Monthly Archives: December 2009

The addiction affliction

Slate has just published an article I’ve written on the over-selling of addiction. It discusses how difficulties with doing some things to excess – shopping, sex, internet use – are being increasingly described as addictions due to a perfect storm of pop medicine, pseudo-neuroscience, and misplaced sympathy for the miserable. Like a compulsive crack user […]

The stress of ancient Peru

An ingenious technique, just published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, was used to look at patterns of stress in their lives of long-dead people from Peru, some who lived more than a thousand years ago. The study analysed strands of hair from bodies dug up from five archaeological sites for traces of the hormone […]

2009-12-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times reports that antipsychotics are more likely to be prescribed to children from poorer families in the US. There’s an excellent piece on Tiger Woods, the media, and the selling of sex addiction over at Dr Petra. Time magazine reports on […]

Patricia Churchland on neuroscience

The BBC World Service recently hosted a discussion with philosopher Patricia Churchland, one of the pioneers of a type of philosophy of mind that directly engages with ongoing discoveries in cognitive and neuroscience. The discussion starts of with the inevitable recap of Cartesian dualism, where mind and brain were thought to be completely separate entities, […]

The ancient mind was planning earlier than thought

Science News covers a fascinating new archaeological study that mapped the the remains of an 750,000 year-old settlement lived in by the ancestors of the human race and found evidence for tasks being organised in different areas, suggesting a degree of intelligence and problem solving that was not thought to have arisen until much later […]

Travelling at the speed of thought

Discover Magazine has an excellent Carl Zimmer piece discussing efforts to understand the speed of the human nerves – a quest that has lasted for well over one hundred years. Although our experience of the world seems instantaneous, different nerves in the body work at different speeds and, of course, cover different distances – to […]

On the soul of robots

New Scientist has an interesting article discussing research on how we attribute personality traits to robots. This is not just the human-like android from research labs, it’s the robots that are already in widespread use in the workplace and home like the floor-cleaning Roomba. This is a fantastic snippet about a study on the commercially […]

Understanding witchcraft

YouTube has a fantastic documentary about the work of the pioneering anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard who was one of the first researchers to try and understanding the psychology of people he was studying. He is most well known for his 1937 book Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande where he studied the role of […]

The psychiatric bible: the state of play

New Scientist has a good piece which outlines the current state of play in the contentious and recently delayed revision of the forthcoming psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM 5. If you’ve been following the bad-tempered tussling among the psychiatric community over the re-writing of the manual, you probably won’t find much new in the main […]

A great write-up of Project HM

Neurophilosophy has an excellent write-up of Project HM, the ongoing mission to thinly slice and digitise the brain of Henry Molaison, famous as amnesic Patient HM, who died last year. Molaison was only one of a very few patients who had a radical operation that removed inner sections of both temporal lobes to cure otherwise […]

Ad Nauseum

I am reading Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture, edited by Carrie McLaren and Jason Torchinsky. The book is a funny, smart and sometimes shocking collection of articles from Stay Free Magazine and blog. I first came across Stay Free when I was researching the psychology of advertising and was impressed by […]

Psychology in the New York Times Year in Ideas

I really recommend the 2009 Year in Ideas review from The New York Times as it is packed full of developments in the world of psychology and social science. If you’re a regular Mind Hacks reader you’ll recognise some of the ideas from experiments and studies we’ve covered during 2009, but there are many more […]

2009-12-11 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" New Scientist has an excellent piece on homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom. Action video games “induce a general speeding of perceptual reaction times without decreases in accuracy of performance” according to a scientific review article in Current Directions in […]

Fan violence: take a swing when you’re winning

Popular sporting occasions have long been associated with violence and it was long assumed that assaults were more likely to be initiated by losing fans taking out their frustration. This has been contradicted by recent research that suggests it is fans of the winning team whom are more likely to be violent. These studies are […]

Publication of new DSM diagnostic manual put back

The American Psychiatric Association has announced that it has put back the publication of the forthcoming ‘DSM 5’ revision of the influential diagnostic manual of mental disorders back one year to May 2013. The press release, available online as a pdf, notes: ‚ÄúExtending the timeline will allow more time for public review, field trials and […]

Mystery shoppers for mental hospitals

The New York Times has an article on an interesting scheme by a Dutch hospital where three ‘mystery shopper’ psychiatric nurses were admitted onto the psychiatric ward pretending to be patients in an attempt to evaluate the care. The article mentions a similarly to the famous experiment where psychologist David Rosenhan asked several volunteers to […]


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