Monthly Archives: July 2010

How hot models acquire their heat

3QuarksDaily has a fantastic article that examines how certain models became hot property during catwalk season by looking at the behavioural economics of fashion show buzz and why the success of top models is as much down to herd instinct as personal magnetism. The piece is written by sociologist Ashley Mears, a model herself, who […]

As above, so below

The Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery has an intriguing article on head injuries from Ancient Greece which has a section on ‘Unusual cranial injuries in prominent men’. There is something cosmically poetic in the fact that the ‘father of tragedy’ Aeschylos died from being hit on the head by a turtle. The death of the father […]

Aldous Huxley’s final trip

This month’s edition of the cancer medicine journal Lancet Oncology discusses some ongoing trials of psychedelic drug assisted psychotherapy for people dying of cancer but notes that author Aldous Huxley actually died while on LSD – by his own request. Today, in a small handful of laboratories across the USA, an equally small handful of […]

Creative beginnings

Newsweek has an eye-opening article on creativity which doesn’t really discuss why creativity is supposedly ‘declining’, as it claims, but is still full of fascinating and counter-intuitive snapshots of creativity research. I have to say, I’m not very familiar with the scientific research on creativity, so I can’t say how well the article represents it […]

Adjust the facts, ma’am

The Boston Globe has an interesting piece on democracy, knowledge and reasoning biases, highlighting the fact that we can often decide facts are true based more on our pre-existing political biases than the evidence for their accuracy. The article is full of fascinating snippets from recent studies. One, for example, finding that people who are […]

Is it weird in here, or is it just me?

Neuroanthropology tackles a recent psychology article which highlights the fact that the vast majority of research is done on Western students, who, in global terms, are a very unusual subgroup of the human race. This group has been given the catchy acronym WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) although the problem is not so […]

Gambling on our cognitive biases

The Economist has an excellent special report on gambling that covers everything from what makes slot machines attractive to the psychology of poker. If you read the lead article there are links to the whole series in a sidebar embedded in the text. However, those particularly interested in the psychology of gambling may want to […]

2010-07-09 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The Wall Street Journal reports that ‘picky eating‘ is being considered as a new mental illness for the next DSM. I think they’re just trolling us now. Becoming angry in negotiations was thought to be a widely effective strategy, but not, it turns out, […]

First class in the mile high therapy club

Vanity Fair has a great article that charts the very early days of LSD. Before the drug became a symbol of hippy psychedelia, it was used by a select group of psychiatrists to facilitate ‘LSD psychotherapy’ and became popular among the Hollywood set of the 1950s. To understand why LSD had such a grip on […]

Scanning in another world

Neuroscientists sometimes forget just how different the experience of an MRI scan is from everyday life. I’ve just found this intriguing study that asked patients who had scans for the first time how they felt about the experience – the most common theme was the ‘sense of being in another world’. There is a delightful […]

The mixed blessing of children

New York Magazine has a truly excellent article on why having children tends to make people less happy. This result has come up in numerous studies but the article carefully explores this counter-intuitive finding in all the depth it deserves, reflecting on the changing culture and expectations of parenting. The article starts with this lovely […]

Tripping into an artificial experiment

The NeuroK√ºz blog covers a new study in which research participants were asked to take the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin before being asked to take part in a pretend brain scan in a fake fMRI machine. If the situation seems a little odd, a bit trippy even, it’s actually more common than you think as almost […]

Civilian deaths and vengeance in Afghanistan

Wired’s Danger Room reports on a new study finding that civilian causalities in Afghanistan lead to anti-coalition feelings and an increase in insurgent attacks. Although this would seem to be blindly obvious, the study adds some morbid detail to the picture and provides evidence for some in the US military who had suggested no such […]

Neuroplasticity is not a new discovery

We recently discussed how the term ‘neuroplasticity’ is widely used as if it were a precise scientific concept, when, in fact, it is virtually meaningless on its own. Several commenters suggested that while not scientifically meaningful, it serves as a useful reminder that we no longer think the brain is ‘fixed’ as we did ‘about […]

Sentiment mining your internet stream

ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing has good documentary on the growing practice of ‘sentiment mining’ social media networks where companies attempt to glean emotional reactions or consumer opinions – typically to products – from our spontaneous internet output. Essentially it’s a form of text mining but applied to social media. For example, a specialist agency […]

On violating the computational contraints of the mind

One of the Reuteurs blogs has a somewhat rambly post about being wrong in journalism which does, however, contain this absolute gem: I try hard to believe the opposite: that many if not most of my opinions are wrong (although of course I have no idea which they are), and that many of the most […]


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