Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The bloggers behind the blogs: Jesse Bering

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world's leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.

First up, Jesse Bering of the blog Bering in Mind.

What's your blog's mission?

To answer every nibbling little, strange question about human nature or behaviour that's ever occurred to me, as they occur to me, one-by-one. At least, to answer them to my own satisfaction. It's selfish in that sense, really. But I'm glad that Scientific American readers have joined me on my voyage of discovery about the evolution of pubic hair, fag hags, female bitchery and other important issues. Because I cover such heavy subject matter, I'll occasionally throw in a post or two as a light diversion, say, about God or the afterlife.

Are you also on Twitter - if so, how do the two outlets complement each other?

I just started tweeting about a week ago, so I'm definitely an awkward Twitter virgin. I'm @JesseBering, is that how you say it? We'll see how it goes. Brevity has never been my strength, so the 140-character limit is a real challenge for me. I've been using Facebook to connect with readers since I started the blog last year, and I've found that a great way to keep in touch with everyone, to get new ideas and to continue the blog topic discussions. But it seems to me that the Twitter and Facebook demographics aren't perfectly overlapping, so syncing the two with a Twitter/Facebook widget seemed a logical way to build a bridge between the different camps. I'm not a big news reader, to be honest, and tweeting about my dogs, what I had for lunch, or feeling sad today just seems annoying to me, so I need to find my Twitter mojo still.

How does your blogging affect your day job?

I suppose I've always seen myself as a bit of a generalist, so the blogging is part-and-parcel of my day job and my academic personality. My employer may not think so, of course. But experimental psychologists take inspiration from all sorts of things, and curiosity drives our work, so I don't feel a major tension between the two. It is difficult finding the time to juggle everything, but I tend to save the blogging -- at least the writing part of it -- for Sunday mornings. Belfast isn't exactly known for its nice, sunny weather, and Sundays are no exception, so it's either that or doing something even less productive, like watching another depressing burial service in the church cemetery just across the road.

What are your weapons of choice - i.e. what blogging platform / hardware do you use and why?

Just old-fashioned email, really. I'm fortunate enough to have my editor handle all of the technical bits; I just send her a story each week and she takes it from there.

What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?

Don't worry so much about developing a niche or persona; there's nothing worse in my view than contrivances. Anecdotes are anathema in our discipline but in the blogging world, it's a different matter entirely. Be brutally honest about yourself and that's what will keep people coming back for more; be wise about it, of course, and be relevant. But honesty is ultimately what intelligent readers will appreciate most.

What blogs do you read (list up to five)?

I only follow a few, and even those only semi-regularly for lack of time. But I'm a great fan of Mind Hacks, Andrew Sullivan's The Daily Dish, Violet Blue's Tiny Nibbles (NSFW) and 3 Quarks Daily. I also stalk my partner, Juan's, blog occasionally, but he must know this because he hasn't posted for a very long time.

What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment? (up to five)

I'm reading a so-so biography about the old sexolologist Ellis Havelock, Kundera's Immortality (which I should have read long ago), and about a half-dozen manuscripts which I'm presently reviewing. My next book--hopefully--will be on the subject of sex and I'll be spending some time this Summer in the Kinsey Library archives at Indiana University, so I can't wait to lose myself in those old collections. Does it sound perverted to say that I'll be like a kid in a candy store?

And finally, what blog post of yours are you most proud of and why?

Probably my piece about zoophilia and people who find themselves (preferentially) sexually attracted to non-human animals. As an animal lover myself -- but one more of the traditional, non-libidinous bent -- writing this piece challenged my own personal beliefs and genuinely changed my attitude about the subject. At least, it opened my eyes to the many nuances that my knee-jerk moralistic biases hadn't allowed me to see.

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