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Hot, Cold, or Cool: How self-image and the brain shape our world

An illustration of connections in a human brain.
An illustration of connections in a human brain.
Illustration by Holly Wilder/USC.

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As you lie still under the scanner, your head on the cool surface of the table, the researchers show you a picture of the newest piece of technology - you think it's cool, and your brain lights up hot.

That's just part of the new research from CalTech's Steven Quartz, who studied the connections between the brain, self-image, and their nexus with the world. Our identities and choices are shaped by how our perceptions of the world, and these have profound effects on our happiness. For example, in a New York Times op-ed, Quartz and his co-author Anette Asp discuss how conspicuous consumption and the advent of cool products and technology have raised our happiness, even in a world that has become increasingly economically unequal.

How do you view "cool," and what's "cool" to you?


Steven R. Quartz, Caltech Professor of Philosophy and leader of the Brain, Mind and Society PhD Program at Caltech. Co-author of the new book "COOL: How the Brain's Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World"