Monthly Archives: December 2009

Can’t get you out of my head

Sometimes songs get ‘stuck in our head’. In German, this experience is known as having an ‘earworm‘ and a new study shortly to be published in the British Journal of Psychology surveyed the typical features of this common phenomenon. What particularly struck me was that “the length of both the earworm and the earworm experience […]

The persuasive power of false confessions

The APS Observer magazine has a fantastic article on the power of false confessions to warp our perception of other evidence in a criminal case to the point where expert witnesses will change their judgements of unrelated evidence to make it fit the false admission of guilt. We tend to think that no-one would confess […]

John Nash, A Beautiful Mind, interviewed

There’s a video interview with Nobel prize winning mathematician John Nash, the subject of the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, over at 3QuarksDaily where he talks about his life, work and mental illness. The film is a quite heavily fictionalised account of Nash’s life and he clearly has some disagreements with Sylvia Nasar’s award winning […]

Optimal starting prices for negotiations and auctions

An article in the latest edition of Current Directions in Psychological Science reviews studies on the best starting points to increase the final price in either negotiations or auctions. In general, start high in negotiations, start low in auctions. It turns out that negotiations, where several parties are invited to discuss a price, and auctions, […]

Does squinting really improve vision?

Science radio show Quirks and Quarks had a fascinating segment on its most recent programme asking whether squinting really does help you see more clearly. It turns out, it does. The programme talks to ophthalmologist Stephanie Baxter from Queen’s University in Kingston who notes that squinting focuses the incoming light onto the fovea – a […]

Possibly your average punter on sport talk radio

I’ve just been reading a fascinating study on ‘dysfunctional’ sports fans who over-identify themselves with their team and become abusive and confrontational during matches. There was one incidental finding which was only based on a small sample but has the potential to explain a great deal about radio phone-ins: dysfunctional fans were overwhelmingly more likely […]

Encephalon 79 ends the year

The 79th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just been published online with this edition appearing on the mighty Mouse Trap blog. A couple of my favourites include coverage of a fascinating experiment on Neuronarrative that managed to induce false memories of completing certain actions and another on the recent badly […]

Psychopath junior

The Onion has a satirical piece on how a funny but fictional study has found high numbers of psychopaths among the nation’s children who have “little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures”. Mateo added that even when subjects were directly confronted with the consequences of their inexplicable behavior, they had […]

More on hallucinated voices in deaf people

After a post we featured earlier this year on whether deaf people can hear hallucinated voices, I was sent an amazing study that attempted to distil the variety of ‘hearing voices’ experiences in deaf people. It was published in the journal Cognitive Neuropsychiatry in 2007 (there’s a full text copy available online as a pdf) […]

Clown therapy: trick or treat

If you’re wondering how effective your average clown is, wonder no more. I’ve found a randomised controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of clowns in treating children’s anxiety before an operation, in comparison to midazolam, an anti-anxiety drug. It turned out, clowns worked the best, but wow, doesn’t the study summary read weirdly. Clowns for […]

2009-12-04 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Seed Magazine has a video discussion between linguist Noam Chomsky and sociologist Robert Trivers on the use of language in deception. Predictably political in places. Great piece from Not Exactly Rocket Science on a study showing that believers tend […]

President Trips

Two different types of Barack Obama themed drugs have appeared on US streets. BoingBoing notes that an LSD blotter with the President’s image on it has been found in the wild, while Drug Monkey covers a US Drug Enforcement Administration bulletin reporting Obama shaped ecstasy tablets. There’s probably some witty political joke to be made […]

Head shaking competition

I’ve just found a short case study in the British Journal of Neurosurgery of a 12-year-old boy who suffered a bleed in the brain after taking part in a ‘head shaking competition’. Somewhat curiously, the case study notes that he won, and reports his winning time. The patient was a 12-year-old, developmentally normal, healthy boy […]

Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth

One of the most regularly recited pieces of popular neuroscience is that women are more likely to use both hemispheres of the brain to process language while men tend only to use one. It turns out, this is a myth – it is simply not supported by the current evidence. In 2008, a meta-analysis study […]

Suicidal Tendencies or Kid Rock

The latest edition of The Psychologist is a special issue on the psychology of music and it has a great article on how music has a social influence. One particularly interesting paragraph deals with link between rock music, suicide and self-harm. There is indeed some evidence that preference for certain types of music is linked […]

Traffic accidents as social interactions gone bad

I’ve just read a fascinating study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention (yes ladies, I got it going on) that looked at which characteristics predicted the number of traffic deaths in particular American states. The single biggest predictor was not statewide alcohol problems, safety belt use, number of older drivers or wealth, but the murder […]


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