Category Archives: Theory

The hot hand smacks back

The idea of the ‘hot hand’, where a player who makes several successful shots has a higher chance of making some more, is popular with sports fans and team coaches, but has long been considered a classic example of a cognitive fallacy – an illusion of a ‘streak’ caused by our misinterpretation of naturally varying […]

A review of Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature

I’ve written an in-depth review of Steven Pinker’s new book on the decline of violence for the latest Wilson Quarterly I thought getting a free copy and working on a review would be great fun but was rather taken aback when the 848 page book landed on my doorstep. I shouldn’t have been because there […]

Glitches in The Technology of Orgasm

We’ve covered The Technology of Orgasm before, a hugely influential book arguing that 19th century doctors were using Victorian vibrators to cure ‘female hysteria’ through the induction of [serious look] ‘hysterical paroxysms’, but it seems that the main argument may not be as breathtaking as it first appears. Cory Silverberg discusses how historians of sex […]

Outside the criminal mind

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind recently had a fascinating programme on the science behind offender profiling and whether it lives up to its ‘inside the criminal mind’ image. If you’re not familiar with the debates about criminal profiling you may be surprised to hear that a fair few forensic psychologists think it’s a […]

Shifting between the worlds of Carl Jung

The New Atlantis has a wonderful article giving an in-depth biography of Carl Jung, perhaps one of the most interesting, infuriating and brilliant thinkers in the history of psychology. Variously a pioneering experimental psychologist, a depth-analyst, an asylum psychiatrist and a man submerged in his own psychosis, he had a massive influence on both our […]

Escaping from the past of disaster psychology

Scientific American has a useful piece on how the immediate treatment of psychological trauma has changed since 9/11. The issue is interesting because recent progress has turned lots of psychological concepts on their head to the point where many still can’t grasp the concepts. The article notes that at the time of the Twin Towers […]

The spark of the cognitive revolution

Monitor on Psychology has a fascinating article on Otto Selz, a little known pioneer of the cognitive revolution who was decades ahead of the rest of psychology, before being captured and killed by the Nazis. He was so little known, in fact, that the majority of people have never heard of him. In fact, this […]

Minding your own business

I’m just reading a review copy of Steven Pinker’s (excellent) new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. This section, on how moral motivation is over-rated as a control on violence, just made me laugh out loud. The human moral sense can excuse any atrocity in the minds of those who […]

Ecstasy for war trauma: a flashback to earlier treatments

Mother Board has a completely fascinating article on the current ongoing trial testing whether MDMA or ‘ecstasy’ could be useful in treatment combat trauma. The piece is interesting as much for what it doesn’t say, as for what it does, and for how it ties into the history of psychological treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder […]

Riot psychology

In the coming weeks we can expect to see politicians and pundits lining up to give us their smash-and-grab clichés for the recent urban riots in the UK. They’ll undoubtedly give a warm welcome to our old friends economic decay, disengaged youth and opportunistic crime, and those of a more psychological persuasion might name-drop ‘deindividuation’ […]

Diagnostic dilemma, innit bruv

I’ve just been directed to a wonderful 2007 case study from the British Medical Journal that reports how middle aged doctors can mistake street slang for symptoms of schizophrenia. Detailed and repeated assessment of [the patient's] mental state found a normal affect, no delusions, hallucinations, or catatonia, and no cognitive dysfunction. His speech, however, was […]

Against Neuroethics

The BPS has published a discussion paper on “Neuroethics”. Neuroethics is an unnecessary phrase which covers a hodge-podge of ethical concerns for psychology researchers and broader societal concerns over the application of findings from the cognitive neurosciences. The paper, prepared by the impressive team of Carl Senior, Patrick Haggard and John Oates, is mostly a […]

Doubts about social contagion

Slate has an important article about how the studies behind last year’s headlines saying that things like divorce, obesity and loneliness spread through social networks like a ‘contagion’ may not be as sound as the stories suggested. The headline grabbing study on ‘divorce contagion’ has still yet to be published as it hasn’t made it […]

Naomi Wolf, porn and the misuse of dopamine

‘Is pornography driving men crazy?’ asks campaigner Naomi Wolf in a CNN article that contains a spectacular misunderstanding of neuroscience applied to a shaky moral conclusion. Wolf asks suggests that the widespread availability and consumption of pornography is “rewiring the male brain” and “causing them to have more difficulty controlling their impulses”. According to her […]

The trouble with psychiatry

If you want an incisive critique of modern psychiatry, look no further than an excellent article in The New York Review of Books. It brilliantly captures the fights over diagnosis and the DSM, the problem of drug companies buying influence by paying physicians, and why the promises of drug treatments are often propped up with […]

But what does it teach you?

The New Yorker has a fantastic article on theories of education and how the reasons for why people go to college have changed over the years. The description sounds a bit dull but the article is really very good. It tracks how the perception of what a college education should do, at least in the […]


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,599 other followers