Mind Hacks

SciAm Mind on the darker side of human nature

The latest edition of Scientific American Mind has just hit the shelves. Two articles have been made freely available online – one on lying and deceit and the other on the psychology of bullying.

The cover story on lying discusses the adaptive advantages of deception in its various forms throughout both the plant and animal kingdoms.

It also discusses the seemingly paradoxical process of self-deception:

[Benjamin Libet] found that our brains begin to prepare for action just over a third of a second before we consciously decide to act. In other words, despite appearances, it is not the conscious mind that decides to perform an action: the decision is made unconsciously… This study and others like it suggest that we are systematically deluded about the role consciousness plays in our lives.

This general model of the mind, supported by various experiments beyond Libet’s, gives us exactly what we need to resolve the paradox of self-deception–at least in theory. We are able to deceive ourselves by invoking the equivalent of a cognitive filter between unconscious cognition and conscious awareness.

The article on child bullying examines research into the motivations of bullies, and effective methods for children, parents and teachers to stop and prevent bullying in schools.

Other articles only available in the print edition cover the neuroscience of hypnosis, improving memory through visualisation techniques, an interview with consciousness researcher Christof Koch, dreaming, transcranial magnetic stimulation, sign language, neuromarketing and research into why people confess to crimes they haven’t committed.

Link to article Natural-Born Liars.
Link to article Stopping the Bullies