Category Archives: Theory

The biases of pop psychology

I just found this great piece at Scientific American that makes a fascinating point about how pop psychology books that inform us about our biases tend not to inform us about our most important bias – the effect of making things into stories – despite the fact that they rely on it to get their […]

A modern psychiatry

If you want to know how your average reasonable mainstream medical psychiatrist thinks about mental illness, Aeon magazine has a good piece that captures where many are coming from. Now before you (yes you) Dr average reasonable mainstream medical psychiatrist, says that you don’t agree with all of it, I’m not suggesting it’s a manifesto, […]

How to win wars by influencing people

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how behavioural science is being put at the centre of military operations and how an ‘influence-led’ view of warfare is causing a rethink in how armed conflict is managed. Techniques such as deception and propaganda have been the mainstay of warfare for thousands of years, but there […]

Interviews at the Frontier

The BBC Radio 4 Exchanges at the Frontier series has just concluded and it includes interviews with the likes of Kay Redfield Jamison and Human Brain Project leader Henry Markram. They’re all online as podcasts. All the interviews are done by philosopher A.C. Grayling and for a BBC talking shop are remarkably good fun. Even […]

Building the greatest artificial intelligence lab on Earth

The Guardian has an article on technologist Ray Kurzeil’s move to Google that also serves to review how the search company is building an artificial intelligence super lab. Google has gone on an unprecedented shopping spree and is in the throes of assembling what looks like the greatest artificial intelligence laboratory on Earth; a laboratory […]

Snow-fuelled neurophilosophy

Pete Mandik is a professor of philosophy and was due to give a class on neurophilosophy before his class got snowed out. Instead of ditching the class he made a fantastic and funny video lecture for his students. The pipe-chewing Mandik gives a great introduction to this particular philosophical approach to integrating neuroscience and concepts […]

The most accurate psychopaths in cinema

The most accurately depicted psychopaths in cinema have been identified by a study that has just been published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. The study specifically excluded films that weren’t intended to be realistic (involving magical powers, fantasy settings and so on) but still examined 126 characters from 20th and 21st century movies. It’s […]

Is school performance less heritable in the USA?

A recent twin study looked at educational achievement in the UK and found that genetic factors contribute more than half to the difference in how students perform in their age 16 exams. But this may not apply to other countries. Twin studies look at the balance between environmental and genetic factors for a given population […]

Where data meets the people

Ben Goldacre might be quite surprised to hear he’s written a sociology book, but for the second in our series on books about how the science of mind, brain and mental health meet society, Bad Pharma is an exemplary example. The book could essentially be read as a compelling textbook on clinical trial methodology with […]

Hallucinated voices and the community inside us

I’ve long been fascinated by the experience of ‘hearing voices’ and long been baffled by the typical scientific approach to the experience. As a result, I’ve just had a paper published in PLOS Biology that focus on one of the most striking but ignored aspects of hallucinated voices. Here’s how I describe the central paradox […]

A multitude of PTSDs

A new paper in Perspectives in Psychological Science looked at all the possible combinations of symptoms that could achieve a DSM-5 diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder and found there are now 636,120 ways to have PTSD. This shows one of the many drawbacks of having a ‘check-list’ approach to classifying mental disorder. 636,120 Ways to […]

Hofstadter’s digital thoughts

The Atlantic has an amazing in-depth article on how Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gödel, Escher, Bach, has been quietly working in the background of artificial intelligence on the deep problems of the mind. Hofstadter’s vision of AI – as something that could help us understand the mind rather than just a way […]

The death of the chaotic positivity ratio

A new online publication called Narratively has an excellent story about how a part-time student blew apart a long-standing theory in positive psychology. The article is the geeky yet compelling tale of how weekend student Nick Brown found something fishy about the ‘critical positivity ratio’ theory that says people flourish when they have between 2.9013 […]

Madness and hallucination in The Shining

Roger Ebert’s 2006 review of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining turns out to be a brilliant exploration of hallucination, madness and unreliable witnessing in a film he describes as “not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose”. Kubrick is telling a story with ghosts (the two girls, the former caretaker and a […]

Don’t panic but psychology isn’t always a science

Every so often, the ‘is psychology a science?’ debate sparks up again, at which point, I start to weep. It’s one of the most misplaced, misfiring scientific discussions you can have and probably not for the reasons you think. To understand why it keeps coming around you need to understand something about the politics of […]

A literary review of the DSM-5

Philosopher Ian Hacking, famous for analysing the effects of psychological and neuroscientific knowledge on how we understand ourselves, has reviewed the DSM-5 for the London Review of Books. It’s both an excellent look at what the whole DSM project has been designed to do and a cutting take on the checklist approach to diagnosis. It’s […]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,567 other followers