The Lying Brain: Video!

Hello again!

The lovely folks at New Bright Lights have carefully and gently edited video of my Lying Brain lecture and posted it up to YouTube in four parts! Here’s the first video.

In my zeal to entertain and inform, I may have uttered a few factual errors. Please feel free to comment here or on YouTube, but do check my sources first.

So: what do you think?

Moved In

I have successfully moved into Derwent Point, and am currently populating the fairly-spacious-for-a-studio flat with stuff from Ikea. More interestingly, I’ve been going to all sorts of local meetups and explaining to people what exactly I do and why I’m in London.

Explaining social cognitive psychology or logic, judgment, & decision-making research to people who aren’t in academia is difficult, but FUN. Mostly I just mention behavioural economics and people nod and go “ah yes”, but with one or two people there’s a deeper interest and I get so far as to mention the word “study” or “experiment” before the conversation turns elsewhere.

In any case, I’ve been presenting myself as a science promoter, so I’d better do some of that instead of just telling you what I’ve been doing since I moved to London. So: this friday the 24th, the Natural History Museum is doing a nifty After Hours event called Science Uncovered. From 4 to 10 pm, there’ll be drinks and tours and special stations where you can talk to working scientists and see what they’re working on! I’ll be there – you should be too.

Nothing But Errands

I’ve settled into my lodgings in Camden Town for now, taking advantage of the fridge and kettle and to make food like instant porridge and sandwiches. I’m on the “has no money” diet.  Cheaping out on the accomodation has had its “rewards” as well – I only get the wifi with my laptop pressed against the door, and forget about getting it on my phone.  Also, when walking home last night, the alley smelled like pee and the shop next door had had its window smashed in.  Is this normal?!? To top it off, the room next door or above has a toilet or something which is flushing -constantly-, plus the wall clock is LOUD TICK TICK TICK TICK so I am basically running on no sleep and I’m going MAD.

I can’t wait to move into the  residence UCL referred me to in Islington. Brand new buildings, at Derwent Point. Til then, however, I basically have nothing to do but random things like paying deposits and getting numbers. Other than that, I have complete freedom to see and do whatever I like! Which helps with the whole going mad thing.

Now then, does anyone know where I could find a cheap used copy of the pocket A-Z? And, if you’re coming to the London Blog Meetup tonight at the Talk Talk in Soho, do say hello!


So I’ve moved to London.

I know, what the crap, right?  I suppose technically I haven’t quite moved in yet, but, well, let me back up.

After working at the wonderful BARLab for just about 2 years, I’ve gone off to grad school in UCL. This, of course, involved moving from my home in Canada to an entirely different country, one where I basically don’t know anyone or where anything is other than tourist attractions.

I spent a month packing things into boxes and bags, and took the 9 hour flight just yesterday. I can’t quite move into the residence UCL provides, not til the 19th, so I’m in a serviced apartment in Camden til then. Well, except for a problem on the first night, being that the booking agency declined to tell the Camden apartments that they’d booked me, and so I spent the first night in some place called Charlie’s Bed & Breakfast, but I digress.

The point is I’m here now.  And so the fact that the “Vancouver” is now gone from the title of this blog is the least of the changes I’m going to go through over the next little while.  The upshot for you, dear reader (and I know there’s only the one of you), is that I have nothing to do and plenty to blog about!  So leave some living-in-London suggestions in the comments, and I’ll see you around.


I’ve removed the apartment page, in case you’re wondering where it’s gone, cos I’ve already found people to which I’ll rent out the rooms. Thanks everyone who got in touch about the rooms!  Also, I’m going to put up a list of stuff I can’t take with me to England on the Stuff page soon, and you’ll be able to hold onto them and use them as you wish while I’m in England. So that’s pretty cool.  Also some of the dead links in my blogroll are now fixed.

The Return of the LYING BRAAAAIN

Hello again! Today I gave an updated version of the lying brain talk to a receptive audience at the Rio Theatre for the first nights of the New Bright Lights lecture series.  The first speaker was Lon Mandrake, a magician/science educator. The second was Rob Hadley, a hypnotist/hypnotherapist (who also riled a couple of skeptics in the audience with his defense of homeopathy). And then there was me, a psychologist/geek who was super-excited to be there!  I know the talks were all being recorded, so I’ll update this post once the videos are up online.  For now, I’ll put up links to all the sources I had in my talk:

Slides: it’s a .odf, hosted on Google Docs. you’ll need open office or a plugin to view it.

Opening: again .odf on Google Docs. I changed what I said during the talk, but the basics are all there. This is part on which I spent the most time and is the most personal, so please credit me if you use it.

Sources & Citations:

I tried to link to publicly available full text articles when possible, and good summaries of them when not.  If you have any questions, please email me or leave a comment!  Thanks again to everyone who came. Now I’m going to collapse into a heap and sleep til Monday.

POV Redux

A post I made in September of last year, in which I discuss a flyer I saw for something called “Psychology of Vision” has a very active commentary going on right now.  Do have a look!

Something the commenters may not be aware of is that I made a followup post after Julian Edward, the Spezzano’s online publisher, had a chat with me on Twitter.  It bears another look, but the important part is that he just about admits that it’s not based on evidence, to the point of saying

I’d say that a good half of people who attend the groups think it’s nonsense too but they use the tools and love it for that.

even Chuck himself says that his Psychology if a hoax. But he’s not interested in people believing it. Only in the results.

That cinches it for me – there’s nothing to POV, even if it is harmless (and whether it is depends on if you think spending money on something that isn’t what it pretends to be is a waste).  The exhortations in the comments that people need to try it for themselves before judging may sound legitimate on the face of it, but what would result?  People would spend money on something that at best only has anecdotal evidence supporting it, and at worst is an admitted fraud.  The people who -do- try it merely end up either thinking it was a waste of money, or providing more anecdotal evidence!  Based on my examination of the website, I concluded that it wasn’t based on evidence, and my chat with Julian Edward confirmed it for me.  However, one more thing really tips the balance towards BS:

The major issue I take with POV and other such products/workshops/etc is the use of scientific terminology to sell something entirely unrelated to the proper, accepted use of that terminology.  This is a massively popular tactic used to legitimize otherwise unimpressive and possibly useless products.  See Deepak Chopra hawking quantum consciousness, for example – or really, any random beauty product sold in TV commercials.  I -study- the psychology of vision.  When I see those words being used to encourage people to pay for something that the -publisher- doesn’t think works, I get crazy irritated.

I feel the need to do something about this practice, so I promote science literacy and explain to people what psychology really is, and do what I can to teach people to think critically about these kinds of claims.  I don’t have the time, money, or other resources to prove they’re fraudulent or report them to the police or a consumer advocate.  I don’t get mad enough tear down the posters or vandalize them, like I did with psychic ads when I was in my first year of university.  I will, however, scan ads I see around town and tell people what I think about them based on what I know about science and skepticism – and sometimes, I don’t need to pay for it and try it myself to find out that it doesn’t work.

That’s all I have to say about POV.  Let me know what you think in the comments.