How to win wars by influencing people

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how behavioural science is being put at the centre of military operations and how an ‘influence-led’ view of warfare is causing a rethink in how armed conflict is managed.

Techniques such as deception and propaganda have been the mainstay of warfare for thousands of years, but there is a growing belief that the modern world has changed so fundamentally that war itself needs to be refigured. Confrontations between standing armies of large nation states are becoming rare while conflicts with guerrilla or terrorist groups, barely distinguishable from the local population, are increasingly common. In other words, overwhelming firepower no longer guarantees victory…

Mackay and Tatham argue that researching what motivates people within specific groups and deploying informed, testable interventions on the ground will be central to managing modern conflict.

It also discusses how ‘information operations’ thinking has spread into the military’s work in the civilian realm.

Link to ‘How to win wars by influencing people’s behaviour’.

Spike activity 14-03-2014

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

The Conversation has an excellent piece on how the study of brain injury, not brain scans, have told us the most about how the brain works.

How light affects the brain. Only Human discusses a fascinating study on how a recently discovered form of human light receptor affects cognitive function.

Retraction Watch covers how the researcher behind discredited findings on the link between chronic fatigue and the XMRV virus has written a book, and has rewritten history in the process. Negative findings you say? Pifflebuymybook.

The New York Times has an excellent retrospective report about the trial that unleashed hysteria over child abuse and a thousand false memories.

Is religion good for your brain? asks Discovery News before writing an article that seems to have been thought through while huffing butane.

Science News take a critical look at studies on the link between good looks and enhanced abilities. Sadly, still no studies on the link between irresistible allure and an in-depth knowledge of early 90s PC operating systems. Cognitive scientists, you know where to find me.

Aeon magazine has an interesting piece on the relentless pre-march of humanoid robots into society.

Modern life damaging infant brains, according to some evidence-free hand-wringers contacted by BBC News. Quotes the “Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology”. Pro-tip for faux neurocampaigners: choose a name which doesn’t immediately announce I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE BRAIN.

New Scientist report on early research suggesting D-cycloserine might enhance psychotherapy for anxiety disorders.

Loving you is easy because you’re beautiful

Neuroscape Lab, we salute your next generation of brain visualisation, that looks like something out of a sci-fi film where the director is a bit obsessed with correctly representing the anatomy of the brain.

They describe the visualisation like this:

This is an anatomically-realistic 3D brain visualization depicting real-time source-localized activity (power and “effective” connectivity) from EEG (electroencephalographic) signals. Each color represents source power and connectivity in a different frequency band (theta, alpha, beta, gamma) and the golden lines are white matter anatomical fiber tracts. Estimated information transfer between brain regions is visualized as pulses of light flowing along the fiber tracts connecting the regions.

But honestly, who cares? It’s a glowing rotating brain with golden streaks of light flowing through it.

In fact, after 25 years, science has finally scanned the brain from The Orb’s ambient techno classic ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld’.

It’s as if the rave generation stumbled out of life’s warehouse at 7am and ended up being neuroscientists.

Link to Neuroscape Lab’s awesome brain visualisation.
Link to the original Orb track (or the classic Orbital remix)

From under-hearing to ultra-hearing

The BBC World Service has a fascinating radio programme on hearing loss and how it’s spurring the move towards auditory enhancement technology for everybody.

The documentary, called Hack My Hearing, was created by science writer Frank Swain who is suffering hearing loss. He explores different forms of hearing disturbance and looks at technologies that aim to enhance hearing and how they soon might provide ‘super human’ auditory abilities.

One of the best things about the documentary is that it has been brilliantly engineered so you can experience what most of the forms of hearing loss and hearing enhancement in the documentary sound like.

It is definitely one to be listened to on headphones and it sounds wonderful.

Sadly, it’s only available as streamed audio at the moment, but you can listen to the full programme at the link below.

Update: The programme is now also available from the BBC as a podcast – downloadable directly as an mp3.


Link to Hack My Hearing streamed audio.

Parting – art through psychosis – at King’s Place

If you’re in London on Sunday 16th March, there’s an amazing stage show at King’s Place about psychosis called Parting.

The performance has been created by talented twin sister composers Effy and Litha Efthymiou and, along with folks with first-person experience of psychosis, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with them during the development of the piece.

I met Effy and Litha when they asked me to give some input into the 2008 play Reminiscence about life through memory and temporal lobe epilepsy, and it’s been brilliant working with them again

This work is quite different, spread across five stages, and includes dance, video, two sopranos, theatre, a string quartet and a range of other musicians and is inspired by everything from personal experience to clinical case studies of people experiencing the world through altered beliefs and perceptions.

New contemporary art music, dance, theatre and film come together to create five ‘living-through’ experiences of psychosis. Developed alongside a clinical psychologist and focused on the very essence of the psychotic experience (i.e. the hearing of the voice, the seeing of the object, having the false belief), Parting is a multi-sensory, abstract stage show that is a poetic look at what it feels like to live with psychosis.

As you can imagine, it’s a massive synchronised piece from a range of fantastic artists and should be quite an experience.

There’ll also be an after-show discussion where I’ll be discussing the themes of the piece with the directors, producers and the artists involved in the show.

You can get more details and tickets at the link below.

Link to Parting at King’s Place.

Spike activity 07-03-2014

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

Drug dependence has two faces — as a chronic disease and a temporary failure to cope. Interesting piece from Science News.

Friend of Mind Hacks Christian Jarrett bids a fond farewell to the BPS Research Digest at 11 years at the helm.

Matter has an excellent piece about rebel psychologist Roy Baumeister and the myths of self-esteem.

Mighty anthropology blog Somatosphere has an excellent piece on the DSM diagnostic manual and its place in culture.

Neuroskeptic discusses a curious new paper on hormones and women voters as a very modern scientific controversy.

What Really Happened The Night Kitty Genovese Was Murdered? The facts behind a classic psychology study examined by NPR.

The Washington Post asks why chronic pain patients are not included in the debate about addiction to prescription opioids.

Why do some languages sound more beautiful than others? Fascinating piece from The Smart Set.

The New York Times has an piece on the philosophy of the movie ‘Her’ – looking at consciousness, AI and disembodied cognition.