Author Archives: tomstafford

Why do we bite our nails?

It can ruin the appearance of your hands, could be unhygienic and can hurt if you take it too far. So why do people do it? Biter Tom Stafford investigates What do ex-British prime minster Gordon Brown, Jackie Onassis, Britney Spears and I all have in common? We all are (or were) nail biters. It’s […]

Motherhood, apple pie and replication

Who could possibly be against replication of research results? Jason Mitchell of Harvard University is, under some conditions, for reasons described in his essay On the emptiness of failed replications. I wrote something for the Centre for Open Science which tries to draw out the sensible points in Mitchell’s essay – something I thought worth […]

Do we really hate thinking so much we’d electrocute ourselves rather than do it?

By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield The headlines The Guardian: Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain than being made to sit and think Nature: We dislike being alone with our thoughts Washington Post: Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts   The story Quiet contemplation is so awful […]

Brains in their feat

Footballers skills seem light years from our own. But, Tom Stafford argues, the jaw-dropping talents on the World Cup pitch have more in common with everyday life than you might think. The first week of the 2014 World Cup has already given us a clutch of classic moments: Robin Van Persie’s perfect header to open […]

How often do men really think about sex?

Every seven seconds? Probably not. But rather than wonder about whether this is true, Tom Stafford asks how on earth you can actually prove it or not. We’ve all been told that men think about you-know-what far too often – every seven seconds, by some accounts. Most of us have entertained this idea for long […]

Nostalgia: Why it is good for you

The past is not just a foreign country, but also one we are all exiled from. Like all exiles, we sometimes long to return. That longing is called nostalgia. Whether it is triggered by a photograph, a first kiss or a treasured possession, nostalgia evokes a particular sense of time or place. We all know […]

Happy Birthday Tetris!

Released on 6th of June 1984, Tetris is 30 years old today. Here’s a video where I try and explain something of the psychology of Tetris: All credit for the graphics to Andrew Twist. What I say in the video is based on an article I wrote a while back for BBC Future. As well […]

The best way to win an argument

How do you change someone’s mind if you think you are right and they are wrong? Psychology reveals the last thing to do is the tactic we usually resort to. You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy […]

Using rational argument to change minds

I have a longer piece in the latest issue of Contributoria: What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds? Here’s a few snips from the opening: Are we, the human species, unreasonable? Do rational arguments have any power to sway us, or is it all intuition, hidden motivations, and various other forms […]

Research Digest #3: Getting to grips with implicit bias

My third and final post at the BPS Research Digest is now up: Getting to grips with implicit bias. Here’s the intro: Implicit attitudes are one of the hottest topics in social psychology. Now a massive new study directly compares methods for changing them. The results are both good and bad for those who believe […]

Research Digest post #2

My time in the BPS Research Digest hotseat continues. Today’s post is about a lovely study by Stuart Ritchie and colleagues which uses a unique dataset to look at the effect of alcohol on cognitive function across the lifespan. Here’s the intro: The cognitive cost or benefit of booze depends on your genes, suggests a […]

Research Digest posts, #1: A self-fulfilling fallacy?

This week I will be blogging over at the BPS Research Digest. The Digest was written for over ten years by psychology-writer extraordinaire Christian Jarrett, and I’m one of a series of guest editors during the transition period to a new permanent editor. My first piece is now up, and here is the opening: Lady […]

Why all babies love peekaboo

Peekaboo is a game played over the world, crossing language and cultural barriers. Why is it so universal? Perhaps because it’s such a powerful learning tool. One of us hides our eyes and then slowly reveals them. This causes peals of laughter from a baby, which causes us to laugh in turn. Then we do […]

Does the unconscious know when you’re being lied to?

The headlines BBC: Truth or lie – trust your instinct, says research British Psychological Society: Our subconscious mind may detect liars Daily Mail: Why you SHOULD go with your gut: Instinct is better at detecting lies than our conscious mind The Story Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that we have the […]

What’s the evidence for the power of reason to change minds?

Last month I proposed an article for Contributoria, titled What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?. Unfortunately, I had such fun reading about the topic that I missed the end-of-month deadline and now need to get backers for my proposal again. So, here’s something from my proposal, please consider backing it […]

What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?

Contributoria is an experiment in community funded, collaborative journalism. What that means is that you can propose an article you’d like to write, and back proposals by others that you’d like to see written. There’s an article I’d like to write: What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?. Here’s something from […]

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