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Author: Psycasm | Views: 5568 | 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
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 5468 | Comments: 7
Last by Brian Scott Ph.D. on Aug 06, 2011, 8:00am
This week's guest blogger is @ArkhamAsylumDoc! She has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and is a project scientist at a very nerdy university science lab. You can follow her on twitter for more geekery!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (known to clinicians as the DSM-IV) is essentially psychiatry and psychology’s “big book” of illnesses. We refer to the manual when assessing and determining the condition(s) our patients may be suffering from. Publication of the fifth edition of the manual (DSM-5) is scheduled for May 2013, and is, according to the American Psychiatric Association, considered one of the "most anticipated events in the mental health field."

Why is this book so important? The manual lists and defines all psychiatric conditions that are recognized as valid illnesses by the field. Clinical scientists, medical doctors, and experienced experts in mental health are in charge of determining the criteria, constructs, and even the name of each disorder. The next edition will have substantial changes. What’s certainly made things interesting for this iteration is that the preliminary draft of the manual is now available for public review. This means we can all peruse the provisional diagnoses and proposed changes.

There are a number of conditions that are still under consideration, and thus remain on the chopping block. These illnesses have never before been published in the reference manual and many are not currently recognized as actual medical or mental health conditions. Using some familiar characters, I briefly describe and illustrate each proposed illness currently under the category of “Psychiatric Conditions Under Review.”

. . . More
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 5335 | 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: 4787 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 45654 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4996 | 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
Author: Whitney Krueger | Views: 4170 | Comments: 7
Last by Erika Villanueba on Nov 29, 2011, 11:24pm
If I had to pick any one pathogen to call my "favorite", it would be the influenza virus. In truth, it picked me. It's a passion of my boss/mentor, so naturally much of my work and study has revolved around various influenza viruses. Zoonotic influenza research is the primary focus of his applied laboratory in which I work. Our "niche" is occupational animal exposures as risk factors for zoonotic influenza infections. From the countless grant proposals, manuscripts, and undergrad lecturing, to a key component of my dissertation, I've developed quite an interest in this virus and even consider it as a career focus after graduating.

This first post of the blog series will cover the basics of influenza A viruses and their pandemic potential. Later I'll go into the epidemiology of influenza viruses, but this first post serves as a starting point. A word of caution: I'm not a virologist, so I've kept things simple. Now let's jump right in...

Influenza virus basics. There are three species, or types, of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Humans can be infected with all types, but influenza A is the most virulent. Wild aquatic birds are the natural reservoirs for most influenza A viruses, but through various modes of transmission . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4188 | 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
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 4139 | Comments: 2
Last by Brian on May 03, 2011, 6:16pm
EcoPhysioMichelle is a graduate student in organismal biology. Her thesis research is on the ecophysiology of epidermal lipids and water homeostasis in house sparrows, and she is a graduate teaching associate for an introductory human physiology class for non-majors. She blogs about human physiology, weird animal biology, and the interface of science and culture on her blog C6-H12-O6. You can follow her on Twitter (@physilology).


Hypoadiponectinemia is a long word that simply describes the state of having too little of a certain endocrine called adiponectin. Adiponectin is a major metabolic endocrine, and is responsible for regulating things like glucose uptake and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat stores). Having hypoadiponectinemia, or too little adiponectin, is a risk factor for both Type II Diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a syndrome principally characterized by central obesity, or an overly large waist circumference, among other things).

Plasma adiponectin concentration (or how much of the endocrine is present in your blood) is inversely correlated with the am . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4269 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4332 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 4072 | 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
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 3675 | Comments: 2
Last by Italie on Feb 24, 2012, 9:40am
Carolyn McGraw In the center, the unmanipulated photo. With the less cute manipulated photo to the left, and the cute one to the right. . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3837 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3755 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3615 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3540 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3846 | Comments: 9
Last by Psycasm on Oct 06, 2010, 2:53pm
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I'm a purist, and I don't know why. I see people jogging on the street with their Ipods and it feels like they're cheating. I honestly can't explain this irrationality. It might stem from the days when I used to go to the gym and I would be hill-climbing on an excercise bike while watching a room full of soft, barely sweating over-weight house-wives toddle on a treadmill while watching MTV.

My only response when trying to explain this view is 'own your pain, own your workout - don't remove yourself from the situation', in my mind, it's the present frame of reference that makes you mentally harder. Of course, not everyone wants to be 'harder' and not everyone has the same aims in working out.

And so I think it's time I confronted this bizarre, irrational little prejudice of mine. What benefits can listening to music bring when working out? Bishop, Karageorghis and Kinrade (2010) took a bunch of tennis players (who ranged in proficiency from local to international ranks) and gave them a virtual tennis task that was designed to measure Arousal and Reaction-Time. They varied the tempo and the intensity of the music across cond . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3316 | 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
Author: Psycasm | Views: 3067 | 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