Friday, 2 November 2012
1. Sam McNerney published a thought-provoking essay about aesthetic judgments and expertise. Is the taste of a connoisseur in some way superior, more "correct" than the taste of a naive observer? I was reminded of the under-appreciation of Michael Jackson's later music by non-fans. I reckon this is because they weren't there for the journey, they can't feel the progression and maturation in his art.
2. Breaking habits with a flash of light - Ed Yong reports on a truly fascinating rat experiment. There are interesting insights about habits, AND you get the benefit of a handy intro to the revolutionary neuroscience technique of optogenetics!
3. We humans are not the only creatures that dance. Jason Goldman with a fun blog post that includes an assessment of Snowball, the cockatoo - is he really dancing to the Backstreet Boys?
4. We strive for the easy life, but sometimes harder is better - Ian Leslie surveys an intriguing mix of anecdotes and psych studies showing the benefits of a challenge (I also learned about the web service This is My Jam - going to check it out now!).
5. New Scientist features editor David Robson was impressed by a new book about the mental simulations triggered by language.
6. The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths tested two mediums this week, using a procedure that all parties agreed was fair. Drum roll please ... did they prove their powers? Find out.
7. BBC Radio 4's wonderful All in the Mind programme returned for another series this week - you can catch the first episode on iPlayer, which includes a look at the work of the Anna Freud centre on its 60th anniversary, and an interview with Norman Lamb, the new government minister with specific responsibility for mental health.
8. There are a few days left to watch BBC Three's Stacey Dooley in the USA "Gay to Straight", in which we meet gay men going through "therapy programmes" that they hope will make them straight. The American Psychological Association published a detailed working party report in 2009 on so-called reparative or conversion therapies and found them to be ineffective and potentially harmful (pdf). Also, this week in New Scientist, psychologist Christopher Ferguson argues that, while these therapies clearly don't work, banning them would be unwise.
9. Labour leader Ed Miliband gave a high profile speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists this week about mental illness, which he described as the "biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age" (full speech).
10. Podcast bonanza - Steven Pinker appeared on Social Science Bites this week, talking about violence and human nature; and Jon Ronson (author of The Psychopath Test) and Richard Wiseman appeared on Points of Inquiry (ht @vaughanbell).
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.