Author Archives: vaughanbell

Towards a scientifically unified therapy

Today’s edition of Nature has an excellent article on the need to apply cognitive science to understanding how psychological therapies work. Psychological therapies are often called ‘talking treatments’ but this is often a misleading name. Talking is essential, but it’s not where most of the change happens. Like seeing a personal trainer in the gym, […]

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer. They did this by funding, guiding and […]

Spike activity 11-07-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Your Brain Is On the Brink of Chaos. Nautilus has an interesting piece on chaos the and the brain. Neuroskeptic has a good Q&A with Zach Mainen, one of the originators of the NeuroFuture open letter demanding reform of the Human Brain Project. There’s […]

A thought lab in the sun

Neuroscientist Karl Friston, being an absolute champ, in an interview in The Lancet Psychiatry “I get up very late, I go and smoke my pipe in the conservatory, hopefully in the sunshine with a nice cup of coffee, and have thoughts until I can raise the energy to have a bath. I don’t normally get […]

Memories of ‘hands on’ sex therapy

There’s an amusing passage in Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree where he recounts his own experience of a curious attempt at surrogate partner therapy – a type of sex therapy where a ‘stand in’ partner engages with sexual activity with the client to help overcome sexual difficulties. In Solomon’s case, he was a […]

A cultural view of agony

New Statesman has a fascinating article on the ‘cultural history of pain’ that tracks how our ideas about pain and suffering have radically changed through the years. One of the most interesting, and worrying, themes is how there have been lots of cultural beliefs about whether certain groups are more or less sensitive to pain. […]

Spike activity 27-06-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Slate has a piece on developmental psychology’s WEIRD problem. Most kids in child psychology studies are from very restricted social groups – rich, educated families. Facebook manipulated stories in users’ newsfeeds to conduct experiments on emotional contagion. Don’t remember signing the consent form for […]

A spook’s guide to the psychology of deception

Last February, a file from the Edward Snowden leaks was released from a 2012 GCHQ presentation called ‘The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations’. It describes the ‘Online Covert Action Accreditation’ course which draws heavily on the psychology of influence and persuasion. This post will look at how they’re piecing together the science […]

The normality trap

I remember taking a bus to London Bridge when, after a few stops, a woman got on who seemed to move with a subtle but twitchy disregard for her surroundings. She found herself a seat among the Saturday shoppers and divided her time between looking out the window and responding to invisible companions, occasionally shouting […]

Spike activity 20-06-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: OK Go’s new music video is like standing naked under a waterfall of optical illusions while wearing hipster spectacles. The mighty Neurocritic looks at advances in physical brain tweaking and the possible rebirth of paradise engineering. The Dana Foundation has an excellent piece on […]

A peek inside The Skeleton Cupboard

You’ll get more out of The Skeleton Cupboard, Tanyan Byron’s account of her training as a clinical psychologist, if you read the epilogue first. It tells you that the patients described in the book are fictional, to preserve confidentiality, but indicates that the stories were representative of real situations. This is a common device in […]

Spike activity 06-06-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Psychedelic chemist, godfather of Ecstasy, and lover of phenethylamines, Alexander Shulgin, has left the building. PhysOrg has an obituary. New Republic looks back at 50 years of the landmark account of psychosis ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’. The US Secret Service wants […]

A festival of anxious art

If you’re in London during June, the Anxiety Arts Festival is surprisingly diverse and interesting series of events that looks at anxiety through film, theatre and visual arts. The festival is being curated by the Mental Health Foundation who have put together a genuinely exciting programme that avoids the curse of constant niceness and goes […]

Spike activity 30-05-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: If you’ve not been keeping up with the internet, there’s been a replication crisis hoedown and everyone’s had a go on the violin. Political Science Replication had a good summary. Schnall’s reply, the rise of ‘negative psychology’ and a pointed response. Military Plans To […]

The day video games ate my school child

The BBC is reporting that a UK teachers union “is calling for urgent action over the impact of modern technology on children’s ability to learn” and that “some pupils were unable to concentrate or socialise properly” due to what they perceive as ‘over-use’ of digital technology. Due to evidence reviewed by neuroscientist Kathryn Mills in […]

Important peculiarities of memory

A slide from what looks like a fascinating talk by memory researcher Robert Bjork is doing the rounds on Twitter. The talk has just happened at the Association for Psychological Science 2014 conference and it describes some ‘Important peculiarities of memory’. You can click the link above if you want to see if the image, […]

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