Vaughan

I’m one of the contributors to the book and have been kindly asked to write for mindhacks.com. I’m a clinical and research psychologist and there’s more about my work at my staff page.

You can find me on Twitter here (@vaughanbell) where I also post various mind and brain snippets.

License:
I write because I enjoy it. I don’t get paid so my best return is that people are kind enough to read my work. I release all my writing on this site under the Creative Commons Attribution License v 2.0. This means you can copy and re-publish my work anywhere, without my permission, as long as you don’t pass it off as your own.

To be fair though, I’m hardly going to get lawyers involved if you do rip off my stuff, so if you don’t have the courtesy to acknowledge where the article came from, fine, you’re rude. I’ll just take it as a rather ill-conceived complement.

Full disclosure:
The words are all my own, they’re not paid for, and are written because I enjoy it. We don’t take paid adverts. Any product I mention is because it’s caught my eye. When there might be a conflict of interest I will endeavour to recognise this and mention it in the post. Most pertinently, I am an occasional columnist and unpaid associate editor for The Psychologist, and am an unpaid member of the editorial board for the excellent open-access science journal PLoS One.

Occasionally, publishers will offer to send us a free book, or will send us one out of the blue. If I mention a book on the blog, I will state if it was sent for free. I will not necessarily mention a book just because you send us a copy. We do not always accept the offers. Actually, this rarely happens and so far, most books that I’ve mentioned are my own or from the library.

I’ve occasionally noticed posts about your own papers…
Aren’t you just promoting your own work?

Well spotted. If you’re a researcher you should too. Write your research up as a short, accessible, jargon free summary and post it on the net. Science should be accessible to everyone and the net is the perfect place to set it free. If it’s about the mind, brain or human behaviour, let us know and we’ll feature it.

UK-a-Go-Go

It’s taken a couple of weeks to cross the Atlantic, clear customs, and get through the warehouses… Mind Hacks is now in stock at Amazon UK, with a dispatch time listed of 3-4 days. And if you order now, you get 30% off.

Buy Mind Hacks at Amazon UK, and get it in time for Christmas.

(Also available to purchase from Amazon.com, currently at 34% off. You’ll need to order soon if you want to get it as a gift.)

Read on for the sales bit.

Continue reading “UK-a-Go-Go”

Sinister Research

A couple of interesting bits of research on handedness in the news today.

Chimps brains are asymmetrical in similar ways to human brains, and this is reflected in whether they’re left or right handed too. Why we have a preferred hand is still being debated, but this research shows handedness isn’t a consequence of the same brain asymmetry which arose with language (the language centres are on the left side of the brain). Handedness must have arisen much earlier, and been present 5 million years ago.

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Applying the hacks

flickr.png It’s good to try some of the ideas in Mind Hacks on real-world problems. We have a piece up on the O’Reilly Network today, using visual attention concepts to comment on Flickr’s Daily Zeitgeist toy. Photos continually fade in and shrink down on a grid of pictures–what does this mean, from the perspective of change blindness and the attention-grabbing nature of rapid movements?

Read the full article for more: Paying Attention (or Not) to the Flickr Daily Zeitgeist.

(To situate this in the book, we’re making use of “Blind to Change” [Hack #40] for not noticing the photos fading in, “Grab Attention” [Hack #37] for noticing them shrink, and “Glimpse the Gaps in Your Vision” [Hack #17] for not being able to see where the photo has shrunk to because your eyes are in motion as it does so. See the book’s table of contents for which chapters these are in.)

Don’t think, sleep!

Sometimes it isn’t how much sleep you got that’s important, but how much sleep you think you got.

Our own perception of how much we slept during a night can be startlingly inaccurate. Dr Allison Harvey (now of UC Berkley) took insomniacs and measured how much they actually slept during the night. Despite the insomniacs reporting that they had only slept for two or three hours, they had in fact been asleep for an average of 7 hours – only 35 minutes less than a control group who didn’t have any problems sleeping.

Continue reading “Don’t think, sleep!”

Choice Irrationalities

There was a great Analysis programme on radio 4 last night: The Economy on the Couch which was about behavioural economics, neuroeconomics (whatever that is) and ways in which we fail to act like the rational agents that standard economic theory supposes us to be

One irrationality- a human frailty for fairness- is revealed by a thing called the Ultimatum Game. The Ultimatum Game works like this. I am offered some money, say £100, on the condition that I share it with you. I get to decide the split, and you get to say if you accept it or not. If you accept, we get the money in the proportions I determined, if you reject my split then neither of us gets anything. So what would you do if I offered £1 to you, leaving me with the other ninety-nine?

Continue reading “Choice Irrationalities”

Caffeine rituals

Ah, this is good to see. There’s a hack in the book about the rituals around coffee and tea. It’s on the O’Reilly catalog page for Mind Hacks as a free sample, Hack 92: Make the Caffeine Habit Taste Good. It’s like Pavlov and his dogs. He conditioned them to associate a noise with food so that they started salivating when they heard the noise. As with that, the ritual of making coffee gets associated with the caffeine high, and so the ritual becomes part of the buzz.

Anyway, here’s someone who has found the same thing.

My particular ritual seems to be boiling the kettle, putting the teabag and water in the mug to brew, and then forgetting about it for the next 20 minutes as I suddenly get back into work again.