the forbidden experiment

Rebecca Saxe, a psychologist from MIT, reviews Encounters with Wild Children by Adriana S. Benzaqu√©n, a history of the fascination that scientists have had with children who grow-up isolated from human contact. To raise a child without the influence of culture is the ‘forbidden experiment’, the test theorised by philosophers of human nature to reveal our ‘true selves’ (is man a beast or an angel underneath?). Some have thought that wild-children offer a natural occurance of this forbidden experiment, but at route, Benzaqu√©n argues, this idea doesn’t even make sense (quoting Saxe):

But here’s the catch: the forbidden experiment may belong to a smaller group of experimental problems that persistently seem meaningful but are not. Intuitively, we expect that while human nature interacts with human society in a typical child’s development, the natural and the social are in principle independent and distinguishable. If this intuition is wrong, the forbidden experiment is incoherent.

More at the Boston Review: The Forbidden Experiment: What can we learn from the wild child? Rebecca Saxe reviews ‘Encounters with Wild Children’ by Adriana S. Benzaqu√©n

Hospital de la Caridad

hospital_caridad_border.JPGThe Hospital de la Caridad was founded in 1674 by Don Miguel de Mañara to care for physically and mentally ill of Seville who were too poor to afford treatment.

Don Miguel de Mañara was supposedly the inspiration for Byron´s Don Juan as he left a life of debauchery to found the hospital after having an intense religious vision in which he saw his own funeral procession.

He subsequently built the hospital and adjoining church and dedicated his life to charity and the religious order that runs the institution.

The church and hospital are still working, although it now focuses on caring for the elderly of Seville.

Link to Hospital de la Caridad website.

Me voy a Espa√±a

SevilleBath.jpgI am off to deepest Seville for two weeks and I’m not sure how much internet access I will have. As a consequence, updates might be a little sporadic and I suspect will be without illustrations as I doubt I’ll have decent image editing software to hand.

In the mean time, here’s a few articles of interest for those curious about psychology and psychiatry in Spain.

* An article [pdf] about professional psychology in contemporary Spain.

* A piece from The Guardian about a bizarre chapter in the history of Spanish psychiatry where Franco’s psychiatrist tried to prove leftists were clinically mad.

* An abstract from a 1945 American Journal of Psychiatry paper on Spain as the ‘cradle of psychiatry’.

PsyArt for the psychology of art

colourful_graffitti.jpgPsyArt is an online journal dedicated the use of psychology in understanding the impact and meaning of art.

It’s a peer-reviewed journal which has been publishing quality analyses of the art-psychology borderlands for almost a decade now.

The full-text articles are freely available online, meaning you can pass on the links and read the full papers without a subscription.

Recent article include The Silence of Madness in ‘Signs and Symbols’ by Vladimir Nabokov [link] and Perspectivism ‚Äî A Powerful Cognitive Metaphor [link].

Link to PsyArt journal.

Psychosis and psychoanalysis

I’ve always been slightly suspicious about the Freudian tendency to read meaning into everything. You see hidden meanings and get paid for it and you’re an analyst, you do it for free and you’re psychotic.

I suspect this is why there’s so little psychoanalytic work on psychosis, the infinite regress of hidden meanings would probably cause a dimensional rift and the universe would collapse.

2006-08-25 Spike activity

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


Retrospectacle discusses the famous study on London cab drivers that won an IgNobel Award but has actually provided some important findings on adult brain regeneration.

American Scientist talks to psychologist Marc Hauser on the prospect of a moral instinct.

Research finds ‘unique brain gene’ – again.

A Blog Around The Clock asks should we rewrite the textbook on neuron regulation channels?

The ‘Hobbit’ debate rumbles on: New groups of researchers claim that Hobbit was a ‘disabled caveman‘.

A newspaper article in The Telegraph to accompany a recent TV series looks at the influence of biology and genetics on what makes us human.

How do we keep track of multiple objects? Cognitive Daily investigates the latest research.

Nature talks to Nick ‘we’re living in a computer simulation‘ Bostrom about human enhancement and virtue engineering.

A humorous list of logical fallacies in computational neuroscience are unearthed by OmniBrain.

Developing Intelligence looks at the latest research on the tricky problem of visual binding – the ability to combine different sources of sensory information into one conscious perception.