March 2, 2017

Embed from Getty Images A decade ago a paper titled ‘God is Watching You’ by Shariff & Norenzayan (2007) received a lot of attention after it reported an experimental study showing that people subconsciously primed with religious concepts, regardless of their stated level of religiosity, behaved more generously. (The study reported a similar increase when secular ‘moral’ institutions were primed but this result received a lot less attention.) The methodology of the study involved participants rearranging scrambled sentences and then playing a one-shot ‘dictator’ game in which they unilaterally designate… Read more

February 24, 2017

President Trump and his team are in the process of carrying out an online survey. It is called the ‘Mainstream Media Accountability Survey’ and is currently accessible on the Republican National Committee’s website here. As someone who spends a fair amount of their time designing questionnaires for psychology studies reading this relatively short questionnaire was akin to watching a horror movie. So I thought I’d offer some helpful advice to the Trump administration so they can avoid  the common pitfalls they slam head first into with this… Read more

February 22, 2017

This is something of an addendum to my previous post recommending that liberals get used to Milo’s presence as a conservative voice. Shortly after that post was published a controversy erupted over positive comments about paedophilia that Milo had made during two online interviews. The subsequent outcry proved too great even for him to deflect. So in short order, he was disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference, had his book deal cancelled by Simon & Schuster and ultimately resigned from Breitbart…. Read more

February 20, 2017

The Breitbart ‘journalist’ Milo Yiannopoulous has been in the news a lot recently. Violent protests against a talk he was supposed to give at Berkeley led to President Trump tweeting out his support, not so long ago he secured a controversial $250,000 book deal and a few days ago he appeared on Bill Maher’s Real Time show and had some ‘heated’ exchanges with the other guests. Not bad for a figure who rose to prominence by covering the niche gamer-gate controversy in… Read more

February 18, 2017

Michael Shermer is a prominent figure in the skeptical community. He is the founder of the Skeptics Society, editor of Skeptic magazine, gives TED talks promoting skepticism and has published a tonne of books on the value of science, rationalism and skepticism. However, he is not without his controversy. He is a devoted libertarian and sometimes let that political perspective mix in with his skeptical activism and a few years back there were allegations about sexual assaults at skeptical conference, although Shermer strenuously denied these. But despite some reservations, I… Read more

October 3, 2016

A longstanding pet hate of mine is just how rife the arts and humanities have become with a particular brand of obscurantist (postmodern inspired) academic jargon. Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont did an admirable job of skewering some of these tendencies as they related to the (mis)use of mathematics by French post modern intellectuals in their book Fashionable Nonsense (1997). Sadly a decade later not much has improved. This brings me to an article published back in July this year by Zachary… Read more

September 26, 2016

This week’s episode of the popular NPR podcast This American Life featured a touching story (available to listen to here) about how some people in Japan who had lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami were making a pilgrimage (of sorts) to a phone booth on a hill in the town of Otsuchi in order to ‘speak with’, or more accurately send messages to, their deceased relatives. The so-called ‘wind phone’ (kaze no denwa) is comprised of a simple disconnected rotary phone which is located in a white phone booth… Read more

August 12, 2016

In this second post about Brexit and the cognitive biases that surround the referendum decision I want to focus on the prevalence of conspiracy thinking. Both the Leave and Remain campaigns sought to exploit conspiratorial thinking but the Leave campaigners proved to be much more adept at this and it proved to be one of the key factors behind their success. Now in the post-referendum period, conspiratorial thinking has continued to proliferate and is currently most visible in the ongoing leadership crisis surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Labour-… Read more

July 6, 2016

I’ll get back to the unfolding Brexit car-crash in my next post but first I want to return to a story from a few months back-  the tragic death of the silverback gorilla, Harambe, who was killed after an infant fell into his enclosure. The media frenzy around this incident has passed but the outcome of the investigation conducted to assess the criminal responsibility of the mother was only delivered a month ago… and I think it deserves more attention. Psychological research over the past decade… Read more

July 1, 2016

I apologise for not posting recently. I have been a little snowed under preparing journal articles and on top of that I have found it hard to focus on blogging about research while the monumental EU referendum and its aftermath have been roiling over my home country. So, rather than continue and just ignore the elephant in the room I’ve decided that discussing ‘Brexit’ by focusing on the bonanza of cognitive biases that have been on display both throughout the campaigns and in responses to the results… Read more

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