Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

The Perception of Pain

A recent study shows that pain hurts more of the person hurting you really means it (or rather, if the person being hurt believes the person really means it). The study was led by Kurt Gray along with Daniel Wegner, and published in Psychological Science

In the study, they paired up 48 participants with a partner who could either choose to give the other an electric shock or just play a audible tone for them. In the first set-up, the subjects received a shock when their partner chose this option (and to eliminate the factor of surprise, they were told in advance which option the partner picked). In the second set-up, the subjects were given a shock when the partner chose the tone, and vice versa. The resulting data showed that the subjects rated the pain from the intentional shocks significantly higher then that of the unintentional ones. This suggests that the perception of pain is closely tied with emotion, and that the latter can influence the first.


December 21, 2008 Posted by | General Science, Medicine, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychics at Nursing Home in Norway – A Bad Idea

One of the larger tabloid newspapers in Norway recently ran a story about a nursing home that employed two alleged psychics to deal with some “unexplainable” phenomena being reported by the patients. The specifics were extremely vague, but one official at the nursing home described the phenomena as things unexplainably falling down, the sense of another presence in an empty room, the sense of a weight on their bodies etc. All the common ghost/daemon/spirit/poltergeist “signs” in other words.

I think bringing these psychics in to take a look at this is just a complete waste of money. What are they supposed to do about this? Let’s just entertain the notion that things are, in fact, falling down more often than is the norm at this nursing home. If so, the psychics can cleanse the house all they want and it will do absolutely jack. What they should do is bring in the janitor to tighten some screws. And if things are not falling down more often than normal, the problem really lies within the psychology of the patients. If that is the case, sure, maybe the psychics “cleansing” will appease them a little bit, but it will not be a permanent fix. A week later and they will most likely be just as nervous as they were before, and the way to help them would really be for them to talk to a psychologist/psychiatrist. 

As for the other phenomena mentioned, there are a lot of possible, real-world explanations to them. One example is the Old Hag Syndrome, otherwise known as sleep paralysis. This is a condition where you are sort of in limbo between asleep and awake, so your body will be paralysed but you are still totally conscious. People who experience this have described feeling a large weight on their chest, and the presence of someone/something malevolent in the room with them. Well gee, that sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Sleep paralysis have also been found to correlate with depression and even previous substance usage. And guess what, the nursing home in question currently specifically treats patients with a history of substance abuse…

This is just one possible explanation for these events, but it just shows that there is always a lot more to be gained by investigating all the possible real-world explanations before defaulting to paranormal ones. 

John Henry Fuseli – The Nightmare

November 6, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Wiseman

These really cool videos were created by Richard Wiseman for the release of his book Quirkology. I just love these…

More videos inside…

Continue reading

October 5, 2008 Posted by | Other, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Online Psychological Experiments

Richard Wiseman is a professor of psychology, and he has set up a website for his latest book Quirkology – The Curious Science of Everyday Life. On this site he links to several cool online psychological experiments that he is conducting, and anybody can take part. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes, and you can sign up to get an update on the results via mail. The experiments are:

The psychology of romance

The psychology of laughter

He also explains some simple self-experiments you can do.

October 5, 2008 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment