Category Archives: Psychology

Retro-viral phenomena: The dress over and over again

It is happening again. Another “dress”-like image just surfaced. As far as I can tell, more or less the same thing is going on. Ill defined lighting conditions in the images are being filled in by lighting assumptions, and they differ … Continue reading

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Predicting movie taste

There is a fundamental tension between how movie critics conceive of their role and how their reviews are utilized by the moviegoing public. Movie critics by and large see their job as educating the public as to what is a good movie and explaining … Continue reading

Posted in In eigener Sache, Journal club, Psychology, Science | Leave a comment

Revisiting the dress: Lessons for the study of qualia and science

When #thedress first came out in February 2015, vision scientists had plenty of ideas why some people might be seeing it differently than others, but no one knew for sure. Now we have some evidence as to what might be going on. … Continue reading

Posted in Journal club, Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 5 Comments

Autism and the microbiome

The incidence of autism has been on the rise for 40 years. We don’t know why, but the terrible burden of suffering has spurred people to urgently look for a cause. As there are all kinds of secular trends over … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Nutrition, Psychology, Science | 1 Comment

A primer on the science of sleep

I’ve written about sleep and the need to sleep and how sleep is measured before, but in order to foster our #citizenscience efforts at NYU, I want to bring accessible and actionable pieces on the science of sleep together in one place, here. 1. How … Continue reading

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Explaining color constancy

The brain is using spectral information of light waves (their wavelength mix) to aid in the identification of objects. This works because any given object will absorb some wavelengths of the light source (the illuminant) and reflect others. For instance, plants … Continue reading

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The neuroscience of violent rage

Violent rage results from the activation of dedicated neural circuitry that is on the lookout for existential threats to prehistoric lifestyles. Life in civilization is largely devoid of these threats, but this system is still in place, triggering what largely … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 1 Comment

Brighter than the sun: Introducing Powerscape

Statistical power needs are often counterintuitive and underestimated. This has deleterious consequences for a number of scientific fields. Most science practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to make power calculations themselves. So we did it for them and visualized this as … Continue reading

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Why “dressgate”* matters

At this point, we have probably all reached “peak dress”, been oversaturated by all matters dress and are ready to move on. But there is more. There is no question that “the dress” is the most viral image relevant to … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science, Social commentary | 9 Comments

Lessons from the dress: The fundamental ambiguity of visual perception

The brain lives in a bony shell. The completely light-tight nature of the skull renders this home a place of complete darkness. So the brain relies on the eyes to supply an image of the outside world, but there are … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 4 Comments

Shadowy but present danger: A primer on psychopathy

In the age of social media, it is hard to avoid exposure to popular culture. This is a problem because most of the bugbears that are popular in this culture – like zombies or vampires – do not actually exist. … Continue reading

Posted in Psychology, Science | 15 Comments

Positive thinking about positive thinking might just be wishful thinking

Bringing about positive changes in your life is hard. Everyone knows this. But everyone also desires them. So it is seductive to believe – particularly if you have no credible way to actually bring them about – that merely wishing … Continue reading

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On the insinuation of bad intentions

Intentions matter. When assessing the merit or moral value of an action, we do not do so solely based on their outcomes, but take intentions into account. For instance, we consider it worse if someone breaks one cup in an attempt to … Continue reading

Posted in Pet peeve, Psychology, Social commentary, Technology | 1 Comment

The social mission of perceptual research

Our perception corresponds to an idiosyncratic model of reality, not reality itself. This is easy to forget, as we all share a common outside environment in the form of external reality and process it with a cognitive apparatus that has … Continue reading

Posted in Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Social commentary | 3 Comments

A primer on the neuroscience of happiness

The age old question of what makes for a happy life is of great interest to almost anyone who is in fact alive. A classic answer, building on Aristotelian notions of happiness, is provided by Charles Murray who points out … Continue reading

Posted in In eigener Sache, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology, Social commentary, Technology | 1 Comment

Data were analyzed using Matlab…

It is important to use the right tools for a given job. Science is no exception. In particular, given the vast amounts of data that are now routinely encountered in the field, one will want to use the best available … Continue reading

Posted in Matlab, Neuroscience, Psychology, Science | 8 Comments

Superior motion perception in individuals with autism?

The empirical evidence seems to contradict Betteridge’s law. For the past 10 years, research on the “spatial suppression effect” showed that large moving stimuli are more readily perceived than smaller ones. However, this relationship doesn’t seem to hold in certain … Continue reading

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The current mental health crisis and the coming Ketamine revolution

Few FDA approved drugs have a reputation as controversial as Ketamine. This reputation is well earned. Originally developed in the 1960s as a short-acting anesthetic for battlefield use, in recent decades it has become notorious as a date-rape drug (‘Special … Continue reading

Posted in Psychology, Science | 19 Comments

Can music elicit a visual motion aftereffect?

Briefly, if you look at a large moving scene for a while, you will experience things moving in the opposite direction afterwards. This “motion aftereffect” was already known to Aristotle, presumably from the visual inspection of waterfalls. It was rediscovered … Continue reading

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What you should do

It actually doesn’t happen that infrequently that students seek me out for advice on this very question – what should they do with their life? I’m usually happy to oblige, but there is now sufficient data (including long term feedback), … Continue reading

Posted in Life, Optimization, Psychology | 4 Comments