Monthly Archives: March 2006

Some theories are more equal than others

There’s a storm brewing on Carl Zimmer’s blog The Loom over an upcoming documentary about a family that walks on ‘all fours’ – which some have claimed is the result of a genetic mutation that causes evolutionary regression. Those with their heads more firmly screwed on suggest that it could result from inherited abnormalities to […]

2006-03-10 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: PBS have an online documentary about anorexia called ‘Dying to be thin‘. PsyBlog discusses how we maintain a sense of identity when we live regulated lives. BBC Radio 4’s science programme Leading Edge discusses Stroke, transcranial magnetic stimulation and aggression. Blogger records the recent […]

Simple ways to make yourself cynical

Why do I have a bad feeling about the upcoming BBC series Get Smarter in a Week? It’s discussed in this article in The Guardian. Is it because it claims that ‘brain exercises’ can make someone ‘40% cleverer’ in a week (whatever that’s supposed to mean), or perhaps because this claim is based on a […]

If only I’d listened to my mother (and W.H.Auden)

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires Or quizzes upon World-Affairs, Nor with compliance Take any test. Thou shalt not sit With statisticians nor commit A social science. – W.H. Auden, ‘Under Which Lyre’ Full text here

Classic R.D. Laing documentary online

Asylum, a 1972 documentary filmed in the therapeutic community established by radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing, is available for download via this bittorrent tracker. Laing wanted to establish a community for helping those who were experiencing mental distress without recourse to the uneven power balances present in mainstream psychiatry, where patients can be forcibly detained or […]

Can science explain religion?

Daniel Dennett‚Äôs been at it again, this time in a juicy online Prospect debate with Richard Swinburne (pictured right), Emeritus Nolloth professor of the Philosophy of the Christian religion at the University of Oxford. In the debate Swinburne suggests science can‚Äôt begin to study religion without first acknowledging that God exists. Dennett argues that religions […]

Women in mind

Today is International Women’s Day, where the achievements of women are celebrated, which seems particularly appropriate in the cognitive sciences as there is a strong tradition of female participation. In fact, the majority of cognitive scientists are women and most males will find themselves outnumbered on psychology and neuroscience courses. This is, perhaps, because there […]

Is ‘theory of mind’ impaired in autism?

The claim that people with autism have an impaired ‘theory of mind‘ (that is, they are supposedly not able to imagine what other people are thinking) is one of the most commonly repeated ‘facts’ about the condition. This typically infuriates people with autism, especially when it gets translated into the more everyday, and, perhaps, even […]

Marketing anxiety

I recently went to a talk by Professor Nikolas Rose where he noted that for ¬£8,000 you can buy a report entitled ‘Anxiety Disorders: More Than Just a Comorbidity‘ from an online business intelligence company. The report will apparently allow you to “assess the size of the drug-treated population”, “target physicians more effectively” and “identify […]

Neurology of headache

BBC Radio 4’s medical programme Check Up just had a special on the most common neurological symptom – headache. Neurologist Professor Peter Goadsby joins the programme to explain the current science and treatments. One particular focus is cluster headaches which are a particularly severe form that are notorious for beginning without warning. As well as […]

A Darwinian tiff

This had me in stitches. Apparently Darwinian philosopher Daniel Dennett (who’s out and about promoting his new book) has fallen out with fellow Darwinian, British-Born philosopher Michael Ruse. Ruse warns against taking evolutionary theory too far, so that it becomes an argument for atheism. Anyway, during the tiff (see here for detail) Dennett emailed Ruse […]

Thinking with a damaged brain

Journalist Floyd Skoot has written an insightful article for Lost Magazine about his experiences of virus-induced brain damage and the curious effects it has had on his speech, movement and mathematical ability. Skoot interlaces personal experience with his wide reading in the cognitive sciences to bring alive the generalities and clinical detachment typically found in […]

the endowment effect & marketing

The endowment effect is that we value more highly what we already have. It’s a variation on the status quo bias that we talk about in Mind Hacks (Hack #74). This cognitive bias is of particular interest to economists, because it has implications for how eonomies work. If it is strongly in effect then people […]

Excellent All in the Mind on epilepsy

Last week’s edition of ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind was an excellent programme on the science, experience and treatment of epilepsy. The programme talks to several neurologists about what causes the curious condition and how it is being treated. Also featured on the programmme is Gail Williams, a 16 year old girl who […]

A quick and miscellaneous list of advertising links

Metafiler: “Why do companies advertise?” Stayfree’s media literacy curriculum Vaughan on does some smackdown on neuromarketing Guardian special report on loyalty cards A brief guide to the concept of ‘priming’ Three from the BPS research digest: When sex doesn’t sell (either because it distracts or provokes negative associations) Experimental confirmation that music affects the […]

Consciousness exists to make itself unnecessary

While we’re thinking about the nature of free conscious choice, this is extremely relevant. John Bargh, in this chapter – Bypassing the Will: Towards Demystifying the Nonconscious Control of Social Behavior [1] – takes evidence from several different subdisciplines and argues that consciousness – that thing which gives us our experience of deliberate control – […]


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