1001 links

Mind Hacks has reached the 1000 link mark on social bookmarking site del.icio.us.

Some of the comments are priceless. A few of my favourites…


“Curiosidades sobre la mente” [¬°Gracias!]

“Mind Hacks is a collection of probes into the moment-by-moment workings of our brain with a view to understanding ourselves a little better and learning a little more, in a very real sense, about what makes us tick.”

“url links (yellow)” [huh?]

“this looks like it might be interesting”

2006-03-24 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:


Tom Lunt asks web visitors to name my brain tumour.

A series of fits, terrors and crying spells hit children in Chechnya and is blamed on mass hysteria.

Psychologist Lauren Slater discusses the common ‘wonder-drug to toxic tablet’ story of new psychotropic medicines in the New York Times.

Woman with a ‘perfect memory’ is investigated by neuroscientists to try and understand her remarkable talents, reports ABC News (abstract of scientific paper here).

Daniel Dennett on taking a scientific approach to understanding religion in a Seed Magazine article, and a piece for American Scientist.

A study finds few consistent tell-tale signs of lying, providing further evidence against this sort of nonsense.

Mixing Memory has a careful analysis of recent claims that people with strong political affilitations show ‘irrationality’ in reacting to opposing pitches.

Impulsive violence linked to gene for monoamine oxidase.

Aliens gave me psychic powers says clinical psychologist.

American Scientist <a href="http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/49580;jsessionid=aaa6J-GFIciRx2Live”>reviews new book “Origins of the Social Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and Child Development” – charting the beginnings of ‘EvoDevo Psych’.

Live Science examines the neuropsychology of numbers, and ‘dyscalculia’ – impairment in the ability to do mathematical operations.

Freud’s not dead

Sigmund_Freud.jpgNewsweek has a special edition on the legacy of Sigmund Freud and its relevance for the modern mind and brain sciences.

The issue includes several articles and takes a comprehensive approach, looking at Freud’s early life as a neurologist, and interviews Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel about the influence of Freud on modern psychiatry.

The issue is also accompanied by a podcast interview with Kandel and psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman (section on Freud start’s 18 minutes 40 seconds in).

Link to ‘Freud in Our Midst’ (via Anomalist).

White Lies (Don’t Do It)

Research shows dopamine has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!

A fantastically backward scientific explanation from the transcript of a TV programme on the neuroscience of love.

If you’re not familiar with why this is so silly, it’s because cocaine has its major effect by altering the dopamine system.

The above explanation is like saying “the economy has the same effect on society as shopping”, rather than “shopping affects society via the economy”.


I’m a bit late to the neuroword party with this one, but here goes:

Neuroessentialism – the belief in, or tactic of, invoking evidence, or merely terms, from neuroscience to justify claims at the psychological level. See also neuromysticism, neurobollocks.

There’s a mild example of this in George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of An Elephant which is an otherwise excellent book:

“One of the fundamental findings of cognitive science is that people think in terms of frames and metaphors – conceptual structures like those we have been describing. The frames are in the synapses of our brains, physically present in the form of neural circuitry. When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.”
(p73, which you can also view here)

He’s talking about frames (psychology). He’s advancing a claim that frame-incompatible facts get rejected (psychology). What do the statements ‘The frames are in the synapses of our brains, physically present in the form of neural circuitry’ add to the argument? Nothing. They do not provide any evidence nor do they even provide any information – everything psychological is represented somehow in the brain, and knowing that conceptual frames exist in neural circuits doesn’t help us figure out anything about their properties. The statements are contentless.

There’s no need to pick on Lakoff particularly, it is just what I’m reading today. Far more offensive examples of neuroessentialism abound (Brain Gym springs to mind). This is in part because neuroscience is a technical and sexily complicated discipline, and in part because of the mistaken belief that evidence at a lower level of description somehow has explanatory precedence over that at a higher level of description (cf physics envy). Many claims about human psychology are adequately and entirely addressed at the level of behaviour with no need to invoke neuroscientific evidence. Indeed, for many psychological claims neuroscience can add little or nothing to our assessment of their truth. Taking for example this claim that frame-incompatible facts get rejected, knowing that frames are embedded in brain tells us nothing, but even knowing how frames are embedded in the brain may not be as useful as it first appears. Whatever neuroscientific facts we discovered about frames, the final judgement of the truth of this claim would rely on answers to questions such as is it true that frame-incompatible facts tend to get rejected? In what range of circumstances is this true and how can it be affected? The last word would be behavioural evidence, regardless of what information was provided by neuroscience.


This page used to hold a picture and glowing recommendation for Off The Mark Cartoons. However, we received a threatening legal notice from them so we’ve withdrawn the picture.

We’ve also withdrawn our recommendation because they seem to think that sending threats for $150,000 dollars, out-of-the-blue, with not so much as an introduction, is an appropriate way to treat their fans.

We think different, so we hope you don’t mind us changing a page in our archives.

For those still desperate for some cartoon action, this XKCD cartoon is wonderful.

Ready for your close up?

gavel_white_bg.jpgCognitive Daily has just published two fascinating articles on research showing that the angle at which a police interview is filmed can affect how well people judge whether a confession has been forced.

The first article discusses a study which suggests that coerced confessions are much more likely to be picked up by jurors if they are filmed from the side.

The second looks at an extension of the first study, where the experimenters setup and ran a simulated trial (wow!), and found that the camera angle used to film a suspicious confession could influence the jurors’ final verdict.

Interestingly, the researchers used a re-enactment of a real-life interview, from someone who falsely confessed to his girlfriend’s murder under police pressure.

Fascinating work and a great write-up, showing the importance of understanding psychological influences in the process of justice.

Link to ‘Coerced confessions: Is videotaping part of the problem, or part of the solution?’.
Link to ‘Can court procedure mitigate abuse?’.