Category Archives: Theory

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 […]

Is mental health a smoke screen for society’s ills?

Somatosphere has a fantastic account of the debates rocking the world of global mental health – the still nascent field that aims to make mental health a world priority. The idea itself is sound in the general sense, but there is still a lot of argument about what it means to promote mental health and […]

The bathroom of the mind

The latest issue of The Psychologist has hit the shelves and it has a freely available and suprisingly thought-provoking article about bathroom psychology. If you’re thinking it’s an excuse for cheap jokes you’d be mistaken as takes a genuine and inquisitive look at why so little psychology, Freud excepted, has been concerned with one of […]

A bridge over troubled waters for fMRI?

Yesterday’s ‘troubles with fMRI’ article has caused lots of debate so I thought I’d post the original answers given to me by neuroimagers Russ Poldrack and Tal Yarkoni from which I quoted. Poldrack and Yarkoni have been at the forefront of finding, fixing and fine-tuning fMRI and its difficulties. I asked them about current challenges […]

The trouble with fMRI

I’ve written a piece for The Observer about ‘the trouble with brain scans’ that discusses how past fMRI studies may have been based on problematic assumptions. For years the media has misrepresented brain scan studies (“Brain centre for liking cheese discovered!”) but we are now at an interesting point where neuroscientists are starting to seriously […]

What is the DSM supposed to do?

I’ve written an article for the Discover Magazine’s blog The Crux on what the DSM diagnostic manual is supposed to do. This is quite an interesting question when you think about it. In other words, it asks – how do we define mental illness – both in theory and in practice? The article tackles how […]

Psychology and the one-hit wonder

Don’t miss an important article in this week’s Nature about how psychologists are facing up to problems with unreplicated studies in the wake of several high profiles controversies. Positive results in psychology can behave like rumours: easy to release but hard to dispel. They dominate most journals, which strive to present new, exciting research. Meanwhile, […]

As addictive as cupcakes

If I read the phrase “as addictive as cocaine” one more time I’m going to hit the bottle. Anything that is either overused, pleasurable or has become vaguely associated with the dopamine system is compared to cocaine. In fact, here is a list of things claimed to be as addictive as the illegal nose powder […]

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