Category Archives: Theory

Dinner table neuropsychology

Common sense or ‘folk psychology‘ is what your average person in the street uses to make sense of human behaviour. It says people have affairs because their relationship is unsatisfying, that people steal because they want money and that people give to charity because they want to help people. Scientists tend to say ‘well, it’s […]

Ulric Neisser, psychology’s repentant revolutionary

The New York Times has an obituary for the founder of cognitive psychology, Ulric Neisser. As with most of his obituaries it glosses over the fact that Neisser later rejected cognitive psychology as a means to fully understand the human mind. Ulric Neisser is widely regarded as having founded the field with his 1967 book […]

Individual ecstasies: the revelatory experience conference

On March 23rd London will host a unique conference on the neuroscience, psychiatry and interpretation of revelatory visionary experiences. It’s been put together by Quinton Deeley from our research group at the Institute of Psychiatry and brings together cognitive neuroscientists, anthropologists, religious studies scholars, psychologists and psychiatrists to discuss different ways of understanding ‘revelatory experiences’. […]

Inside Broadmoor

Broadmoor Hospital is one of the highest security psychiatric hospitals in the UK and it has made a series of videos that describe what goes on behind their very high walls. Broadmoor is possibly one of the most famous or infamous hospitals in Britain – largely due to being featured in outraged media stories about […]

The importance of penis panics to cultural psychiatry

The Boston Globe has an excellent article about supposedly culture specific mental illnesses and how they are an ongoing puzzle for psychiatry’s diagnostic manual. These conditions are called culture-bound syndromes in the DSM but they’ve always had a bit of ‘looking at the natives’ feel about them as many syndromes that are unknown in many […]

A very brief guide to the DSM

The British Journal of Psychiatry’s ’100 words’ series continues with a very brief guide to the DSM psychiatric manual and its ongoing revision. DSM is an American classification system that has dominated since 1980. It is disliked by many for reducing diagnostic skills to a cold list of operational criteria, yet embraced by researchers believing […]

Clinical test copyright bullying legally dubious

James Grimmelmann, Associate Professor at New York Law School, has written on the takedown of an open-access cognitive screening test by the copyright holders of the Mini Mental State test. He says “any copyright claim here is legally weak and morally indefensible”. His piece is worth reading in full not only because he sets out […]

Ethics of the drone war

The Atlantic has a long but engrossing piece on the impact of military and intelligence robotics on the ethics of combat. To be fair, it goes way beyond just robots and also discusses implants, digital enhancements and cybernetics. And if it sounds a bit science-fiction, it’s looking at already available or just-over-the-horizon technology and sticks […]

The crowd dynamics of the city safari

The Economist has a fascinating article about the weird way that pedestrians behave as they walk through cities and how this knowledge is being applied to make city-living easier and safer. IMAGINE that you are French. You are walking along a busy pavement in Paris and another pedestrian is approaching from the opposite direction. A […]

An untranslatable mind

We tend to think of translation as a problem of grammar but a brilliant post on Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists demonstrates how even concepts about what the mind is can vary across languages. In Korean, the concept “maum” replaces the concept “mind”. “Maum” has no English counterpart, but is sometimes translated as “heart”. Apparently, […]

Reaction formation in New York City

My latest Beyond Boundaries column is about psychodynamic revolutionaries in New York and is in the December edition of The Psychologist. Jonathan Shedler is recounting an anecdote. ‘So when the patient says “I’m frustrated”, you say “Tell me more about that” and then you shut up!’ We’ve just bustled in from a crisp Manhattan evening […]

Against the high cult of retreat

Depending on who you ask Naomi Weisstein is a perceptual neuroscientist, a rock n roll musician, a social critic, a comedian, or a fuck the patriarchy radical feminist. You stick Weisstein’s name into Google Scholar and her most cited paper is ‘Psychology Constructs the Female’ – a searing critique of how 60s psychology pictured the […]

The free will rebellion

A popular mantra of modern neuroscience tells us that free will is an illusion. An article in the New York Times makes a lucid challenge to the ‘death of free will’ idea and a prominent neuroscientist has come out to fight the same corner. Neuroscientists began making preparations for the funeral of free will shortly […]

A theory of the bipolar economy

If you’re convinced that the current cycle of the boom and bust economy is due to the collapse of collateralised debt obligations secured on oversold mortgages that destablised the European market due to its reliance on cheap loans from an artificially inflated US market – think again! A 1935 Psychological Review article proposed a ‘manic-depressive […]

Invasion of the disembody snatchers

The latest edition of The Psychologist has a fantastic article on the psychology of horror, taking in everything from the popularity of cultural themes like zombies and vampires to research into the enjoyment of slasher films. It’s a really comprehensive look at the both the psychological concept, the feeling of horror, and where its origins […]

Steven Pinker: a life in brawls

There’s an excellent interview with Steven Pinker on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific that takes a look back at his work and his involvement with a long list of enjoyable controversies. For those over-saturated with discussion about his new book on the decline of violence, The Life Scientific interview is actually a […]

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