Monthly Archives: August 2007

How shops use scent to encourage big spending

New Scientist has just made a popular article freely available online that focuses on how shops use scent to alter our buying behaviour. The article looks at ‘scent marketing‘ – the practice of selecting an in-shop scent to encourage spending on a particular product line. In one recent study, accepted for publication in the Journal […]

Frith free will froth

The letters page of this week’s New Scientist contains a lively debate about the neuroscience of free will, inspired by neuropsychologist Chris Frith’s recent article on the topic. Frith’s article (sadly, closed-access) was discussing a classic experiment in neuroscience that seems to suggest that our brains generate an action before we’re consciously aware of making […]

2007-08-31 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Fantastic article in The Boston Globe on the neuroscience of gambling by Frontal Cortex author Jonah Lehrer. PsyBlog has wonderful post on the neglected area of the psychology of courage. Scientific American reports that ‘perfect pitch‘ – the ability to identify a musical note […]

Is Russia entering another dark age of psychiatry?

Recent Western press reports have indicated that the Russian psychiatric system might be experiencing a return to the ‘bad old days’ when it was used in part to suppress political dissidents. President of the human-rights focused psychiatrists’ organisation the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia (IPA), Dr Yuri Savenko, has kindly agreed to talk to Mind […]

Story time predicts child’s understanding of other minds

The BPS Research Digest has an intriguing post on a study that found that a mother’s use of verbs like ‘think’, ‘know’ and ‘remember’ when reading picture books to their children predicted the child’s later ability to understand other people’s mental states. The researchers recorded mothers reading to their 3-6 year-old children, and tested each […]

Believing and understanding

Nothing is easier than believing we understand experiences we’ve never had. A quote from Gwen Bristow found written on a wall in Covent Garden.

Gender differences in human orgasm

An interesting excerpt from a recent scientific paper entitled “Toward an understanding of the cerebral substrates of woman’s orgasm”, published in the August edition of Neuropsychologia: Since the pioneering research of Kinsey and then of Masters and Johnson, there has been considerable discussion about the differences between female and male orgasm. While orgasms are physiologically […]

Statistical self-defence over at

Readers of might be interested to read my review of the last chapter of Darrell Huff’s classic How To Lie With Statistics, over at my personal blog The last chapter gives Huff’s rules of thumb for interrogating statistics and I’ve provided some slim commentary on the workings of science, reason and whatnot. See […]

Everywhere like such as

I just recorded an interview on psychology and the internet for ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind. Natasha Mitchell was completely charming, the questions informed and on target, but as for me, Miss South Carolina, I know how you feel. Also, I’m off to the British Association of Cognitive Neuroscience conference for a couple […]

Brain scan entrepreneurs

The New York Times has an article on the burgeoning business of commercial fMRI brain scan services – that offer to do everything from detecting lies to managing pain. fMRI is a type of scan that can map levels of oxygen-rich blood across the brain. As brain areas need more oxygen the harder they work, […]

Encephalon 30 sends off Neurofuture

The 30th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just hit the net – as the last ever post on brain blog Neurofuture. Luckily, Neurofuture author Sandra is still going to be writing for Omni Brain, PsychCentral and print publications, so it’s less a departure and more a regrouping. A couple of […]

Girls with autism

The New York Times has an in-depth article on autism in girls, a topic largely neglected in the research literature owing to the fact that males are much more likely to be diagnosed with the condition. It’s only recently that researchers have started to look in earnest into differences between boys and girls with autism. […]

Addicted to food?

Scientific American has an interview with neurobiology of addiction tsar Dr Nora Volkow discussing whether we can understand overeating as a form of addiction. Volkow describes how the reward system, of which the dopamine rich mesolimbic pathway is particularly important, is involved in signalling desire and predicting pleasure. Needless to say, it plays a key […]

Sufficiently advanced madness

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from madness.” Ashley Pomeroy, riffing on Arthur C. Clarke’s third law.

Read this, you sex machine: the birth of PR

I’ve just found a concise piece from NPR radio on Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who used his uncle’s ideas on the unconscious to transform advertising into its current form. Bernays pretty much invented the idea that you can sell products, not by making their practical advantages known, but by associating them with […]

Pink slip, feeling blue

Ben Goldacre over at Bad Science has written a great analysis of a recent study that suggested we have the traditional ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ because of evolutionary differences in colour preference. However, it seems not only are the study’s findings not strong enough to make an evolutionary claim, but that the ‘pink […]


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