Monthly Archives: June 2011

The neurology of the undead

Wired has an excellent neurological guide to surviving the zombie holocaust that will keep you one shamble ahead when the undead attack.     The article and the wonderful accompanying infographics were inspired by the work of neuroscientist Bradley Voyek who, when he is not poking around in the decaying brains of zombies, looks at […]

Internet dating and the science of fire starting

The New Yorker has a fantastic article about the psychology of online dating. The piece explores how the big names of internet matchmaking attempt to strike up sparks between you and millions of other people and how they play off what attracts people in face-to-face encounters. Psychology, maths and the economics of truth are used […]

The Ginger Jake poisonings

A mysterious epidemic of paralysis was sweeping through 1920s America that had the medical community baffled. The cause was first identified not by physicians, but by blues singers. During the prohibition, alcohol was banned but people got buzzed the best way they could. One way was through a highly alcoholic liquid called Jamaica Ginger or […]

Epilepsy, inside and out

The New York Times has an inspiring piece about neurologist and epilepsy specialist Brien Smith who has just become chairman of the Epilepsy Foundation. Unusually, his interest is more than just professional as he has epilepsy himself. I was really struck by this part, as it shows how even trained medical professionals can unnecessarily freak […]

The malware of medical science

Just when you thought the pharmaceutical industry had used up every dirty trick in the book, it has been revealed that a ‘study’ of the epilepsy drug gabapentin (aka Neurontin) was never really intended to investigate the medication, but was primarily intended to get doctors to prescribe it more often. A report published in the […]

From character analysis to orgasm batteries

Slate has a brilliant article on one of the most troubled and yet fascinating people in the history of psychology – William Reich – inventor of the orgasmotron. Reich was one of Freud’s inner circle but decided to propose his own ideas rather than follow the Freudian orthodoxy, something which got him promptly kicked out […]

A 30 second piece of our minds

A new book has been published called 30 Second Psychology. It’s been written by some familiar folks and aims to capture fifty of the most important theories of psychology in one punchy package. It’s been edited by Christian Jarret of the BPS Research Digest and includes contributions from me, Mo Costandi, Dave Munger and Tom […]

An unusual form of the Babinski reflex

A curious anecdote about legendary neurologist Joseph Babinski accidentally hitting on the butler of famous physician Henry Head: Babinski [1857–1932] stayed with Henry Head in London. He spoke no English but on retiring wanted to use a bidet and summoned the butler who spoke no French; he therefore used sign language to indicate what he […]

A dose of female intelligence

Harvard Business Review interviews a research team who have found that increasing the number of women in a team raises group intelligence. Of course, the findings could also be as accurately described as showing that men make groups more stupid, although the researchers are far too tactful to mention this particular interpretation. Woolley: We’ve replicated […]

In search of invisible violence

NPR Radio covers an amazing inattentional blindness experiment that investigated how easy it is to miss a vicious beating in the street – after a policemen was convicted of ignoring an attack during a pursuit. Inattentional blindness is the phenomenon where we don’t notice something seemingly obvious because we are paying attention to some other […]

The trouble with psychiatry

If you want an incisive critique of modern psychiatry, look no further than an excellent article in The New York Review of Books. It brilliantly captures the fights over diagnosis and the DSM, the problem of drug companies buying influence by paying physicians, and why the promises of drug treatments are often propped up with […]

About face

An amazing picture from Jeff Arris that plays havoc with our face perception system – grabbed from Twitter and which lives on Flickr here. If anyone knows the attribution for the piece do let me know. Thanks to commenter gsggs for finding the attribution.

A curious hysterical blindness

The New York Times has an extended book review that explores female hysteria in 19th Century Paris while demonstrating a curious hysterical blindness of its own. The piece reviews a new and supposedly excellent book by Asti Hustvedt called ‘Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-Century Paris’. Hysteria is the presentation of seemingly neurological symptoms without any […]

The psychology of expert predictions

This week’s edition of BBC Radio 4 All in the Mind has a fantastic section on the psychology of knowledgeable predictions that bursts lots of bubbles about the power of experts but also discusses how to make more accurate predictions. You can listen to the whole programme online but it seems the crucial section has […]

Is medical school an empathotoxin?

Medical school seems to have a profound negative effect on empathy according to a research review just published in Academic Medicine. The review of 18 studies found that self-reported emotional understanding declines markedly during medical training. Counter-intuitively, the crucial downturn happens when medical students start seeing patients. Although the studies are almost completely based on […]

For Whom the Bell Tolls: A psychological autopsy

The Independent has an excellent article on the life and death of writer Ernest Hemingway based on an academic article that attempted a ‘psychological autopsy’ to understand the reasons for his suicide. Hemingway’s suicide has remained a sticking point for many of his biographers as it seemed incongruous with his adventurous, hard drinking and robustly […]


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