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Post Archive
2020 (0)2012 (3)2011 (73)
December (1)

Robot Insects
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
November (6)October (5)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Women's Intuition
Friday, October 21, 2011

Thinking with your Fingers
Monday, October 17, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Souls and Confections...?
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
September (7)

On Souls...?
Thursday, September 29, 2011

Beware the False Consensus Effect!
Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your Preferences - Preliminary Results
Thursday, September 22, 2011

Popularity Survey - DO IT FOR SCIENCE!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Zietsch's Response to PZ, Laden and Scicurious.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Personality of Cities
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Discussion #1 - Walking Speed and City Size
Sunday, September 4, 2011
August (6)

People who Doodle Learn Faster = Bullshit
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good News Everyone!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Got the Time? Part II
Saturday, August 20, 2011

Got the time?
Sunday, August 14, 2011

Can Randomness Predict the Future?
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The House of Psycasm
Sunday, August 7, 2011
July (7)June (6)May (8)

Part 1: Do We Have Freewill?
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Open Letter: A follow-up
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is a lie, she said.
Sunday, May 22, 2011

MSPaint is mightier than the Sword
Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Art of Indecision
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Skeptical Checklist 1.1
Friday, May 13, 2011

The Skeptical Checklist 1.0
Sunday, May 8, 2011

Of Chimps, Children and Post-Grads...
Monday, May 2, 2011
April (5)March (5)February (7)January (10)

Magical Thinking: Voodoo, Prayer, Black Cats, and You
Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Art of Character Creation
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Video Game Morality: Actions inside the box?
Friday, January 21, 2011

Psychobabble goes live!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Trolley Problem: Who cares?
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Podcast delay and misc. Drugs!?
Saturday, January 15, 2011

My very own Natural Disaster
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A window into your Genetics and Mate Preference?
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh sorry, I totally phased out there...
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Porn: A force of Mutual Benefits
Sunday, January 2, 2011
2010 (35)
December (7)

Statistical Pwnage
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why you should care...
Thursday, December 16, 2010

The paper of Influence
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sharing: Part I - Emotions
Sunday, December 12, 2010

No-one cuts deeper than a Science Blogger.
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Me Meme [Ohh, links now]
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Half Full, or Half Empty? Well, That Depends on the Shape of the Glass.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
November (11)

What Your Voice Says About You
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Babushka Blog: A Meta-Blog on ResearchBlogging.
Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Announcement:
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Willful Self-Deception is Bliss
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dance, Blogger, Dance!
Friday, November 19, 2010

The Science of Marriage
Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Moon and Antarctica
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Available: One Mentee. Good Condition.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Again we are limited by our puny human-ness
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blogging Carnival - What is Psychopathology?: Origins
Friday, November 5, 2010

*sigh* Psi: A Rebuttal
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
October (12)

The Science of Mind-Reading
Thursday, October 28, 2010

How not to think yourself smart...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welcome to Assassins' League
Sunday, October 24, 2010

TODO LATER. A story of procrastination and forgiveness.
Thursday, October 21, 2010

A man and his words.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Little kids, little minds...
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Smoking (maybemightcould) is Good.
Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to stop the Apocalpyse
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to trick yourself creative
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Siesta - It sounds like Fiesta, but isn't.
Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Dread Pirate Rift
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Being Blonde. Natural or otherwise...
Sunday, October 3, 2010
September (5)
Blogger Profile


Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Views: 1205 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on Feb 27, 2012, 12:00pm
...and I'm back. I think.

I know it's definitely been a while between drinks but I certainly hope this will change.

Why, you may ask, what's different? Well, as of tomorrow I actually start uni again. It's my fourth year studying Psych and it's my Honours / Research year. Frankly, I'm rather excited and looking forward to actually having a purpose again. Students do not need, nor do they deserve, a 3-month holiday over the New Year. I can understand arguments for working to earn money for the rest of the year but I do not personally know anyone who actually operates like that. Fortunately, however, this big blank has ended for me and I have something to do. I swear there is a reverse Parkinson's Law - which states:

Work expands to fill the time available for it's completion.

The reverse occurs when the time available is ostensibly without purpose... which might be stated as:

The longer you have to do nothing, the less likely you are to do anything.

All the things I intended to do I haven't done. It's a little demoralizing, I suppose... but that's why I'm looking forward . . . More
Views: 1782 | Comments: 2
Last by Edwin on Apr 06, 2012, 2:54am

This post has been written as a submission for a creative-type project found at

People were asked to address the question 'Is Sunshine Enough?' and at the urging of a friend I have decided to contribute.

Given that it was not strictly an 'essay' competition the narrative in this post is a little lacking. As I noted in a preface to the individuals who asked the question, I have decided to let the science speak for itself...

Is Sunshine Enough?

Is Sunshine Enough? Enough for what? Perhaps more importantly, for whom, and to what end? If we can accept that Sunshine is something that might make us tick we need to question why? And why again? Then why again, once more.

Having looked at the science, having asked why, I have to say that Sunshine is not enough. Warmth is what we need. Warmth is what makes each of us tick. Warmth is enough.

First we need to examine what we know about Sunshine, about the weathe . . . More
Views: 11943 | Comments: 2
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 09, 2012, 10:51am
I've been thinking about the phenomenon of Earworms lately... If you're not familiar with the term it does not refer to an exotic and horrifying parasite. It's actually a word used to describe the (personally annoying) situation where a song gets stuck in your head.

The most recent example of this, for me, was after listening to a Radiolab episode and hearing a skipping-tune about a stunt pilot who died.

// The tune itself comes on after about one minute of intro... it lasts only 10 seconds and consists of the following:

Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dream

To go up to heaven in a flying machine

The machine broke down

And down he fell

He thought he'd go to heaven, but he went to...

Repeat. Ad Nauseum.

It's short, simple and designed to be repeated. My person experience with Earworms is that the often conform to these characteristics... and in the instances when they do not I tend to extract a simple element from a more complex piece and end up repeating it. For instance I was at the theatre last night (oh yes, how cultured I am) watching Mary Poppins and . . . More
Views: 2105 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Dec 06, 2011, 9:34am
The other day the institution I study at was lucky enough to have Dr. Justin Werfel, a robotics researcher at Harvard (at the Wyss Institute), give a talk on a couple of his current projects.

It was mainly aimed at the engineering/robotics faculties, but a few of us Psych people heard about it and decided to attend.

I can do no justice to his work here, so I will attempt to provide as many links and videos as possible, and outline only that which I am most sure about. In any event, the videos should be enough to fill to spark your imagination.

Social insects - like Bees, Ants and Termites - are able to engage in surprisingly complex and apparently sophisticated behaviours despite lacking a lot of faculties many 'higher order' organisms have. The fact that termites, for instance, can each act autonomously and with very little direct information from other termites within a mound, construct huge self-regulating mounds is quite amazing. The design of some of these mounds has been shown to be such that its actually regulates temperature and air-flow.

A termite mound rough . . . More
Views: 761 | Comments: 0

The UQ Skeptics Present

Skepticomp 2011

What untapped market of woo would you develop to dupe the masses? Create a pseudo-tech or woo-powered product, describe it, and win! WIN! WIN!

Skepticomp 2011 is open to anyone, anywhere.

The Prize

A $20 iTunes voucher to the iTunes of your choice

(Or alternative prize of equivalent value)

and meeting with Deepak Chopra (Disclaimer: not strictly true).

Entries must be submitted by Sunday, the 11th of December to

Subject line: Skepticomp11 yourname

Submission can be in any format (but please, don't make it too exotic). A bare-bones text-based example follows. If you choose to submit and image/advertisement of your product, please ensure to include in text a clear description of what your product is (see point 1). Points 2 and 3 can be addressed however you see fit.

Maximum 1 entry per person. Please keep your entry confidential and avoid posting on the FB wall (if you have acess to it) or otherwise including it in comments, etc.

< . . . More
Views: 2592 | Comments: 0
Did you know it's next to impossible to measure the cognitive impact of a hangover?

Yeah, think on that for a moment.

In preparation for an upcoming Psychobabble episode I decided to do a bit of research into what impact the hangover has on performance. I mean, we all know what happens when we're drunk - it makes us super sexy, super smart and super confident. Also, due to these three factors, we make excellent decisions.

But the next morning, in the throes of the hangover, these excellent decisions seem suspect. Was it really a sustained excercise in poor judgement? Or is the hangover merely darkening our outlook, recollection and judgement?

I certainly know which of those options I'd prefer to believe, no research required...

Physiologically the hangover sucks. The most common symptoms include headaches and nausea, typically associated with dehydration. Infrequently, though, we push it a little too hard and it gets much worse.

Sunday Morning. Source

Another reason I wanted to look into this was a conversation I had the other night . . . More
Views: 6700 | Comments: 4
Last by klassi on Apr 24, 2012, 1:41am
The following video relates to the bystander effect. You know the kind of thing - some actor lies down in the street and you watch, dismayed, as a dozens of people walk by apparently without concern. It's not imperative to this post that you watch it and make some judgements about it - but it will help me make some (hopefully) interesting points later on (and watching it later will give away the punchline).


And now on the post proper...


If you were asked to describe yourself, how would you do it? Would you try to describe the person you think you are, in a character-based sort of way?

"...I'm a fun kind of guy, outgoing and a bit of a perfectionist..."

Or would you describe the things you're interested in...

"...I enjoy fantasy novels, sport and cinema..."

Do you see the difference between the two? In many ways it's subtle and most descriptions will liberally mix the two different kinds.

The difference is between trait-based descriptions - 'I'm a perfectionist' - and more transient or environmental descriptions - 'I enjoy fantasy novels'. We all know a perfectionist, and when someone describes themselves as such we implicitly extend th . . . More
Views: 882 | Comments: 5
Last by Evie on Nov 14, 2011, 2:33pm
What up? I'm back from my brief hiatus, and, very happily, am full of ideas.

The first one follows in a similiar vein to my post on the False Consensus Effect.

This post, by the by, is in no way related to the FCE. However if you feel compelled to answer the survey AND think you've figured out what I'm getting at - just drop a mention at the end of the questionairre (there's a box for it and everything).

Now do the survey! Do it for the science!

(if you can't see the survey embedded below, click here

. . . More
Views: 969 | Comments: 0
Wow, do we have it wrong...

Ask yourself what happiness (and the pursuit thereof) means to you before watching this clip:

. . . More
Views: 2650 | Comments: 0
A Psychobabble short. Occupy Wall Street and the Inner Primate.

My motivation for doing this particular research was to ask the question 'how deep does our sense of fairness run?'. There's a little bit of anthropomorphising going on, but I think some of the more interesting stuff comes through.

This short is less than 10 minutes long. Hope you enjoy it.

. . . More
Views: 1070 | Comments: 3
Last by JaniceF on Oct 28, 2011, 10:10pm
So I just wanted to make quick personal note. I'm going to be going silent for the next week or two considering it's the pointy end of semester. Not that I have a lot of exams, per se, but they are back-to-back.

Addtionally, I've been wondering whether or not to share this. As a blogger I generally don't go into too much personal stuff, but I feel this is contributing to my two-week break and (on a personal note) explain why I've been feeling a little lacking in will for writing for the last month or so. For those who have read me for a while I have mentioned a girlfriend from time to time. Well, it's come to pass that that relationship has ended after nearly 5 years. Like so many people who've found themselves in such a position I've had to take up digs back home, re-adjust to everything, and still manage all the minutia of life. Certainly I'm not claiming that a great and unique calamity has befallen me, but it's not always easy to divorce oneself from such thoughts. 

As you can see I think the two week break will do me some good. I won't be forcing myself to write when it's less than enjoyable, and more pragmatically, I really need to study. Last exams before honours next year, so it'd be nice to go out with a bang. 

The podcast will continue to be . . . More
Views: 7290 | Comments: 1
Last by Cute Quotes on Nov 29, 2011, 10:54am
So we (myself and the Psychobabble crew) are playing around with formatting and structure ideas for the podcast. Here's smething we're going to try and do a bit more of - Shorts. Something well less than 10 minutes that's on topic and covering a nice little chunk of information.

The following is only 8 minutes long, and it covers the history and science behind the idea of 'Women's Intuition'.

The rest of this post is cross-posted at the Psychobabble website, and covers some stuff we're looking at for the future of the show...

In other news we, the Psychobabble crew, have made some big decisions regarding the future format of Psychobabble. We’ve been doing this now since January and we think it’s time we tried to make the show a little bigger, a little better, and a little more accessible. Additionally, these changes should allow us to bring a little more insight to the topics than in the past.

Before I go on though – please consider filling out our survey - we’d like to know a little bit about you, about what you think, and how you’d like us to improve the show. Additionally, we’d like to know if the . . . More
Views: 8706 | Comments: 3
Last by jeff12 on Oct 15, 2012, 12:40am
This is a bit of a pet topic of mine, so I was surprised to find that I'd only written about it once before. Here I wrote on the idea that washing one's hands influences the manner in which we make moral decisions. At other times we've spoken of this topic on the podcast. Here, now, I'm going to give it a much better airing.

I'm talking about Embodied Cognition. Generally speaking the idea behind Embodied Cognition is that our physical and physiological selves are intricately linked into the way we think and experience the world. A few examples right off the top of my head (interesting metaphor, right?) include overestimating distance and the steepness of slopes when we're encumbered vs. unencumbered, physically leaning forward when we think about the future (as well as moving our attentional spotlight to the left under the same circumstances) and self-reporting feeling happier when we're forced to smile.

In some ways these are small things. If you want a better feel for the topic (ohh, another one) try to hold a conversation without gesturing... it'll feel amazingly unnatural and probably make th . . . More
Views: 832 | Comments: 3
Last by Kate on Oct 17, 2011, 3:51am
I feel that some people might object to the ideas presented here. I wonder if that's ironic.

. . . More
Views: 2656 | Comments: 7
Last by Psycasm on Oct 09, 2011, 12:57am
[Check out Post 1 if you haven't already.]

I was hoping to do a more science-based post, but I couldn't really find any research on the topic.... but I'm doing one anyway. What's life without a little whimsy?

Our campus Skeptical group has a fairly active Facebook group that discusses all kinds of things. One member posted the comic found here (Sorry, I can't post it. Plus this guy deserves the page it...).

The comic found at the link above had a very brief blog post which describes the actions of an Atheist group offering freshly baked cookies in exchange for one's soul. The comment was made on the skeptical facebook group that we should do the same.

Everyone took to the idea. A few of us discussed the nuances of how and why over lunch, and as a result a few changes were made. Our goal was not to alienate the devout, or offend anyone who holds that souls exist. Our goal is simply to make one question the concept. If one decides that they have a soul - then great; the point is they were actually confronted by the idea and devoted a few minutes of thought (at a . . . More
Views: 3573 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Sep 29, 2011, 8:33pm
So I've been thinking about religion and beliefs again. More specifically, souls...

I'll get to writing a full-length post, and explaining my recent interest, early next week.

In the mean time here's an episode of Radiolab with a reading of the story 'Metamorphosis'. It's written by a neuroscientist by the name of David Eagleman. If there's ever a version of the afterlife I could get on board with, it's this.

[Skip to 6:30; The reading lasts only 4 minutes]


If you're feeling a little bummed out by the last story, try this next one. It's written by the same guy, and is a little more light-hearted and whimsical...


. . . More
Views: 11235 | Comments: 6
Last by Leighton on Jul 11, 2012, 6:23am
Normally I avoid writing about things I learn in class. I try to use this blog, and the associated podcast, to research topics outside of the boundaries of my normal schooling.

This topic struck me, however.

There's a phenomenon called the False Consensus Effect (FCE) which basically states that we, as individuals, view our own preferences, behaviours and judgements as being typical, normal and common within a broader context; it also suggests we find alternative characteristics as being more deviant and atypical than they actually are.

I asked my tutor, 'Is this a kind of logical fallacy?', being new to the topic and a little surprised I'd never heard of it before...

He responds, 'No, not really. It's basically just a cognitive error. Once you know about it, you really won't ever feel confident in offering an opinion again'. Or something to that effect.

And he's right.

As a self-identified Skeptic, a member of the campus Skeptic's group, and a consumer of the Skeptic media (SGU, Skeptically Speaking, . . . More
Views: 316 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on Sep 22, 2011, 9:14am
In my last post I asked you to take a brief survey. Many of you did, in fact, within about 13 hours I had nearly 150 responses. However, the survey host, Surveymonkey, only provides the first 100 responses. This is not really a big deal, and given that the survey itself was a bit rough-and-ready, it got the job done.

I asked 10 questions in total on four different topics. The topics themselves were arbitrary. They were simply accessible constructs which most people have an opinion about.

. . . More
Views: 1799 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Sep 20, 2011, 9:33pm
Take this 10 Question survey on your personal preferences. It polls your preferences for Food, Colour, Fears and Alcohol. 
Doing this will help me write my next post!
Yes, I love science. I'll do it. Thank you all for contributing, Surveymonkey stops recording data after 100 participants. We got up to 150 before we got cut. Yay.
. . . More
Views: 1605 | Comments: 0
A paper published by Zietsch and Santtila (2011) has recently caused a bit of a stir in the science-blogging community. Heavy-weights such as PZ Meyers, Scicurious and Greg Laden have posted regarding the paper with various levels of criticism. The paper, published in Animal Behaviour, and entitled 'Genetic analysis of orgasmic function in twins and siblings does not support the by-product theory of female orgasm' was published by a scientist I have come to know over the past year or so.

It's always exciting to see someone you know make a splash, and I've had some interesting conversations with Dr. Zietsch regarding the criticisms. I'm a small-fry in the blogging community, but I offered Dr. Zietsch this forum to respond (if he felt so inclined).

The following are not my words, it is the work of Dr. Zietsch. I suspect he'll be paying attention to comments, but I would like to stress that the author of the post that . . . More
Views: 7858 | Comments: 1
Last by Matej Jasso on Jan 10, 2013, 7:15am
I was first exposed to this paper via Radiolab with their episode on 'Cities'. I wasn't quite sure how accurately Radiolab was portraying the finding (this was the very first episode I had listened to), but it certainly captured my attention.

A few months later the same paper was brought up again (in class, I think), and re-ignited my interest.

More recently still, a film-student friend of mine was searching for a documentary topic, and this paper jumped to the fore of conversation.

When I finally sat down to find the primary source I was surprised to find that one of the authors, Ara Norenzayan, was someone who's research I had profiled in a previous blog post.

The paper looks at the idea of profiling cities. Not in a GDP kind of way, not in a population density kind of way, not even on size or any other measures you're probably used to. It's a strange kind of behaviour-level analysis. It measures the Pace of Life* that each of its inhabitants are subject to. If those that live in a city can b . . . More
Views: 1080 | Comments: 3
Last by Psycasm on Sep 04, 2011, 6:41am
Usually it takes me a few days to write a post after I've done all my research. I've been trying (not very successfully) to sit on a post and read it cold some time after it's been written. I'm told this is called 'drafting', but I don't do it very often (or well).

So I'm going to try something new that will hopefully help me with this.

Here's what I'm going to do. If I find an interesting graphic relating to an up-coming entry, I'm going to post it for some initial thoughts a few days before the post-proper. The idea is that people can throw around some ideas regarding what it's about, what kind of questions could be worth asking the research, etc,... just to open up a forum and give myself a reason to sit on an entry before posting it.

So here's number one:




Wirtz, P. & Ries, G. (1992) The Pace of Life - Reanalysed: Why Does Walking Speed of Pedestrians Correlate with City Size? Behaviour, 123, 77 - 83.

. . . More
Views: 1551 | Comments: 9
Last by Psycasm on Aug 30, 2011, 9:14am
So this has been floating around twitter this morning - People Who Doodle Learn Faster. The primary source is this document, published in Science [Fulltext unavailable, Abstract here]. The original document is less than two pages long and very easy to read.

I really want to take the 'Doodle' article to task. It's just plain wrong.

At no point does the Science article make the claim that 'People Who Doodle Learn Faster'. The Author of the 'Doodle' post, Tim Barribeau , should be embarrased. The title of the original paper is 'Drawing to Learn in Science'. I suppose if that's all you read then you might be mistaken for thinking that doodling leads to learning (if drawing = doodling); but really? Faster learning? The word 'Fast*' is not even in the original article.

The paper in question is completely theoretical. In saying that, I'm being generous. It is theoretical inasmuch as it presents no data; but as far as theories go, there's not mu . . . More
Views: 9706 | Comments: 3
Last by Alchemystress on Sep 04, 2011, 9:06am

A few weeks ago I approached the student radio people on campus and proposed getting Psychobabble on the air. I had been toying with the idea for a while but hadn't seen the full potential of the idea until someone mentioned that, if we were on the air, we would have access to their studio...

And so I'm pretty excited to announce that Psychobabble will now be recording on professional equipment. No more static scratches and p-p-pops. Not only that, but having four people in the studio at the same time (instead of skyping from different places) should help build some excellent banter and rapport.

As it stands we'll just be pre-recording and releasing as normal (plus being on the radio 3 times a week). However, they did ask if we'd consider a live-show too. The crew has expressed interest in the idea, but that's a while away yet (if at all).

At any rate I'm excited to be bringing much higher production values to the show, and I'm hoping this will pull more listeners, more reviews, and some more word-of-mouth recommendations.

Thanks to everyone who continues to download and support the show!

Stream the student radio here - JACradio

. . . More
Views: 438 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Aug 22, 2011, 1:52pm
Last week I reported on a strange illusion I had in the middle of the night. Upon waking early in the morning I experienced a sensation where I felt as though I had been asleep for 5 or 6 hours, but had actually only been asleep for an hour and a half. The experience disappeared for about a week, and returned for a single night 8 or 9 days later. I'm pretty sure no-one was sneaking LSD into my milo, so I wanted to figure out what was going on.

I asked people what they thought in my last post. Commenter Beauness said that our timekeeping was regulated by our circadian rhythms. Commenter Kate pointed me in the direction of an article about the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (wiki link). The SCN plays a role in regulating the circadian rhythms.

Now every school kid knows we have Circadian Rhythms, and that they are basically our 'body clock'. But knowing that isn't very useful. What is a Circadian Rhythm? How does it work? and is it grounded in something beyond our biology?

In my last post I posed three questions that I thought would help illuminate my strange sensation. I'm addressing them here, briefly, as be . . . More
Views: 4359 | Comments: 4
Last by Kate on Aug 16, 2011, 7:11pm
Does anyone else get this? They find themselves in a habit, where for a few days running, they wake up at roughly the same time each night and need to go to the toilet?

Maybe it's not even needing to go to the toilet, but simply looking at the time and realizing that you woke up at this time last night, and the night before, and the night before again. Then, having noticed this, it's quite difficult to get back to sleep...

Sure, it may be partly confirmation bias where we only happen to notice and remember the act when there's a perceived pattern. But my question, and my story, go a touch further...

For three nights in a row I got up thinking it must be quite close to morning (around 4am-ish...) only to find it's actually ~1:30am. That is, I woke up thinking I'd been asleep for 5 or 6 hours, when I'd only actually been asleep for 90 minutes. On the fourth night - having noticed this pattern - I got up expecting this strange sensation, only to be completely baffled by the concept of time. It's kind of hard to explain, but I could equally believe that it was some time in the mid-afternoon, as I could that it was 2am. I was genuinely confused. Naturally, I just went back to sleep.

Problem. Solved.

This got me thinking. How do we measure . . . More
Views: 3000 | Comments: 3
Last by Psycasm on Aug 11, 2011, 11:32pm
The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe does a show at the end of every year in which they make predictions for the following year. They do this to demonstrate that anyone can be a psychic, and amazingly, two of the crew have 'accurately' predicted the death of two famous people. Both Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse were picked to die, and lo, they died.

Psychics generally rely on two factors when making predictions:

1. Make a crapload of predictions. People forget the misses, and celebrate the hits.

2. Make educated guesses. Pick old people, sick people, unhinged people and your odds (arguably) improve considerably.

The first point is simple. If you make enough predictions then time and chance will prove you though - particularly if you're vague to begin with. Sure, we might consider Charlie Sheen is high chance for death but predicting that a 'famous out-of-work TV actor will die' sets the bar pretty low and almost guarantees a hit during whatever period one specifies.

The second point seems intuitive, but I'm not sure it is. Charlie Sheen may die, but is he any more likely to die than anyone else in a big enough sample? There's a lot of things going . . . More
Views: 327 | Comments: 3
Last by Psycasm on Aug 09, 2011, 1:11am
Just a quick catch-up.

The Freewill series is currently on hold. Denise, one of the contributers, has had her computer stolen. It contained everything. So for both pragmatic and academic reasons, she has had to withdraw (temporarily) from the project.

As for my blogging, I'm a bit quiet this week due to some personal stuff. I've also been reconsidering the format of my blog. I've noticed my posts are getting longer and longer, and so I'm trying to figure out how I want to fix this (or even if it's such a bad thing). My personal thoughts are 'long posts are good' but I'm not sure this view is widely held. So I'm working on some topics and formats that bring the individual posts lengths down without sacrificing all the things I want to share. This may take a little bit of time, and input would be greatly appreciated. If you read any blogs with novel/interesting formatting and presentations styles I'd be very interested in reading them.

I should have a post up in the next few days (with lots of pictures, hopefully).

Until then.

. . . More
Views: 2510 | Comments: 4
Last by Psycasm on Jul 30, 2011, 6:18am
My girlfriend’s is a foody. She loves to cook, to talk, to read, and to critique food. I, on the other hand, am not.

I don’t particularly enjoy food and view its consumption as a ‘filling up the tank’ kind of exercise. It’s not that I don’t have a sense for food, or that I’m ignorant of what food is or what it should be. It’s just that eating seems to me a necessary provision for staying alive.

I’ve come to view this as an advantage over the years. Generally speaking I eat whatever I want, and don’t pay too much attention to my intake. I’m active and fit so I can work off the ‘bad stuff’ pretty easily, but I do go to fat rather quickly if I slack off for more than a week.

Why do I think of this as an advantage? Well, I eat what I want ‘cause I’m assuming that what I want to eat is guided by what my body is telling me I need to eat. This is, however, only a layman’s hypothesis. Until recently I’ve never looked into the topic because I’ve never felt the need (that is, I’ve never suspected my diet as the cause of any ailments).

Recently, however, the motivation has arisen. My girlfriend has been charging me to do a podcast on the topic for a few months now and I rec . . . More
Views: 1505 | Comments: 9
Last by becca on Jul 27, 2011, 7:40pm
This is a conversation I just had. With a robot.

User: Hey.

Cleverbot: Hey what?

User: Just saying hello.

Cleverbot: My name is Cleverbot.

User: I know. Do you know my name?

Cleverbot: No.

User: Cleverbot, can I ask a question?

Cleverbot: Yes.

User: I'm writing a blog. I need a topic.

Cleverbot: That is incredible!

User: I know, right! Do you have any ideas?

Cleverbot: I like Dexter. Do you know that?

User: Never watched it, but I don't want to write about tv.

Cleverbot: What did you hear about it?

User: That's beside the point.

Cleverbot: Why?

User: I just need some help, ok?

Cleverbot: I need somebody... I-I need somebody.

User: Weird.

Cleverbot: True.

User: So, I need an idea.

Cleverbot: What kind of idea?

User: For something I'm writing.

Cleverbot: So your name is Scot?

User: No.

Cleverbot: Sorry.

User: What do you know about psychology?

Cleverbot: Nothing.

User: What do you know about science?

. . . More
Views: 7346 | Comments: 6
Last by Taurus on Mar 19, 2012, 8:04am
What is this all about?

See Part 1

See Kate's response, Part 2

See Denise's response, Part 3

See Psycasm's response, Part 4


Kate's response, Part 5.


If Free Will is an Illusion, What Sort of Free Will is it That We Think We Have?

Before I launch into another defence of free will, let’s get back to basics. Let’s check Wikipedia. According to the good sustainers of Wiki, free will is:

“The apparent ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints.” – Wikipedia

The word “apparent” is an important one. Free will, everybody agrees, is something we’re all convinced we have, although it may or may not be real. Both the popular and academic discussions of free will have lately consisted of people taking one side or the other towards the proposition “free will is an illusion.” One of the best-selling books . . . More
Views: 5595 | Comments: 1
Last by Happy Quotes on Jan 06, 2012, 6:53pm
A little while ago a friend pointed out I had made a mistake in one of my previous posts.... it was the post What You Might Not Know About Psychology: A Student's Perspective. It was basically me, with my student hat on, attempting to explain some of the nuances and pitfalls of interpreting news and blogs about psychology. Having re-read it, it's a bit of a brass-tacks approach, something I would like to think I would soften if I wrote it again (if only intone, but not content)

In one section of this post I wrote the following:

All Psychology studies are confounded and unreliable because they use university students to test participants!

That's true. The exceeding majority of results are based on populations of students and standardized onto everyone, everywhere (particularly by the media). Additionally, students tend to be WEIRD (White, Educated, from an Industrialized nation, Rich and Democratic). That looks really bad on paper, but most psychologists tend to interpret these finding in a WEIRD context. Additionally, every person I've encountered that objects to a finding because it's WEIRD are WEIRD themselves....

That was a pre . . . More
Views: 50585 | Comments: 4
Last by Alchemystress on Jul 12, 2011, 1:42pm
So a friend, and Psychobabble regular, Matt, has recently co-authored a serendipitous little finding.

When two faces are presented side-by-side and flipped through in a series at high-speed they suddenly appear grotesque and disfigured.

Check it:

The tagline so frequently associated with this is 'pretty girls turn ugly'; it dominates the first page of google and has nearly 1.2 millions hits on youtube (an increase of 400,000 in 12 hours. That's fracking insane. [12/7/11]). See Matt's UQPsychblog post here, where he discusses the finding first-hand.

The effect was discovered when a member of their lab programming faces into a series and aligning the eyes. In spot-checking they flipped through the series at high speed to check that the faces were aligned as intended. Viola - ugliness.

Given the way the effect was discovered it's no surprise they have no sure clue as to the mechanism. They suggest, however:

"Relative encoding seem . . . More
Views: 6324 | Comments: 7
Last by superkuh on Jul 16, 2011, 8:39am
What is this all about?

See Part 1

See Kate's response, Part 2

See Denise's response, Part 3


In addressing the question ‘Do we have Freewill?’ we all took a fairly softly-softly approach. I will certainly admit to this; being the first to post I just wanted to test the waters, see what would fly.

While my position of ‘I’m not really sure’ still holds I am going to take a more concrete position, if only to play the devil’s advocate, and if only for my own entertainment.

Here it is – We don’t have freewill. It’s an illusion, and not even a very good one.

Kate used Dennett’s example that xn domino fell because xn-1 domino fell, because xn-1-1 fell... This was due to some input that hinged on a prime number. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but it’s not the input that matters, it’s the consequences. The input should be almost be arbitrary, and necessarily variable.
. . . More
Views: 45702 | Comments: 3
Last by Milley on Jan 11, 2012, 2:26pm
Part I here. Perhaps not necessarily homework, but it would help make sense of the following...


It seems appropriate to open Part II on Laughter by quoting myself (O, Narcisus). In part one I wrote the following:

"But why is this paper an excellent example of Evo Psych? Well, unlike things like vision or attraction or communication, laughter is a unique human quality (well, not quite; but the manner, extent and contexts in which we employ it is unique), and so provides an excellent topic to investigate with a human behaviour evolutionary framework. Second, this topic synthesises huge amounts of data on what we currently know about laughter from many different domains (social psych, positive psych, biological foundations, and neuroscience) and constructs an evolutionary framework that incorporates all of it. Third, it brings together many converging lines of evolutionary evidence (archaeology, comparative studies, etc) to inform their evolutionary hypothesis. And finally, the authors freely admit and highlight the weaknesses of their position, and (crucially) provide a number of predictions inherent in their framework."

I do quote this with reason. Commenter Yannisguerra, ma . . . More
Views: 819 | Comments: 1
Last by Kate on Jun 28, 2011, 1:26am
If you're new to this series, or new to Psycasm generally, Click Here for an explanation.

Here is Entry 2 (Kate)

And now, the thinker's thinker's perspective... Denise and formal philosophy


And without further ado, I would like to continue discussing the issue of free will from the philosophical perspective. Thank you again to Psycasm and Kate for the opportunity to collaborate with those from the discipline of psychology; evolutionary and the more formal ognitive science. It is exactly these grand philosophical questions like ‘Free Will’ when we become aware of the very different and important ways we attempt to answer difficult questions on the nature of life. Without understanding the complexity and origins of our rational capacities from the study of the brain and observed human behavior, we would not be able to argue strongly one way or another in the philosophical debate of free will.

The general approach towards this debate in philosophy is a metaphysical one. Where I have observed the empirical approach of psychology in explaining how we humans have developed the cognitive cap . . . More
Views: 5614 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Jun 24, 2011, 11:17pm

So there’s been a bit of hype surround a paper entitled “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” It seems a lot of people don’t like it, but I fear their dislike is something a knee-jerk reaction, and I feel like a little information could at least add nuance to the critics’ position.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like the paper, either. It’s just that most of the criticisms I’ve read seem to trend along these lines:

a) Scientist waste grant money proving something we already know (i.e. Women find funny men attractive); or

b) You can’t measure how funny someone is, therefore their conclusions are wrong; or

c) More Evo Psychology crap; or

d) Any combination of the above

see here (this post repeated frequently, verbatim) and especially here

Here’s why I don’t like that paper:

a) Given the data and the methodology the evolutionary hypothesis is overstated, and I feel out of place.

b) I feel that the methodology coul . . . More
Views: 1652 | Comments: 4
Last by Psycasm on Jun 22, 2011, 8:40pm

Laughter and humor have also been omitted from most general accounts of human evolution, taking a backseat to evolutionary divas like bipedalism, encephalization, language, and culture.

- Gervais & Wilson, 2005

Yup, it's going to be a post on Evo Psychology. 'Ohhh... pfft', some of you think. This post is on evo psych for two reasons; the first is that this topic is just fascinating - it's on the evolution of humour and laughter (and humour and laughter in general); and second, this is one of the best evo psych articles I've ever read, and an excellent example of what evo psychology is all about.

[Just FYI, I have written on the topic of Lolz before.]

[Additionally, this post will be broken down into more than one part to fit everything in. This first part is a summary of what we know, the second part will outline the evolutionary arguments.]

But why is this paper an excellent example of Evo Psych? Well, unlike things like vision or attraction or communication, laughter is a unique human quality (well, not quite; but the manner, extent and contexts in which we employ it . . . More
Views: 3801 | Comments: 2
Last by Kate on Jun 13, 2011, 5:53pm
Psycasm: And so, in response to Psycasm's post on Freewill, Kate has entered the fray. Click here to find out what's going on.

Next week: Denise and a line of pure philosophy


Thanks to Psycasm for hosting this conversation, and giving me a chance to talk about my very favourite subject, the mind.

Psycasm hits the nail on the head when he says that free will must, at some point, have evolved. This unarguable fact (let’s assume we’re all materialists for now), tells us a great deal about what sort of thing free will is. It is not a mysterious spirit. It is not something one categorically has or doesn’t have. Like the capacity to feel pain, or be aware of your thoughts, it is something which exists in varying degrees, evolved over time, and develops anew in each new child.

The answer to “do we have free will?” is – yes! Of course! We all know this, and the fact that so many people to find it plausible that we don’t just shows how odd a philosophical tangle we have got ourselves into. Let me try to convince you.

The basic theme in the path from swamp mud to human beings is the development of self-replicat . . . More
Views: 635 | Comments: 6
Last by Psycasm on Jun 08, 2011, 10:30pm
This post is being written primarily for UQPsycBlog, a blogging collective written by PhD students at UQ, which primarily focuses on a day-in-the-life... Given that I kinda rub shoulders with a number of the contributers to the blog, and I intend to pursue a Phd, I've been asked to contribute...

And so here it is, a follow up to 'My Experimental Virginity' and 'Willful Self-Deception is Bliss' - both of which were about the ongoing process of running this study.


Many moons ago, eager to impress and to rise above the clatter of all the other undergrads, I started looking for RA work. I kept my expectations low. I expected that as an untrained, unqualified undergrad I'd be doing menial grunt work. I was not disappointed. I spent three weeks coding videos for specific behaviours of couples arguing in the lab. It was depressing. I walked away feeling like a bad boyfriend, but relieved that everyone fights about the same thing - money, sex and alcohol.

Despite my inauspicious introd . . . More
Views: 349 | Comments: 0
In honour of the arbitrary nature of our 10th podcast I'd like to provide a stream for anyone interested.

This episode covers the nature of Self-Deception and Self-Enhancement. Normally there would be four commentators on the show, but for various reasons only 3 were available.

Let me know what you think!

This is our official website, with some (as yet unpopulated) forums, shownotes and other features.

You can also subscribe to us on iTunes, by clicking here.

. . . More
Views: 2857 | Comments: 8
Last by Shelli on Jul 07, 2011, 1:23am
If you're new to this series, or new to Psycasm generally, Click Here for an explanation.


Do we have free will?

I know I chose to pose that question and write those words, but I’m equally comfortable attributing that sensation of certainty to illusion.

Though I’m not widely read in philosophy that which I have exposed myself to lead me to the conclusion that free will is probably an illusion. I don’t remember who I read, what arguments they used or why it seemed a reasonable conclusion to me, but it is the assumption I have been operating under for a fair period of time.

However, in considering this topic in light of a few more years of experience, and in light of a few years of scientific training… I’m no longer sure what I think.

I know enough to say that I don’t know enough about physics to take that into consideration; not in any meaningful way, at any rate. I could drop a ‘quantum’ here, or list the flavours of subatomic particles (my favourite being ‘Strange’), but it wouldn’t help me understand the problem at hand.

I can, however, parse the problem in terms I am familiar with. If freewill exists – illu . . . More
Views: 516 | Comments: 0
Some time ago I published 'An Open Letter' in which I wrote the following:

"I tend to find myself spending a few hours researching, reading and writing every blog post I make. As a result I've found myself only being able to produce one a week and riding the comments for as long as possible thereafter. Thus, I feel my midweek could be spruced up with something interesting. Something a little less formal. Something a little more interactive. Maybe there could even be jokes...

I tend to write about behaviour, or cognition, or belief. I don't think I've ever really tackled any bigger questions like 'What is Cognition' or 'What is Behaviour'. But I feel this is fertile ground for investigation. And so I'd like to propose an open dialogue with someone on such issues - 'What is Mind?', 'Is there free-will?', 'What is the nature of thought?'."

I was essentially soliciting interesting from other differently minded folk to engage in a bit of discussion, both within blog-posts and in the comments thread.

Well, the long and short of it is that two people have responded. Two people that I feel cov . . . More
Views: 1383 | Comments: 4
Last by Psycasm on Jun 01, 2011, 8:42pm

At the time of writing this post it is 12pm. I caught the bus to Uni at 8:30 where I spoke to a bus-buddy. I arrived and did about half an hour of online arsing-around, and half an hour of reading for this post. During that period I spoke to a friend who I also saw yesterday. Then I went to a two hour lecture and engaged in the usually amount of greetings, whispered comments and occasional jokes, half time commentaries and, finally, a brief conversation with the lecture at the lectures close.

I was going to open this post with a question posed: "How often, and how frequently, do you lie?". I decided instead to work out how often I lie...

The research tells us we do lie. A lot. Lies fall into a bunch of different categories. They can vary both in the manner of lie and the content to which it relates. According to Tyler and Feldman (2004) (who was reference DePaulo, a giant in the field of not-telling-the-truth) the manner of lies can be categorized thusly:

Outright Lies Exaggerations, and 'Subtle' Lies (including white lies, evasions, and ommisions or relevant information). My gut feeling is that those subtle lies should be separated out...

The things we lie about als . . . More
Views: 385 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on May 23, 2011, 9:37pm
Oh, the delicious irony that today is Draw Mohammed Day AND the end of the world. If you don't see the irony, try harder...

. . . More
Views: 3337 | Comments: 6
Last by yannisguerra on May 22, 2011, 10:38pm

How many times have you been presented with a decision and you've opted to sleep on it, sit on it, think it through, mull it over or any other [verb + preposition] combination?

I know I have. But the funny thing is I don't actually think about it. I don't know about other people but I find it really hard to sit down and weigh up the pros and cons in a situation like that. Often when I've chosen to wait it's because I need to go talk to someone about it, or to line up alternatives and contingencies. Here it makes perfec sense to wait - waiting, and the actions you subsequently engage in, allow you to make a more informed decision.

There are times, however, when we choose to wait knowing that waiting won't necessarily afford us new information. Experience tells us that its times like this we choose the fuzzy option of 'sleeping on it' in the hopes that it makes the decision making process easier.

I recently came across a paper entitled 'Reasonable Reasons for Waiting' by Tykocinski and Ruffle. Published in 2003 it's hardly new, but I found it fascinating all the same.

Their first study was a replication of work done by Bastardi and Shafi . . . More
Views: 364 | Comments: 0
So I’ve taken the mind-map in the first ‘sceptical checklist’ and questionized it. For the most part its on a likert-type scale, where 1 = low and 7 = high. Now that it’s questionized it’s time to check how water-tight it is. In turning ideas into questions it has become apparent that it is very difficult to distinguish fact from fiction through introspection alone. At best one might be able to identify the processes we engage in that allow us to reach a conclusion, but even then our judgements will be coloured by the conclusions we’ve reached and a myriad other factors.

It seems that a scale of this nature, if it works, can only work on positive beliefs. That is, this scale may work for ‘Critical Thinking [on the validity of Homeopathy]’, but cannot work on ‘Critical Thinking [on the invalidity of Homeopathy]’. I can’t see how it would be possible to assess a negative belief (i.e. that something doesn’t exist / work).

As of writing this introduction I have not attempted to answer the questions, but only intuited how it works based on my process in constructing it. Here are my thoughts:

Some questions will be much better than others in sepa . . . More
Views: 3867 | Comments: 0
[Scroll directly to the bottom for the check-list]

[See also the Skeptical Checklist v1.1]

I’ve had a couple of conversations over the last few days which have reminded how hard it is to be a skeptic. Perhaps this is misleading, it is not necessarily hard to be a skeptic, but rather it’s hard to become a skeptic.

Scientists, by training, are skeptics. In my mind they have a few clear advantages:

1. They clearly understand, both intuitively and explicitly, what evidence is;

2. They have a process for determining the quality of evidence / information;

3. They have practise in generating alternate explanations;

4. They understand parsimony;

5. Scientists are comfortable with not knowing, and accept that not knowing is normal and healthy;

6. They’re opinions / beliefs are frequently subjected to scrutiny; and

7. They are often surrounded by people who also share these characteristics.

Though it would be narcissistic of me to call myself a ‘scientist’, I do believe that I conform to these characteristics even though I am still earning my education. Additionally, I try to actively engage . . . More
Views: 2415 | Comments: 7
Last by Psycasm on May 07, 2011, 7:16pm

One thing I can say with certainty – as a student of psychology – is that I have participated in more psych-studies than the rest of the population. Additionally, I’ve a bit of experience running studies, which brings you into contact with a great many psych students, all of whom have experience in taking many psych studies.

Frequently these people are first-years who need to participate in order to satisfy a certain percentage of course credit. Other times they’re more advanced students who just want to stay connected with their more senior peers (I count myself among them), and other times they’re simply so poor that $10 for 20 minutes participation means a warm lunch and a bus-ticket (again, I count myself among them).

The thing about it, by design and fortune, is that when you do a study you very rarely actually know what you’re being studied on. I recently signed up for a study (which promised to pay $30 dollars!) that involved me visiting some room and painting a coffee cup, drinking coffee out of said cup for two weeks, then returning to the lab with it and lifting it up and down several hundred times from half a dozen different positions – granted, there was some fancy camera equipment . . . More
Views: 1344 | Comments: 6
Last by Psycasm on Apr 27, 2011, 7:10pm

I wanted to start this post with a simple question:

How well do you know yourself?

…then I realized that it's not a simple question at all. After I applied it to myself I realized that I can know some things about myself (i.e. that I like the colour blue, and that I’m open to new experiences) that are almost certainly true, but not necessarily part of ‘who I am’. But if I try to drill down to my self-concept – those parts of me that I identify as making up the whole of me – it begins to get much harder. I like to think I’m creative, that I’m driven, that I am disciplined; but then I have to ask myself is this true?

A recent publication (which found its way into my inbox) by Vazire and Carlson (2011) suggests (consistent with the past research of others) that we’re not always very good at such things.

The paper, published in the most recent Current Directions of Psychological Science, is a theoretical piece that suggests

1) that self-report measures and introspection are not all they’re cracked up to be, and

2) that reports from others regarding the self can be very useful and more accurate than those provided about oneself.

I won’t spen . . . More
Views: 1372 | Comments: 0

In the latest podcast I express my skepticism towards the nature of the Macbeth effect.The Macbeth effect is so named after Lady Macbeth, who, after murdering King Duncan attempts to wash the blood off her hands (both literally, and figuratively).

Spurred by this famous scene, the study found that washing one's hand after recalling or evaluating an unethical/immoral act seems to lesson one's guilt (Zhong & Liljenquist, 2006). A similiar and seperate study found that washing one's hands before making moral judgements seemed to minimize the degree to which one moralized on the topic (that is, they thought an act was less bad than they otherwise would have) (Schnall, Benton & Harvey, 2008)

In the podcast the examples centered around recalling one's own unethical act, then measuring if participants are washing their hands afterwards. Matt and James both questioned my skepticism (rightly so) and argue that doing the study with a bigger stimuli (say, exposing someone to a 40 minute documentary of the atrocities of WWII; or giving them the opportunity to actually steal, or commit an unethical act in situ ) wouldn't shed more lig . . . More
Views: 3043 | Comments: 20
Last by Lesley Fellows on Apr 29, 2011, 4:29am

If you're new to Psycasm, feel free to skip the following preamble. It's mostly just background. I'd like to think it does have some interesting links to past works, however (both mine, and of others).


The following post is in response to a comment made by Michael Blume (who has previously graced LabSpaces with a Dangerous Experiments post), who, in repsonse to my post regarding the Cognitive Differences Between Christians and Atheists suggested I might be interested in work done by Ara Norenzayan (at the University of British Columbia).

Though it may seem I tend to fixate on religion, I assure you this is not the case. Prior to this post I have made approximately 2 1/2 posts on religion (the 1/2 was on . . . More
Views: 445 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Apr 11, 2011, 7:46pm
I'm looking for someone to start a public dialogue with. Not necessarily a debate, nor a series of essays, just a conversation.

I tend to find myself spending a few hours researching, reading and writing every blog post I make. As a result I've found myself only being able to produce one a week and riding the comments for as long as possible thereafter. Thus, I feel my midweek could be spruced up with something interesting. Something a little less formal. Something a little more interactive. Maybe there could even be jokes...

I tend to write about behaviour, or cognition, or belief. I don't think I've ever really tackled any bigger questions like 'What is Cognition' or 'What is Behaviour'. But I feel this is fertile ground for investigation. And so I'd like to propose an open dialogue with someone on such issues - 'What is Mind?', 'Is there free-will?', 'What is the nature of thought?'.

As it stands I'm not sure anyone can give a definitive answer on such questions, but almost certainly we've got ideas, hypotheses and intuitions. A series of open dialogues might be just the way to foster some cross-disciplinary interactions. Ideally I'm looking Philosophy blogger, someone like me - an active blogger, engaged, eager and (ideally) an undergrad.
. . . More
Views: 1551 | Comments: 5
Last by Psycasm on Apr 06, 2011, 8:27pm

When was the last time you had good ol' belly laugh?

I know the last time I did was during the recording of the last Psychobabble, when Jess made a comment about watching Psycho then visiting your hypothetical mother-in-law who 'has always regarded you as a temporary fixture in her child's life'. For whatever reason this cracked me up. I ended up keeping a few seconds of my laugh in the recording (something I usually don't do), but edited out >60% of it. I made the decision to keep it because it sounded good. It was an honest-to-goodness belly laugh, and such a genuine display of emotion, I reasoned, could only be a good thing.

Then I got thinking. Why do we laugh - what purpose does it really serve?

But first - you need to laugh. Most of you have probably already seen it, but I guarantee you'll laugh again.

Who was laughing along? That baby cracks me up. I love it that he laughs so much he bangs his head (repeatedly) against the furniture. The father laughing along helps the situation. You can't help but know that everyone involved is just having an honest and genuinely happy time. B . . . More
Views: 4305 | Comments: 14
Last by yannisguerra on Mar 29, 2011, 10:24pm

The following is a clip from a morning show called Weekend Sunrise. It’s the weekend incarnation of the ‘more serious’ weekday show (simply called ‘Sunrise’). Sunrise (the ‘more serious’ one) is a pithy variety show with a couple of conceited hosts who are fuelled by conservative opinion and an overstated evaluation of their own journalistic and critical merit.

The weekend version is a bit lighter and takes itself a little less seriously. As a result it also is a little less critical.

Presented here is scientific evidence proof of the afterlife.

[If you can’t spare 7 minutes of your life I do provide a brief summary]

The first thing that struck me was the high production value of the info-clip, entirely populated with Christian imagery and popular Christian metaphor. I thought it was a little cheesy, but tolerable (this was, after all, a segment on Science). Tolerable… until the very last fraction of a second:

. . . More
Views: 5063 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on Mar 23, 2011, 12:06am

I feel its time for a follow-up.

Some time ago I openly mocked Psi researchers for being charlatans. Doing so enraged a vocal minority, but more importantly it brought to my attention the (now infamous) Bem studies (here's a pretty good summary).

And so I composed a rebuttal. It was less science and more 'everyday skepticism' than I had hoped, but I didn't (nor do I currently) have the skill set to demolish it. Fortunately, smarter people than I have.

Here I intend to report on a key critique of the Bem paper. It was authored by Wagen-makers, Wetzels, Borsboom & van der Maas (2011). It is entitled Why Psychologists Must Change the Way They Analyze Their Data: The Case of Psi. Many psych people are aware of this, and much of the skeptical community, too. However, I suspect a great many people heard about these studies and, as the media and hype died away, never gave it a second (or critical) thought- presumably leaving the deceptively sweet taste of 'magic powers' lingering somewhe . . . More
Views: 57538 | Comments: 24
Last by Dustin L on Jul 05, 2012, 9:55am

It's generally accepted It has been demonstrated that as a nation's mean IQ increases their irreligiousity increases too (Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg, 2009). That is, there's a negative correlation between Intelligence (as measured by IQ tests) and religious beliefs (be that belief in (a) God(s), an after-life, or super-beings). The Lynn, Harvey and Nyborg (2009) paper claims the relationship between g and 'Disbelief in God' is .60. America, for whatever reason, is an outlier in this data.

Now there's likely to be 101 explanations as to why this is the case, and arguments and counter-arguments can be put forth to explain it. That particular debate is not what I'm interested in (at this very moment). What I am interested in is if the above statement is true, what else might be true? It's a controversial area of research, and so the information I could find was limited, but interesting.

Could there be some cognitive difference between non-believers and believers? Specifically, could religion influence cognitive style between the two groups. Alternatively, people could be born with a particular cognitive style which influences their religiousity, and this, I think, is an e . . . More
Views: 4917 | Comments: 8
Last by Isabel on Mar 13, 2011, 4:59am
I'm no expert. I'm a student - an Undergrad, at that. I'm no block-busting blogger, either. I consider that I have had a bit of modest success doing what I'm doing, but still view myself on the outskirts of the scienceblogging community.

However, being both a student and one who attempts to communicate psychology has given me the opportunity to observe what people don't know about psychology, and to observe what people think they know about psychology, but are wrong.

No doubt all fields have this. The layperson likely asks chemists if they can make bombs and drugs, may ask astronomers if we can visit other planets, or ask biologists if they can create life. Sure, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it reveals ignorance. The Chemists' work may involve synthesizing organic molecules; the Astronomer spends their day examining reams of data regarding the wobbles of far off planets, and the biologist, well... Labspaces is populated with biologist - if you want the full idea.

Psychologists get asked if they can read people's minds. Yes, they're making a joke - but if their goal is to get a 30 second rundown of what psychology is, it doesn't really leave the door open.

...and the answer is yes; for a given . . . More
Views: 3116 | Comments: 8
Last by becca on Mar 08, 2011, 12:09am

Silly analogies, I know. But it kind of gets the point across. A paper by Griskevicius et al (2006) suggests that, when individuals in a same-sex group are presented with the option of conforming or non-conforming when a sexy other is around, men and women behave differently.

Let me explain, and more importantly, let me pose a question.

Griskevicius et al (2006) conducted two studies. The first asked participants (N = 237) to rate a number of images (to determine their aesthetic preference) then placed them in a same-sex group (online; 3 members) to discuss some of the images. They participant was always last to engage in the discussion, and was basically given the option to conform to a unanimous group opinion, or non-conform (i.e. Like vs Dislike). The trick, however, is that prior to the group discussion participants were given a written scenario to imagine themselves in; the first was a 'self protective' scenario:

In the self-protective scenario, participants imagined being in a house
alone late at night. As the scenario progressed, they overheard scary noises
outside and believed that someone had entered the house. After calling out
and receiving no reply, the story ende . . . More
Views: 2110 | Comments: 23
Last by Isabel on Mar 02, 2011, 3:48pm
The following is an abridged and paraphrased conversation with a taxi driver, a white post-middle aged fellow.

Oh mate, those New Zealanders are taking a hammering, aren’t they? [referring to the recent Earth Quakes]

Yeah, pretty unfortunate. I suppose it caught them unawares.

It was lunch-time you know. It’s not like a cyclone you can see coming.

Still, they had one in September last year.

You know what I’d do, in New Zealand, I’d jump on a boat. Come to Australia. Get priority listing on housing, get welfare, get my teeth fixed.

. . . More
Views: 781 | Comments: 0
Are you lucky? Perhaps you’re unlucky. What is luck, anyway?

It’s tempting to consider it as some kind of magical force present in the ether, in which some individual seem more able to channel its influence than others.

Alternatively, it may be a force unto itself, bestowing favour or ill-fortune upon those who cross its path.

Both of those definitions, however, fail under scrutiny. This does not mean that ‘luck’ does not exist, nor does it mean that belief in it cannot be beneficial (or detrimental, in the case of bad luck). Luck (in part) does depend on how you understand it.

The up-coming Psychobabble covers the topic of luck, and here I present excerpts (and a link to the full text) to an opinion piece written by Dr. Richard Wiseman. It was published in The Skeptical Enquirer (May/Jun 2003).

Now that name (The Skeptical Enquirer) may prime some... ahem... skepticism in certain folk. So I will begin at the end and work my way backwards. Wiseman concludes with this paragraph:

The project has also demonstrated how skepticism can play a positive role in people’s lives. The research
is not simply abou . . . More
Views: 4210 | Comments: 7
Last by Rasmus on Dec 08, 2011, 1:49pm

In 1994 Monk and friends investigated why people on mobile phones are annoying. You know what I'm talking about. When you're sitting on a train just minding your own business and you heard the dingle-dingle of someone's phone and you just know you're going to hear all about someone's baby / Saturday night / shopping list / job. FSM, that's annoying. Seriously, when my phone rings I keep it as quick and as quiet as possible, often returning the call as soon as I'm in a more appropriate setting. On a side note: I'm so glad we no longer have novelty ring tones. Did you ever hear the female orgasm one go off in a public space? Yeah, good one buddy. You and your mate might think that's cute on the work site, but on a bus it's another story...

Anyway, Monk and friends (1994) investigated why this was so damn annoying. Was it due to the volume of the speaker? Are mobile phones just more salient (attention capturing) than normal conversations? Do people have biases against people who publicly use mobile phones? Or was it something else?

By cleverly staging a conversation on a train (or at a bus stop), either with one person on a mobile phone, or with two people . . . More
Views: 583 | Comments: 0
I've just moved house, we have neither internet nor TV. I don't miss TV. However, I cannot function normally without the Internet. I'm afraid this is the cause of my lack of research blogging. I miss it too, 'cause my traffic is way down, and as I explained here and here this is bad for my high-functioning narcissism.

But like any good narcissist I can find my fix.

At any rate, I would like to thank anyone and everyone who has taken 35 minutes out of their life to listen to the Psychobabble podcast. Additionally, I would very much encourage people to suggest topics for discussion or questions on any given topic. My hope it to have a questions section at the end of each show where we answer emails from curious folk.

Additionally, if you have taken the time to give us a listen, I would appreciate any feedback. So far I've had a lot of chat with people of facebook who've given some really important insights, that are both short term and long term with regards to how to improve the show.

Topics we're going to cover soonish include:

Swearing, which may be expan . . . More
Views: 1180 | Comments: 7
Last by Psycasm on Feb 20, 2011, 7:08pm
So this is an exchange I had with a local business. They make the claim that the guy who runs the place specializes in 'Fertility, Gynaecology and Pregnancy'. Good for him, he cites his qualifications here. He credientials include being a Chef and having obtained a Bachelor's in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. You make the judgment which entitles him to be an expert with your vagina and reproductive system. He also is 'responsible for designing & formulating the ConceptShen range of clinically advanced Fertility and Gynaecological Formulas'.

He makes a number of bold claims, all without citation:

For instance:

Chinese Medicine is about treating the cause, not just the symptoms and relies on a series of treatments to balance the body and maintain health. The following statistics are a review of seven previous studies on acupuncture and fertility –

Acupuncture increases the chances of conceiving via IVF by 65%Acupuncture increases the chances of maintaining a pregnancy by 87%Acupuncture increases the rate of maintaining a pregnancy to . . . More
Views: 56848 | Comments: 16
Last by Sydney Talbot on Jun 11, 2013, 1:38am


Here's where I heard about this paper first... and a pretty weak treatment at that.


In a previous post I dared suggest* that women watched porn. Several people warned me of the imminent troll-storm, and true to their predictions, I was inundated with claims that I was a misogynist, supporting 'shoddy' science, and endorsing the male status-quo. All of which was rubbish, and based on the fact that 'women' and 'porn' appeared in the same sentence. Oh no, women are sexual beings? Think of the children!**. The lead author of the paper I cited showed up and made a few comments. The trolls fled. ...Then I won an award for the post.

And so here I am to make another inflammatory statement. Well, two, in fact. First, I think Evolutionary Psychology offers a valid paradigm to explore human behaviour and cognition. And so I am steeled for the exclamations of 'just so stories' and the accusations of 'quackery'. Second, apparently women have sex, some even enjoy it, so much so that they . . . More
Views: 1159 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Feb 06, 2011, 3:35pm
So I've been a bit snowed under lately. As I mentioned recently, we've had some pretty big floods in my part of the world, and as a result all my summer semester workload has backed-up into one ugly pile of responsibility.

And so my blogging has been a bit light on while I tackle these assignments and exams. Fear not, as soon as I get the chance I fully intend to look into what the literature says about Astrology. It has been to my great horror that I know a number of people who tacitly seem to accept its premise, and so I'd like to see how, and/or why, this might be the case.

On the upside, Psychobabble II is out, and it's all about the nature of human time perception. This was posted at the Psychobabble website:

Wherein Rohan, Morgan, Nerisa and James discuss the very nature of time perception. After a brief foray into physics and relativity the discussion finds it way to youtube, detours through the illusion of stationary second hands, and ultimately finishes with our physical passage through time. Is it more useful for us to consider ourselves as agents moving through time, or as stationary objects within the greater flow? And just how important are metaphors to our cognition…?
. . . More
Views: 3771 | Comments: 4
Last by donna pink on May 23, 2011, 12:22pm

Magical thinking is a funny term for a strange phenomenon. Broadly put it is the belief or expectation that our thoughts and actions will influence the future, others, or ourselves. I can only imagine it seems ridiculous for anyone reading this blog to consider the possibility of actually cursing someone, or placing a hex on their family. But I do imagine a certain percentage pray to a bearded man in sky to bestow good luck or good health on themselves or the people they know. Yet the middle group - the non-hexers and the non-prayers - are not exempt. Chances are you know it in some other form - willing the phone not to ring at 4:45 on a friday afternoon, 'jinxing' your own (or someone else's) good luck by making it the subject of conversation, or suggestion one ought to 'wish you luck' prior to some big event, and engaging in any other kind of superstitious behaviour.

The crazy part is that magical thinking can work. Sometimes. If you're so persuaded by the arguments of religion knowing that folk are praying for you can actually work. Of course, the magical thinking is on the part of the thinker/prayer; and the benefits associated with the knowledge that you're being prayed for are in . . . More
Views: 4096 | Comments: 4
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jan 26, 2011, 2:46pm

I bought my girlfriend a Wii some time ago and before playing any game we spent 2 hours making Mii's of ourselves and all the people we know. A Mii - for those not in the a know - is your Wii avatar. It is associated with your personal stats on games such as WiiFit and WiiSport. Now Mii's are downright cartoony, but we tried to make them as lifelike as possible. After you're done it asks for your weight and height (for WiiFit) and calculates your BMI. Now I had made my Mii a fairly fit looking character, but given I carry a bit of muscle, my BMI came out as 'overweight' and it updated my Mii accordingly, and blew the little guy out. I felt outraged! That is not me, what I created was me! And it wouldn't change me back without a judgmental message (yeah, WiiFit totally judges you).

I also created a second Mii. It was my stoner alter-ego. I used him exclusively when I was playing on the Wii after drinking. I created a dummy account because I didn't want to skew my 'real' stats.

I've also created some kind of weird cat-class avatar (who might have also been female, I can't remember) when I played Morrowind: Elder Scrolls (a game which I probably invested 150+ ho . . . More
Views: 2069 | Comments: 10
Last by Psycasm on Feb 01, 2011, 5:01pm

The following video is horrendously graphic. It is not work safe. It is not, in my opinion, fit for anyone under 18. I personally question the motives and character of anyone who enjoys playing this particular scenario. Not because it's violent, but because I genuinly feel it is reprehensible.

But hey, I'm not a gamer. The pretext - if you didn't pick it up - is that you must pose as a terrorist in order to save many more from the terrorist. That is, it kind of taps into the morality and ethics questions posed in my last post. But it really takes it one step away from the hypothetical argument and into the realm of action - yes, it's virtual action - but I couldn't even watch that whole video. Honest to the FSM, my eyes water.

But are the actions of gamers in a virtual environment even subject to normal morality and ethics? Does it matter if one is acting against AI, or against other real players? In the video above only AI - mere representations - were killed. Ignoring the question of does this kind of thing make people violent, or, do violent people play these games, I ask the question are virtual a . . . More
Views: 1562 | Comments: 11
Last by Psycasm on Jan 20, 2011, 7:29pm
So for a while it's just been talk and ideas floating in the ether. But today Psychobabble goes live!

What is Psychobabble? It's a fortnightly podcast on the topic of experimental psychology. If you're interested in the way people think, the why's of behaviour, and the how's of the brain, then this is for you.

By and large a search on iTunes for 'Psychology' or related turns up a bit about clinical psychology, and then a bunch of assorted Lecture-series'. Psychobabble is not a lecture series, it's an informal, informed, referenced discussion on a given topic. Our opening episode relates to the science of First Impressions, but meanders amusingly (hopefully) through some tragic first dates, the age old debate of blue eyes vs. brown eyes, why your dolcet tones are an amazing asset, and if you rock socks-and-sandles and sport a beard... well, you need to listen to this.

If that seems like a little bit of a 'soft' topic then episode 2 (due in a fortnight's time) might be more up your alley. It'll be about the nature of time perception - how we (and our brains) perceive it, why its far from constant, and under what circumstances it varies. Th . . . More
Views: 2143 | Comments: 9
Last by Psycasm on Jan 17, 2011, 11:04pm

Who knows the trolley dilemma?

It's a simple little thought experiment in ethics. Here's a variation:

You are a station master at a railway and a runaway train is speeding through the station. Ahead of it is a split line, and the train is headed down Line A if you do not act. At the end of Line A is a single surveyor, inspecting the tracks, oblivious to the fact there is a train headed for him. At the end of Line B is a group of 4 or 5 workmen doing some maintenance.

You cannot stop the train, but you can redirect it down Line B. Do you?

Most people will answer No. It's a tragedy, but the loss of one life is better than the loss of 5.

You are a station master at a railway and a runaway train is speeding through the station. Ahead of it is a split line, and the train is headed down Line A if you do not act. At the end of Line A is a group of 4 or 5 workmen doing some maintenance, oblivious to the fact there is a train headed for them. At the end of Line B is a single surveyor, inspecting the tracks.

You cannot stop the train, but you can redirect it down Line B. Do you?

Many people will answer Yes for the same reason. The loss of one life is a tragedy, yet your a . . . More
Views: 511 | Comments: 0
Just wanted to vent a little, mostly because I've been a bit silent on the blogging front lately.

Between dealing with the floods in my part of the world, I've been focusing a lot of energy into getting my podcast - Psychobabble - up and running. But as should be expected, there will be a delay of about a week, as I find someone who can screw with coding for me to increase my upload limit on my wordpress backend. Why the frick don't wordpress just have an option to incease it? I don't know, but you have to do a whole bunch of loop-jumping to increase it. Alternatively I need to look into paid-hosting options for podcast, such as Blubrry (sic) or podbean. I tried podbean yesterday, but it was a mess and difficult to use. Anyone, any thoughts?

Anywho, this afternoon I will endevour to write a real post and have it up for tomorrow (my time, so, ETA of 12 hours).

On an unrelated note, next weekend I'm going to the hospital to be involved in a drug trial. They are going to pay me lots of money. I don't really know what to expect, except they'll be taking my blood a lot. I think I'll probably be live tweeting the whole event (it's 3-day lock-in) - so if you're interested in what goes in (on the human end) of drug trials, stay tuned.

. . . More
Views: 967 | Comments: 7
Last by Evie on Jan 18, 2011, 12:28pm
I don't know how much the rest of the world know about my little home-town of Brisbane, but we've been experiencing our worst flooding since '74 (and perhaps earlier). As of 4am this morning (13/1/11) the Brisbane River peaked at 4.5 meters. It has been raining here for, literally, months. There are 12,000 homes underwater and 4000 streets closed (City wide), 15 recorded fatalities and 61 missing (state wide). There are a couple hundred thousand houses without power. My power restored a few hours ago, but the whole city is off.

This is a view from the Story Bridge that's only a few years old. If you ever visit Brisbane, take a walk across it during sunset - the views are spectacular and you can walk right into The Valley - one of the night club and restaurant districts of Brisbane.

This is the same view taken a few 12 hours before the peak-flood.

(Credit: Retell, 2011)

Here's the same angle, than includes the bridge itself:

This is a view of the William Jolly Bridge. You shouldn't do this, but you can climb right on top of the Arcs and look back on to the City and Southbank. I also don't recomend doing this drunk, late at night...

That boat is a CityCat - . . . More
Views: 1998 | Comments: 4
Last by yannisguerra on Jan 18, 2011, 2:44am

I have stumbled upon an interesting area of research. It seems that, like some other seemingly arbitrary measures (like digit ratios), that it has the capacity to have modest (if rough) predictive power. It also seems, at first glance, to border on the kooky side of science, and in parts reminds me of old arguments about racial intelligence and head-bumps, cranial capacity, and ol' fashioned racism.

It is the study of eye colour and its predictive power.

Eye colour is genetic (and follows Mendelian rules*), so the possibility exists that eye colour can reveal details about our genetic make-up. It's a rough-and-ready kind of measure, but like digit-ratio measures, it may serve a purpose. Data exists to suggest that blue-eyed children are more behaviourally inhibited than their brown-eyed counter-parts, blue-eyedness is correlated with infant timidity, and, may serve as a marker for social wariness (in children) (Kleisner et al, 2010). In an interesting study Kleisner et al (2010) took a bunch of photos of guys and girls, and asked subjects to rate them on a number of subjective measures. They found that brown-eyes in men were correlated with a higher . . . More
Views: 809 | Comments: 1
Last by Suzy on Jan 09, 2011, 6:39pm
[Wherein our Hero explores his daydreaming behaviour, and just how it might impact upon his marginally more objective reality.]

Someone once told me that a study concluded that students who daydream often in class actually do better than students who daydream less frequently. He argued that this is because those who daydream in class aren’t challenged by the material and disengage. It has a kind of twisted, believable logic, though it flies in the face of the accepted wisdom. It would be great if that were true, but I’ve never been able to find the reference.

A lecturer of mine told his class today that the ‘default’ setting of the brain is to daydream about social interactions. Of course I do his class and that particular topic no justice by that one, short sentence. It’s an exceedingly more complicated topic than expressed here. However, I will admit, my first reaction was to balk at it. I would swear I day dream more about goals and objectives, and problems I need to solve than people and interactions. He then asked for suggestions of non-social daydream content and proceeded to shoot down nearly all suggestions in one or two steps. An example might be – I was thinking of a t-shirt design; a . . . More
Views: 6527 | Comments: 30
Last by Kim Wallen on Jan 04, 2011, 10:33pm

And now for something completely different (or depending on your history folder, something exceedingly familiar)...

I'm going to begin this post with a copy of an Abstract from a paper entitled 'The pleasure is momentary…the expense damnable? The influence of pornography on rape and sexual assault' (Ferguson & Hartley, 2009) in Aggression and Violent behaviour.

The effects of pornography, whether violent or non-violent, on sexual aggression have been debated for decades. The current review examines evidence about the influence of pornography on sexual aggression in correlational and experimental studies and in real world violent crime data. Evidence for a causal relationship between exposure to pornography and sexual aggression is slim and may, at certain times, have been exaggerated by politicians, pressure groups and some social scientists. Some of the debate has focused on violent pornography, but evidence of any negative effects is inconsistent, and violent pornography is comparatively rare in the real world. Victimization rates for rape in the United States demonstrate an inverse relationship between pornography consumption and rape rates. Data from other nations have sug . . . More
Views: 11806 | Comments: 12
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Dec 23, 2010, 3:19pm
Last week I dropped the comment that I thought it was normal and healthy for a blogger to check their stats. I was quickly corrected by more experienced bloggers than myself, who made the comment that the discussion generated in their comment boards was a more important metric.

With this, I agree. If I didn't want dialogue I'd write a book. But it seems intuitive that the degree of discussion is necessarily going to be linked views.

So, on my third day of holidays, I've decided to engage in some Recreational Statistical Analysis. There's nothing too fancy here, because there's not much fancy stats could have told me about my blog - with one exception (to my mind), which I will cover at the end.

But first, some descriptives:

Since joining LabSpaces I have made 34 posts, 22 of which were ResearchBlogging posts. I have an average word count of 889.26 (SD=338.78). Across all posts my mean views (as of 21st of December) 394.62 (SD = 253.84), but if you exclude the three outliers (Music Testing Athletes and Psi I, and II) then it drops to 340.97 (SD = 189.60).

Across all posts, on average, I get 8.30 comments (SD = 11.70); but if you exclude the outliers that drop . . . More
Views: 633 | Comments: 9
Last by becca on Dec 23, 2010, 9:48am
This is not something I normally do, but by the very fact that I shy away from it, it seems appropriate now.

I can't understand why anyone cares about anyone else. Not in any pathological sense, but why you - some potato farmer in Kansas - care about me - some poor under-grad from Land of Oz. Furthermore, I'm probably right. As most bloggers (probably) do, I watch my stats*. My most popular posts are strike a balance between commentary and science, and are usually on something pop, like music, or video-games. My least popular posts are about my opinions and about me. Personally, I thought 'The Moon and Antarctica' was an excellent post, and expected to watch the stats counter climb. I was wrong. My most popular post, however, was 'We should be Music Testing Athletes', which I personally thought was a poorly constructed treatment of a topic that deserved more (and which I intend to revisit at some point in the future). By contrast, 'The Paper of Influence' (all about me) ties for one of the lowest scores with . . . More
Views: 543 | Comments: 2
Last by Psycasm on Dec 17, 2010, 4:09pm

[Wherein our Hero looks at what research has most influenced him. A story to be continued...]

As with most of these monthly themes, I'm at a loss. I'm still an undergrad, and am yet to be afforded the luxury of independent thought. I'm yet to commence honours, and further still from a PhD. I have a vague inkling of a preference towards a vast area of psychology, but what I would like to investigate specifically is still beyond me.

However, I can answer this question in a sense. The paper that has most influenced me is the paper (and the research topic) that I have found myself involved in. The paper is by Apfelbaum and Sommers, and is entitled 'Liberating Effects of Losing Executive Control' (2009).

It's an interesting paper and (as I understand it) one of very few in the area (at least in the way it treats the topic). It focuses on a thing called Executive Function, which is one's capacity to self-regulate and inhibit certain behaviours and impulses. For instance, we've all experienced one of those days where we're just drained, and despite our best efforts we snap at someone we shouldn't. It might be a co-worker, or a partner, or a stranger on a bus. What . . . More
Views: 1022 | Comments: 0

[Wherein our Hero whether sharing = caring, and what, exactly, do we get out of it?]

Sharing is caring, so they say (or at least 13 million hits on google says so). In my experience that phrase is used regarding the sharing of emotions and thoughts, rather than things and objects. And I've never really understood it. Why, if I share my feelings with you, does that show I care? Surely 'listening is caring' would be a more appropriate truism?

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm a touch neurotic, but I vet what I'm going to say. I might have a story about myself, and in some way it seems important to me, but why would you care, why would anyone care? If it's a story that his a wider impact, it's funny, or generally interesting, or relevant to another party - sure - but if it's just me getting my thoughts and feelings out there, what's the point?(Internal Consistency Alert: this particular thought will segway into some science, so it falls under the category of 'generally interesting', bear with me).

Lots of things happen to me every day that I just don't share. Yet other people feel compelled to tell you just about anything, irrespective of it's . . . More
Views: 1090 | Comments: 0

[Wherein our hero looks at our general online credulousness, and why

So we recorded our second trial of the Psychobabble Podcast the other night, I'm yet to edit down into a nice ipod-size programme, but I thought I might make a post regarding an interesting paper, and series of points that came up.


But first, please help me help a PhD! She has half the data set she needs, but another 100 participants would be awesome. There's not much research in this particular area of decision making, and the results look to be really interesting, and really novel.


Back in the day, when I was studying business, a lecturer described the internet (pre-bubble) as a wild-west-like frontier, where you could pretty much get away with anything. People were still grappling with the technology, and bunch of really smart people took it by the reigns and made a killing. I think a lot of it had to do with novelty, but a lot of it had to do with the credulousness of people, too. Yet I'm not sure it was entirely their fault. We . . . More
Views: 1013 | Comments: 5
Last by Psycasm on Dec 06, 2010, 5:56am

[Wherein our hero investigates why our eyes are frequently bigger than our bellies]

To welcome the new blogger to the LabSpaces line-up (JaySeeDub, here), I have themed my post accordingly. To Food.

My girlfriend has this rediculous (and infuriating) habit. When I pour her a glass of water it needs to be filled to within millimeters of the brim. It doesn't matter the size of the glass, just that the volume the fluid occupies must nearly be equal with the volume available. This is annoying on so many levels, but mostly because she never finishes her glass. This is especially frustrating when I give her a glass of my beer. She drinks only half of it, then apparently forgets about it completely. This is Beer - a vital fluid! It's not like water that flows freely from the tap. Arg!

But it raises an interesting question. How much truth is there to the statement that our eyes are bigger than our bellies? An ambiguous statement in the extreme, but what might it mean? Generally, it's taken to suggest that we overestimate the amount of food we want to eat.

But why?

Well, one possible explanation is that we desire the food in qu . . . More
Views: 2220 | Comments: 5
Last by Evie on Dec 01, 2010, 9:16am

[Wherein our Hero discusses why you should be doing voice excercises as well as your morning push-ups]

The study I’m running is finally about to get underway. We didn’t completely solve the ‘true magnitude sexy’ problem, but we decided to add a few measures to try and explain it a little better.

How’d we do that? Well, we’re kind of employing the same methodology to participant’s voice. This particular little trick does have its own problems (you don’t hear your own voice as it actually is), but we can manipulate change in the voice to true and objective measures (i.e. percentage change in pitch).

What, might you ask, does voice have to do with it? We can all fairly readily accept that a guy with a strong jaw line and big hands is probably dripping with testosterone. They’re the kind of guy, nice as they might be, whom we quietly make the mental note: don’t get into a fight with him. Big muscles, too, we accept as a fairly decent sign of masculinity. Now you ladies might argue – no, muscles and big hands are passé and crass, I like my man to be sensitive and emotional – but, from everything I’ve read, . . . More
Views: 1703 | Comments: 0

[Wherein our Hero seeks to understand the benefits of both reading and writing blogs]

How meta- of me. A blog about blogging. It was sure to happen, as surely as it has happened everywhere else.

In my defence at least it’s a researchblogging article about blogging.

I have to say that the decision to start a blog was one of unintended consequences, all positive, I assure you.

I had two motivations in doing so – the first was to combat the rash of opinion being passed off as fact. I was sick of reading how so-and-so says this, but you-who say that, and the meaningless, factless battles the followed. I know that my blog does not begin to make a dent in the wealth of opinion-as-fact out there, but at least I proved to myself that one can be a solid skeptic and student-of-fact when dealing with my own life.

The second goal was to self-educate. I could just as easily have blogged about any given field, any given hobby, or broaden my range to ‘what’s in the news’, but since I hope to make a career in Psychology it seemed prudent to self-educate in Psychology.

With regard to the second fact I must recount a story. I was in Lab Group the day, and we (there were about a dozen of us) we . . . More
Views: 377 | Comments: 6
Last by Prabodh Kandala on Nov 24, 2010, 11:35pm
After months of blue-sky musings, and weeks of preparation I stand to make an announcement.

I am releasing a Psychology Themed Podcast.

Let me outline a bit of my reasoning:

I listen to a number of podcasts, as they're an excellent way to receive ongoing news and information, and are frequently accompanied by skilled dissection. I personally (and regularly) listen to Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Astronomycast, Freakonomics, and Skeptically Speaking (as well as a number of others on a less regular basis).

You'll notice none of the mentioned are Psychology themed... and that's a big problem I've noticed. There's a lot of Psychology-themed podcasts out there but they all suffer from a number of problems (in my opinion). Mostly they're a lecture series delivered by smart and (no doubt) interesting people, but not an interesting way.

I aim to do what Skeptics' Guide does for Skepticism and Science News, and what Astronomycast does for Astronomy - make a big all-encompassing topic digestible by those interested in the area, but not formally trained. For instance, I've always loved Astronomy, but if I were ever to pick up a book on the topic I would be swamped by jargon, hit with maths, and experience a general sense of being overwhelmed. Astronomy . . . More
Views: 1974 | Comments: 3
Last by Psycasm on Nov 21, 2010, 11:15pm

[Wherein our Hero discusses a difficult conceptual problem, and explains why you're probably not as hot as you think]

So I’m dealing with a pretty big conceptual problem at the moment. It’s part of the study I’m currently conducting on behalf of another.

The study involves, in part, morphing a participant’s face with that of a more attractive target and with that of a less attractive target.

It follows the methodology of Epley and Whitchurch (2008) who found that, in a task where participants were asked to ‘estimate the likelihood that [a given] face is their own’ they were more likely to pick 20% more attractive than their actual face.

They conducted a number of other experiments within their paper, and generally found that 10% and 20% more attractive faces were routinely accepted as one’s own more readily than 20%+ and actual and ugly-morphed faces. For the astute, there was frequently observed a decline at 10% ugly that is not of the magnitude expected. In discussions we’ve concluded that this is likely due to the fact that morphing (to a small degree) stands to ‘average out’ a face. Thus features that might be anomalous (say, a big nose; a slight asymmetry) get w . . . More
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Last by Psycasm on Nov 19, 2010, 9:02pm

[Wherein our Hero ponders what makes us dance, and why we might do it.]

Last night I was driving home from work and was stopped at a red light. Across the street, waiting to walk was a girl. And she was dancing to her ipod. For some reason, this always makes me smile.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of seeing someone dancing along in their own little world. It’s always a bit of a judgment call as to whether you think ‘what a dick’ or ‘good for you’. Can they just not control their impulses? Can they, but choose to ignore them? To ignore what everyone is doing around them? Are they not aware that there are people around them?

Now I’m not a dancer (and I don’t do karaoke, either) so I don’t really understand it. Dance is generally accepted as some kind of emotional expression, but I just don’t get it. I mean, I can watch someone else dance and understand what they’re trying to convey (I’m not completely a-cultural), but if you asked me to spend 30 seconds physically conveying some particular emotion I’d probably end up miming.

Interestingly, children can pick up what is being expressed in dance. Here’s an excerpt from the abstract of a paper by Lagerlof & Djerf . . . More
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Last by Pascal Wallisch on Nov 19, 2010, 6:25pm

[Wherein our Hero pops a question - What's so great about Marriage?]

I’m surrounded by marriage at the moment. In just the last three weeks I’ve had two cousins marry off (people my own age, I should add), and – most notably for LabSpaceCadets - Brian ‘Dear Overlord’ Kreuger has become happily married in the last day and a half.

One thing I’ve noticed about Weddings is that it becomes acceptable, if not customary, to harass established couples into getting married as well. For instance, my girlfriend and I have been together for 4 years, and no-on, not ever, suggests we ought to get married in anything more than jest. Yet at a wedding even my own brother is allowed to take a jab and suggest we ought to get married… My Brother, Father, Mother, Cousins 1 and 2, Auntie and probably a few more brought it up. They ask “Do I hear wedding bells?”, to which I respond “I hear nothing, perhaps you have a tumour.”.

Obviously marriage is an important social construct, but in my own little microcosm of white, middle-class first-world society I know no-one that feels actual pressure to get marriage. They do it for themselves, and out of love and commitment for the parties involved. And so I wo . . . More
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[Wherein our Hero checks to see if he's the made of the right stuff for a Moon base or an Arctic Mission]

Did you hear? NASA and DARPA have announced the 100-year Starship project. Broadly speaking it aims to attract billionaire investors into a Starship Project, as well as creating a project that will inspire generations.

The thought of interstellar flight alone inspires me. My hand is officially up for crew. Yes, I know I’ll be 125 if it’s completed in exactly 100 years, but I figure we’re only 40 years away from stasis, or maybe even some magic drugs to reverse cell death. Whatever it takes, I’m there. Seriously, I would volunteer to do any such thing, including going to Mars. Even if it wasn’t a return trip - the idea of being a colonist is even more spectacular. More realistically however, I *might* find myself in Antarctica at some point. Maybe, in a future where I’m a rock-star academic and the government gives me a grant that involves ice, cold, or confinement or something…

And so that got me thinking – what’s the psychology behind confinement, behind isolation, behind the extremes of survival.

I would love to do such a thing, but the truth of the situation would be th . . . More
Views: 509 | Comments: 2
Last by Bashir on Nov 10, 2010, 3:14pm
As a kid people would ask (adults, mostly) who is your hero?

All the little boys would name some rugby player, and all the little girls would name some actress. Some of them might name a dancer, if they were into that kind of thing.

I played sport, I played music, I had access to the opportunity to form an opinion toward some target of admiration. I just never did. I never saw the point. Not in a "I'm going to be independent" kind of way, I just didn't; it kind of made me sad that I didn't have a hero and everyone else did.

In some sense I think that’s what a mentor is, for a child. Again, as a teenager and a growing adult I never really had a mentor either. I’m not sure why – I even signed up for a mentor programme. I’m not sure if it was my ‘mentor’s’ failing, my own, or the programme’s, but I never got much out of that.

Perhaps I’m defining ‘mentor’ in a fashion too rigid. I imagine a mentor-relationship to be 2-way street. I, the underling, working under the benevolent gaze of a wizened mind, knowing that even if I make a mistake I will not be reprimanded, but will be encouraged to learn from the experience. I imagine the relationship not to be too stressful, because the mentor should be able to handle it all. I don’t know . . . More
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Last by Psycasm on Nov 07, 2010, 8:19pm
My post is light today because I have a rather large exam in a few hours. It's worth 50% of total course credit and it's on ef-off-sophisticated statistics. I really don't know what kinds of statistics other disciplines require, but this is the third and final statistics course for the undergrad component and it's getting worryingly difficult. I'm relieved to think it'll be over in a few hours.

Statistics is might ordinarily be a dry and boring subject, but I need to thank my lecturer, who most excellently taught the subject with personality and insight. Addtionally, I have been involved in a number of lab-groups where academics throw around statistical language with incredible ease. That blows me away, but thanks to this course I actually understand what they're talking about.

In order to celebrate how well this subject was taught I have compile a list of all the things my lecturer said that tickled me in the listening and re-listening of all 26 hours of content (that's 26 hours of stats content in the last week, excluding self-driven work...).


"…these green people are more beautiful, or score more highly on a test of existential worth…" 

"…here you see the structural model... You guys are like ‘I would be happier, frankly, had I n . . . More
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Last by Marisa Hendrickson on Mar 11, 2012, 11:23pm

[This post is part of a larger blogging carnival addressing the questions What is Psychopathology. See The Thoughtful Animal for a full list]

What is psychopathology?

Really, give that question some thought.

It’s a big topic, where do you even begin? How do you start to understand such a thing?

Perhaps its worth starting, well, somewhere near the beginning.

Evolution is well established as a legitimate vehicle for biological change. But where does behaviour come from? Could it possibly be the same place? If not, where else? While biological function and form are readily accepted as evolutionary outcomes behaviour is less attributed to demands of fitness, survival, and the flourishing of the species (or of the individual therein).

Why not Psychopathology [Mental Illness] too? It is hereditary, and thus, genetic. It exists in the population in the context of environmental and social influences. It may render a sufferer unfit for procreation, or perhaps, as exceptionally so.

Here are a few points that might change the way you think about Psychopathology. I would love to give this a deeper treatment, but I expect the debate g . . . More
Views: 2896 | Comments: 58
Last by Psycasm on Nov 04, 2010, 6:54pm
[Wherein our Hero defends his skeptical stance regarding Psi, despite those with bigger brains than his own working on finding positive evidence. But is it even a legitimate domain of investigation?]

What the flip is all the fuss? See here (post) and (comment)

This particular post way an eye-opener. I’m not going to say a mind-opener, with all its implications, but it definitely made me more aware that important people are working on this topic.

First, I am humbled by some of the authors involved and by some of the organizations and journals endorsing such work.

Second, I stand by my initial mocking tone of the work I cited – and the field more generally.

Third, I believe the question itself is still (currently) without as much merit as Disgruntledphd might suggest.

I’m going to work my way backwards, from point three to one.

The Society of Psychical Research was indeed founded by some great Victorian minds – a most interesting point was that William James (the late, great) was involved in their American operations. I assume, too, that disgruntledphd is accurat . . . More
Views: 10786 | Comments: 41
Last by mamta on Feb 08, 2011, 5:14am
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I consider myself a skeptic, and I've often wondered how I can tie my skeptical bent with my interest in Psychology, while remaining true to the format of this blog. I don't like to sit here and write essays, nor do I like to sit here and push a particular agenda. I do like to sit down, ask a question, find an answer, and try to apply it.

And so, when last musing upon this topic, I realized that I'm in the field most capable of debunking such woo. Perhaps information, in and of itself, is useful - should you be confronted by one afflicted with an 'open mind' . Furthermore I'm on the side of light - Science! and so have special +1 debunking abilities. While the purveyors of Woo also lay claim to domain on the brain and mental abilities, we have replicability and statistical analysis.

Initially I thought this post would be a bit of fun. Poke around the old journals and find some acid-trip hypotheses and from the '7o's. Naturally I checked the 'peer review' box when searching...

Oh. Em. Gee.

I found this gem from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine:

Over decades, consciousness research has a . . . More
Views: 1642 | Comments: 8
Last by gwern on Nov 06, 2010, 1:06pm

[Wherein our hero considers how he might think himself smarter. Yet it appears Brain-Training might just be woo.]

At this time of year I start wondering how to get an edge in my exams. Is studying really the best way about it? Last exam period I examined the best way to use caffiene, and I ran a series of informal experiments to figure my own personal method out [here].

This time round I was thinking - how can I improve my working memory / fluid intelligence. I'd heard a bit in the pop media about some tasks that can improve some general capacities and I thought sounds reasonable.

Fluid intelligence / working memory is your capacity to hold things in mind and access them quickely and efficiently; it's the capacity 'to hold a representation active in the face of distraction and interference'. I may be using those terms [working memory, fluid intelligence] incorrectly, so please correct me if that's the case. For instance I have a heavily weighted multichoice stats exam coming up. It would be useful to be able to peruse the whole sheet and kind of keep a running log of here are the questions on x, here are the questions on y... and be able . . . More
Views: 495 | Comments: 9
Last by Will on Oct 26, 2010, 5:58pm
Welcome to Assassins' League.

The first rule of the Assassins' League is:

You know what, I don't have a punchy one-liner. But let me explain. Previously I've stated that I've adopted 'Be indispensable' as my personal motto. Well, this is part of the overall plan, but the story starts earlier than that.

I started studying psychology knowing I didn't like failure. As soon as I had a bit of knowledge under my, after my first semester (when I was technically a second-year), I began to network. I boot-strapped myself up by making sure I talked to all my lecturers and by getting to know other people who work hard. Fortuitously I met an acquaintance who was post-honours and working on campus who introduced me to a number of postgrads. I don't know how - but I managed to get to know and build rapport with them all (well, most) - after all, who am I? An undergrad with delusions of ambition?!*

With step 1 handled I moved on to step 2. I figured if I can make myself central to something, make myself indispensible to many people, to offer something that's hard to achieve alone, and make it easy for anyone to do the same as I did, I'd be in like Flynn. So I started the . . . More
Views: 2435 | Comments: 6
Last by Nikkilina on Oct 28, 2010, 3:12pm

[Wherein our hero puts it off... but later returns and wonder how, and why, it could've been done better]

So I'm at the pointy end of the semester. My exams have all been turned in and now I'm left to deal with the rising spectre of exams. It's wierd - you can work as hard as you like all semester and earn up to 50% of your overall grade, but the final exam is the kicker often worth half or more of your overall grade. It makes you think - was that 8% piece worth the three days of effort, or could I have better used that time elsewhere? Could I have cut some corners? What if I just took a day off and went to the beach for some R&R, would that have had long-term gains?

And of course there are the despicable folk who complain 'Oh, I was up all night doing that assignment. I only started it yesterday afternoon'. Assuming they're telling the truth and assuming there were no influencing variables (like family problems, etc) my first reaction is Screw you, I don't care, you should've used your time better, my second reaction is I respect you just a little less for making that decision and complaining about it and third, so help me if you do better than me....

Natur . . . More
Views: 309 | Comments: 1
Last by Kelly Oakes on Oct 24, 2010, 5:05am
Feeling a bit under the weather today. And so I present a man and his words. A man who is casually more eloquent than I, even on my best days. This is a video which at first damns the pedants, then proceeds to liberate the everyman. Yet it does leave one feeling slightly inadequate, linguistically speaking.

Also, I wish I had an accent that made me sound that smart.

Addtionally, after reading Biochem Belles post regarding pseudonymity (on there and hopefully back again) I thought this seemed appropriate. Sometimes telling someone you're a blogger does earn you funny looks 'You write?!'.

. . . More
Views: 680 | Comments: 13
Last by Nikkilina on Oct 19, 2010, 8:31am
This post is at the request of Nikkilina. I welcome any and all suggestions for topics.

Infants are such simple little creatures. Their heads are too big for their bodies and they often smell. However, they do grow up and later become productive members of society, like bloggers or webcomics. However, while small and under-developed that are capable of doing some amazing things. Amazing being used in the sense that 'they amaze us', not in the sense that they are capable of impressing us.

Infants and toddlers all lack a Theory of Mind. All adults have ToM (though it might be argued some more than others). ToM is the capacity to infer states-of-mind of another, this encompasses beliefs, desires, intentions, pretence, attention, and knowledge. It is both the capacity to understand one's own mind in relation to others, and understand the mind of others in relation to the self (and others). It exists on a continuum where new-borns have an incredibly limited capacity for ToM and it develops, gradation by gradation, module by module, until, as adults, we can function in this highly cohesive, deceptive, co-operative, threatening, and engaging society.

To give quick preface on its development for those who are not familiar with it. Newborns develop the . . . More