Wanting to believe? I do not follow the logic of stock markets as they go through their daily gyrations. Every time there is a glimmer of hope that the European financial problems might be solved the index goes racing up. Then within days when false hope is declared it goes crashing down again. No rhyme or reason that I can fathom, more like an enormous game of pass the parcel being played by sets of computers.

The embarrassing memory loss. As someone now at the age where senior’s moments are not unknown I winced when watching those video clips of Texas Governor Rick Perry forgetting the name of the third government department he was promising to abolish if and when he became President of the United States. If you don’t mind wincing – or even giggling – at someone else’s discomfort you will find the clip on The Stump website.

The consensus view of most commentators this morning is that the embarrassing moment has ruined Governor Perry’s chances of winning the Republican nomination. Psychologists and neurologists were kinder with those spoken to by the BBC saying that “Mr Perry’s flub was a fairly typical reaction to stress. It illustrates the potential failures of memory in high pressure situations.”

“Once he missed naming the department of energy the first time, the stress of that event strongly impaired the neural mechanisms of memory retrieval,” says John Guzowski, a professor neurobiology at the University of California at Irvine.

“There is a fine line between the amount of stress that is good for memory and that which is bad for memory.”

The human mind has a limited amount of cognitive horsepower, and in stressful situations, other thoughts compete for the use of those resources, memory and cognition researchers say.

Mr Perry may have been keenly monitoring his own performance, for instance, and during the several painful seconds of the encounter he became terrifyingly aware he was making an error.

In Mr Perry’s case, he was searching his brain for the third government agency but other thought processes intruded, says Sian Beilock, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, who studies the interplay between cognition and stress.

“He’s worrying about screwing up, and that takes away from important resources that otherwise he could use to search his memory,” she says.

Romney clearly the leader. The Crikey Republican Nomination Election Indicator is not having any of that understanding business. It has now relegated Governor Perry to an outsider’s position.

The Indicator on the next federal election in Australia, incidentally, has continued this week to show an improvement in Labor’s chances – now put at nearly 29% which is six points higher than a fortnight ago.

Election of the week. In Tar Heel, Bladen County, North Carolina, USA the returning officer for the council elections has no worry from scrutineers sent along by candidates. There were no candidates for mayor and three councillors.

The search is now on to see if any of the people whose names were written onto the blank ballot papers actually lives in the North Carolina town and if they do whether any of them will accept  the votes cast for them.

Peter Fray

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