Category Archives: Integrating

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 […]

A pain to describe

RadioLab has an excellent mini-episode on the difficulties of communicating the subjective feeling of pain. As you might expect, it is both wonderfully put together and unexpectedly beautiful in places, but for such a uncomfortable subject, it is also very funny. Particularly wonderful is a segment on the originator of the Schmidt index that rates […]

Works like magic

The New York Times has a short but thought-provoking piece on the benefits of supersition and magical thinking. This part particularly caught my eye: For instance, in one study led by the psychologist Lysann Damisch of the University of Cologne, subjects were handed a golf ball, and half of them were told that the ball […]

A thread of hope from a shooting

No-one knows why Steven Kazmierczak snapped. When he kicked his way into a packed lecture hall in Northern Illinois University, shooting dead five students and injuring 21 more, those who knew him expressed surprise that he was capable of such brutal violence. He killed himself at the end of the spree, meaning his motives remain […]

A fitting tribute to Alan Turing

Nature has just published a fantastic Alan Turing special issue commemorating 100 years since the birth of the artificial intelligence pioneer, code-breaker and mathematician. It’s a really wonderful edition, available to freely read online, and accompanied by a special podcast that talks to his biographer about Turing’s famous 1936 paper on computable numbers, his contribution […]

A non hysterical view of ‘cheerleader hysteria’

I’ve written an article for the Discover Magazine blog The Crux about mass hysteria and conversion disorder in light of the not-very-good-coverage given to the issue after a group of cheerleaders with unexplained neurological symptoms made the headlines. The New York Times described the situation as a ‘nutty story’ and said hysteria is ‘not supposed […]

A journey through schizophrenia science

BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific recently profiled psychiatrist, schizophrenia researcher and stand-up chap, Robin Murray, who talks about how his understanding of the condition has drastically changed over the years. It’s a fascinating journey through how our theories about the mental illness, most associated with having delusions and hallucinations, has evolved through time – […]

Advertising through avatar-manipulation

The Psychologist has an article on the surprising effect of seeing a digital avatar of yourself – as if looking at your body from the outside. The piece covers a range of effects found in psychology studies, from increasing healthy behaviour to encouraging false memories, but the bit on deliberate avatar-manipulation for advertising caught my […]

Body rock

Nature has a fantastic article about how our sense of being located in our bodies is being temporarily warped and distorted in the lab of neuroscientist Henrik Ehrsson. We’ve covered some of Ehrsson’s striking studies before as he has managed, with surprisingly simple equipment, to induce out-of-body experiences, the sense of having a third arm […]

The dreams and hallucinations of cloistered monks

French sleep scientists have studied a group of monks who have virtually no contact with the outside world and have taken a vow of silence. The monks are of scientific interest owing to the tradition of having two sleep periods per night interrupted by a 2-3 hour prayer and psalm reading session. The research group […]

The Crux of PTSD under threat of terrorism

I’ve got a piece over at Discover Magazine’s new group blog, The Crux, which looks at whether post-traumatic stress disorder makes sense if it’s applied to people who remain at high risk of terrorist attack. The Crux is a blog written by a crowd of science folks that aims to taker a deeper look at […]

The free will rebellion

A popular mantra of modern neuroscience tells us that free will is an illusion. An article in the New York Times makes a lucid challenge to the ‘death of free will’ idea and a prominent neuroscientist has come out to fight the same corner. Neuroscientists began making preparations for the funeral of free will shortly […]

The appliance of psychological science

The BPS Research Digest is celebrating its 200th issue with a series of articles from well-known psychologists that describe how psychology has helped them out in everyday life. There’s a whole stack of people involved who have written on everything from love to scientific thinking to child rearing. Both myself and Tom have contributed pieces […]

The hot hand smacks back

The idea of the ‘hot hand’, where a player who makes several successful shots has a higher chance of making some more, is popular with sports fans and team coaches, but has long been considered a classic example of a cognitive fallacy – an illusion of a ‘streak’ caused by our misinterpretation of naturally varying […]

The cutting edge of the easy high

Perhaps the most complete scientific review of what we know about synthetic cannabis or ‘spice’ products has just appeared in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. These ‘legal highs’ are typically sold as nudge-nudge wink-wink ‘incense’ but contain synthetic cannabinoids which have a similar effect to smoking dope but are legal in many countries. We covered the […]

The father of Randle P. McMurphy

An article in the Journal of Medical Humanities has a fascinating look at one of playwright Samuel Beckett’s early novels – an exploration of madness and mental health care that foreshadowed One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest. Beckett is best known for Waiting for Godot, but his novel Murphy was previously one of the best […]

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