Category Archives: Theory

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 […]

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 […]

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