Rebranding Freud

McSweeney’s has a funny piece where Freud visits the ad agency Sterling Cooper from the Mad Men television series:

FREUD: Well, as you know, we’ve dominated psychology for decades. But lately we’ve begun losing our share of the market to Behaviorism. People want a more comforting interpretation of their lives. They don’t want to be told that they’re suppressing base urges, or that their problems can be traced back to how they learned to use the toilet.

DRAPER: But that’s always been your identity. People think of Freudian insights as rising above the crowd. It’s an attitude that says, “I’m educated. I’m not a mechanic.” I don’t think you toy with that.

FREUD: Society is changing. At our last board meeting, we decided we have to reposition ourselves. We want to promote our expertise in dreams. We want people to see them as the means to discover themselves, and that Freud will show them how.

PEGGY OLSON: When I was a girl, I always lay in bed in the morning thinking over the dream I just had. It was the happiest part of my day.

FREUD: (Brightening) That’s the feel that we’re looking for. People want a lift, and we give it to them.

OLSON: You could have a slogan like, “Dare to Dream.” Or “Full Dream Ahead.”

Although intended to be satirical, Freud’s family has a long association with advertising. His nephew, Edward Bernays, essentially invented the field of PR, and his great grandson, Matthew Freud, is the founder of Freud Communications, one of the biggest PR companies in the UK.

Link to ‘Freud: The Rebranding’ (via @mrianleslie).

Through a monitor darkly

An online meth house, created in virtual world Second Life, has been created, tested and found to reliably induce drug cravings in methamphetamine users – in an experimental study just published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.

A ‘meth house’ is where methamphetamine users go to buy, take or make speed and regular users may spend long periods of time there. Being able to reliably induce drug cravings in the research lab is useful as it allows controlled studies to be more easily conducted.

The researchers in this study, led by psychiatrist Christopher Culbertson, compared the reactions of 17 speed users to four situations: a video of a meth house, a neutral video, a Second Life simulation of a meth house and an average looking flat recreated in the online world.

Below are some of the images of the meth house used in the study and you can see more in a description on the project’s web pages.

It turns out that the interactive Second Life meth house reliably induced the strongest cravings.

The study bears a sideways resemblance to Philip K. Dick’s novel A Scanner Darkly which plays with themes of shifting realities and surveillance in a community of stimulant drug users.

Link to PubMed entry for study.
Link to research team’s web page on the project.

The case of the unknown father

Arthur Conan Doyle is famous for the creation of Sherlock Holmes but a lot less is known about his father. Practical Neurology has an interesting article about art and epilepsy which discusses Doyle senior’s artistic talents and how he was eventually committed to an asylum.

Probably more famous as the father of Arthur Conan, Charles Altamont Doyle (1832–1893) was said to have epilepsy for the last 10–15 years of his life. The cause on his death certificate was epilepsy of ‘many years’ standing. He was not a particularly successful artist and perhaps is best remembered for his illustrations that accompanied the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet 1888. Charles was another depressive, but he chose to self-medicate heavily with alcohol. It is possible that his seizures, occurring late in life, were related to his consumption of alcohol and rapid withdrawal.

He was committed to the Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum in 1881, where finding peace at last, he created some of his best work. It is said that he persevered with his art in an attempt to show that he had been wrongfully imprisoned in the institution; ironically, the recurring themes that he used to plead for his sanity were elves, fairies and other fantastical characters. It is said that he died during a prolonged seizure.

Link to PubMed entry for article.

How murder fell out of fashion with the rich

Photo by Flickr user AJC1. Click for sourceMurder has become largely confined to the poor and disadvantaged whereas historical records show that in times gone past it was used equally by all levels of society.

This is taken from a 1997 study called ‘The Decline of Elite Homocide’, published in the journal Criminology, which attempts to explain how homicide has become less democratic over time.

The criminological literature consistently reports a negative relationship between social status and interpersonal homicide. Regardless of the setting studied, homicide tends, with just a few exceptions, to be concentrated among low-status groups, such as the poor, the unemployed, the young, and cultural minorities. Yet robust as it is, this relationship is confined to modern societies. In the premodern era, homicide was found at all levels of the social hierarchy, including its higher echelons.

What explains these facts? Why is homicide largely confined to low status people today but was not in the societies studied by anthropologists and historians? Why has elite homicide declined? The answer developed here builds on a theory advanced by Donald Black (1983), which argues that violent conflict is a function of the unavailability of law. In modern societies, low social status and law are antagonistic, and the result is that legal means of resolving conflict are effectively unavailable to those at the bottom of the social pyramid. In earlier societies, law tended to be unavailable to everybody, irrespective of their social standing.

Link to DOI entry and summary for study.

A bit of all right

An interesting point made in a new book about the psychology of being wrong, appropriately called Being Wrong by author Kathryn Schulz.

Taken from The New York Times book review:

Schulz begins with a question that should puzzle us more than it does: Why do we love being right? After all, she writes, “unlike many of life’s other delights — chocolate, surfing, kissing — it does not enjoy any mainline access to our biochemistry: to our appetites, our adrenal glands, our limbic systems, our swoony hearts.” Indeed, as she notes, “we can’t enjoy kissing just anyone, but we can relish being right about almost anything,” including that which we’d rather be wrong about, like “the downturn in the stock market, say, or the demise of a friend’s relationship or the fact that at our spouse’s insistence, we just spent 15 minutes schlepping our suitcase in exactly the opposite direction from our hotel.”

The NYT also has an excerpt of the book available online.

Link to New York Times book review (via 3QuarksDaily).
Link to book’s website.

Stanley Milgram, the 70s TV drama

The website for ‘The Man Who Shocked the World’, a biography of Stanley Milgram, is a goldmine of information about the psychologist who became famous for his obedience experiments. The little known facts section has an interesting snippet about a 70s TV drama based on the experiments which starred William Shatner as the Milgram character.

In August, 1976, CBS presented a prime-time dramatization of the obedience experiments and the events surrounding them, titled “The Tenth Level.” William Shatner had the starring role as Stephen Hunter, the Milgram-like scientist. Milgram served as a consultant for the film. While it contains a lot of fictional elements, it powerfully conveyed enough of the essence of the true story for its writer, George Bellak, to receive Honorable Mention in the American Psychological Association’s media awards for 1977.

It turns out that The Tenth Level is available in full on YouTube. The first part is here and you can click through to the other parts.

The combination of some of the most notorious experiments in the history of psychology, Big Bill Shatner, cheap production and hammy acting make for a heady mix, although it doesn’t particularly overdo the psychology.

I’ve not read ‘The Man Who Shocked the World’ although it is, by all accounts, excellent. The website, at least, is a fantastic resource in itself and well worth a visit.

Link to ‘The Man Who Shocked the World’ website.
Link to first part of ‘The Tenth Level’.

2010-07-23 Spike activity

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

Newsweek has an excellent series on the psychology and culture of beauty.

‘A single brief electrical pulse to the hippocampus caused momentary amnesia’. Neuroskeptic covers a fascinating human study.

AP News has an interesting piece on whether mind-bending movies set in mental space are the new Westerns.

You all know the top drawer neuroscience blog The Frontal Cortex has just moved to Wired? A great piece on why money doesn’t make us happy breaks in the new digs.

New Scientist says “If you thought depression was caused by low serotonin levels, think again”. Nope, can’t say I did. If you ignore the premise taken from drug company adverts, its a good article on serotonin and depression.

The study, and indeed, the concept, of prejudice and its psychological basis is traced back by an excellent piece from the BPS Research Digest.

Wired Science covers a study finding a gene associated with drinking more booze when with friends. Now you get to blame it on your genes and your mates. Evidence based excuses are the future.

A series of posts on the psychology and neuroscience of eroticism and disgust makes for fascinating reading over at The Neurocritic.

New Scientist has an excellent special feature on the social dynamics of laughter. ‘Contagious chortling’ is a lovely phrase.

There’s a fantastic piece on how people without language think and reason over at Neuroanthropology.

Science News covers the recent study finding a link between body shape and mental performance in older women.

Like cranking up the volume in an irony chamber. In the News covers a new study that found that watching Fox’s TV fictional series on the science of lying makes people worse at detecting lies. Genius.

Nature News discusses why music is good for you. Doesn’t mention air guitar. Otherwise a good piece.

Depressed people see less colour contrast in the world, according to a fascinating study covered by Neurophilosophy.

The LA Times has a piece by a medical anthropologist discussing the stark reality behind the reality TV show where families hold an ‘intervention‘ for their drug addicted relatives. No, I’m not making this up. More background on Somatosphere.

You guys know that the no-holds-barred neuroscience blog Developing Intelligence has sprung back into life?

Newsweek covers the trouble with using undergraduates for research and the W.E.I.R.D. problem.

There’s a great review of ‘Methland’, a book on the speed industry in rural America, over at Addiction Inbox.

The Guardian asks ‘Why is the Hollywood portrayal of mental illness stuck in the dark ages?’

The behavioural psychology of drowning and why its not like the on-screen depiction is discussed in a fascinating Boing Boing post.

The New York Times covers an interesting finding that even without swallowing, a simple mouth rinse with carbohydrate solution tricks the brain into physical stamina mode.

There are ten freaky, funny, and fantastical dream sequences from the movies over at FlavorWire.

TED has a demo of the Emotiv consumer EEG headset. Mainly a sales pitch but a good preview.

Why do we cry? Eight half-baked ideas are discussed over at Mark Changizi’s blog. No one really knows.

Time magazine has a great piece on the complex link between marijuana and schizophrenia.

Do women who remove their pubic hair have better sexual function? Some evidence-based minky trimming from Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

New Scientist has an excellent piece by straight thinking neuroscientist Lise Elliot on science, sexism and gender myths.

“Sarcasm is a way of being nasty without leaving a paper trail” according to a good piece on the invention of sarcasm on the Cheap Talk blog.

The Fortean Times has an excellent piece on the history of physiognomy and ‘why ugly people are more likely to break the law’.

Neuromarketing company NeuroFocus are just trolling us now: have ‘launched a 3D virtual reality tool, N-Matrix 3D, that it claims will bring digital technology ‚Äúon a par with Avatar‚Äù’

The Psychologist are looking for new voices to bloom as writers in their pages. Want to develop your writing and get published? See here.

There is continuing coverage of the ongoing debate about the UK regulation of psychotherapists over at the Mental Nurse blog. The best coverage I’ve seen anywhere so far.