Psychology

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Category archives for Psychology

Brain mechanisms of hypnotic paralysis

THE term ‘hypnosis’ was coined by the Scottish physician James Braid in his 1853 book Neurypnology. Braid defined hypnosis as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye”. He argued that it was a form of “nervous sleep”, and tried to distinguish his…

Mental time travel

MEMORY, Blake wrote, enables us to “traverse times and spaces far remote”. It constitutes mental time travel, with which we can recollect, in vivid detail, events that took place many years ago. We have known, for the best part of a century, that memory is reconstructive rather than reproductive. That is, recollection involves piecing together…

What did you do on March 13th, 1985? People with hyperthymesia (which has been characterized only recently, and of which just a handful of cases have so far been reported) would likely provide a vivid account of what happened on that day. And if this particular date has personal significance for you – if, for…

Music can be thought of as a form of emotional communication, with which the performer conveys an emotional state to the listener. This “language” is remarkably powerful – it can evoke strong emotions, and make your heart race or send tingles down your spine. And it is universal – the emotional content of a piece…

The way we perceive other people has a big influence on how we interact with them. For example, attractive people are more likely to be perceived as talented than less attractive people, and this so-called “halo effect” is often reflected in our behaviour towards them. Similarly, we tend to favour people perceived to be like…

Guidelines on Memory and the Law

As I mentioned last month, the British Psychological Society (BPS) recently commissioned a report into the implications of memory research for the legal profession. The report, written by the Memory and Law Working Party, a research board established by the BPS and chaired by cognitive psychologist Martin Conway of the University of Leeds, has now…

The idea that memory is reconstructive and not reproductive – which dates back at least to the 1930s, when Frederic Bartlett published his classic book Remembering – has profound implications for the criminal justice system, as it raises questions about the reliability of eyewitness testimonies. The BBC now reports that cognitive psychologist Martin Conway of…

Solstice moon illusion tomorrow night

Photo: Edmund E. Kasaitis. Tomorrow night’s full moon will be very low in the sky, and will give a strong illusion of being far bigger than it actually is. Exactly why we experience this phenomenon is unclear; NASA provides several explanations, including this one: A similar illusion was discovered in 1913 by Mario Ponzo, who…

Paraskavedekatriaphobia

Paraskavedekatriaphobia is an irrational fear of Friday 13th; it is a form of triskaidekaphobia (a fear of the number 13 in general).

Psychology Today blog network

The bi-monthly American magazine Psychology Today has launched a network of blogs covering a wide variety of topics, including addiction, cognitive science, sports psychology and psychotherapy.  The network contains more than 80 blogs, many of which are written by researchers who are prominent in their respective fields. I haven’t had a look at all of…