L.A. Times Shines Spotlight on HSS

Caltech's core curriculum is designed to prepare students for the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary research in science and technology and requires that they complete what amounts to a class each quarter in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). The Los Angeles Times recently focused the spotlight on this aspect of the Caltech experience, featuring several of the division's students. 

The Path Less Traveled

Growing up, Katie Brennan didn't have a lot of opportunities to travel. So when she started her biology studies at Caltech, one of her main goals was to explore the world. Thanks to a plenitude of funding from the Institute, Brennan—a graduating senior—can now cross two more continents and the mountains of Washington State off her list. 

Hands-On Research

A nuzzle of the neck, a stroke of the wrist, a brush of the knee—these caresses often signal a loving touch, but can also feel highly aversive, depending on who is delivering the touch, and to whom. Interested in how the brain makes connections between touch and emotion, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the association begins in the brain's primary somatosensory cortex, a region that, until now, was thought only to respond to basic touch, not to its emotional quality.

Caltech Research Shows Medicare Auction Will Face Severe Difficulties

Medicare's new method for buying medical supplies and equipment—everything from wheelchairs and hospital beds to insulin shots and oxygen tanks—is doomed to face severe difficulties, according to a new study by Caltech researchers.

Why Do People Choke When the Stakes Are High?

In sports, on a game show, or just on the job, what causes people to choke when the stakes are high? A new study by researchers at Caltech suggests that when there are high financial incentives to succeed, people can become so afraid of losing their potentially lucrative reward that their performance suffers.

Notes from the Back Row: "What Parents Want—Evidence from Child Adoption"

What do parents want—aside from kids who come home on time and never talk with their mouths full—and why is an economist trying to answer that question? Because, at its heart, economics is all about the process of making choices. 

Inside the Brains of Jurors

When jurors consider shortening the prison sentences of convicted criminals, they use parts of the brain associated with sympathy and making moral judgments, according to new work by Caltech neuroeconomist Colin Camerer and colleagues. They found that the most lenient jurors show heightened levels of activity in a brain region associated with discomfort, pain, and imagining the pain that others feel.

Modeling Markets

Chris Shannon, the Richard Merkin Professor of Economics and Mathematics, is one of Caltech's newest faculty members. Her research involves developing mathematical models to understand financial markets and other mechanisms that allocate goods, such as auctions.

Katz Named Caltech's Inaugural Kay Sugahara Professor

Jonathan N. Katz, chair of the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, has been named the Kay Sugahara Professor of Social Sciences and Statistics. The Sugahara family endowed the new professorial chair with a $2 million gift in honor of the late Kay Sugahara.

Neuroscientists Find That Status within Groups Can Affect IQ

Our cognitive abilities and decision-making skills can be dramatically hindered in social settings where we feel that we are being ranked or assigned a status level, such as classrooms and work environments, according to new findings from a team of researchers from Caltech and four other institutions. The finding flies in the face of long-held ideas about intelligence and cognition that regard IQ as a stable, predictive measure of mental horsepower. 

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