Monthly Archives: February 2010

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Flattery can work it’s magic, even when we know it’s insincere. The Boston Globe covers a new study that found that even when we realise the compliments we’re hearing are an attempt to butter us up, they can still have a persuasive effect. Insincere flattery gets a bad rap. Sure, it sounds cheesy or even […]

A crime, criminality and forensic psychology blog

Forensic psychology and psychiatry attempt to understand criminality and legal reasoning and are among the most interesting areas of cognitive science, but, sadly, there are few good blogs on the internet which tackle the area. The In The News blog is an exception, however, and regularly has in-depth coverage of the psychological issues behind big […]

State of the art in cave painting

France has some of the world’s most spectacular cave paintings that depict wild animals in vivid outline surrounded by what were thought to be purely decorative markings. These markings have been all but ignored until recent research, covered in a fascinating New Scientist article, gathered examples from 146 cave sites and found they shared core […]

Human brain electrodes capture the twilight zone

Sleep is a nightmare for neuroscientists but a new study using electrodes implanted deep within the brains of people going about their daily lives has revealed that the brain falls asleep from the inside out, contrary to what was expected. Most neuropsychology studies require people to complete tasks while the brain is being monitored and […]

On the brain train

Tom kindly sent me a copy of his new book The Rough Guide to Brain Training which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading. I don’t think you’re ever going to get the most objective review from someone who’s already an admirer of Tom’s work, but I shall do my best. I have to say, I’m not […]

The World War Two rumour labs

During World War Two, the US Government considered setting up ‘rumour clinics’ to collect and analyse hearsay that might undermine the war effort. The government plan never got off the ground but the idea was taken up by independent psychologist who create numerous clinics that aimed to debunk popular rumours and educate the American public […]

Kay Redfield Jamison on love and loss

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has an engaging interview with psychologist and author Kay Redfield Jamison who discusses her new book which is both a memoir of losing her husband and a consideration of the psychology of grief. Towards the end of the interview she tackles the distinction between grief and depression, which […]

Information scares and the media: a history

Slate has just published an article I wrote on how media scare stories that warn us that technology will damage the mind have been with us from the time of the printing press and continue to the present day. A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about […]

Seeing red, feeling hot, realising nothing

Seeing red leads men to view women as more attractive and more desirable despite them not being aware of any change in their perceptions. A delightful study from last year that, as the authors note, has ‘clear practical implications’! Romantic red: red enhances men’s attraction to women. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1150-64. Elliot AJ, […]

Discussing the False Prophets

In light of the retraction of the infamous Lancet paper that first started the MMR panic, the Point of Inquiry podcast has a fantastic interview with doctor and vaccine developer Paul Offit who has received death threats for publicly refuting the spurious connection between childhood jabs and autism. He’s also the author of the book […]

France strikes transexualism from list of mental illnesses

France has become the first country in the world to remove gender identity disorder, also known as transexualism, from its list of officially recognised mental illnesses. This is huge news but seems yet to have been picked up by English language news sources. The news was reported yesterday in the French national daily Le Figaro […]

Hallucinating reality’s wallpaper

Hallucinations usually appear as illusory objects on the normal background of reality, but an interesting case report in the medical journal Movement Disorders reports a case of someone who hallucinated background scenery on which real people were superimposed. We describe a patient with PD [Parkinson’s disease], who had unusual background scenery VHs [visual hallucinations] on […]

2010-02-12 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Literary critic Marco Roth discusses the ‘rise of the neuronovel‘ on ABC Radio National’s Bookshow. Good discussion except he seems to think all reference to the brain is necessarily reductionist. PsyBlog looks at research on why the media seems biased when you care about […]

The burglar with the lemon juice disguise

I’ve just re-read the classic study “Unskilled and unaware of it” which established that when we’re incompetent at something we’re often so incompetent that we don’t realise that we’re incompetent. I had forgotten that it starts with a wonderful story about an inept bank robber. In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and […]

Broken hearted

The Wall Street Journal has an article on a curious medical condition called ‘broken heart syndrome’ where grief or strong emotion seems mimic a heart attack. The piece starts with a case description of a lady who had just experience the death of her husband from a heart attack and her reaction which seemed to […]

The draft of the new ‘psychiatric bible’ is published

The draft version of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM 5, the psychiatric ‘bible’ that defines the revised criteria for diagnosing mental illness, has finally been published. It’s a masterpiece of compromise – intended to be largely backwardly compatible, so most psychiatrists could just get on diagnosing the few major mental illnesses that all clinicians recognise […]


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