Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sci vs Spy

The Cold War espionage styles of the US and Soviet spy agencies are compared in a fantastic article for the history of science journal Isis that notes that while the Americans tended to invest in technology, the Russians were more focused on ‘human intelligence’. The article, by historian Kristie Macrakis, explores the technophilia of the […]

The book of reality distortions

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just finalised an agreement with Penguin to write a book on what hallucinations tell us about the mind, brain and human nature. From the proposal: The mind and brain can generate fantastical visions and disembodied voices, illusory people and shifting landscapes, internal symphonies and sensed presences. These states happen […]

The pleasure is all mine

Monitor on Psychology has a brief but interesting interview with psychologist Paul Bloom who has just written a book on the counter-intuitive psychology of pleasure. Pleasure, it would seem, is a byproduct of essentialism, Bloom says. The value we assign consumer products is largely based on something deeper than just the way they look or […]

Dreams of a consciousness measuring device

The New York Times has an excellent article about Giulio Tononi, one of the few neuroscientists trying to understand consciousness in a way that may have a direct practical application – to create a medical device that can tell whether you are conscious or not. To be honest, I’ve been a bit bored with consciousness, […]

It’s not a date, it’s an experiment in the lab of love

There’s a fantastic discussion on the science of dating over at Dr Petra that tackles how effective the techniques used by ‘scientific matching’ companies really are, and whether common dating advice is actually any good. Petra recently ran a ‘Science of Pulling’ event at the British Science Festival (Americans: ‘pull’ is British slang meaning ‘to […]

Memories from before nightfall

The Yale Alumni Magazine has a moving and beautifully written article that is both a tribute to a college friend who recently took his own life and a wider discussion of depression, suicide and friendship. The writer is Andrew Solomon, perhaps best known for one of the finest books on the experience, meaning and science […]

New mental states for the 21st century

Writer Douglas Coupland has a playful article in the The Independent where he defines ‘new terms for new sensations’ and lists new psychological states that may be arising from 21st century life. Coupland is known for his careful observations of how technology impacts on day-to-day living and there are many delightful entries in the list, […]

The strange-face-in-the-mirror illusion

An intriguing article has just been published in the journal Perception about a never-before-described visual illusion where your own reflection in the mirror seems to become distorted and shifts identity. To trigger the illusion you need to stare at your own reflection in a dimly lit room. The author, Italian psychologist Giovanni Caputo, describes his […]

2010-09-17 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: There’s a fantastic discussion and video interview on America’s first prison for drug addicts, “the world’s most famous – and infamous – center for the treatment and study of drug addiction”, over at Neuroanthropology. The Guardian has a piece by psychologist Susan Blackmore on […]

The first man with autism

The Atlantic has an amazing article about the first person ever diagnosed with autism, the now 77 year-old Donald Triplett, who plays a mean game of golf and seems to be doing just fine. The piece tracks the history of both Triplett and our understanding of autism which has changed radically since the diagnosis was […]

Once and future gayness

Never one to avoid opening Pandora’s box, Bering in Mind has an excellent discussion on whether it’s possible to predict adult sexual orientation from childhood traits and behaviours. As the article notes, there are a host of heated debates about the merits of trying to ‘predict homosexuality’ but even as a purely scientific question, it […]

An uneven hail of bullets

Gunshot wounds to the head are a major cause of death among soldiers in combat but little is known about where bullets are more likely to impact. A study just published in the Journal of Trauma looked at common bullet entry points among soldiers who died in combat and found clear patterns – but the […]

Touching the space between us

Slate has an excellent article on the psychology of collaborations that highlights the often underplayed role of the creative relationship and bemoans are obsession with the illusory ‘lone genius’. The author is Joshua Wolf Shenk who you may recognise from one of the best psychology articles I’ve yet read – an Atlantic article on happiness […]

How culture can invert genetic risk

Neuron Culture has a fantastic piece on how a long touted ‘depression gene’ turned out to reduce the risk of mood problems in people in East Asians and why we can’t always understand genetic effects on behaviour without understanding culture. The piece riffs on the long-established finding that the short variant of the serotonin transporter […]

Twilight novels ‘could be altering the brain’

The Twilight series of young adult novels “could be affecting the dynamic workings of the teenage brain in ways scientists don’t yet understand” according to a bizarre article from LiveScience. To be fair, the premise of the article is quite correct, Twilight novels (along with everything) are indeed altering the brain in ways we don’t […]

The death of ‘right brain thinking’

A new study published in Psychological Bulletin has just reviewed all the neuroscience research on creative thinking and found no good evidence for the pop-culture idea that the right side of the brain is more involved in ‘creative thinking’. Sadly, the full text isn’t available online, but the abstract of the study contains all the […]


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