Author Archives: vaughanbell

Digital tech, the BMJ, and The Baroness

The British Medical Journal just published an editorial by me, Dorothy Bishop and Andrew Przybylski about the debate over digital technology and young people that focuses on Susan Greenfield’s mostly, it has to be said, unhelpful contributions. Through appearances, interviews, and a recent book Susan Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, has […]

Fifty psychological terms to just, well, be aware of

Frontiers in Psychology has just published an article on ‘Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid’. These sorts of “here’s how to talk about” articles are popular but themselves can often be misleading, and the same applies to this one. The article supposedly contains 50 “inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases”. […]

Spike activity 24-07-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Why does the concept of ‘schizophrenia’ still persist? Great post from Psychodiagnosticator. Nature reviews two new movies on notorious psychology experiments: the Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram’s conformity experiments. Can the thought of money make people more conservative? Another social priming effect bites the […]

Spike activity 13-07-2015

A slightly belated Spike Activity to capture some of the responses to the APA report plus quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: APA makes a non-apology on Twitter and gets panned in response. “the organization’s long-standing ethics director, Stephen Behnke, had been removed from his position as a result of […]

APA facilitated CIA torture programme at highest levels

The long-awaited independent report, commissioned by the American Psychological Association, into the role of the organisation in the CIA’s torture programme has cited direct collusion at the highest levels of the APA to ensure psychologists could participate in abusive interrogation practices. Reporter James Risen, who has been chasing the story for some time, revealed the […]

CBT is becoming less effective, like everything else

‘Researchers have found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is roughly half as effective in treating depression as it used to be’ writes Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian, arguing that this is why CBT is ‘falling out of favour’. It’s worth saying that CBT seems as popular as ever, but even if it was in decline, it […]

Computation is a lens

“Face It,” says psychologist Gary Marcus in The New York Times, “Your Brain is a Computer”. The op-ed argues for understanding the brain in terms of computation which opens up to the interesting question – what does it mean for a brain to compute? Marcus makes a clear distinction between thinking that the brain is […]

Spike activity 03-07-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: It is Time to Temper Our Artificial Intelligence Hysteria says PSFK Oxford academic warns humanity runs the risk of creating super intelligent computers that eventually destroy us all in The Telegraph. Fusion reports on how artificial intelligence is evolving to recognise porn. BBC Radio […]

Pope returns to cocaine

According to a report from BBC News the Pope ‘plans to chew coca leaves’ during his visit to Bolivia. Although portrayed as a radical encounter, this is really a return to cocaine use after a long period of abstinence in the papal office. Although the leaves are a traditional, mild stimulant that have been used […]

Never mind the neuromarketing

I’ve got an article in The Observer about the state of neuromarketing – where companies pay millions of wasted dollars to apply brain science to marketing. The piece looks at the three forms of neuromarketing – advertising fluff, serious research, and applied neuroscience. The first is clearly bollocks, the second a solid but currently abstract […]

Spike activity 26-06-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Picture This? Some Just Can’t. The New York Times covers a new study on people without visual imagery – that science writer Carl Zimmer helped discover. New Republic on how the Romans understood hallucinations. “They did not have a single concept of ‘hallucination’ until […]

Hold infinity in the palms of your hand

A rare documentary about three people who have had hallucinatory and profound revelatory experiences is now available online. Those Who Are Jesus examines the borders between revelation and psychosis and hears people recount their intense experiences while looking at how they can be understood in terms of sociology, neuropsychiatry, religion and radical mental health. Julian […]

Compulsory well-being: An interview with Will Davies

The UK government’s use of psychology has suddenly become controversial. They have promised to put psychologists into job centres “to provide integrated employment and mental health support to claimants with common mental health conditions” but with the potential threat of having assistance removed if people do not attend treatment. It has been criticised as ‘treating […]

Wanted: political diversity in social psychology

A fascinating article on why social psychology needs more political diversity is due to be published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Sadly the full article is locked behind a paywall but the abstract gives an excellent summary of the article and the wider problem itself. Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science. Duarte JL, Crawford […]

Spike activity 12-06-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times has a fascinating piece about the three waves of ancient peoples who arrived in Europe to found the modern population. I am shocked, shocked I tell you, that the UK Government are deliberately side-lining their own scientific advisors to implement […]

Context Is the New Black

The New Yorker has one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the Stanford prison experiment – the notorious and mythologised study that probably doesn’t tell us that we ‘all have the potential to be monsters’. It’s a study that’s often taught as one of the cornerstones of psychology and like many foundational stories, […]


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