Category Archives: Theory

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 […]

Is the brain the centre of your universe?

The Observer has a fantastic debate between neuroscientists David Eagleman and Raymond Tallis about how much brain science tells us about free will and the unconscious. It’s a wonderful pairing as Eagleman is a broad-thinking wonderboy of neuroscience while Tallis is a veteran street-fighter of brain debates. The main point of contention revlves around whether […]

Mind Changers back for another series

BBC Radio 4’s brilliant psychology series Mind Changers has made a comeback and has a new season looking at some of the biggest ideas in cognitive science. It has kicked off with programmes on South African psychologist Joseph Wolpe and the treatment of anxiety as well as an edition on Julian Rotter and the idea […]

I predict a riot (based on a single study)

A group of black bloc researchers fed up with the lack of interest in replicating psychology studies has set up a strike force called the The Reproducibility Project that will recreate all 2008 studies from three major cognitive science journals. That sound you can hear. That’s shit hitting the fan. The Chronicle of Higher Education […]

A fitting tribute to Alan Turing

Nature has just published a fantastic Alan Turing special issue commemorating 100 years since the birth of the artificial intelligence pioneer, code-breaker and mathematician. It’s a really wonderful edition, available to freely read online, and accompanied by a special podcast that talks to his biographer about Turing’s famous 1936 paper on computable numbers, his contribution […]

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, […]

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