Author Archives: tomstafford

It is mind control but not as we know it

The Headlines The Independent: First ever human brain-to-brain interface successfully tested BBC News: Are we close to making human ‘mind control’ a reality? Visual News: Mind Control is Now a Reality: UW Researcher Controls Friend Via an Internet Connection The story Using the internet, one researcher remotely controls the finger of another, using it to […]

Drug addiction: The complex truth

We’re told studies have proven that drugs like heroin and cocaine instantly hook a user. But it isn’t that simple – little-known experiments over 30 years ago tell a very different tale. Drugs are scary. The words “heroin” and “cocaine” make people flinch. It’s not just the associations with crime and harmful health effects, but […]

Why the other queue always seem to move faster than yours

Whether it is supermarkets or traffic, there are two possible explanations for why you feel the world is against you, explains Tom Stafford. Sometimes I feel like the whole world is against me. The other lanes of traffic always move faster than mine. The same goes for the supermarket queues. While I’m at it, why […]

Are classical music competitions judged on looks?

Looking at the evidence behind a recent news story The headlines The Los Angeles Times: People trust eyes – not ears – when judging musicians Classic FM: Classical singers judged by actions not voice Nature: Musicians’ appearances matter more than their sound The story If you wanted to pick out the musician who won a […]

The deafening silence

All silences are not equal, some seem quieter than others. Why? It’s all to do with the way our brains adapt to the world around us, as Tom Stafford explains A “deafening silence” is a striking absence of noise, so profound that it seems to have its own quality. Objectively it is impossible for one […]

What makes the ouija board move

The mystery isn’t a connection to the spirit world, but why we can make movements and yet not realise that we’re making them. Ouija board cups and dowsing wands – just two examples of mystical items that seem to move of their own accord, when they are really being moved by the people holding them. […]

What makes an extravert?

Why do some people prefer adventure and the company of others, while others favour being alone? It’s all to do with how the brain processes rewards. Will you spend Saturday night in a crowded bar, or curled up with a good book? Is your ideal holiday adventure sports with a large group of mates and, […]

Why you think your phone is vibrating when it is not

Most of us experience false alarms with phones, and as Tom Stafford explains this happens because it is a common and unavoidable part of healthy brain function. Sensing phantom phone vibrations is a strangely common experience. Around 80% of us have imagined a phone vibrating in our pockets when it’s actually completely still. Almost 30% […]

‘digital dementia’ lowdown – from The Conversation

The Headlines The Telegraph: Surge in ‘digital dementia’ The Daily Mail: ‘Digital dementia’ on the rise as young people increasingly rely on technology instead of their brain Fox News: Is ‘digital dementia’ plaguing teenagers? The Story South Korea has the highest proportion of people with smartphones, 67%. Nearly 1 in 5 use their phone for […]

The Connected Brain: Edinburgh

I’m giving at talk at the Edinburgh festival on August 9th, called The Connected Brain. It will be at Summerhall (Fringe Venue 26 during the festival), cost £3, and here is the blurb: Headlines often ask if facebook is making us shallow, or google eroding our memories. In this talk we will look “under the […]

Workout music and your supplementary motor cortex

Why do we like to listen to tunes when we exercise? Psychologist Tom Stafford searches for answers within our brains, not the muscles we are exercising. Perhaps you have a favourite playlist for going to the gym or the park. Even if you haven’t, you’re certain to have seen joggers running along with headphones in […]

Is social psychology really in crisis?

My latest ‘behind the headlines’ column for The Conversation. Probably all old news for you wised-up mindhacks.com readers, but here you go: The headlines Disputed results a fresh blow for social psychology Replication studies: Bad copy The story Controversy is simmering in the world of psychology research over claims that many famous effects reported in […]

When giving reasons leads to worse decisions

We’re taught from childhood how important it is to explain how we feel and to always justify our actions. But does giving reasons always make things clearer, or could it sometimes distract us from our true feelings? One answer came from a study led by psychology professor Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia, which […]

Does brain stimulation make you better at maths?

The Headlines Brain stimulation promises “long-lasting” maths boost Mild electric shocks to brain may help students solve maths problems Electrical brain boost can make you better at maths What they actually did Researchers led by Roi Cohen Kadosh at the University of Oxford trained people on two kinds of maths skills, rote learning simple arithmetic […]

Why you might prefer more pain

When is the best treatment for pain more pain? When you’re taking part in an experiment published by a Nobel prize winner and one of the leading lights in behavioural psychology, that is. The psychologist in question is Daniel Kahneman; the experiment described by the self-explanatory title of: When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: […]

Did the eyes really stare down bicycle crime in Newcastle?

This is the first fortnightly column I’ll be writing for The Conversation, a creative commons news and opinion website that launched today. The site has been set up by a number of UK universities and bodies such as the Wellcome Trust, Nuffield Foundation and HEFCE, following the successful model of the Australian version of the […]

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