week. I regularly forget my usernames and passwords. I've forgotten anniversaries, birthdays and promises.

If these confessions sound familiar, it's because we forget all the time. And when we notice we've forgotten, it usually means the thing we forgot was important. Forgetting in these cases is a failing and we naturally wish our memories were more complete. It's no wonder, then, that forgetting has a bad rap.

The scene at last week's debate of Republican presidential candidates was a familiar one: one woman, 10 men.

The results of a new poll, released last week by the Pew Research Center, suggest that the American public's scientific literacy is — to use a technical term — so-so.

The killings of two journalists in Virginia last week have reignited a national conversation on mass shootings and gun control.

No one wants dangerous people with dangerous guns, but different parties point in different directions when it comes to laying the blame for gun violence or proposing appropriate policies moving forward.

Pages