Category Archives: Reasoning

Games of Invention

I’ve been collecting card decks. First I got the Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno’s deck of worthwhile dilemmas. When I’m stuck with something I’m working on I sit completely still for a few moments, holding the problem in mind. Then I take a breath, draw a card and apply what’s written to my problem. Trying this […]

Entertainingly mislead me

A beautifully recursive study has shown that viewing an episode of the psychology of deception TV series Lie To Me makes people worse at distinguishing truth from lies. The TV series is loosely based on the work of psychologist Paul Ekman who pioneered the study of emotions and developed the Facial Action Coding System or […]

False confession fishing in the lab

We’ve covered false confessions and how surprisingly common they are several times before on Mind Hacks but a new article from The Economist updates us on the latest lab studies. DNA crime investigators The Innocence Project have discovered that about 25% of DNA exonerations have involved the accused making a false confession at the time […]

When explaining becomes a sin

As the cacophony of politicians and commentators replaces that of the police sirens, look out for the particularly shrill voice of those who condemn as evil anyone with an alternative explanation for the looting than theirs. For an example, take the Daily Mail headline for Tuesday, which reads “To blame the cuts is immoral and […]

Inner visions of seven dimensional space

I’ve just found an amazing 2002 article [pdf] from the American Mathematical Society about blind mathematicians. I was surprised to learn that the majority work in geometry, supposedly the most ‘visual’ discipline, and fascinated to learn that they generally believe the experience of sight puts people at a disadvantage because it locks us into a […]

Slogans trigger resistance while logos slip through

Language Log covers a fascinating study that found that commercial logos unconsciously encourage brand-compliant behaviour but slogans do the reverse and seem to trigger automatic resistance. It seems that while slogans are read as being deliberately persuasive, logos slip under our advertising radar and trigger a series of brain-friendly associations built up by the company. […]

Subtle word change affects election participation

A subtle word change to refer to the self on a pre-election survey seems to significantly boost the number of voters in national elections. A new study led by psychologist Christopher Bryan and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences investigated how the sense of self motivates the public act of voting. […]

A dose of female intelligence

Harvard Business Review interviews a research team who have found that increasing the number of women in a team raises group intelligence. Of course, the findings could also be as accurately described as showing that men make groups more stupid, although the researchers are far too tactful to mention this particular interpretation. Woolley: We’ve replicated […]

The psychology of expert predictions

This week’s edition of BBC Radio 4 All in the Mind has a fantastic section on the psychology of knowledgeable predictions that bursts lots of bubbles about the power of experts but also discusses how to make more accurate predictions. You can listen to the whole programme online but it seems the crucial section has […]

The psychology of the end of the world

I’ve written an article for Slate on tomorrow’s predicted doomsday and how believers cope with the non-arrival of the apocalypse. Although many people are familiar with When Prophecy Fails, a book by psychologist Leon Festinger that charted how a flying saucer cult dealt with the non-arrival of the Armageddon, it’s less widely know that it […]

Three Christs return and are waiting to be won

The New York Review of Books has just reprinted the classic book ‘The Three Christs of Ypsilanti’ documenting psychologist Milton Rokeach’s offbeat experiment where he brought three delusional Christs together in the same psychiatric hospital. I wrote about the astounding but somewhat ethically dubious study in a recent article for Slate if you want some […]

How to jail the innocent

The Innocence Project has used DNA technology to overturn hundreds of wrongful convictions. Slate has an excellent two part series on the two main reasons why these people were falsely jailed: eyewitness misidentifications and false confessions. The series is by law professor Brandon Garrett who has analysed the first overturned 250 cases to examine the […]

Hungry judges less likely to grant parole

Not Exactly Rocket Science covers a study that is in equal parts delightful and terrifying: it found that judges are much less likely to grant parole when they’re hungry. It’s the work of Shai Denzeger from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and summarises the results of 1,112 parole board hearings in Israeli prisons, over […]

The Oscar for best neuroscience research goes to…

Both of this year’s lead Oscar winners have published scientific papers on neuroscience. We’ve covered Natalie Portman’s work on frontal lobe development in children before, but it turns out Colin Firth has also just co-authored a study on structural brain differences in people with differing political views. An excellent post on The Neurocritic tells the […]

Psychosis keeps up with the times

Delusions in conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have tracked social concerns over the 20th century, according to a wonderful study just published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Psychologists Brooke Cannon and Lorraine Kramer reviewed the patient records of a state psychiatric hospital in the US looking at each decade of the 20th […]

To catch a thief and fool a scientist

If you only listen to one radio programme this month, make it this one. The BBC Radio 4 programme Fingerprints on Trial explores how identifying people at crime scenes by their prints is subject to serious psychological biases and is not the exact science that we, and ironically, the forensic fingerprint community, like to believe. […]

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