Monthly Archives: October 2010

The unconscious expert

Expertise seems to work most effectively in the unconscious mind. An intriguing new study on predicting the outcome of football matches suggests that a period of unconscious thought, at least for experts, is most effective for accurately calling the result. The research was led by Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis and involved asking hundreds of Dutch […]

Ten minutes of consciousness

I have to admit, I’m a little bored with consciousness, and my heart slightly sinks when I see yet another piece that rehashes the same old arguments. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing Cristof Koch talk where he engagingly describes his own approach to the neural basis of conscious experience. The talk is from a […]

2010-10-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: New York Magazine has an excellent article on the psychology of why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit. The ever-incisive Neuroskeptic covers a fascinating study on retaliation and cycles of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Technology Review covers the launch of a massive […]

The Arabic anaesthetic sponge

A 1997 letter to the British Medical Journal describes an innovative surgical anesthetic used by Arabs in the middle ages that involved placing a sponge soaked in opium, hashish and scopolamine over the patient’s face. From the ingredients, the patient was probably aware of little, let alone any pain, and it appropriately features in the […]

Dealing with delinquents in the 1920s

Canada’s The Daily Gleaner has a brief but revealing insight into the understanding of juvenile crime and delinquent behaviour in the 1920s. Obviously the cultural standards of the day were different, so some behaviours considered ‘delinquent’ then were not be considered so now, and vice versa. However, it is also clear from the piece that […]

Campaign man

Wired Science has an exclusive interview with Ari Ne’eman, the first openly autistic White House appointee in history, who has been given a place on the National Council on Disability that advises the president on equality for disabled people. Ne’eman is an advocate of neurodiversity, which rather than automatically seeing conditions like autism and Asperger’s […]

Drone war psychology

As US military attacks by unmanned drone aircraft intensify, I was interested to find a podcast (mp3) on the psychology of combat drone piloting from Texas Tech University’s Psychology Podcast. Unfortunately, their podcast series is not well indexed, but from what I can make out, the piece was from 2007 and interviews aviation psychologist Nancy […]

The ’68 comeback perceptual

Elvis makes a fleeting comeback, accompanied by a milk drinking chimp and some well-dressed mice, in the hallucinations of a patient with Parkinson’s disease who is described in a case study published in the Southern Medical Journal. He had compulsive gambling behavior and multiple hallucinations (visual and auditory). Visual hallucinations were simple (shapes of shadows, […]

Whacking off: a psychological history

The Insight Therapy blog has a fantastic dash through the psychological history of masturbation – looking at how self-pleasuring has been linked to everything from madness to blindness and has even inspired a type of biscuit [no, not that type]. Through the 19th century, the assault on “self-abuse” continued: Reverend Sylvester Graham invented the Graham […]

Edvard Munch in 100 words

This month’s British Journal of Psychiatry has the latest in their ‘100 words’ series on the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, famous for his iconic painting ‘The Scream’ and his own struggles with mental illness. The Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch caused outrage when his paintings were first shown in Berlin but became one of the most […]

Distracted by the data

Wired has an incisive article looking at the science behind the ‘technology and multi-tasking are damaging the brain’ scare stories that regularly make the media. The piece does a fantastic job of actually looking at specific studies on multi-tasking and distraction and questioning whether the ‘tech scare’ headlines are warranted given the findings. The conclusion […]

The war changed me: brain injury after combat

The Washington Post has an amazing series of video reports on US soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injury – often leading to a marked change in personality. The reports cover veterans who have suffered numerous types of brain injury, from shrapnel-driven penetrating brain injuries to concussion-related mild-traumatic brain injury, and […]

Rehabilitating the most vilified

ABC Radio National’s 360documentaries has a confronting edition that interviews two child sex offenders currently in treatment along with their psychologist, examining their offending behaviour, what led up to it and what they hope to change in their lives. It’s neither morbid sensationalism nor an apology for crimes committed but there are plenty of moments […]

A nasty case of misery

BBC Radio 4 has a short but excellent programme on the increasing medicalisation of human sadness which notes that even everyday talk about difficult but necessary life events is being increasingly couched in medical terms. The writer and presenter of the piece, journalist Mary Kenny, notes, for example, how the concept of trauma is being […]

The taste of the past

The latest edition of The Psychologist has a fascinating article on ‘sensory history’ – the practice of investigating how people from the past differently interpreted and understood sensory experiences. I was first alerted to the idea by a book review we covered back in 2009 which noted that the superstition of the ‘evil eye’ – […]

Inattention to details

Neuroskeptic has excellent coverage of the recent headline-making study on the genetics of ADHD that was overly-hyped as the ‘first direct genetic link’ to the disorder and overly-slammed as a drug company ploy. For example, BBC News has a report on the study where you can see researcher Anita Thapar making some unrealistic claims for […]


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