Category Archives: psychology

Yet another experiment showing that conscious “decisions” are made unconsciously, and in advance

In the last few years, neuroscience experiments have shown that some “conscious decisions” are actually made in the brain before the actor is conscious of them:  brain-scanning techniques can predict not only when a binary decision will be made, but what it will be (with accuracy between 55-70%)—several seconds before the actor reports being conscious […]

Does eroding belief in free will cause cheating? Failure to replicate a famous result.

In his essay written for receiving the Erasmus Prize, “Erasmus: Sometimes a Spin Doctor is Right“, Dan Dennett argues that the idea that free will is merely an illusion—an idea promulgated by bad people like Sam Harris and me—is deleterious to society: There is—and has always been—an arms race between persuaders and their targets or […]

Amazing illusions

From Quirky Mind Stuff, by Richard Wiseman (via Matthew Cobb), we have a bunch of illusions, most of them amazing. There are two that you can try yourself, but you’ll need a friend. I tried them, and they both work for me, but for the “tightening thread” phenomenon, be sure that your fingers are relaxed […]

A Sci Am essay: Are humanities scientific?

I’ve found a very strange article on the Scientific American blog Literally Psyched. Maria Konnikova, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Columbia University, claims that “Humanities aren’t a science. Stop treating them like one.“ Her point appears to be that humanities and social sciences (“social sciences” aren’t mentioned in the title)—including history, literature, psychology, political science, […]

Sam Harris on spirituality

Sam Harris’s new post, “In defense of ‘spiritual’“, tries to reclaim that word from its associations with various species of woo—especially religion. Trying to extend it beyond Hitchens’s construal as “something that inspires awe,” Sam wants the word to apply to forms of “other-consciousness,” including those induced by drugs and meditation: We must reclaim good […]

Victor Stenger and Janna Levin on (our lack of) free will

UPDATE: Apologies to Victor for suggesting that he himself was trying to save the words “free will,” which he wasn’t; he suggested replacing them with the word  autonomy” (I’ve modified the text to that effect).  As I read his piece yesterday and wrote mine this morening, I somehow forgot that Victor also called for a […]

A new and bizarre illusion

Matthew Cobb called my attention to this illusion that turns beautiful celebrities as ugly as a frog peeking through ice.  Be sure to keep your eyes on the cross in the center! From the YouTube description: It won second place in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, 2012! It’s a new scientific finding called […]

Free Will: Sam Harris vs. Dan Dennett

UPDATE: For those of you who see Americans as having, by and large, a “sophisticated” view of free will, see this editorial in the student newspaper of the University of Central Florida. _____ It was inevitable: two of the Four Horsemen are jousting on the field of free will.  Sam Harris, who like myself is […]

Free will: what do we do next?

In a comment on my post about Sam Harris’s new book (Free Will) yesterday, reader coelsblog said the following: This whole conversation would be much, much more straightforward if people managed to accept that compatibilists really, really do reject “strong free will”. They are then wanting to have the next stage of the conversation; but […]

Sam Harris’s new book

Sam Harris’s new book, Free Will, will be out in three days. You can order a paperback here, a Kindle version ($3.99) here, read a short excerpt here, and a longer excerpt at the Amazon site. At 90 pages, it’s only $6.99. I like it a lot (I’ve blurbed it), and if you know my […]


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