Monthly Archives: December 2008

Humour as social bargaining

3QuarksDaily has an interesting piece on the psychology of humour and how it is used to negotiate and establish social hierarchies. The article looks at two theories of humour that try understand what makes something funny. A common explanation is the ‘incongruity’ idea, that suggests when something is suddenly out of context it is more […]

Neuropod on HM, brain banking and 2008 highlights

The latest Nature Neuropod podcast has just hit the wires and as is fitting for the December edition it contains a great roundup of the year’s neuroscience highlights. There’s also a tribute to recently departed HM from neuropsychologist Susan Corkin, a visit to the UCL brain bank (check the wonderfully appropriate Hammer Horror German accent) […]

Out of sight but not out of mind

Not Exactly Rocket Science discusses the case of a man who experiences the world as a blind man, but who is able to navigate through rooms despite having no conscious visual experience. TN was a doctor before two successive strokes destroyed his ability to see. The first one severely damaged the occipital lobe on the […]

Encephalon 61 jingles in

The 61st edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just made a seasonal entrance and has some quality holiday reading from the last fortnights mind and brain blogging. A couple of my favourites include Cognitive Daily’s post on an interesting visual imagery experiment that addresses whether it is sexist to think men […]

Triggering the dreamy state

The great British neurologist John Hughlings-Jackson famously described the ‘dreamy state’ reported by some epileptic patients during seizures where they experienced complex hallucinations – sometimes of scenes and faces, feelings of false familiarity and a feeling of ‘weirdness’ or ‘strangeness’. A study published last year in neurology journal Brain re-examined these experiences by deliberately triggering […]

Understanding the world through perception

ABC Radio National’s excellent The Philosopher’s Zone recently broadcast a great programme on one of the most influential philosophers in cognitive science – the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The first part of the programme deals with a broad overview of his life and ideas while the second section discusses his most famous work where analysed […]

First they came for the children

Brian the Brain is a wise-cracking interactive AI toy that talks, plays songs, makes calls, answers general knowledge questions, helps the kids with their homework and plays games. In other words, it’s an AI-powered baby sitter. Billed as the world’s first digital room-mate, it has a slick promotional video that belies its function as propaganda […]

Dreams and the Fear of the Dead

Neuroanthropology has an excellent piece riffing on my recent article on grief hallucinations where I wondered about cultural differences in re-experiencing the dead. The post discusses work by the evocatively-named anthropologist Donald Tuzin who studied the Ilahita Arapesh of northeastern Papua New Guinea and how they mesh their beliefs and practices of death and afterlife […]

2008-12-19 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The visually unappealing but fascinating Culture and Cognition blog has a fantastic piece on new research showing it’s possible to predict hot topics before they become hot, based on an analysis of YouTube videos. Cognitive dissonance in action: Scientific American reports on a study […]

Between a rock and a hard bass

The British Medical Journal has just published one of the greatest and funniest research articles ever to grace the pages of the medical literature with a paper on the potential neurological consequences of headbanging to heavy metal. As someone who once caused himself concussion and several hours of puking from head banging to Metallica at […]

Exploring the extended mind

The Philosopher’s Magazine has an interesting interview with David Chalmers on the extended mind hypothesis – the idea that the mind exists not only in ourselves but is extended out to the technology we use. However, the technology does not have to be computers and digital technology, something as simply as a notebook is enough: […]

The brand new book of human troubles

With three years still left until publication, the fights over the new version of the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, are hotting up and The New York Times has a concise article that covers most of the main point of contention. ‚ÄúWhat you have in the end,‚Äù Mr. Shorter said, ‚Äúis this process of sorting […]

You have 12 months to comply

If you’re waiting for the singularity, you may want a way to tick off the days until the ultimate destiny of the technohuman, or the imminent destruction of the world by AI killing machines, depending on your point of view. If you’re more persuaded by the second scenario, wouldn’t it be great to have a […]

Excessive and highly structured daydreaming

An article in press for Consciousness and Cognition reports the case of a 36 year-old woman with a long history of excessive daydreaming where she’d spent long periods of time wrapped up in a fantasy world. Importantly, the patient has no significant signs of mental illness and can easily distinguish fantasy from reality but just […]

Cajal on my shirt

For reasons that escape me, most student psychology and neuroscience t-shirts are pretty dreadful, but this one’s actually had some thought put into it and looks pretty cool. It’s an antidote to the ‘neuroscientists do it on impulse’ or ‘yes I’m analyzing you’ shirts that seem to be the staple of university associations. It’s from […]

Robert Zajonc has left the building

The New York Times has an obituary to psychologist Robert Zajonc, who made some of the most significant discoveries in cognitive science. What I didn’t know is that he’d also been bombed, captured by the Nazi’s, made his escape, joined the French resistance and acted as a translator for the Allied forces during the War. […]


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