Category Archives: Other People

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 […]

The best way to win an argument

How do you change someone’s mind if you think you are right and they are wrong? Psychology reveals the last thing to do is the tactic we usually resort to. You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy […]

Research Digest #3: Getting to grips with implicit bias

My third and final post at the BPS Research Digest is now up: Getting to grips with implicit bias. Here’s the intro: Implicit attitudes are one of the hottest topics in social psychology. Now a massive new study directly compares methods for changing them. The results are both good and bad for those who believe […]

Lou Reed has left the building

Chronicler of the wild side, Lou Reed, has died. Reed was particularly notable for students of human nature for his descriptions of drugs, madness and his own experience of psychiatry. We’ve touched on his outrageous performance to the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry before and his songs about or featuring drug use are legendary. […]

Race perception isn’t automatic

Last week’s column for BBC Future describes a neat social psychology experiment from an unlikely source. Three evolutionary psychologists reasoned that that claims that we automatically categorise people by the ethnicity must be wrong. Here’s how they set out to prove it. The original column is here. For years, psychologists thought we instantly label each […]

What does it take to spark prejudice?

Short answer: surprisingly little. Continuing the theme of revisiting classic experiments in psychology, last week’s BBC Future column was on Tajfel’s Minimal Group Paradigm. The original is here. Next week we’re going to take this foundation and look at some evolutionary psychology of racism (hint: it won’t be what you’d expect). How easy is it […]

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: 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 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 […]

A culture shock for universal emotion

The Boston Globe looks at the increasing evidence against the idea that there are some universally expressed facial emotions. The idea that some basic emotions are expressed universally and have an evolutionary basis was suggested by Darwin in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. The concept was further explored by […]

The peak experiences of Abraham Maslow

The New Atlantis has an in-depth biographical article on psychologist Abraham Maslow – one of the founders of humanistic psychology and famous for his ‘hierarchy of needs’. Maslow is stereotypically associated with a kind of fluffy ‘love yourself’ psychology although the man himself was quite a skeptic of the mumbo jumbo that got associated with […]

Against the high cult of retreat

Depending on who you ask Naomi Weisstein is a perceptual neuroscientist, a rock n roll musician, a social critic, a comedian, or a fuck the patriarchy radical feminist. You stick Weisstein’s name into Google Scholar and her most cited paper is ‘Psychology Constructs the Female’ – a searing critique of how 60s psychology pictured the […]

The chaos behind a legendary portrait

I just found this fascinating account of how Vincent Van Gogh cut off his own ear while seemingly severely mentally ill, the event that led him to paint one of his most famous pictures. The account is apparently reconstructed from known events at the time but also has van Gogh’s own description of the event, […]

Shifting between the worlds of Carl Jung

The New Atlantis has a wonderful article giving an in-depth biography of Carl Jung, perhaps one of the most interesting, infuriating and brilliant thinkers in the history of psychology. Variously a pioneering experimental psychologist, a depth-analyst, an asylum psychiatrist and a man submerged in his own psychosis, he had a massive influence on both our […]

From character analysis to orgasm batteries

Slate has a brilliant article on one of the most troubled and yet fascinating people in the history of psychology – William Reich – inventor of the orgasmotron. Reich was one of Freud’s inner circle but decided to propose his own ideas rather than follow the Freudian orthodoxy, something which got him promptly kicked out […]

An unusual form of the Babinski reflex

A curious anecdote about legendary neurologist Joseph Babinski accidentally hitting on the butler of famous physician Henry Head: Babinski [1857–1932] stayed with Henry Head in London. He spoke no English but on retiring wanted to use a bidet and summoned the butler who spoke no French; he therefore used sign language to indicate what he […]

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