Apparently students possess psychic abilities, but only when it comes to porn. A study is soon to be published revealing statistically significant evidence that supports the existence of precognition, the ability to see into the future. Precise details are not yet available, but we can get a good impression of the experiment from the media reports. Each student was shown an image, and then a picture of two curtained screens on a computer monitor; behind one curtain was an image, behind the other a blank wall. The students were asked to click on the curtain that they thought had the image behind it. Some of the students were shown an “erotic” image beforehand, one assumes that others were shown “non-erotic” images of some description. Some, but not all, of the images behind the curtain were also of an erotic nature. The theory seems to be that if the participants were ‘primed’ erotically (i.e. by being shown an erotic image), and the end result is an erotic one (i.e. they see another erotic image if they successfully select the correct curtain) they might perform better at the task. Prof. Emeritus Daryl Bem hypothesised that 50% of participants would select the right curtain, but that those shown an erotic image would show a higher success rate. And indeed, it seems that his hypothesis was satisfied…statistically. Continue reading “Students Possess Psychic Abilities!”
Did you know that sun can damage your skin? How likely are you to increase your sunscreen use this week? No, don’t tell me. Chances are, you will be a less reliable indicator of your own behavior than a brain scan will. It may sound crazy, but this is the conclusion of a study published June 23, 2010 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The research team, led by Matthew Lieberman, a psychology professor at UCLA, had subjects watch a public service announcement about the benefits of sunscreen while in an fMRI machine. The researchers looked for an increase in activity of the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with values, preferences, and self-reflection. Then, the researchers Continue reading “Don’t ask me, ask my brain.”
Author Will Self’s inaugural lecture of the 2008 Radio 3 Free Thinking festival is archived online here. Self traces the misguided portrayal of consciousness in fiction through history in his typically verbose way. Up for reconsideration are not just the naturalist approach of nineteenth-century literature but also the Joycean stream of consciousness approach. Self argues that the way writers have chosen to portray it does not fit in with the way we really experience our minds. Continue reading “A Conversation with one Self”
In this week’s Wired magazine there’s an article on the way scientists think. “We’ve heard this all before,” I hear you savvy-with-the-philosophy-of-science readers say. Right. And the results reported are similar to what we’ve heard before too: scientists interpret anomalies as methodologically generated, and so removable from their data, until that is no longer an option, and a change of how one goes about interpreting the data is required (cf. Kuhn on anomalies). If Popper ever meant to describe what scientists actually do, he would have been quite wrong.
The supposed novelty of the work reported by Wired is Continue reading “There’s no success quite like failure”
Back in 1966 Joseph Weizenbaum created “ELIZA”, a relatively simple computer program which was meant to simulate a psychotherapist. The program worked largely by rephrasing a patient’s statements as questions which were then posed back to the patient. Many subjects reported preferring ELIZA to their human therapists, and some continued to value ELIZA’s therapy even after Wiezenbaum revealed ELIZA’s workings. (You can read a transcript of ELIZA in action here.)
Things have moved on somewhat since ELIZA’s day. Maja Matarić, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California, has developed Robots that can provide advice and therapy to patients who have suffered strokes, or who suffer from Alzheimer’s. The Robot can monitor the patient’s movement as they perform a regime of physical therapy, using a combination of laser scanners and cameras, and provide encouragement and advice. But even more impressively, the robot can monitor how introverted or extroverted the patient is, and tailor the tone of their advice giving accordingly. One stroke patient reported much preferring the robot’s advice and encouragement to that of her husband . . .