Category Archives: Reasoning

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. […]

A victim of metaphor

A gripping piece from Not Exactly Rocket Science describes how simply changing the metaphors used to describe crime can alter what we think is the best way of tackling it. The article covers a new study on the power of metaphors and how they can influence our beliefs and understanding of what’s being discussed. In […]

Sniffing out the unconscious

The illusion that a horse could do maths may be behind sniffer dogs falsely ‘detecting’ illicit substances according to an intriguing study covered by The Economist. The horse in question was called Clever Hans and he was rumoured to be able to do complicated maths, work out the date, spell German words – all from […]

A place downtown where the freaks all come around

Kellogg Insight has a fantastic article on how nightclub bouncers make instant status judgements to decide whether to let people into exclusive clubs. It’s a curious insight into perception of social status that both relies on some social stereotypes and turns others completely on their head. The article is based on the work of sociologist […]

Over-precautionary measures

I’ve just read a wonderfully revealing article from the Journal of Risk Research that compares the assumptions behind planning for modern-day terrorist attacks and the actual reactions of civilians from the intense bombing raids during World War II. It notes, contrary to popular belief, that both bombing raids and contemporary terrorist attacks rarely cause panic […]

The psychology of the 7 deadly sins

The Psychologist has an engrossing article on the psychology behind the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ and how they relate to modern life. The piece is full of fascinating and counter-intuitive snapshots from the science of social emotions. For example: Whereas the success and status of others can provoke envy, pride is what we feel when the […]

And I’m telling you you’re dead

Two delusional patients who believed that friends and relatives had died, despite them being around to prove otherwise, are described in an amazing 2005 journal article from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Although the Cotard delusion is well studied in psychiatry, where patients believe themselves to be dead, the report names the novel belief […]

Ted Hughes On Thinking

Editor of The Psychologist and man about town, Jon Sutton, just sent me a fantastic monologue by poet Ted Hughes on the experience of thinking. I’ve uploaded the piece to YouTube where you can hear Hughes’ remarkable analysis in his own characteristic voice. The piece is almost nine minutes long but in this part Hughes […]

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