Category Archives: Theory

Emotions are included

New Republic has an interesting piece on how corporations enforce ‘emotional labour’ in their workforce – checking that they are being sufficiently passionate about their work and caring to their customers. It focuses on the UK sandwich chain Pret who send a mystery shopper to each outlet weekly and “If the employee who rings up […]

A brain of warring neurons

A fascinating talk from philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett where he refutes his earlier claims that neurons can be thought of like transistors in a computational machine that produces the mind. This section is particularly striking: The question is, what happens to your ideas about computational architecture when you think of individual neurons not as […]

Darwin’s asylum

Shrewsbury School is one of the oldest public schools in England and it makes much of being the institution that schooled Charles Darwin and introduced him to science. While the famous naturalist was certainly a pupil there he probably never set foot inside the building that the famous school now occupies because during Darwin’s time […]

BBC Column: political genes

Here’s my BBC Future column from last week. The original is here. The story here isn’t just about politics, although that’s an important example of capture by genetic reductionists. The real moral is about how the things that we measure are built into our brains by evolution: usually they aren’t written in directly, but as […]

The grief problem

I’ve got an article in The Observer about the sad history of how psychologists have misunderstood grief and why it turns out to be much more individual than traditional theories have suggested. As well as the individual variations, it also riffs on the massive diversity of cultural grief and mourning practices. At the beginning of […]

Advances in artificial intelligence: deep learning

If you want to keep up with advances in artificial intelligence, the New York Times has an essential article on a recent step forward called deep learning. There is a rule of thumb for following how AI is progressing: keep track of what Geoffrey Hinton is doing. Much of the current science of artificial neural […]

The psychology of everything in 48 minutes

Psychologist Paul Bloom has made a fantastic video for Big Think that introduces pretty much the whole of psychology in 48 minutes.     It’s a brilliant and engaging introduction to the science of mind. Highly recommended.   Link to ‘Paul Bloom: The Psychology of Everything’ on YouTube.

A psychological bias in DNA testing

I’ve got a piece in today’s Observer about how psychological biases can affect DNA testing from crime scenes. It seems counter-intuitive, but that’s largely because we’ve come to accept the idea that DNA is a sort of individual genetic ‘serial number’ that just needs to be ‘read off’ from a biological sample – but the […]

Human error in psychology research: a rough guide

Science writer Ed Yong has just posted the audio of a fantastic talk on problems in psychology research and how to fix them. The talk was delivered at Bristol University but is remarkably direct and he pulls no punches in pointing out psychology’s scientific flaws. Interestingly, Yong makes the point that this is not a […]

BBC Column: Can glass shape really affect how fast you drink?

My latest column for BBC Future. The original is here. I was hesitant to write this at first, since nobody loves a problemmatiser, but I figured that something in support of team “I think you’ll find its a bit more complicated than that” couldn’t hurt, and there’s an important general point about the way facts […]

Avoiding the shadows

The Lancet has a powerful essay on children born from rape and the social and psychological consequences for mother, child and community. I’ll let the article speak for itself as it carefully articulates how the relationship between mother and child can be affected by these tragic events. There is one point worth highlighting, however. The […]

A comment on Szasz

One of the most interesting commentaries I’ve ever read on Thomas Szasz, the long-time critic of psychiatry who recently passed away, has been left as a comment in the obituary we recently published. The comment is by ‘Aporeticist’ and he or she is clearly a fierce critic of modern psychiatry (to the point of indulging […]

A guided tour of bad neuroscience

Oxford neuropsychologist Dorothy Bishop has given a fantastic video lecture about how neuroscience can be misinterpreted and how it can be misleading. If you check out nothing else, do read the summary on the Neurobonkers blog, which highlights Bishop’s four main criticisms of how neuroscience is misused. But if you have the time, sit back […]

A country on the couch

The New York Times discusses Argentina’s love affair with psychoanalysis. A country that has more psychologists – the majority Freudian – than any other nation on Earth. Argentina is genuinely unique with regard to psychology. Even in Latin America, where Freudian ideas remain relatively strong, Argentina remains a stronghold of the undiluted classic schools of […]

A very modern trauma

Posttraumatic stress disorder is one of the defining disorders of modern psychiatry. Although first officially accepted as a diagnosis in the early 1980s, many believe that it has always been with us, but two new studies suggest that this unlikely to be the case – it may be a genuinely modern reaction to trauma. The […]

Neurowords and the burden of responsibility

The New York Times has an excellent article about the fallacy of assuming that a brain-based explanation of behaviour automatically implies that the person is less responsible for their actions. The piece is by two psychologists, John Monterosso and Barry Schwartz, who discuss their research on how attributions of blame can be altered simply by […]

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