Category Archives: Other People

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 […]

Is medical school an empathotoxin?

Medical school seems to have a profound negative effect on empathy according to a research review just published in Academic Medicine. The review of 18 studies found that self-reported emotional understanding declines markedly during medical training. Counter-intuitively, the crucial downturn happens when medical students start seeing patients. Although the studies are almost completely based on […]

For Whom the Bell Tolls: A psychological autopsy

The Independent has an excellent article on the life and death of writer Ernest Hemingway based on an academic article that attempted a ‘psychological autopsy’ to understand the reasons for his suicide. Hemingway’s suicide has remained a sticking point for many of his biographers as it seemed incongruous with his adventurous, hard drinking and robustly […]

Carl Jung: a character of complexes

Carl Jung, the brilliant kaleidoscopic mind of psychoanalysis, died 50 years ago next week and The Guardian have the first part of a new series exploring his life and work. In the history of psychology, Jung lives as a intense sunburst of experiences and ideas. Sometimes the rays are so bright it’s hard to distinguish […]

A reflection of the greatest

A surprising study has just appeared in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology about whether narcissists realise what others think about their egotistical self-image. Narcissism is a trait where people are more concerned about themselves than others and tend to think they are better and more important than their peers. This has often been […]

The testing of Alan Turing

The Providentia blog has a brilliant three part series on Alan Turing, focusing on how his homosexuality was treated at the time both as a mental illness and a criminal act. As with all of the posts of Providentia it’s wonderfully written and captures the sad circumstances leading to the death of one of the […]

A connoisseur’s list of essential psychology

Every month since 2008 The Psychologist magazine has run an interview with a leading psychologist where they ask them to name one book or journal article, either contemporary or historical, that all psychologists should read. The BPS Research Digest has compiled all the answers into handy and fascinating list. A few of the answers: Mistakes […]

Time flies when you’re having fun

The New Yorker has a fantastic profile of neuroscientist David Eagleman that captures both his playful approach to science and his intriguing work on how we perceive time. Eagleman is one of the most engaging thinkers in neuroscience – equally at home tackling fascinating areas of cognitive science and writing playful books about the afterlife. […]

From Both of Me to all 15 of You

While browsing through Flickr I just found this amazing signed photo that rocker Alice Cooper dedicated to his psychologist Eugene Landy. If you click on the image for the full version you can see the photo in all its Cooper-esque glory. It’s dated 1976, which is apparently shortly before Cooper was hospitalised to treat his […]

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