back to article Brain brainiacs figure out what turns folks into El Reg journos, readers

Is your morning coffee half empty? Do you feel it's always darkest before it goes pitch black? Have you ever wondered why you, like each of us here, is such a pessimist – apart from, y'know, the fact everything inevitably goes horribly wrong all the time? Well, now scientists think they may have figured the out answer. …

  1. Spherical Cow

    What happens when an egghead hatches? Whatever it is, I bet it's not good.


  2. Ripper38

    Me ? Pessimist?

    Ok. I just painted my front door black but on the plus side now I can try to finish installing openvpn on linux mint while the paint dries.

    1. elDog

      Re: Me ? Pessimist? - OpenVPN?

      I thought we were all supposed to install something else now.

      Can't remember the cute name. Perhaps Ethereal, no - that's WireShark.

      Oh, Wire-sumthin.... WireGuard -

      I think my PIA OpenVPN vendor is thinking about moving to WireGuard but these things take time, and a reason to do so.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    ""But apparently we are so delicately balanced that just throwing the system off a little bit..

    .. can rapidly change behavior.""

    Sadly, I can believe that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ""But apparently we are so delicately balanced that just throwing the system off a little bit..

      Of course it is not going to stop them interfering with something they know nothing about and making it 10 times worse...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before Snowden / Schrems / Cambridge Analytica

    Pessimists were tinfoil hat wearers. Now, post the events above, Pessimists seem closer to realists... There is an inherit bias anyway is using terms that evoke immediate negative connotations. Behavioral Science is a science like Economics if that's even a science post 2008.

    1. Spherical Cow

      Re: Before Snowden / Schrems / Cambridge Analytica

      Economics is a social science. Social science is different from behavioral science and very very different from what we usually mean by science.

      1. Rich 11

        Re: Before Snowden / Schrems / Cambridge Analytica

        Economics is very different. Different enough to buy itself a pretend Nobel prize just to give itself a hearty slap on the back.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Before Snowden / Schrems / Cambridge Analytica

            Economics, the dismal science.

            It's worth remembering that Carlyle called it that because economic theory undermined his support for slavery. Because of this it gets at least one cheer from me in spite of the idiocies perpetrated by politicians in the name of economic principles.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Before Snowden / Schrems / Cambridge Analytica

            "That's why economists only make accurate predictions about the past."

            And they can't even get that right, most of the time!

  5. johnrobyclayton

    C, C++, C#, C99 shaped nubs?

    Explains a lot.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The glass is half full but it's milk and it's gone off.

    1. Rich 11

      Smell my cheese!

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

        Smell my cheese!

        The risk / reward balance seems a bit out to me I'm afraid

        1. Denarius Silver badge

          yeah, who moved my cheese. Oh thats right, I am cheesed off by default

    2. Uncle Slacky

      Lovely! Milky milky...

  7. Khaptain Silver badge

    Hang on a moment

    "The researchers believe that activating the caudate nucleus drove the animals to focus more on the negative consequences of the reward, and made them more apathetic about the value of the juice.""

    And how do they know that stimulating the caudate nucleus did not make the blast of air more painful, disagreeable, etc...

    The cause and effect seems highly debatable here....I think if I had a choice between having my brain "stimulated" with electric probes might actually put me off a lot of things when the other choice is not to have the brain stimulated....

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Hang on a moment

      Indeed. Remember that the journalist's version isn't the same as the actual scientific paper. In particular, the j-version tends to focus on the paper's context and its plausible conclusions, as well as soundbites from the authors or peers, rather more than all the necessary scientific caveats and details of technique present in the actual work.

      Consider this sentence of the abstract, and in particular its fourth word: "Here, we identified potential sources of such persistent states by microstimulating the striatum of macaques performing a task by which we could quantitatively estimate their subjective pessimistic states using their choices to accept or reject conflicting offers."

  8. Chris G

    More human

    In the interests of accurate research, psychiatrists should experiment on other psychiatrists as they are much closer to real humans than macaque monkies are.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: More human

      Macaques probably don't request high salaries. Surprising that there is not some American Lawyer prepared to defend the annual macaque salary.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Oengus


    Definition of a pessimist: An optimist with experience.

    When people ask me why I am so pessimistic I reply "Simple. It saves time".

    It is Friday afternoon. Almost beer o'clock. The weekend is looking good.

    I wonder if the beer will have any effect on my "caudate nuclei"?

    1. GIRZiM

      Re: Pessimist

      "No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up."

      - Lily Tomlin

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Pessimist

      people ask me why I am so pessimistic I reply "Simple. It saves time".

      It is Friday afternoon. Almost beer o'clock. The weekend is looking good.

      That seems pretty optimistic to me. Shouldn't you be assuming the pub will be shut, or that your other half will have too many jobs lined up?

      Me, I bought barbecue charcoal, even though the forecast is rain. Life's too short to be pessismistic. Or is that too pessimistic an outlook?

      1. Nick Kew

        @Phil O'Sophical

        There's a time and a place for pessimism. A bit of mundane optimism over the immediate weekend is neither here nor there. It's not as if he'll enjoy the shallow pleasures of a beer: it just focuses the mind on ultimate futility.

        1. Semtex451

          Re: @Phil O'Sophical

          Condensed- "It'll soon be Monday"

          Most weekends I miss simply by blinking

  10. The Original Steve


    I have my doubts how accurate or useful this "study" actually is...

    1. Jay Lenovo

      Re: Hmmm

      Science has always had a fascination with electricity on the body. Even, for the longest time, bringing back the dead.

      If you had something in your head constantly buzzing your brain, an additional blast of air in the face might be one straw too many.

      Now, if you shove that wire somewhere else, perhaps you'd be more receptive?

    2. annodomini2

      Re: Hmmm


  11. Giovani Tapini

    And I always thought

    it was simply an excess of alcohol and fried breakfasts that made an El reg Journo...

    Who knew there were other factors at work too!

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
      Thumb Up

      Re: And I always thought

      Mmmm... fried breakfasts....

      Pass the hash browns and streaky bacon, please.

  12. Fading

    A lot of might, may, and possibly...

    Their own research possibly identified the area of the brain that might interfere with risk/reward assessment and have run a experiment that may have shown this for a small group of tortured monkeys.

    Of course this might just be my own pessimistic view - so I'm off for some fermented fruit juice whist having air blown in my face (we all need hobbies).....

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: A lot of might, may, and possibly...

      I hope for your sake that the air is not blown from the rear end of one of the macaques...

  13. SVV

    Maybe, just maybe

    The fact that some of us are pessimistic and cynical has nothing to do with the shape of some brain nodule or other, but simply the fact that we've had to deal with all the fads, nonsense, bullshit and bad management found in the IT industry over the last x years every day in our work?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Maybe, just maybe

      Exactly. We're not pessimists. We're realists. While this study has value to the researchers, in our jobs it's pure BS and almost a job requirement. We, in the trenches of IT, deal daily with the Murphy Law: "if anything can go wrong, it will".

  14. DJV Silver badge

    Keyword: may

    Yep, hard not to be pessimistic with a "May" (thinking she is) in charge of this country...

  15. Chronos

    I need my pessimism

    It's an integral part of what makes me, me. I also need my scepticism, my bullshit detector and my immediate, reflexive and unrelenting response to anyone spouting buzzwords or inviting me to a "meeting," which is mangler-speak for wasting every bugger's time while trying to reassign credit for achievements upwards in the hierarchy of incompetence.

    Quite aside from us being nobody's fools, these qualities allow us to navigate the fog that lays heavy and grey across the rolling, bull-pat littered landscape of this industry. Misanthropy, assumption that everyone is an arse trying to make your life difficult, a healthy aversion to giving anyone money for things that can be done in-house, never being at anyone's mercy for data recovery, being very stingy with permissions, having two-part epoxy for USB ports and having root would also be advantageous in this position.

    1. GIRZiM

      Re: I need my pessimism

      Good list.

      You forgot your LART stick though.

      1. Chronos

        Re: I need my pessimism

        The LART stick, the Etherkiller and the blackmail fileshare are not to be mentioned to HR. Or at all, in fact, just like Fight Club.

  16. Dr. Ellen

    Pessimist? No.

    I am not a pessimist. I am paranoid. My major jobs have required paranoia.

    I ran and helped maintain a large Van de Graaf generator. It had high voltages all over the place. Bad things could happen if those voltages got loose. The machine even gave me electric shocks when I wasn't careful to keep me alert.

    And then I joined the museum world. Let me put it straight: entropy is out to get your stuff. Your job is to find all the ways entropy can get in, and block them.

    As for the glass being half full, or half empty? Forget it. The glass is twice as large as it needs to be to handle the drink.

  17. Chris G

    Here I am, brain the size of a planet, my caudate nuclei are over stimulated, there's a dead rat in my ankle and I'm assigned the job of mucking out monkies........ and they've got curry on the menu for tonight.

  18. Waseem Alkurdi

    Could there be

    a small device that uses electrodes planted "through" the caudate nuclei, with nano-scale electric "shocks" introduced using a Raspberry Pi with a step-down transformer "thinking out loud, dunno if it even makes sense"?

    Such a device could theoretically "induce" pessimism. Useful for the three-letter agencies?

  19. The Nazz

    Upvote for the use of the fabulous Keyword :


    Nowt wrong with using your noggin.

    As in, i'd rather have a puff in the eye at the Opticians than one at the lively pub/bar at the edge of town.

  20. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Stimulates the caudate nucleus

    I have a new way to describe certain people.

  21. Zangetsu

    that glass is half full

  22. Big_Boomer Silver badge


    The glass is neither half full nor half empty, it is at 50% of maximum capacity.

    All these people who spout the glass half full/empty crap are morons who take homeopathic sugar pills and believe that the moon landings were fake. Reality has repeatedly proven your beliefs wrong, but you persist in living in cloud cuckoo land with a gormless grin on your face. If it makes you happy to believe all that crap, then you go for it. If you try and ram it down my throat then you are gonna get exposed to a verbal thrashing that will make your tiny little brain shrivel and hide.

    As for the experiments, if you electrocuted my brain while offering me fruit juice I'd also refuse all fruit juice for the enforceable future. I'd also be plotting your downfall!

  23. Mark Wallace

    My morning coffee is half empty if it's someone else's turn to make a fresh pot.

    If it's my turn, it's half full.

    That's why I rightfully say that my opinion on the half-full/half-empty thing is pragmatic.

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