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Analysis and Comment (181)

Guns were part of Pistorius' life at home and in public. Guns were part of Pistorius' life at home and in public. EPA/Phill Magakoe/Pool

Pistorius verdict reflects a troubling relationship with guns

South African paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has been found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The presiding judge, Thokozile Masipa, found him guilty, though, of culpable…
Justice and forgiveness can co-exist so that one may encourage the other. Justice and forgiveness can co-exist so that one may encourage the other. Steve Calcott/Flickr

Eye for an eye? Why punishing the wrongdoer helps us forgive

One of the inevitable things in life is that someone will do or say something to upset and hurt us. While forgiveness is a good way to overcome such hurts, we also don’t want people to get away with what…
Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalised. Personal dispositions, feelings and beliefs may play a decisive role in explaining why people become radicalised. EPA/Stringer

What goes on in the mind of a militant extremist?

So far, the ongoing discussions about radicalisation of extremists both at home and abroad have tended to emphasise its sociological aspects. It has focused on concepts such as the religion and social…
When the line blurs between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ is it really cause for concern? When the line blurs between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ is it really cause for concern? David Blackwell./Flickr

Gamer disclaimer: virtual worlds can be as fulfilling as real life

Step aside Olympians – the new sporting pursuit of choice may soon be professional gaming. Electronic sports (or esports) are now mainstream, drawing more than a million viewers in large tournaments and…
You may find yourself talking to a therapist who is completely inappropriate to your needs. You may find yourself talking to a therapist who is completely inappropriate to your needs. James Nash/Flickr

Talking therapies can harm too – here’s what to look out for

People seeking therapy should always talk to a practitioner who provides good quality treatment that’s appropriate to their needs. Because research shows that even the innocuous-sounding “talking therapies…
We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet and that’s not a good thing. We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet and that’s not a good thing. InfoMofo

Is anyone immune to the social media echo chamber?

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that as we spend more time communicating via social media, we are disappearing into bubbles. We receive information from the same sources and witness the views of the…
Introverted and A-type? We’re not that easily categorised. Introverted and A-type? We’re not that easily categorised. Ivana Vasilj/Flickr

Introvert or extrovert, normal or abnormal: the problem with personality types

The idea that people can be classified into types has a long history. Writing 23 centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Theophrastus sketched 30 characters that are instantly recognisable to this day. They…
Don’t be nervous. Don’t be nervous. Altair78

How to think slow and fight the fear of flying

Fears about air travel are common and entirely understandable. Human beings have not evolved to fly (beyond the fact that we have evolved brains sophisticated enough to invent aircraft). In an alien environment…
He’s only 28 years old, but Eamon Sullivan has hung up his goggles. He’s only 28 years old, but Eamon Sullivan has hung up his goggles. EPA/Julian Abram Wainwright

How athletes such as Eamon Sullivan cope with retirement

As the Commonwealth Games enters its last days, Australian sprinter John Steffenson announced he’s hanging up the spikes after the tournament is over, and diver Matthew Mitcham hinted at retiring too…
From firm favourites to out after two matches – Spanish fans have felt the whole gamut of emotions this World Cup. From firm favourites to out after two matches – Spanish fans have felt the whole gamut of emotions this World Cup. EPA/Alberto Martin

BIRGing and CORFing: aboard the World Cup emotional rollercoaster

Let’s imagine this all-too-familiar scene: a fan, perched on the edge of his or her seat, eyes wide open in anticipation, a quick inhale at a goal attempt – quickly followed by either a joyous and prideful…
Even if you’re not this enamoured with football, here’s some insight into the players' minds. Even if you’re not this enamoured with football, here’s some insight into the players' minds. Moazzam Brohi/Flickr

Mind games: a World Cup guide for armchair psychologists

Fan or foe, chances are over the next four weeks you’ll catch at least parts of World Cup matches, whether through bleary eyes in the wee hours or snippets on the evening news. If you’re unfamiliar with…
Research a better bet than an octopus oracle. Research a better bet than an octopus oracle. Roland Weihrauch/EPA

How to minimise losses when gambling on the World Cup

Given my academic background it may come as little surprise that when I gamble, I expect to lose in the long run. But, that is not to say that I don’t have some golden rules that I apply in gambling situations…
Studies have, in the past, suggested that dogs appeal most to people who are extroverted, conscientious, agreeable and conventional. Studies have, in the past, suggested that dogs appeal most to people who are extroverted, conscientious, agreeable and conventional. Cams

Faithful Fido or fickle Felix: what determines our pet preferences?

Pets inspire powerful emotions and strong attachments. They comfort the sick, console the lonely and entertain the children. We invite them into our families, pay their human-sized medical expenses and…
Winners are definitely grinners – but what makes teams such as Spain so successful? Winners are definitely grinners – but what makes teams such as Spain so successful? EPA/Kerim Okten

Victor predictors: the eight great traits of World Cup champions

It is hard to imagine a World Cup in which Germany, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, the Netherlands, England, France and Spain did not appear, or in which one of them did not win. What is it that makes some…
Genetics is just the latest specialist knowledge threatening to take the question of criminal responsibility away from law and hand it over to science. Genetics is just the latest specialist knowledge threatening to take the question of criminal responsibility away from law and hand it over to science. Graham/Flickr

Genes made me do it: genetics, responsibility and criminal law

Welcome to Biology and Blame, a series of articles examining historical and current influences on the notion of criminal responsibility. Today, Arlie Loughnan considers the challenge to the legal system…
Trust me guys, you’ll like me in the morning. Trust me guys, you’ll like me in the morning. opacity

Adding on Facebook makes us like new friends more

We’ve all returned home after a night out at a party to find a Facebook friend request from someone you briefly met but barely know. Just to be polite, you add the person to your friend list. But it turns…

VIDEO: How the weather affects our mood

We often use the weather as a metaphor for how we’re feeling: gloomy, sunny or under a cloud. But how does it actually affect us? In this episode of TCTV, Nick Haslam describes the influence of sunny skies…
Does mankind’s religious instinct date back to prehistoric times? Does mankind’s religious instinct date back to prehistoric times? iurri

Caveman instincts may explain our belief in gods and ghosts

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the…
Celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced a split after 10 years of marriage. Celebrity couple Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced a split after 10 years of marriage. EPA/Britta Pedersen & Jose Coelho

The science of romance – can we predict a breakup?

Oscar winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin seemed to have the perfect marriage until their “conscious uncoupling” earlier this year. Was the split destined to happen? What…
A gamma bomb was responsible for Bruce Banner’s alter ego the Hulk, but for most men, aggression is the result of genes. A gamma bomb was responsible for Bruce Banner’s alter ego the Hulk, but for most men, aggression is the result of genes. Kevin Thai/Flickr

Temper trap: the genetics of aggression and self-control

Everyone knows someone with a quick temper – it might even be you. And while scientists have known for decades that aggression is hereditary, there is another biological layer to those angry flare-ups…
Subjecting job seekers to bogus personality tests, as the UK did, was a misuse of behavioural insights. Subjecting job seekers to bogus personality tests, as the UK did, was a misuse of behavioural insights. Lucky Business/Shutterstock

The promise and perils of giving the public a policy ‘nudge’

Do you consider yourself a rational person? For the most part, you probably are. If something hurts, you’ll stop doing it. If you like something, you’ll buy more of it, but you’ll rethink your decision…
Thank goodness for black and white. Thank goodness for black and white. Michael

Explainer: why do we blush?

Awkward and embarrassing, the human act of blushing raises many difficult psychological and physiological questions. Why should an emotional response take this particular form and does it serve any purpose…
New research shows how a climate of uncertainty pushes us towards worse outcomes. New research shows how a climate of uncertainty pushes us towards worse outcomes. Lukiyanova Natalia/frenta/Shutterstock

Uncertainty isn’t cause for climate complacency – quite the opposite

If we’re not certain that the problem’s there, then … we shouldn’t take actions which have a high severity the other way. This was the response from David Murray – then chairman of Australia’s Future Fund…
Milgram concluded that most of us can be induced to torture someone else at the behest of an authority figure – but that’s only part of the story. Milgram concluded that most of us can be induced to torture someone else at the behest of an authority figure – but that’s only part of the story. afromztoa/Flickr

Revisiting Milgram’s shocking obedience experiments

Chances are you’ve heard of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. In 1961, Milgram recruited pairs of volunteers to take part in a “memory test”. One volunteer was given the job of teacher, the other…
In the face of pressures that turn us against each other, it pays to be aware of the potential costs of reducing sympathy. In the face of pressures that turn us against each other, it pays to be aware of the potential costs of reducing sympathy. mrhayata/Flickr

Bad Samaritans: why people don’t step in to stop violence

Every now and then, and rarely far apart in time, the media features a story about an assault in public where bystanders failed to come to the victim’s aid. Of course, there are many possible reasons why…
‘I’m walkin’ on sunshine, whoooa oh! And don’t it feel good!' ‘I’m walkin’ on sunshine, whoooa oh! And don’t it feel good!' Daniele Zedda/Flickr (cropped)

Chills and thrills: why some people love music – and others don’t

Think of your favourite piece of music. Do you get shivers when the music swells or the chorus kicks in? Or are the opening few bars enough to make you feel tingly? Despite having no obvious survival value…
Friend or foe: what do you see? Friend or foe: what do you see? Kquedquest

Trauma makes us shun kindness when we need it most

It seems intuitive that many of us would fear and avoid emotions such as anger and anxiety. But some people fear positive emotions such as happiness and contentment, and of accepting the compassion, kindness…
The bird that just won’t die. But can you live without it? The bird that just won’t die. But can you live without it?

Flappy Bird obsession is not necessarily an addiction

Flappy Bird, a deceptively simple gaming app, has been withdrawn by its creator Dong Nguyen because it is too “addictive”. His decision appears to have sparked a frenzy among fans who are reportedly so…
Some psychological theories can help us understand why some people stick with rough relationships and try to ride out the storm. Some psychological theories can help us understand why some people stick with rough relationships and try to ride out the storm. Sean Davis

All you need is love: the psychology of romance

Thousands of couples will celebrate a day of romance this week, while many single people will hope for their own one. But what makes a relationship last? And what makes one couple crumble while another…
Sorry, but ‘sensing’ change isn’t unique – everyone can do it. Sorry, but ‘sensing’ change isn’t unique – everyone can do it. Flickr/Machine Project

Know this: the ‘sixth sense’ is all in your head

Many of us have had this experience: you’re sure that something has changed, but unable to say what it is. Perhaps a colleague has new glasses, or has grown a beard. For all of your trying to identify…
They’ve got their own issues. They’ve got their own issues. Chicago Man

Getting older doesn’t make you more conservative

Seventy years ago Swedish sociologist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Alva Myrdal pointed out in Nation and Family the generational bias inherent in democratic political systems: young voters will be old…
Resolved to be ‘more active’? Try instead to set yourself a specific goal that you can achieve with small steps. Resolved to be ‘more active’? Try instead to set yourself a specific goal that you can achieve with small steps. Flickr/Ed Yourdon

Struggling with that New Year’s resolution? How to hang in there

It’s a time of year when many of us have made resolutions. The New Year feels like an ideal time to kick those old habits and replace them with habits that we hope will make us thinner/richer/younger-looking/insert-desirable-state-of-your-own-here…
We think checkouts influence obesity but does it? We think checkouts influence obesity but does it? Jurijus Azanovas

Hard Evidence: do supermarket checkouts make kids obese?

Your eye gets caught by the dried apples slices and pistachios but your child, sitting in the trolley, sees the Percy pig sweets. The queue is moving slowly, how well do you resist? A commentary by Deborah…
Do you like Gilbert and George more now? Do you like Gilbert and George more now? pippiberka

Nudity has its benefits, but not the ones you might think

When meeting someone for the first time, your impression of that person may be different if you meet that person at a formal dinner party, a cocktail party, or a pool party. These settings typically influence…
Don’t listen to that little devil on your shoulder. Don’t listen to that little devil on your shoulder. Evan Agostini/AP

Feel like a fraud? You might have imposter syndrome

To many people, the actress Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, has it all. Talent, beauty, brains, and major acting roles at a young age. Yet Emma – like many people, be…
Role reversal: evolution is not the only way to explain gender differences. Role reversal: evolution is not the only way to explain gender differences. Linh Do

Women act like men when they switch seats at speed dating

On a TV show or in a movie, if a guy and a girl are at a party and one approaches the other to strike up a conversation, chances are that it was the guy who approached the girl. That is because we have…
Will you ever be able to forgive yourself? Psychologists say yes. Will you ever be able to forgive yourself? Psychologists say yes. wlef70

Cheaters use cognitive tricks to feel good about themselves

Most people believe that they are moral and good. They also believe cheating on a partner is wrong. So how do cheaters live with themselves after their infidelity? Understanding how they reconcile their…
Moderating your behaviour, emotions and thinking in the face of change is not easy – but can it be taught? Moderating your behaviour, emotions and thinking in the face of change is not easy – but can it be taught? Emotion image from www.shutterstock.com

Coping with change: teaching adaptability will help kids grow

Across a student’s lifetime, their world will change and change again. They’re likely to see industry reshaped, medical advancements, and huge changes to technology. In their own life too, they will begin…
Incoming! But did he need to jump though all those hoops? Incoming! But did he need to jump though all those hoops? Wolfsavard

Ethics stop dodgy experiments but there’s too much red tape

Researchers and other similar species working within academia are ethical human beings. But actual standards are needed to ensure nobody is exposed to harm in our search for answers. Without these standards…
Not that kind of rumination. Not that kind of rumination. Jill Clardy

Rumination and remedy: five ways to improve your outlook

It is the events that happen in our lives that determine the state of our mental health, rather than some inherent personal inadequacy or genetic flaw. And psychological processes, such as rumination and…
Blame human psychology. Blame human psychology. burningangelstudios

Why the fear of zombies? Look at the eyes

Zombies are undergoing a revival. Our screens have been filled with films such as “Zombieland”, “World War Z” and “Resident Evil”. Many home-made zombie will be knocking at our doors this week for Halloween…
Sunlight has repeatedly been found to boost positive moods, though the link is weaker than many people imagine. Sunlight has repeatedly been found to boost positive moods, though the link is weaker than many people imagine. Image from shutterstock.com

Here comes the sun: how the weather affects our mood

The weather supplies many metaphors for our changeable minds. Moods can brighten and darken, dispositions can be sunny, futures can be under a cloud and relationships can be stormy. Like the weather, our…
Did you see Wall-E? Loved that movie. Did you see Wall-E? Loved that movie. University of Portsmouth

Robots push the right buttons for inquisitive chimps

Whether you’re already planning what your mechanised personal assistant will look like in the future or worrying that machines will inherit the Earth, there is no denying that human beings are fascinated…
I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Runs with Scissors

Disgust stops us from doing things we shouldn’t

If you read about the record-breaking “fatberg” lurking under Kingston recently and reacted the same way as me - “Oh my God - a gob of fat in the London sewers as big as a bus - that’s disgusting!” - you’ll…
Tag me, tag me. OK I’ll do it myself. Tag me, tag me. OK I’ll do it myself. Ambuj Saxena

Narcissism on social media tells us a lot about ourselves

An increasing number of studies into the correlation between social media and narcissistic tendencies confirm what many of us already suspect. We see teenagers spending hour after hour with their phones…
The relationship between emotional well-being and social networking is far from being fully understood. The relationship between emotional well-being and social networking is far from being fully understood. Alessandro Valli

Does using Facebook really make people miserable?

A recent study about Facebook made headlines across the world with claims that using the social media site makes people sad. But there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what the research actually…
For many people, psychology is at best a “soft” science. For many people, psychology is at best a “soft” science. AlicePopkorn

Does psychology belong in the science club?

First, a disclaimer: I’m the proud holder of a Bachelor of Science (upper second class) in experimental psychology. So you shouldn’t be too surprised when I tell you psychology is a science. But for many…
Don’t you just want to hug him to death? Don’t you just want to hug him to death? Antoinette vd Rieth

Explainer: what is cute aggression?

Humans respond to cute. Show us just about any little critter with a big round head and a pair of large, blinking-in-the-headlights eyes and cooing will ensue. Add to that a set of chubby cheeks, a button…
Our brains predispose us to a quick fix, but with the right leadership we could choose a path to different future. Our brains predispose us to a quick fix, but with the right leadership we could choose a path to different future. Scott Ogilive

Wanted: political leader with a vision for a sustainable future

A sustainable future remains within our grasp but - thanks to the way human brains work - only governments can implement many of the necessary strategies. Our political leaders have a unique responsibility…
Appearance matters in the impressions we form, and the face perhaps most of all. Appearance matters in the impressions we form, and the face perhaps most of all. Lukas Coch/AAP

A face for politics: do our leaders' looks influence our votes?

The idea a politician’s face would influence our vote one way or another seems preposterous: who would be swayed by something so seemingly trivial, so manifestly beside the point? But looks, alongside…
When the rage starts to rise, don’t detonate – evaluate. When the rage starts to rise, don’t detonate – evaluate. Darwin Bell

Master your anger – or at least try to understand it

Misery is psychology’s stale bread and rancid butter. The field heaps attention on sadness, fear and anxiety, and their psychiatric cousins depression, phobia and neurosis. Anger receives much less scrutiny…
Dark side of the moon: does it hold some power over us? Dark side of the moon: does it hold some power over us? PA/Anthony Devlin

We shouldn’t dismiss the moon’s power to influence

As a teenager I observed a strange phenomenon. On awakening from an unusually vivid dream, I would often find that the moon was full. And as the silvery light prevailed on subsequent nights, my nocturnal…
When it comes to food we follow our parents. When it comes to food we follow our parents. PA/Anthony Devlin

Time to face hard truths when it comes to obese children

We’re grappling with a rapidly increasing number of children who are obese. In the US, where a third of Americans are considered obese, a leading group of doctors have officially designated obesity as…
“Induced” out-of-body experiences differ from those occurring spontaneously. “Induced” out-of-body experiences differ from those occurring spontaneously. Louish Pixel

You’ve had an out-of-body experience, but what kind?

Have you ever felt as though your sense of awareness was outside of your physical body? That you were looking back at yourself from another place in the same room? If so, you’ve probably had an out-of-body…
Where does our sense of intrinsic “me-ness” come from? Where does our sense of intrinsic “me-ness” come from? ronny-andre

Extending the self: some cold truths on body ownership

“Who are you?” Some might ponder this question philosophically, while others will answer straightforwardly: “I am my body and my personality”. But the boundaries of “self” are not as straightforward as…
David Cross portrays Dr Tobias Fünke (right), a fictional character who is also a “never nude” - but never nudes really do exist. David Cross portrays Dr Tobias Fünke (right), a fictional character who is also a “never nude” - but never nudes really do exist. Youtube

No more cover-up: bared bodies and never nudes exposed

Sunday’s return of Arrested Development, a much-loved TV series that has been on a seven-year hiatus, is a good opportunity to examine the eccentricities of one of its main characters. Dr Tobias Fünke…
Only half of paranormal or mystical experiences are associated with a mental disorder. Only half of paranormal or mystical experiences are associated with a mental disorder. Image from shutterstock.com

Hauntings, ESP and mystical visions: counselling after paranormal experiences

Sarah dreads falling asleep. Moments after she closes her eyes, her body becomes paralysed, and she is unable to move no matter how hard she tries. This has been going on almost every night for three weeks…
What do you see here: a tasty snack or a smiling face? What do you see here: a tasty snack or a smiling face? jillmotts

Holy grilled cheese sandwich! What is pareidolia?

How much would you pay for a grilled cheese sandwich? $6? Maybe $7, if it was deliciously fresh and you were really hungry? In 2004, Diane Duyser from Florida, USA sold a ten-year-old grilled cheese sandwich…
What does your profile picture say about you? What does your profile picture say about you? Academic image from www.shutterstock.com

Posing intellectuals: academic profile pictures reveal more than you think

Just to the left and above this sentence is a picture of me. Like most places on the web where discussion takes place, The Conversation places a profile picture of each author next to their writing. Indeed…
The role of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been a contentious issue in psychology. The role of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been a contentious issue in psychology. ssri

Does thinking about professors make you more intelligent?

What roles do unconscious influences play on your behaviour and decision-making? The answer might not be as simple as you think. Imagine I showed you a list of words one by one on a computer screen and…
Interpreting what different types of laughter mean requires different brain regions. Interpreting what different types of laughter mean requires different brain regions. chris.huggins

I amuse you? Judging laughter is no joke for the brain

There’s nothing quite like overhearing a hearty belly-laugh, unless perhaps it’s having a good chortle yourself. The happy likelihood is that, in any case, one guffaw will lead to the other. Laughter is…
There is mounting evidence that babies might have more of a moral compass than we once thought. There is mounting evidence that babies might have more of a moral compass than we once thought. Baby image from www.shutterstock.com

Young morals: can infants tell right from wrong?

Psychologists from Yale and the University of British Columbia think they have found a way to show that infants in their first year of life possess the psychological building blocks of a moral sense. These…
Whether or not intuition is inherently “good” depends on the situation. Whether or not intuition is inherently “good” depends on the situation. maclauren70

Explainer: what is intuition?

The word intuition is derived from the Latin intueor – to see; intuition is thus often invoked to explain how the mind can “see” answers to problems or decisions in the absence of explicit reasoning…
Pick a card, any card - and maybe a research paper too. Pick a card, any card - and maybe a research paper too. Micah Taylor

The science of magic: it’s not all hocus pocus

Think of your favourite magic trick. Is it as grandiose as David Copperfield’s Death Saw, or is it as simple as making a coin disappear in front of your very eyes? These two very different tricks have…
The world is definitely a mess, but women aren’t the ones to blame. The world is definitely a mess, but women aren’t the ones to blame. AAP Image

We are destroying the joint

Without really knowing what he was saying, Alan Jones was right – we are “destroying the joint”. Any dispassionate assessment of the state of “the joint”, both the corner we occupy and the planet as a…
We all know the rules, and yet some of us seem happy to break them. We all know the rules, and yet some of us seem happy to break them. Looking Glass

Seeing red: why cyclists ride through traffic lights

You’ve probably seen it happen. You’re driving your car and you come to a stop at the traffic lights. You’re mindful of traffic infringement fines and public safety, then someone on a bike rides past you…
China’s “little emperors” may have been unfairly characterised. China’s “little emperors” may have been unfairly characterised. Saf'

Is China’s one-child policy really to blame for personality changes?

People born in China under the one-child policy (OCP) – a policy applied since 1979, restricting urban couples to having only one child – are less trusting, trustworthy, competitive, conscientious, risk-seeking…
New tests could be in store for trainee teachers to demonstrate their emotional intelligence. New tests could be in store for trainee teachers to demonstrate their emotional intelligence. Emotions image from www.shutterstock.com

Do we need emotional intelligence tests for teachers?

With the newly announced federal government reforms to teacher training announced this week, emotional intelligence is now firmly on the agenda for trainee teachers. Under the proposed rules, prospective…
Young people should be left alone with their doctor for at least part of each consultation. Young people should be left alone with their doctor for at least part of each consultation. Image from shutterstock.com

Sex, drugs and illness: why teens need medical confidentiality

What qualities do you most want your doctor to have? Good medical knowledge? Honesty? Good listening skills? Empathy? You probably want your doctor to have all of these traits – and teenagers are no different…
The horse meat scandal seems to be more about the taboo issue of eating our pets than actual health concerns. The horse meat scandal seems to be more about the taboo issue of eating our pets than actual health concerns. Fredrik von Erichsen/AAP

Neigh-sayers: why we won’t agree to eat a dead horse

Imagine the following scenario. You go into your local sandwich shop for lunch and order a roast beef on rye with a dash of mustard. As you bite into the sandwich you notice something is not right. The…
How many likes for news that social networking can increase users' sense of wellbeing? How many likes for news that social networking can increase users' sense of wellbeing? owenwbrown

Thumbs up: Facebook might actually be good for you

We stalk our ex-partners on it, we are friends with celebrities on it, we play games on it, and we post photos of ourselves on it. But what are we really getting out of the time we spend on Facebook? We…
Are displays of emotion from sportspeople about convincing us that it’s not just about the money? Are displays of emotion from sportspeople about convincing us that it’s not just about the money? fox2mike/flickr

It’ll end in tears: why athletes cry and what it means

Any major sporting triumph without euphoric emotion or a serious opening of the floodgates would seem strange. Commentators tell us that tears show “passion”. Fans seem to demand them. It wasn’t always…
Campaigns to switch off won’t work until they fit in with the ways we already behave. Campaigns to switch off won’t work until they fit in with the ways we already behave. Andrew Huff

Hard habit to break: getting out of our energy wasting ways

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires behavioural change. But how do we get individuals into this habit or, for that matter, any habit that reduces energy consumption? Two academic disciplines concern…
Many rural residents say plantation forestry is ruining communities; many say otherwise. Who is right? Many rural residents say plantation forestry is ruining communities; many say otherwise. Who is right? teejaybee/flickr

Do you see what I see? Rural reactions to changing land use

Land-use planners and policy-makers often face claims and counter claims regarding the impacts of land-use change. For example, some residents claim wind turbines have crippling health impacts, while others…
Be the change you wish to see in the world - it may have more impact than you realise. Be the change you wish to see in the world - it may have more impact than you realise. Corepics VOF/Shutterstock

Neighbourhood watch: how to go green and influence people

We all know that children learn by example. I know if I swear in front of my four year old I’m going to hear that word again soon, probably right in front of my mother-in-law, a school teacher, or a priest…
Our implicit associations reveal more about our true attitudes than what we explicitly state. Our implicit associations reveal more about our true attitudes than what we explicitly state. Image from shutterstock.com

Are you racist? You may be without even knowing it

The infamous Youtube video capturing a young man abusing women on a Melbourne bus for the crime of singing in French, and being supported in his violent tirade by fellow passengers, raises the uncomfortable…
Some of life’s problems are just not solvable. Some of life’s problems are just not solvable. Sean Dreilinger

Listen up worry warts, ruminating won’t solve your problems

We all do it from time to time – replay scenarios over and over in our minds. Problem is, these repetitive and, at times, uncontrollable thoughts inevitably leave us feeling worse and make us more prone…
Much information is available to us just by focusing on a person’s face. Much information is available to us just by focusing on a person’s face. Dual Time Studio

Face value: where to look when you want to read someone

You can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their face. From a glance, we can glean information about a person’s emotional state, sex, age, ethnicity, where their attention is focused and, of…
We recognise extreme emotions, but may need more than facial expressions to decode them. We recognise extreme emotions, but may need more than facial expressions to decode them. How Hwee young/EPA

Are you furious? Body cues tell us more than faces

As social creatures, non-verbal communication through facial expression is important in portraying emotions – and because of this, it’s interpreted rapidly and accurately. Regardless of culture, defined…
Statistical significance doesn’t speak directly to the reproducibility of an experimental effect. Statistical significance doesn’t speak directly to the reproducibility of an experimental effect. Daniel Leininger

Putting psychological research to the test with the Reproducibility Project

An ambitious new project is attempting to replicate every single study published in 2008 in three leading academic psychology journals. It’s called the Reproducibility Project. As the name suggests, the…
Presenting scientific information isn’t likely to change made-up minds, but there are a lot of un-made-up minds out there. Presenting scientific information isn’t likely to change made-up minds, but there are a lot of un-made-up minds out there. Department of Energy and Climate Change

Science alone won’t change climate opinions, but it matters

Does scientific knowledge matter in the climate debate? Recent research suggests that it is not “what you know” but “who you are” that counts in making up your mind about climate change. What are the implications…
By the time asylum seekers get on boats, it’s often too late. By the time asylum seekers get on boats, it’s often too late. EPA/Tubagus

Cognitive dissonance and sunk cost: the psychology of seeking asylum

With its revamped Pacific Solution, the Australian government has decided to make the choice to take a boat to Australia more horrendous in its implications, by increasing the likelihood of disasters at…
Critics contend that psychology amounts to scant more than “common sense”. Critics contend that psychology amounts to scant more than “common sense”. h.koppdelaney

Is psychology a science?

As a psychologist – I received my PhD in clinical psychology – I have long been concerned by the problematic reputation of psychology in the public eye. Our besieged public standing has made it difficult…
A slump in well-being is common to all middle-aged great apes. A slump in well-being is common to all middle-aged great apes. Tom Holbrook

Do chimpanzees and orangutans really have midlife crises?

Knowing that chimpanzees and orangutans have personalities, feel emotions and are “almost human” comes as no surprise to most people. However, linking the term “midlife crisis” to chimpanzees and orangutans…
Protesters march against the torture at Abu Ghraib; we use social psychology to help understand why people commit such acts. Protesters march against the torture at Abu Ghraib; we use social psychology to help understand why people commit such acts. Shrieking Tree

Rethinking long-held beliefs about the psychology of evil

Social psychology addresses many of the important questions that concern us as human beings. It’s also the subject of newspaper editorials on most days: why is there conflict between groups? How can it…
Worrying about the future is bad for your survival - have we evolved to prefer optimism? Worrying about the future is bad for your survival - have we evolved to prefer optimism? Vassilis Galanos

How we evolved to reject climate science

Is it any wonder so many people turn their back on climate science? Who wants to hear - as the World Bank told us today - we’re heading for a four-degree-warmer world, with more heatwave deaths and life-threatening…
Thinking about maths problems can produce alarming reactions. Thinking about maths problems can produce alarming reactions. andres.thor

Newly calculated: maths anxiety triggers pain in the brain

So we have a problem for you. Take a moment to steady yourself, maybe sharpen your pencil. Don’t unpack your calculator, and leave your phone to one side. This one will be purely mental – a spot of addition…
What makes a fear a phobia? What makes a fear a phobia? jasonbolonski/Flickr.

Explainer: what are phobias?

A life without fear sounds idyllic but it would be no paradise. Fear protects us from present danger, alerts us to future threat, sharpens our minds and blunts our selfishness. Friedrich Nietzsche once…
The cosy relationship between the psychiatry and Big Pharma has come under increasing scrutiny. The cosy relationship between the psychiatry and Big Pharma has come under increasing scrutiny. Hannah Nicole Aspire

Depression, drugs and the DSM: a tale of self-interest and public outrage

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. In Australia, antidepressant…
It’s normal to have recurring waves of grief after the loss of a loved one but prolonged, severe grief requires treatment. It’s normal to have recurring waves of grief after the loss of a loved one but prolonged, severe grief requires treatment. white ribbons

Why prolonged grief should be listed as a mental disorder

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. Grief is one of the most universal…
As an adolescent and child psychiatrist, I dispense all sorts of labels – but what do they mean? As an adolescent and child psychiatrist, I dispense all sorts of labels – but what do they mean? emildom

Psychiatric labels and kids: benefits, side-effects and confusion

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist…
Overall, there will be fewer symptoms and disorders listed in the new psychiatry manual. Overall, there will be fewer symptoms and disorders listed in the new psychiatry manual. Axel Buhrmann

Redefining autism in the DSM-5

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. For autistic people and their…
The inclusion of hoarding on the DSM-5 will drive an integrated response to this complex problem. The inclusion of hoarding on the DSM-5 will drive an integrated response to this complex problem. Hoarding Grap Wikimedia Commons

When stuff gets in the way of life: hoarding and the DSM-5

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. We’ve all got boxes of old letters…
Many non-western cultures recognise states of mind that look like mental illness but don’t fit DSM categories. Many non-western cultures recognise states of mind that look like mental illness but don’t fit DSM categories. Todd Huffman

Strange or just plain weird? Cultural variation in mental illness

MATTERS OF THE MIND – a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. There’s an old saying that psychology…
Criteria for mental health disorders have been formulated by expert committees. But are they right? Criteria for mental health disorders have been formulated by expert committees. But are they right? Psychiatry image from shutterstock

Explainer: what is the DSM and how are mental disorders diagnosed?

Welcome to Matters of the Mind, a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. The Diagnostic and…
The symptom-based approach of the current DSM does not take life events into account. The symptom-based approach of the current DSM does not take life events into account. Woman image from shutterstock.com

Forget talking, just fill a script: how modern psychiatry lost its mind

Welcome to Matters of the Mind, a series which examines the clinician’s bible for diagnosing mental disorders, the DSM, and the controversy surrounding the forthcoming fifth edition. You’re feeling down…
There was absolutely no evidence that reading bad news led to immediate increases in stress responses for either sex. There was absolutely no evidence that reading bad news led to immediate increases in stress responses for either sex. Dani/Flickr

Forgettable study sparks sexist headlines about women remembering

Attention women of the world: according to a flood of recent news headlines (78 at last count), it’s time to stop watching the news because negative news stories stress you out more than they do men. These…
Why would someone want to step outside of their own body? Why would someone want to step outside of their own body? mandymama

Body swapping and out-of-body experiences – a how-to guide

During an out-of-body experience (OBE) a person finds his or her centre of consciousness displaced from their physical body. Research suggests around 10% of people have had an OBE, where they have experienced…
Were we born to work with others or look after number one? Were we born to work with others or look after number one? Cayusa

On first thought, cooperate; on second thought, be selfish

Are we cooperative or are we selfish? This question goes back as far as the philosophers Rousseau and Hobbes – Rousseau advocated for a “noble savage” model of humanity whereas Hobbes advocated for a “darker…
Positive psychology is not and has never been a “positive thinking” movement. Positive psychology is not and has never been a “positive thinking” movement. Łukasz Strachanowski

Negative reports of positive psychology show ignorance isn’t bliss

Perhaps because the word positive automatically brings to mind the insufferable yellow smiley face, the field of positive psychology is struggling to get the respect that it deserves. Two articles in the…
Misinformation spreads rapidly and sticks tenaciously. Misinformation spreads rapidly and sticks tenaciously. Moon_son/Flickr

Where does misinformation come from, and what does it do?

Obama is a Muslim, vaccinations cause autism, asylum seekers are breaking the law, GM foods cause cancer. These are all pieces of unsubstantiated misinformation that are commonly encountered on TV, talk-back…
It might be cute, but when it grows up it might also like to eat you. It might be cute, but when it grows up it might also like to eat you. Steve Hillebrand/Wikimedia Commons

Think humans are special? Like the animals we eat, we’re meat too

In recent advertisements for Meat and Livestock Australia, actor Sam Neill told us, in David Attenborough-inflected tones, that: “when our early ancestors started to eat red meat, our brains began to grow…
Emotional intelligence is the order of the day, it seems, for trainee referees. Emotional intelligence is the order of the day, it seems, for trainee referees. Colin Whelan/AAP Image

Developing the mental skills of NRL referees is a no-brainer

It was encouraging to read recently that promising young rugby league referees are being offered the opportunity and time to invest in the development of their mental skills prior to taking on the pressure…
In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change, people find ways to reject that evidence if it does not fit with their world view. In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change, people find ways to reject that evidence if it does not fit with their world view. NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre

How do people reject climate science?

In a previous article on The Conversation, Stephan Lewandowsky asked, why do people reject science? I’m going to take a slightly different angle and consider how people are able to reject climate science…
The environment isn’t “out there”; it’s in us, and we’re part of it. The environment isn’t “out there”; it’s in us, and we’re part of it. Forest Wander/Flickr

Why we need to forget about the environment

Calls to “protect the environment” ring out across issues as diverse as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, water conservation and chemical contamination. I believe it is time to abandon…
Our brains haven’t evolved to consider the long-term consequences of behaviour that brings short-term rewards. Our brains haven’t evolved to consider the long-term consequences of behaviour that brings short-term rewards. Patrick van IJzendoorn

Don’t trust your Stone Age brain: it’s unsustainable

Cognitive dissonance is that uncomfortable feeling we have when we know we should invest in solar panels but the 46″ wide screen TV wins out; we know we should catch the bus but we take the car anyway…
What can brain imaging reveal about human intelligence? What can brain imaging reveal about human intelligence? PraveenbenK

Brain imaging: the smart way to predict intelligence?

When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of the exceptionally smart from those of average humans? New research by post-doctoral fellow Michael Cole and colleagues suggests as…
Don’t want someone sitting next to you? You’re not alone. Don’t want someone sitting next to you? You’re not alone. j.o.h.n. walker

Enjoy the silence: commuters are ‘nonsocial’ for good reason

On public transport, there’s an unspoken rule to not take the seat next to someone if there are other seats available. In especially longer public transport commutes, the entire ride can be done in silence…
Many Australians think they have experienced events associated with climate change. Many Australians think they have experienced events associated with climate change. AAP Image/Tony McDonough

What does ‘belief’ in climate change really mean?

Where one stands on “climate change” has been such a vexed and often confusing issue, at dinner parties, over coffee, with the taxi driver, and in terms of media reporting of where the Australian public…
Birdbrains or copycats: Aesop’s fable offers insight as to how children and birds think. Birdbrains or copycats: Aesop’s fable offers insight as to how children and birds think. 'Playingwithbrushes'

Fable or truth: are birds as brainy as children?

Humans are very good at innovating and it would seem reasonable to expect our children would be too. But a recent study questions these assumptions, suggesting young children’s ability to problem-solve…
Whether children imitate a bear or a pirate, their imagination could contribute to human advancement. Whether children imitate a bear or a pirate, their imagination could contribute to human advancement. Juhansonin

Imitation and imagination: child’s play is central to human success

We all know the scene: a child, wrapped in his or her own imaginary world, fights off aliens while flying through space on a rocket fashioned from an empty box. But could such flights of fancy be critical…
Praising kids all the time might lead to inflated self-esteem and low regard for others. Praising kids all the time might lead to inflated self-esteem and low regard for others. Flickr/ymc_photos

Can excessive parental praise turn good kids into bullies?

When most people picture the typical school bully, they think of a kid who is likely to have been bullied themselves. A child with low self-esteem who is trying to make themselves feel better by picking…
The downward-V shape between a villain’s eyebrows may be terrifying by design. The downward-V shape between a villain’s eyebrows may be terrifying by design. Warner Brothers

V-shaped facial features are threatening? You must be joking

What do Cruella de Vil, The Joker and Maleficent have in common? Beyond an implacable desire for evil and their cartoonish existence, they have pointy chins and a marked V shape between their arching eyebrows…
Our actions may be fully caused and determined by events that precede our very existence, but not all causes are alike. Our actions may be fully caused and determined by events that precede our very existence, but not all causes are alike. Josef Grunig/Flickr

Search for free will pits scientists against philosophers

For most of the last couple of centuries, philosophers have had the question of free will largely to themselves (prior to that date, the distinction between philosophy and the natural sciences was less…
Could your brain be anticipating what’s there before you even turn your eyes? Could your brain be anticipating what’s there before you even turn your eyes? Joe Fakih Gomez Photography

Out of sight, but still in mind: the mysteries of peripheral vision

As you read this article your eyes will move so the words fall on the central part of your vision. This region is called the fovea and it has excellent resolution when compared to your peripheral vision…
A new study has shown better-than-chance recognition of gay people by participants. A new study has shown better-than-chance recognition of gay people by participants. Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Our ‘gaydar’ seems to be working well … but why?

In the last few years, several laboratory studies have shown that, to some extent, we can tell whether someone is gay or straight, just by glimpsing their face. When asked to categorise male and female…
Cover of the latest US edition of Time magazine. Cover of the latest US edition of Time magazine.

Time #1: what’s wrong with this picture?

Breastfeeding generally falls under the jurisdiction of mothers, so I decided to ask a group of mothers I see regularly on Saturday morning what they thought of the recent Time magazine cover portraying…
Is aversion and/or attraction to red a biological or cultural construct? Is aversion and/or attraction to red a biological or cultural construct? Yogurinha Borova

Aggression, danger, love, taste: what red does to your head

Colour is an extraordinary motivator. We sensibly caution against waving a red rag to a bull to avoid provocation – worthy but curious advice, since bulls cannot distinguish red from other colours. We…
Society as we know it may depend on lies more than we realise. Society as we know it may depend on lies more than we realise. ireland :)

Truth is, everyone lies all the time

Recent research in residential aged care by Anthony Tuckett from the University of Queensland has illustrated that, in some instances, lying is not only necessary, it’s actually virtuous. It is a complex…
Australians think they know what other Australians are thinking, but they’re often wrong. Australians think they know what other Australians are thinking, but they’re often wrong. Callum Alden

I can change your mind about (other people’s minds about) climate change

The ABC recently ran the documentary I Can Change Your Mind About … Climate Change, exposing Nick Minchin, former conservative politician, and youth activist Anna Rose, to science and argument in favour…
You know that guy in the pub that goes on and on and on? You wouldn’t believe how happy he is. You know that guy in the pub that goes on and on and on? You wouldn’t believe how happy he is. Jaysun

Now, let’s talk about me: self-disclosure is intrinsically rewarding

Have you ever been at a party where someone has talked about themselves without pause? You may have thought this a case of “too much information”, but science is begging to differ. According to new research…
Different people can interpret facial expressions differently. Different people can interpret facial expressions differently. Rishi S

Surprise! Facial expressions aren’t necessarily universal

You can tell a lot about a person’s emotional state by looking at their face. A quick glance can give you an idea of whether a person is, say, happy or angry, allowing you to modify your behaviour accordingly…
People put up all kinds of psychological barriers to changing their minds. People put up all kinds of psychological barriers to changing their minds. Thomas Galvez

No one likes to change their mind, not even on climate

Last night’s ABC documentary I Can Change Your Mind About Climate was about two people — conservative former politician Nick Minchin and youth activist Anna Rose — exposing themselves to information that…
A simple step towards saving the environment may lead to more environment action … or not. A simple step towards saving the environment may lead to more environment action … or not. Department of Energy Solar Decathalon

Simple steps to save the environment may not make much difference

Many environmental organisations, governments and businesses rely on “positive spillover strategies” to drive pro-environmental behaviour change. These strategies rest on the assumption once someone has…
A successful gamble on climate will require more than a lucky guess. A successful gamble on climate will require more than a lucky guess. kfergos/Flickr

If you want to roll the climate dice, you should know the odds

Imagine a six-sided die with four red faces, one green face and one blue face. I am going to roll the die, and before rolling I will ask you to predict which colour it will land on: red, green or blue…
He may not fit with modern terminology, but were Freud’s concepts of the mind right on the money? He may not fit with modern terminology, but were Freud’s concepts of the mind right on the money? tnarik

A dangerous method? In defence of Freud’s psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychology, has recently suffered some serious knocks. His theories have been dismissed as unscientific and his achievements are now considered to be equal parts myth and…
One does not simply jump from a building … extensive preparation is essential. One does not simply jump from a building … extensive preparation is essential. Channel 7/Colby Swandale

BASE jumping from the Rialto: plain stupid or something else entirely?

Late last week four men entered a restaurant on the 55th floor of the Rialto tower in Melbourne, had a couple of quiet drinks then leapt from the balcony. Much of the commentary of this event described…
Why do we care so much about the origin of brutalised cows? Why do we care so much about the origin of brutalised cows? librarianidol/Flickr

Live exports controversy: what makes a cow Australian?

New footage recently aired on ABC has again brought to our attention the plight of cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. Scenes of cattle being poked, stabbed, and slaughtered without appropriate equipment has…
Going for a new job? For many employers, it’s crucial that your personality passes the test. Going for a new job? For many employers, it’s crucial that your personality passes the test. The Tuxic

Why workplaces must resist the cult of personality testing

Personality testing is big business. In 2009, personality testing was a $500-million industry. In the UK, the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported that 92% of employers surveyed considered psychometric…
It’s the quality, not quantity, of the time spent with children that counts most. It’s the quality, not quantity, of the time spent with children that counts most. Sean drillinger

Work keeps mums happy and children well-adjusted

Conservative commentary often attempts to reinstate the primacy of stay-at-home motherhood, prompting feelings of guilt among working mothers. But a recent study might help to finally lay this issue to…
It can be hard to sort fact from fiction in the modern media environment. It can be hard to sort fact from fiction in the modern media environment. Mike Bailey-Gates

Fighting fact-free journalism: a how-to guide

A growing cohort of commentators has bemoaned the descent of contemporary political “debate” into a largely fact-free zone. People used to be entitled to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts…
Nothing sucks like breaking a promise to yourself. Nothing sucks like breaking a promise to yourself. faberzeus

The morning after: is New Year the best time for resolutions?

For many of us, the start of a new year heralds a new beginning, and an important opportunity to commit to significant personal changes. But why does this single moment in the year hold almost superstitious…
You may want to start hoarding supplies and making your end of world plans now – before it’s too late. You may want to start hoarding supplies and making your end of world plans now – before it’s too late. Flickr/Necromundo

2012 cometh: how to prepare for the apocalypse

If you believe the doomsayers, the human race is not long for this earth. By the end of this year, our number will be up: the four horseman of the apocalypse will be upon us, fire will rain from the skies…
You can’t believe everything you read in the papers … but you probably will. You can’t believe everything you read in the papers … but you probably will. EPA/Ian Nicholson

Why The Guardian’s correction won’t change your mind about Milly Dowler

So The Guardian has now retracted its earlier reports that News of the World journalists had deleted Milly Dowler’s voicemails. Those journalists hacked the dead girl’s phone but they may not have deleted…
South Australian communities know what it’s like to live without water. South Australian communities know what it’s like to live without water. AAP

What happens when there’s no water? How the Murray-Darling plan might affect communities

When the Murray Darling Basin Authority commissioned me in 2011 to examine the social impacts on the Lower Murray and Lakes communities of low flows and drought, I was confronted with irrigation farmers…
Success stories like the recovery of the Southern White Rhino give cause for hope, and impetus to act. Success stories like the recovery of the Southern White Rhino give cause for hope, and impetus to act. AAP

It’s not all bad news: conservation success should be celebrated

A recent article in Nature Neuroscience contends that optimism is hard-wired – that we are more likely to update our knowledge with positive than negative news. So what happens if all the news seems bad…
Creativity requires communication between both hemispheres of your brain. Creativity requires communication between both hemispheres of your brain. Flickr/lacta

Monday’s medical myth: the right side of your brain controls creativity

Are you suffering a creativity problem? Well, pop psychology claims your “right brain” holds the key. Whether you want to drop a few kilos, improve your profits, spice up your sex life, or take over the…
The emerging field of neuromarketing exploits the gap between what we say and what we think. The emerging field of neuromarketing exploits the gap between what we say and what we think. Flickr/DierkSchaefer

Our brains, our wallets - the field of neuromarketing

How do we choose? Consumers imagine themselves as rational decision-makers, able to weigh up the relative costs and benefits of decisions to arrive at reasoned choices. Yet, a growing body of research…
Job seekers always want to show their best side, so personality testing can be complicated. Job seekers always want to show their best side, so personality testing can be complicated. Vermin Inc

The right person for the job? Weeding out personality-test fakers isn’t easy

Most people have taken an online or magazine quiz promising to reveal information about their true personality, interests, or attitudes. These tests can be harmless fun. But there is a serious side to…
Media reports of crime and grief often refer to a family’s need for “closure”. Media reports of crime and grief often refer to a family’s need for “closure”. AAP

There’s not always ‘closure’ in the never-ending story of grief

Media stories about crime and grief often centre on the concept of “closure”. It’s assumed families affected by crime or loss need to achieve closure and can’t begin the grieving process until the perpetrator…
False recollections can lead to wrongful convictions. False recollections can lead to wrongful convictions. Justin Gaurav Murgai

Forensic psychology prevents miscarriages of justice … and memory

A recent series of articles on The Conversation focused on the value of forensic science in criminal cases. Many specialities were covered. But what about forensic psychology? Professionals in this field…
The media does the public a disservice when it misrepresents climate change. The media does the public a disservice when it misrepresents climate change. danny birchall

Selling climate uncertainty: misinformation and the media

MEDIA & DEMOCRACY - Today, The Conversation launches a week-long series, looking at how the media influences the way our representatives develop policy. To kick off, Stephan Lewandowsky asks how media…
Facing up to our carbon responsibilities might make Australians happier. Facing up to our carbon responsibilities might make Australians happier. the waving cat/Flickr

A carbon tax is good for Australia’s mental health

Let’s face it; we just don’t like the word “tax”, do we? Such a brouhaha, such a fuss. But let’s just take a break from the group hysteria to look at the carbon tax from a few different points of view…
Problems come when bodies change and brain development doesn’t keep up. Problems come when bodies change and brain development doesn’t keep up. Flickr/zebra404

Twelve going on 20: are girls reaching puberty earlier?

You just have to turn on the television or catch a glimpse of a magazine newsstand to see how girls are being thrust into adulthood earlier and earlier. But does biology match societal change? Are girls…
All riots are different, but they all share similar characteristics. All riots are different, but they all share similar characteristics. Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Could Freud have predicted the London riots?

Three days of rioting across London since Saturday have once again raised the question of “why?”. Do riots “just happen” or is there a science, an underlying formula, that can be employed to predict and…
Go on, give us a smile. It’ll make the country a better place to be. Go on, give us a smile. It’ll make the country a better place to be. Flickr/ToniVC

Your country needs you to be happy. Just not overly so.

Be happy for the good of your country. Happy people save more and consume less because they are concerned with the future rather than today. Their savings will be transferred into investment which is a…
Norwegians respond with love, not war, to Anders Breivik’s murderous actions. Norwegians respond with love, not war, to Anders Breivik’s murderous actions. marcinlachowicz.com

The most dangerous 1,500 pages: inside the mind of Anders Breivik

The Conversation asked Professor James Jupp to read through the infamous 1,500 page manifesto of Anders Breivik. This is his analysis of the document, giving an insight into the mind of the mass murderer…
You don’t have to believe what everyone tells you. You don’t have to believe what everyone tells you. jovike/Flickr

One small thing you can do for the environment: think critically

Welcome to “One small thing …”. We asked our authors what one small thing they, or you, could do for the environment. We’ll bring their answers to you on Friday afternoons. Today’s one small thing comes…
The lawyer for the self-confessed Norway killer, Anders Breivik will enter a plea of insanity AFP photo/Facebook - Youtube. The lawyer for the self-confessed Norway killer, Anders Breivik will enter a plea of insanity AFP photo/Facebook - Youtube.

The lone mad man? Breivik’s lunacy label stops vital questions

Societies, if we are to take the Freudian line, prefer to subordinate chaotic urges in favour of dull order. Civilization implies stability. By the nineteenth century, human society was digesting a range…
Looks the same to me… our personal experiences are not the best indicators of change. Looks the same to me… our personal experiences are not the best indicators of change. P León/flickr

Climate change, personal experience and the vagaries of memory

We see it in the media all the time. Regular beachgoers who see no evidence for sea-level rise, farmers trusting long-term experience over Bureau of Meteorology forecasting, Antarctic sea-captains whose…
The problematic messages in romance novels can also be found in other pop culture products. The problematic messages in romance novels can also be found in other pop culture products. Mediafury/Flickr

Bodice-rippers and bad education: do romance novels lead to sexual mistakes?

Among the many criticisms of porn regurgitated ad nauseum is its supposed educative function. Coaching men on how to dominate, oppress and objectify women. Training women on how much hair to shave and…
Can respondents make an informed response in an unexpected telephone poll? Can respondents make an informed response in an unexpected telephone poll? Esparta/Flickr

Polls, framings and public understandings: climate change and opinion polls

I, along with many Australians, listened to the news coverage on Monday morning of the Lowy Institute’s annual survey, with reasonable disappointment and initial surprise. This is a respected polling exercise…
Sadly, there’s no magic button to stop excessive gambling. Sadly, there’s no magic button to stop excessive gambling. Mick Tsikas/AAPimage

Get rich or die trying: when gambling becomes a problem

GAMBLING IN AUSTRALIA – Why do some people develop gambling addictions while others can dabble for years at the pokies or the track without issue? The Productivity Commission’s 2010 report on gambling…
We’d like someone to do something about climate change, but we’d rather it didn’t cost too much. We’d like someone to do something about climate change, but we’d rather it didn’t cost too much. shell belle/Flickr

What Australians really think about climate change

Current discussion in the news media highlights how polarised the issue of climate change has become. However, recent scientific research has shown that most Australians are sure about climate change and…
Ever had that needling feeling other people just don’t get you? Ever had that needling feeling other people just don’t get you? Mick Tsikas/AAPimage

I (don’t) feel your pain: does Botox put the brakes on empathy?

The quest for physical beauty holds powerful sway, driving us to spend billions annually on a dizzying array of cosmetic procedures to improve on the hand that nature dealt us. But could it affect our…
US psychiatrist Allen Frances is confusing the issues. US psychiatrist Allen Frances is confusing the issues. Julie70/Flickr

Early intervention for psychosis: not just popping pills

A controversy is brewing on the website Psychology Today and subsequently in The Australian newspaper. At the heart of the issue is US psychiatrist Dr Allen Frances' comments on the Australian Federal…
Their voices may be loud, but climate change sceptics are in the minority. Their voices may be loud, but climate change sceptics are in the minority. AAP

Australians and climate change - beliefs about public belief may be quite wrong

Do you believe in climate change? It’s seemingly a simple question. But there are many reasons why it is not. Who is asking, why, and who is being asked? This is why we read such widely varying reports…
We must look to our past emissions to understand our true carbon footprint. We must look to our past emissions to understand our true carbon footprint.

History shows Australia is no pissant when it comes to emissions

Ross Garnaut was unequivocal yesterday in responding to industry claims that Australia’s emission reductions would be irrelevant in an international context. “I do not accept that Australia is a pissant…
Feeling cheery? Set up a recycling bin! Feeling cheery? Set up a recycling bin! dunkr/Flickr

Stop worrying about the environment - it isn’t helping

Australians worry about the environment but they do little to protect it. Psychological research offers one possible solution: stop worrying! Feeling happy is in fact the best way to encourage environmentally…
People won’t change their behaviour unless they have a mental model of a problem. People won’t change their behaviour unless they have a mental model of a problem. ARM Climate Research Facility on Flickr

Without understanding psychology, can we really understand climate change?

Most of us don’t really understand climate change, and for some of us that means we can’t accept it. Sure, the evidence is compelling, but sadly humans aren’t always interested in evidence when it comes…
Sometimes it’s not easy to forget the link between meat and animals. Sometimes it’s not easy to forget the link between meat and animals. Ariel Dovas

The meat paradox: how we can love some animals and eat others

Why do we feel sick at the thought of eating dog, but hungry at the thought of eating pig (bacon) with our eggs? Or how we can feel so outraged about whaling while continuing to enjoy fish and chips? Why…

Research and News (16)

Popular school students get bullied too

The stereotype that popular kids don’t get bullied has been busted by a new study that found becoming more popular at school…

Research Briefs (37)

Greed more common than generosity

Greed is more likely to be “paid forward” than generosity. In an experiment, participants were given four tasks - two easy…

Fear makes things appear closer

Fear can alter our perception of distance, making the object of our fear appear closer than it is. Psychologists found that…

Why we get bored

Boredom arises from our inability to engage one of our brain’s attention networks. Our awareness of this inability to concentrate…

When in doubt, invest in karma

When faced with uncontrollable outcomes, people act as though they can still get on the good side of fate by doing good deeds…

Blogging may help new mums connect

New mums who read or write blogs are more likely to feel less alone compared with mothers who do not blog. The research found…

‘Bird brain’ becomes a reality

The term “bird brain” could become a compliment, with a study showing that just like birds and animals foraging for food…

Original thinkers are cheating stinkers

Creative people are more likely to cheat than less creative people, possibly because this talent increases their ability…

Discovery opens way to drugs for PTSD

The discovery of a brain mechanism explains why people have strong, long-lasting memories of stressful events in their lives…

The impact of coming out

People who come out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual in a supportive environment experience real psychological benefits, according…