The Biology of Risk

But the process of making monetary policy more transparent was in fact begun by Alan Greenspan back in the early 1990s. Before that time the Fed, especially under Paul A. Volcker, operated in secrecy. Fed chairmen did not announce rate changes, and they felt no need to explain themselves, leaving Wall Street highly uncertain about what was coming next. Furthermore, changes in interest rates were highly volatile: When Mr. Volcker raised rates, he might first raise them, cut them a few weeks later, and then raise again, so the tightening proceeded in a zigzag. Traders were put on edge, vigilant, never complacent about their positions so long as Mr. Volcker lurked in the shadows. Street wisdom has it that you don’t fight the Fed, and no one tangled with that bruiser.

.. I suspect the trends in fed funds and stocks were related. As uncertainty in fed funds declined, one of the most powerful brakes on excessive risk taking in stocks was released.

.. There are times when the Fed does need to calm the markets. After the credit crisis, it did just that. But when the economy and market are strong, as they were during the dot-com and housing bubbles, what, pray tell, is the point of calming the markets? Of raising rates in a predictable fashion? If you think the markets are complacent, then unnerve them.

Would You Want Therapy From a Computerized Psychologist?

Morency and his team have been demonstrating Ellie and her fellow virtual-psychologists in Los Angeles, to people curious about what it’s like to be analyzed by an avatar. So far, more than 500 people have talked to her. And—here’s the surprising thing—they seem to enjoy the experience. The set time for each demo was initially 15 minutes; Morency says people kept extending their time with Ellie, however—up to 30 minutes. That’s because, Morency figures, “they don’t feel judged” by her.


Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits

Cognitive control increases from about 4 to 12 years old, then plateaus, said Betty J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Teenagers find it difficult to suppress their impulses, as any parent knows.

But impulsivity peaks around age 16, Dr. Casey noted, and in their 20s most people achieve adult levels of cognitive control. Among healthy adults, it begins to wane noticeably in the 70s or 80s, often manifesting as an inability to remember names or words, because of distractions that the mind once would have suppressed