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Author: Psycasm | Views: 57025 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 57575 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 50597 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 11811 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 11975 | 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
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 11930 | Comments: 13
Last by GUEST COMMENT on Jul 10, 2012, 4:25pm
I'm a young researcher. I haven't yet been around the block. I've had one research job for the past 5+ years and that has mostly been spent coordinating influenza epidemiology studies. Only recently have I jumped into the deep end of the laboratory world to tackle the second part of my dissertation.

I know IRBs really well. I've lost count how many I've have to declare war against. I know IACUCs well enough to keep our lab kosher. I know funding agencies and the stress they love to evoke. I know how to convince random people that they should participate in my study - "Help a girl graduate, please!" I know phlebotomy well enough to actually get blood. I know how to coordinate an epi study like nobody's business. I know a random set of laboratory skills, even how to harvest influenza viruses from embryonated chicken eggs.

But why did I choose to do science and public health? Honestly, I chose science because of its cool factor. I thought microbes were fascinating and I wanted to learn as much as I could about them. I can pin point my love for infectious diseases to a specific life event - choosing to do an 8th grade book report on The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. To me, the Ebola virus was fascinating and throughout high . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 11242 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 9707 | 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
Author: genegeek | Views: 8118 | Comments: 6
Last by JanedeLartigue on Oct 06, 2010, 5:46pm
This post is in honour of 007, the unbeatable secret accountant, who is getting ready to join the Terry Fox Challenge - after she finds out about options for chemo.

I have several friends around the world who are dealing with cancer diagnoses and they have had some general questions about the treatment options. None of them are science experts and instead of writing the same email to everyone, I thought I would try a general post.

Warning: this post is not advice for anyone and it is a general introduction to the topic. I won't try to explain the specifics of any particular drug because that is beyond my level of expertise.

What is chemotherapy? Why take it?

It depends who you ask. Many patients will say, 'poison'. But really, the term means 'drug therapy' although we generally use it in Canada to mean drugs to kill cancer cells. Please note that chemo is used in many diseases but I'll focus on cancer applications as that is where most of the questions have started.

In cancer treatment, chemo is usually offered when there is a concern that there might be tumour cells that were not or can not be removed with surgery or radiation. For ex . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 7926 | 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
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 8110 | Comments: 2
Last by BeckonsAttore on Aug 08, 2013, 9:35am
I hate seeing thick patient charts. They're unweildy, and if you're carrying a stack of them they tend to slide around. Sometimes crap pops ut of them. The pages are held together by brass fasteners, and constantly flipping through pages eventually tears pages. Then you have to use tape to fix the tears. And punch them back through those brass fasteners.

And the absolute worst part is that thick charts are still common. Especially with new patients. Why? Because when a patient moves from one office/hospital to another, and if the new office doesn't use the same exact EMR system as the previous place the digital records can't get transferred over. Not as a digital record anyway. Do you know what happens in that instance? Those records are printed. They don't always get printed at the new office or old office. Sometimes, they're printed at a "Health Information Exchange" which is basically a third party office that prints up digital records. These companies exist solely because they have multiple EMRs and will print all the electronic information to paper. And then mail off stacks of paper. Sometimes giant stacks of paper.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If you can install multiple instances of EMR software on a given system, why can't you just convert files ove . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 7697 | Comments: 0
Last Friday I was watching 20/20 with my fiancee. Shows like 20/20 or Dateline are usually about some unsolved murder mystery that is just creepy, but TV offerings on Friday evening are slim pickings so we gave this one a shot. This episode by Chris Cuomo (son of former NYS Governor Mario Cuomo and brother of current NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo) dealt with the unexpected consequences of facilitated communication- a technique used to give autistic people a chance to communicate when they're unable to audibly. Of course it is mostly garbage, but we'll get to that.

The idea is that autisic people can't speak- at least not audibly. But give them a keyboard and they can type out ideas- in fact very well put together ideas. Most times they still need help to type, so a facilitator literally holds their hand, or wrist or arm, and helps them guide their finger to the key they're looking for. That's right, someone else "helps" autistic people type what they're trying to say.

It sounds almost miraculous. People who were previously thought to be uncommunicative all of the sudden can create thoughts and sentanc . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 8717 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 7294 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 7349 | 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
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 7683 | Comments: 14
Last by Tim Skellett (Gurdur) on May 01, 2011, 4:14pm
This week's guest blogger is Tim Skellett. He is an Australian, but these days lives semi-permanently in northwestern Germany. His interests range from nature to ecology, gardening, reading, metal- and hot-glass-work, and travelling. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian. He can be found on his Twitter account, at @Gurdur or on his blog.


I once heard a woman talk, and I've never forgotten her, although I only heard about ten minutes of her speech, decades ago. I had a job in healthcare at the time, and part of my job was accompanying patients to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; the woman was one of a quite a few speakers at that meeting. She had been diagosed with Huntington's disease, which was a death sentence, and today still is; it was well-advanced, and meant she would die not all that long afterwards, and quite possibly in dementia. Huntingon's disease, also called Huntington's Chorea, is an autosomal dominant genetic, neurodegenerative disorder. So this woman had been handed one of life's truly nastily bad cards; one of her parents had had at least one particularly bad form of a specific gene, Huntingtin. That malformation of one gene has a great many different possible outworkings because the gene is widely spread throughout the body, although concentrated in the brain. The different outworkings can lead to different symptoms being presented clinically, which creates problems for nosology - the science or philosophy of how we define diseases. Sufferers of Huntington's often enough commit suicide, and it can be very difficult to determine if such a sufferer is suicidal owing to one possible rational response to the thought of dying in such a manner as Huntington's, or because the Huntington's itself has caused suicidal ideation through pathological brain changes, which is known to happen in some sufferers. Huntington's, like other neurodegenerative diseases, affects intentionality, our power of choice of action, through affecting the brain.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 6703 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 6328 | 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
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 6279 | Comments: 0
This article is being published here with permission from The Synapse. It originally appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of The Synapse at Oberlin College.

. . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 5628 | 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