Category Archives: psychology

Thoughts and prayers: what are they worth?

Everyone knows about the “thoughts and prayers” sent out after tragedies as a quotidian feature of the daily news. And all of us nonbelivers disparage not only the use of prayers (shown in a Templeton-funded study to not have any effect on healing after surgery), but also the uselessness of thoughts—unless conveyed directly to the […]

Trigger warnings: new study says they don’t work for traumatized people

Reader Gregory called my attention to a tweet from a Ph.D. student at Harvard calling attention to a new paper that was just put on the internet. It shows that, for those who survived trauma, there’s no evidence that trigger warnings reduce anxiety, and may even be harmful. Our new preregistered paper on trigger warnings […]

Bill Nye screws up when tackling a question about free will

The wheels fell off the Science Guy juggernaut a long time ago, but Bill Nye still tries to heave the ungainly cart forward, desperately trying to remain relevant. As you know, I haven’t been a fan of his “comeback,” for his attempts to sell science have been ham-handed and embarrassing. (See some of my criticism […]

Is decreasing empathy causing increased disruption on campus?

This short paper on the NPR website (click on screenshot) describes research suggesting that the empathy of young Americans has decreased over the past fifty years. I’m not familiar with this research, but will provisionally assume that the results described are correct. Here are a few quotes (it’s a short article): . . . more […]

New study: Belief in free will doesn’t make you act better

Is belief in free will necessary, as many claim, to keep society harmonious? The idea behind that claim is that if you’re a determinist, you’re going to be immoral, criminal, or nihilistic. But is there data supporting that claim? A couple of previous studies have found a positive association between “prosocial” (i.e., good) behavior and […]

How observant are you?

Matthew sent me this video, which will prove to you that when your attention is fixed on one or a few things, you can completely ignore big changes in the other things:

Hoax paper published in predatory journal purports to show that butt-wiping hand is correlated with one’s politics

A reader who shall remain unnamed sent me a link to a paper (below, link here or at screenshots) that is a hoax sent by the reader’s friend who also wishes to remain anonymous (I don’t know the author’s name). The journal is a predatory one, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Research Study, produced by Crimson Publishers. […]

I had a dream today. . .

I usually forget my dreams, as I have them in the middle of the night. If I wake up and try to embed them in my memory, they’re gone by morning. (I think I should keep a notebook by my bed.) But if I have a dream right before I wake up, then I often […]

A new hypothesis about consciousness

In my view, there are two big problems of consciousness. The first is mechanical: how does it work? (This is called “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”.) What configurations of neurons create “qualia”, the sensation of conscious experience that includes pain, pleasure, self-awareness, and so on? Many theologians and obtuse academics maintain that we’ll never be […]

Does hate have a home?

I’ve heard that, since Trump’s election, signs like these have sprouted all over the U.S. (a reader pointed this out the other day): Now I understand the reasons for these signs: they’re addressing hatred towards groups of people, like Muslims, gays, African-Americans, and so on. (I doubt, however, that they mean that there’s no hatred of […]