Author Archives: tomstafford

BBC Column: Why cyclists enrage car drivers

Here is my latest BBC Future column. The original is here. This one proved to be more than usually controversial, not least because of some poorly chosen phrasing from yours truly. This is an updated version which makes what I’m trying to say clearer. If you think that I hate cyclists, or my argument relies […]

BBC Column: The psychology of the to-do list

My latest column for BBC Future. The original is here. Your mind loves it when a plan comes together – the mere act of planning how to do something frees us from the burden of unfinished tasks. If your daily schedule and email inbox are anything like mine, you’re often left a state of paralysis […]

BBC Column: Are we naturally good or bad?

My BBC Future column from last week. The original is here. I started out trying to write about research using economic games with apes and monkeys but I got so bogged down in the literature I switched to this neat experiment instead. Ed Yong is a better man than me and wrote a brilliant piece […]

BBC Column: when you want what you don’t like

My BBC Future column from Tuesday. The original is here. It’s a Christmas theme folks, but hopefully I cover an interesting research area too: Berridge, Robinson and colleagues’ work on the wanting/liking distinction. As the holiday season approaches, Tom Stafford looks at festive overindulgence, and explains how our minds tell us we want something even […]

BBC Column: political genes

Here’s my BBC Future column from last week. The original is here. The story here isn’t just about politics, although that’s an important example of capture by genetic reductionists. The real moral is about how the things that we measure are built into our brains by evolution: usually they aren’t written in directly, but as […]

Where is your mind?

My BBC Future column from a few days ago. The original is here. I’m donating the fee from this article to Wikipedia. Read the column and it should be obvious why. Perhaps you should too: donate.wikimedia.org.   We like to think our intelligence is self-made; it happens inside our heads, the product of our inner […]

BBC Future Column: Why is it so hard to give good directions?

My BBC Future column from last week. Original here. Psychologically speaking it is a tricky task, because our minds find it difficult to appreciate how the world looks to someone who doesn’t know it yet. We’ve all been there – the directions sounded so clear when we were told them. Every step of the journey […]

BBC Future column: The Psychology Of Tetris

Last week’s BBC Future column. The original is here. There’s a more melancholy and personal version of this column I could have written called ‘I lost years of my life to Sid Meier’s ‘Civiliation’, but since the game is now out on iphone I didn’t have time to write it. How the secret to the […]

Press Release Spam (an interlude)

Sorry to interrupt your normal psych/neuro programming, but this is just a short note to say that I have retired the tom@mindhacks.com email address. If you wish to contact me or Vaughan, please tweet us (details in rightbar). I’ve retired the email address because of the amount of PR spam I’ve been getting, which has […]

BBC Column: Psychological self-defence for the age of email

My latest column for BBC Future. The original is here. Lots of the points made here apply to technology more generally. Here’s a pretty safe assumption to make: you probably feel like you’re inundated with email, don’t you? It’s a constant trickle that threatens to become a flood. Building up, it is always nagging you […]

BBC Column: Can glass shape really affect how fast you drink?

My latest column for BBC Future. The original is here. I was hesitant to write this at first, since nobody loves a problemmatiser, but I figured that something in support of team “I think you’ll find its a bit more complicated than that” couldn’t hurt, and there’s an important general point about the way facts […]

BBC Column: auction psychology

My BBC Future column from last week. The original is here The reason we end up overspending is a result of one unavoidably irrational part of the bidding process – and that’s ourselves. The allure and tension of an auction are familiar to most of us – let’s face it, we all like the idea […]

The Cognitive Science Safari

Just a quick note to anyone who ends up here because of the Wall Street Journal article, more info about the ‘cognitive science safari’ in Berlin can be found here.

BBC Column: stopped clocks and dead phones

My column for BBC Future from last week. It’s another example of how consciousness isn’t just constructed, but is a construction for which the signs of artifice are hidden. The original is here   Ever stared at a second hand and think that time stands still for a moment? It’s not just you. Sometimes, when […]

BBC Future column: What a silver medal teaches us about regret

Here’s my column from last week for BBC Future. The original is here The London 2012 Olympic Games are almost over now, and those Olympians with medals are able to relax and rest on the laurels of victory. Or so you might think. Spare a thought for the likes of Yohan Blake, McKayla Maroney, or […]

BBC Future column: Wear red, win gold?

My latest column for BBC Future, a cautionary tale of scientific research, with an Olympic theme. Original here. Studies show that wearing a particular colour increases the chances of winning a gold medal. Why this is the case serves as a timely reminder that we should always be wary of neat explanations for complex phenomena. […]

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