Monthly Archives: February 2011

2011-02-25 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Bad Science looks at how we can fool ourselves and others using security and detection technology. Cell Phones Are Somehow Related To The Brain. Thank you Neuroskeptic for a decent look at the ‘mobile phones affect the brain’ story that made the headlines this […]

Emotional fluctuations in the lyrics of Bob Dylan

A 2008 study looked at the fluctuation in the use of emotional words in the lyrics of Bob Dylan in relation to the events in his life. Emotional fluctuations in Bob Dylan’s lyrics measured by the dictionary of affect accompany events and phases in his life Psychol Rep. 2008 Apr;102(2):469-83. Whissell C Lyrics for Bob […]

Faking tragedy and the pull of online sympathy

The Guardian has a fascinating article about the motivations of people who have faked terminal illnesses as their online companions have offered support and sympathy right until the supposed end. Several cases have become notorious online where illnesses, and even deaths, have been faked much to the betrayal of community members. Mandy is one of […]

A victim of metaphor

A gripping piece from Not Exactly Rocket Science describes how simply changing the metaphors used to describe crime can alter what we think is the best way of tackling it. The article covers a new study on the power of metaphors and how they can influence our beliefs and understanding of what’s being discussed. In […]

Existential internet states

Thought Catalog has an amusing and unsettlingly accurate piece on ‘Five Emotions Invented by the Internet’ which has a series of existential feelings uniquely evoked by our favourite worldwide communication network. The state of being ‘installed’ at a computer or laptop for an extended period of time without purpose, characterized by a blurry, formless anxiety […]

Funky shit

In the debate about the ability of language to adequately describe conscious experience, jazzed-out rappers The Jungle Brothers came out firmly behind the skeptical position of philosopher of mind Eric Schwitzgebel with their 1997 track ‘Brain’. In the 2007 book Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic psychologist Russell Hurlburt argued that modern research methods make […]

Sniffing out the unconscious

The illusion that a horse could do maths may be behind sniffer dogs falsely ‘detecting’ illicit substances according to an intriguing study covered by The Economist. The horse in question was called Clever Hans and he was rumoured to be able to do complicated maths, work out the date, spell German words – all from […]

Want to come up and see my sketchings?

The Royal Society of Arts has an awesome video that animates one of Steven Pinker’s lectures on ‘Language as a Window into Human Nature’. It covers how we use certain implicit properties of language to negotiate social relationships – discussing everything from the cult film Fargo to why we try and seduce people with indirect […]

2011-02-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The Atlantic asks is it time to welcome our new computer overlords? – In light of the recent IBM Watson powered Jeopardy-pocalypse. Time? I’ve already slammed the bunker door. The ‘boy without a cerebellum baffles doctors’ story is tackled by the not very baffled […]

A place downtown where the freaks all come around

Kellogg Insight has a fantastic article on how nightclub bouncers make instant status judgements to decide whether to let people into exclusive clubs. It’s a curious insight into perception of social status that both relies on some social stereotypes and turns others completely on their head. The article is based on the work of sociologist […]

A note on human behaviour

Enjoying the Natural History Museum yesterday, I came across this exhibit somewhere in the geology section: The exhibit is a serious of columns, which you pass from right to left. The penultimate column is to illustrate the idea of ice, and you’re invited by a palm shape to put your palm to the column (which […]

The (cut price) Narrative Escape

My ebook The Narrative Escape is available at a reduced price for a limited time. Publishers 40kbooks have got a February special offer, meaning that you can read my 6000 or so words about dreams, stories and morality for less than a dollar. UK readers : that’s seventy-one pence! As if the price wasn’t enough […]

Brain area for empty news stories discovered

Satirical website Newsbiscuit has a cutting article making fun of the regular ‘brain scans show…’ news items that are a staple of the popular science pages. Scientists are heralding a breakthrough in brain scan technology after a team at Oxford University produced full colour images of a human brain that shows nothing of any significance. […]

A strangely effective video

Australian science reporter Professor Funk has made a fantastic animated video about the science of the placebo effect that’s three minutes of sheer joy even without an active ingredient. It takes you through the remarkable ways in which the placebo effect differs between different types of pills, perceptions and places and is highly recommended.   […]

A long view of the nervous system

BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time has a wonderful programme on the history of our knowledge about the nervous system which you can listen to streamed from the webpage or download as an mp3. It’s a satisfyingly in-depth discussion that tracks first beliefs about the nervous system from ancient times through the renaissance into the […]

Five minutes past trauma

A new series of ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has just kicked off with a thoughtful programme about treating traumatised people just after a tragic event. If you’re not familiar with the contentious area of disaster response, you may be surprised to hear that there is no firm evidence that psychological treatment of […]

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