Monthly Archives: August 2010

Determined to fail: free will and work success

If you want to predict how well someone might perform in a new job, you might want to enquire about their views on whether we are free to choose our own actions. A delightful study just published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that belief in free will predicted job performance better […]

Thumb sucking was a brain disease

I’ve just discovered an astounding article from the journal Medical History that left me, dare I say, open mouthed. It’s about how, in the early 1900s, thumb-sucking in children was considered a neurological disorder that was thought serious enough to justify paediatrics as a separate medical speciality. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time […]

A cultured gene

Not Exactly Rocket Science covers an eye-opening study that looked at an interaction between genetics and social behaviour. So far, so normal, except that the researchers found that the gene in question, involved in sensing the hormone oxytocin, had a different effect on social behaviour in Americans and Koreans. The study looked at how often […]

The brain machine interface of the old ones

Brain-machine interfaces have been of huge interest to the press over recent years, particularly as the technology sparks concerns that have been the subject of numerous science-fiction fantasies. I found a lovely offbeat example of a fictional brain-machine interface, not from recent high-tech science fiction, but from a H.P. Lovecraft horror story called ‘The Whisperer […]

Flowers, falling maple leaves and wriggling dwarves

I love this summary of a study on unusual hallucinations in an elderly Japanese lady. The full article is in Japanese but the translation of the abstract and the form of her hallucinations gives it a stylised quality that reminds me of the traditional art from the country. The last sentence is wonderfully zen-like. [Formed […]

A natural state of mind

ScienceLine has an excellent article on ecopsychology – a branch of cognitive science that looks at the impact of the environment on the mind. Originally considered a bit wishy washy due to a lack of hard data and more than a touch of hippie chic, it’s proponents are now starting to collect good evidence on […]

Falling out of love with e-dating

Marie Claire has a fascinating short interview with psychologist Mark Thompson who was apparently hired by a big name internet dating website to work on ‘scientific matchmaking’ – but recently jumped ship when he became disillusioned with the industry. Buyer beware: the guy has just written his own book on sex and relationships, although his […]

A slow motion mind during extreme danger?

NPR has a fantastic short radio segment on whether we really do experience time more slowly when our life is in danger. The piece riffs on a 2007 study called ‘Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event?’ led by neuroscientist David Eagleman who discusses the project on the show. The experimenters wanted a […]

Dark restaurant alters appetite and eating

We often assume that our appetite depends on how much food we’ve eaten, but a new study conducted in a completely dark restaurant has demonstrated that we don’t feel any more full if secretly slipped extra large portions of food. What we see, it seems, plays a big role in how hungry we feel. The […]

A gut reaction to moral transgressions

The Boston Globe has an excellent article on whether ‘gut feeling’ emotions, particularly disgust, are the unrecognised basis of moral judgements and social customs. It’s an in-depth feature article that gives a great overview of the idea that social judgements may have an emotional basis, and, more controversially, that this tendency may have developed as […]

Scientists go rafting

The New York Times has an odd feature article on how a group of cognitive scientists went into the ‘wilderness’ supposedly as part of a “quest to understand the impact on the brain of heavy technology use”. As far as I can make out, though, the entire story is ‘scientists go rafting’. No research was […]

A series of famous cases

BBC Radio 4 have just started a new season of Case Study that looks at some of the most famous and important cases in the history of psychology. The first is on HM, and although there’s nothing in the programme that’s particularly new about the science of memory, it does give a much fuller account […]

How power corrupts

The Wall Street Journal examines how positive psychological attributes are associated with people gaining power and why these exact same attributes might be eroded once people have achieved a certain level of influence. The piece looks at studies that show, contrary to popular belief, that sly and social devious people are less likely to be […]

2010-08-13 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: NPR has an excellent short piece on when we became ‘mentally modern’ and began to use symbolic thought. The awesome Neuroskeptic covers a mind-boggling new study that reported the use of anti-depressant and quit-smoking drug bupropion to treat Starcraft addiction in South Korean teens. […]

Disease epidemic kills without contact

The excellent Providentia blog covers a previously under-recognised psychological danger of disease epidemics: increased suicides in unaffected people. A recently published study looked at how the suicide rate changed during the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, which claimed almost 300 lives between November 2002 and August 2003, finding that it prompted greater levels of self-harm […]

Phantom third arm appears on the chest

Phantom limbs are usually sensations that appear after an arm or leg has been amputated, but one case reports a phantom limb that appeared as an additional arm extending from the middle of the chest – despite all of the limbs being completely healthy. The patient, reported in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, […]


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