Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Halloween Special

Exploring Psychology

With Halloween upon us I thought it would be appropriate to do a special exploring psychology blog post on the psychology of fear. The following videos all feature the amazing psychological illusionist Derren Brown who exploits the power of suggestion to frightening and sometimes disturbing effect. Please note that some of the videos contain very strong language.

Derren Brown induces fear 1

Derren Brown induces fear 2


Don't think this one would get clearance from the psychology experiments ethics committee!!

Recommended Reading

Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown

Book Description

Derren Brown's amazing television and stage performances have entranced and amazed millions. His baffling tricks and stunning illusions have set new standards of what's possible, as well as causing controversy. Now, for the first time, he reveals the secrets behind his craft. He delves into the structure and pyschology of magic. He tells you how to read clues in people's behaviour and spot liars. He discusses the whys and wherefores of hypnosis (which he says doesn't exist) and shows how to use the powers of suggestion and massively improve the power of your memory. He also investigates the paranormal industry, exposes a few charlatans and looks at why some of us feel the need to believe in it in the first place

Woven into this are autobiographical stories about Derren's own experiences and beliefs, told with characteristic humour and engaging honesty. This extraordinary book lifts the lid on the deepest darkest secrets of magic and explores the limits of what can be achieved by the human mind. A must for Derren's legions of fans, it will amaze you, entertain you and expand your mind at the same time. See following link for more details.

Tricks of The Mind By Derren Brown

More Information

You can find out all about Derren Brown him by Clicking Here

Don't forget to play the Halloween game which you can find on the right hand side of the page towards the bottom.

Exploring Psychology: Halloween Special

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Dr. David Brodbeck's Psychology Lectures

Exploring Psychology

Another excellent psychology resource is Dr. David Brodbeck's blog which allows visitors to listen to the psychology lectures he has delivered to psychology students at Algoma University, Canada. The lectures cover a wide range of topics within major fields of research e.g. social psychology, developmental psychology and cognitive psychology. These topic areas include, perception, memory, intelligence, motivation and there are several lectures dedicated to research methods and statistics.

In addition to broadcasting lectures on core psychology topics, Dr Brodbeck's podcasts also cover very useful material for students in general e.g. study skills.

If you are thinking about studying psychology, make sure you listen to the following podcast. It features Dr Brodbeck giving a talk to Grade 12 students on what psychology is and how to get through the transition from highschool to University.

What is psychology and what is University really like?

 Dr. David Brodbeck\'s Psychology Lectures from Algoma - Bonus Episode! What is Psychology and What is University really like?
You can access all Dr Brodbeck's lectures by Clicking Here

This is one psychology resource that you should definitely bookmark for future reference.

Exploring Psychology

Friday, October 19, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Taking Part in Psychological Research

Exploring Psychology

(Photo Credit: hartichoked)

If you are doing a psychology degree or a course with a psychology component, it's more than likely that you will be expected to carry out a research project. Most research projects tend to be conducted towards the end of the psychology course, typically in the final year.

In preparation for this major piece of work, a very useful way to understand the concepts, issues and variables that other researchers have study studied in a psychological context is to participate in their investigations. As a psychology research participant, not only do you get to see research methodology and various methods of data collection in action but these studies may also give you some ideas for your own research project.

Research Methods Tutorials

If you are new to research methods and conducting psychological research or need a quick refresher, I have put together a couple of tutorials that you might find useful.

You can access an experimental methods tutorial via the following link.


For advice on getting started with your psychological research project just click on the following link.


Listed below are a variety of psychological research projects that require participants. I have also listed academic institutions that actively recruit research participants for psychology experiments and psychological research, some of whom pay their research participants for their time.

Eyewitness Identification

This psychological research study investigates eyewitness identification and is being conducted by Dr Michael Lewis from Cardiff University. If you decide to participate You will be asked to study a face and to pick it out of a line up later. You will also be asked to answer a number of general knowledge questions and to reflect on how confident you are of your answers.

This study will take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Click Here For More Information

The Depravity Scale

Dr Michael Welner is self-funding a research project entitled The Depravity Scale. The Depravity Scale research aims to establish societal standards of what makes a crime depraved, and to develop a standardized instrument based on specific characteristics of a crime that must be proven in order to merit more severe sentences. In order to make the results of this very important research generalizable, as large a subject pool as possible is required.

As the research team note: No matter who you are, where you're from, or what your personal and professional experiences are, your opinion counts in this international study to help distinguish what we all can agree on are the worst of the worst crimes.

The web-based research survey only takes about 15 minutes to complete. All of your responses are kept confidential and no personal information is ever released.

Click Here For More Information

The University of Dundee: School of Psychology (Scottish/UK Participants only)

As an active and leading research establishment, the Psychology Department at Dundee University is always seeking volunteers to participate in a range of experiments and psychological research studies. The following link will take you to a page that has been designed to advertise these opportunities and facilitate the recruitment of reliable and motivated volunteers.

The psychology department at the University pays volunteers for participating in the psychology studies (usually about £5-6 per hour). A wide variety of studies on language, memory, vision, perception of social groups are often available.

You can sign-up to be added to an e-mail list that announces new experiments when they become available and you can register your details online.

Click Here For More Information

The University of California Berkeley Psychology Department: Research Subject Volunteer Program

The University of California Berkeley is known worldwide for its outstanding research and the Department of Psychology adds to that reputation with a long history of important, breakthrough work. The Research Subject Volunteer Program (RSVP) gives you a chance to participate in this research. As a participant in RSVP psychology studies, you help the department's faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate students answer important questions. Your participation offers you a chance to learn more about yourself and the latest discoveries and ideas in the exciting field of psychology.

To encourage you to apply to and take part in individual projects, when you participate as a subject in a study you may be offered a thank you gift donated by our sponsors or a check payment in recognition of your contribution. It is your choice to volunteer, or not, for any particular study. If you chose, you may end your participation in a study or in the RSVP at any time. Current psychology research volunteer opportunities include:

University of California Berkeley Study of Individual Differences in Fundamental Emotion Processes. Participants will be asked to watch videoclips on a TV while their physiological responses (e.g. heart rate, skin temperature) are being monitored. Compensation: $40 - $60 (two hour laboratory session plus approximately one hour long online questionnaire).

Click Here For More Information

Exploring Psychology

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Quality Information Resource (All in The Mind)

Exploring Psychology

When you study psychology at college or University you are introduced to a range of often competing theoretical perspectives. A very useful way of understanding any psychological theory in greater depth is to see it being applied in the 'real world'. Allowing you to do just that, is a radio show from the BBC called All in The Mind.

All in The Mind is described as a show that explores the limits and potential of the mind, revealing the latest research and bringing together experts and commentators from the worlds of psychiatry, psychology and mental health. Coming from the BBC obviously some of the issues discussed are more relevant to UK psychology, for example, a recent show featured the president of The British Psychological Society addressing the issue of statutory regulation among psychologists. The show does, however, also cover a very wide range of generic psychology topics and is, therefore well worth checking out.

There is a section on the BBC website dedicated to the show and although it's not currently on air, visitors can listen to past shows in full dating back to 2005. To give you an example of the eclectic mix of psychology topics covered on the show the following programme details are taken from a broadcast I listened to back in July.


Fifty percent of the population holds some form of paranormal belief. Parapsychology research is booming and there are UK university departments studying phenomena such as psychics, séances, and telepathy. Much of the growth of parapsychology in the UK might be owed to the late Bob Morris, who in 1985 became the inaugural holder of The Koestler Chair of Psychology in Edinburgh University.

Dr Raj Persaud discusses the latest developments in the world of parapsychology with Dr Caroline Watt, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and a founder member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh University; and Professor Christopher French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, University of London.


The psychological and scientific study of laughter has recently taken a turn for the serious. Evolutionary theory argues that any behaviour as universal as laughter must have some solemn survival purpose. And laughter has such profound effects on people’s brain and mind that it is now being seriously deployed to assist those suffering bereavement, having surgery, and even fertility treatment. Could further understanding of the function laughter served become a weapon in our armoury of persuasion and manipulation of others?

A recent study by the Universities of Kent and Liverpool revealed that laughter acts as a social lubricant and increases altruism towards strangers. Mark Van Vugt, Professor of Social Psychology and a member for the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Group Processes explains how this theory was tested.


The United States defence agencies are looking at ways of improving soldiers’ endurance and psychological performance as well as ways of using brain power to remotely control machines, such as robots or aircraft.

Professor Jonathan Moreno, Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia, talks about his latest book Mind Wars – Brain Research and National Defense - which reveals how advances in brain research may change the way wars are fought in the future, and how developments in neuroscience could be employed to control soldiers, or maybe even the enemy.

Click Here to listen to this broadcast in full.

Click Here to visit and explore the All in The Mind Homepage.

Exploring Psychology

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Language And Thought

Exploring Psychology

(Photo Credit: nofrills)

If I had to pick a favourite website it would be TED.Com. The concept behind TED is just brilliant, namely bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, and challenge them to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. The following extract from the website says it all really.

"We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other."

The talks cover a range of fascinating, engaging and thought provoking topic areas, psychology included. The website makes the best talks and performances available to the public, for free, the videos of which are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

The following video features a talk by Experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker who discusses language, and the way it expresses the workings of our minds. By analyzing common sentences and words, Pinker shows us how, in what we say and how we say it, we're communicating much more than we realize.

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard. Prior to taking up his post in the psychology department at Harvard, Pinker was the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2004 Professor Pinker was named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Book Review by Donna Seaman (Booklist)

Experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist Pinker is fascinated by the symbiosis between language and thought. In this stimulating volume, a continuation of the discussion found in The Language Instinct (1994), he argues for the "real-world importance" of "the relation of language to our inner and outer worlds.

Anchoring his discussion of why semantics matter to 9/11 and other momentous public events, Pinker teases apart the gap between the literal meanings of words and their elaborate connotations, which leads to fresh explanations of humor, the importance of metaphors, and the significance of swearing. Some of the most mind-expanding chapters involve the subtlest, most taken-for-granted aspects of mind, namely our sense of time, space, and causality.

Drawing on philosophy, evolutionary psychology, physics, neurology, anthropology, and jokes, Pinker presents a convincing theory of conceptual semantics, itemizing the "fundamental ideas" that form the "language of thought." From politics to poetry, children's wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker's fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as "a window into human nature. See following link for full details.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Visitors From The UK Click Here

Exploring Psychology

Monday, October 15, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Free Resources

Exploring Psychology

One thing I'll be doing from time to time on the exploring psychology blog is showcasing some outstanding free psychology resources. These should be particularly useful for psychology students.

The first thing I'd like to draw your attention to is Dr Abel Scribe's Student's Guide to APA Psychology. The Student's Guide to APA Psychology shows you how to document and format research papers in the style of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychologist. It has been Revised and updated to the new 5th edition of the APA Publication Manual.

Many psychology students underestimate the importance of referencing but from an academic perspective, referencing is vitally important. The cornerstone of any academic writing be it a term paper, essay, research project or dissertation is the dissemination of ideas. References, i.e., source material based on the views, opinions and research findings of others provide the conceptual framework necessary to engage in analytical debate.

The Student's Guide to APA Psychology will help keep you on the referencing straight and narrow.

Click Here to download this excellent free psychology resource.

Exploring Psychology

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Exploring Psychology: Explaining The Unexplained

Exploring Psychology

(Photo Credit: Miss Ruby Foo)

When I first started teaching psychology one of the first courses I was involved in was research methods in psychology. The first part of course looked at the experimental method, which among other things included getting the psychology students to conduct an experiment into whether people know when they are being stared at.

The feeling of being stared is said to exist in all cultures and can be found in historical folklore, the notion of the "evil eye" being a case in point. According to parapsychologists, the feeling of being stared at is an example of the mind extending beyond the physical brain and they point to experimental studies that appear to demonstrate a telepathic influence on the participants.

(Photo Credit: Yellow Mellow)

Another example of this "psychic" effect is suddenly thinking about a family member or friend who then calls you on the phone a few seconds later. At the forefront of this type of investigation is the biologist Rupert Sheldrake who believes that the person about to call is thinking about the person they intend to ring and that this intention reaches out ahead of the phone call.

In a series of experiments testing this phenomena, Sheldrake gets his participants to name 4 people they might be telepathic with, typically family members and friends. The participants then sit by a telephone (usually at home) while they are filmed. One of the four people on the participants list is then picked at random to ring the participant. When the phone rings the participant has to state who they think is calling before they answer the phone. Just by guessing people will be right on average 1 in 4 times i.e. 25% of the time. According to Sheldrake's results his participants were right on average 45%, a statistically significant result.

So does the work of Sheldrake and others really show that something paranormal is going on? Or is there a non-paranormal explanation? This is precisely the question that Anomalistic Psychology attempts to answer.

According to the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths College, University of London, "Anomalistic psychology may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, including (but not restricted to) those which are often labeled "paranormal". It is directed towards understanding bizarre experiences that many people have without assuming a priori that there is anything paranormal involved. It entails attempting to explain paranormal and related beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological and physical factors".

Paranormal Vs Non-Paranormal Explanations

If you would like to learn more about the views of Rupert Sheldrake and how they contrast with proponents of Anomalistic Psychology, Click Here to listen to an excellent radio broadcast by the BBC. Please note that the relevant programme starts just over a minute into the recording.

Rupert Sheldrake Online

Lots of in depth material to look and the opportunity to participate in some fascinating experiments. These include:

  • The Precognitive Text Test

  • The Email Telepathy Test

  • The Photo Telepathy Test

  • The Online Staring Test

  • As noted on the website, if you would like to participate in the experiments, no previous experience is necessary, and the online tests can be done immediately. Most of these experiments are suitable for use in schools and colleges, and some make an excellent basis for psychology student projects.

    Click Here to visit the website.

    Telephone Telepathy

    Exploring Psychology

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Exploring Psychology: Accentuating The Positive

    Exploring Psychology

    (Photo Credit: bibliogrrl)

    When I began my psychology degree one of the first things I learned was Sigmund Freud's quote about transforming hysterical misery into common unhappiness, and I vividly remember thinking at the time that studying psychology wasn't exactly going to be a barrel of laughs.

    Indeed, one of the criticisms of psychology as a discipline is that it fixated on the study of negative emotion and behaviour etc and effectively ignored the positive aspects of human experience. In recent years, however, positive psychology has established itself as an area of study in its own right.

    One of the most influential practitioners within the field of positive psychology is Dr. Martin Seligman. Dr. Seligman is the director of the University of Pennsylvania positive psychology center.

    The center focuses on the empirical study of positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions. Research conducted by Dr Seligman and his colleagues have demonstrated that it's possible to be happier, feel more satisfied, be more engaged with life, find more meaning, have higher hopes, and even laugh and smile more, regardless of individual circumstances.

    Authentic Happiness

    The official website for the University of Pennsylvania positive psychology center. Lots of excellent resources relating to positive psychology, all of which can be accessed for free.

    Click Here to visit the website.

    A Primer in Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson

    Book Description

    Positive psychology is the scientific study of what goes right in life, from birth to death and at all stops in between. It is a newly-christened approach within psychology that takes seriously the examination of that which makes life most worth living. Everyone's life has peaks and valleys, and positive psychology does not deny the valleys. Its signature premise is more nuanced, but nonetheless important: what is good about life is as genuine as what is bad and, therefore, deserves equal attention from psychologists.

    Positive psychology as an explicit perspective has existed only since 1998, but enough relevant theory and research now exist to fill a textbook suitable for a semester-long college course. A Primer in Positive Psychology is thoroughly grounded in scientific research and covers major topics of concern to the field: positive experiences such as pleasure and flow; positive traits such as character strengths, values, and talents; and the social institutions that enable these subjects as well as what recent research might contribute to this knowledge.

    Every chapter contains exercises that illustrate positive psychology, a glossary, suggestions of articles and books for further reading, and lists of films, websites, and popular songs that embody chapter themes. A comprehensive overview of positive psychology by one of the acknowledged leaders in the field, this textbook provides students with a thorough introduction to an important area of psychology. See following link for full details.

    A Primer in Positive Psychology

    Visitors From The UK Click Here

    The Ultimate "The Glass is Half Full" Song

    Until the next exploring psychology blog post, Keep Smiling

    (Photo Credit: Piratex)

    Exploring Psychology

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Exploring Psychology: The Unabomber and the Zodiac (One & The Same?)

    Exploring Psychology

    Today's exploring psychology blog post comes courtesy of my favourite psychology podcaster "Dr Dave", who is known in more formal surroundings as David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University. Dr Dave's podcast show "Shrink Rap Radio" comes complete with the wonderful tagline "All the psychology you need to know and just enough to make you dangerous"

    The psychology podcast I've chosen to showcase taps into my academic interest in forensic psychology and features a fascinating interview with Douglas Evander Oswell who has spent over 10 years researching the methods, motives, psychological attributes and connection between the Unabomber and the Zodiac. As Oswell notes:

    "In the spring of 1995, as accounts of the yet-uncaptured Unabomber began to filter through the media, I immediately noticed a distinct set of similarities between the methods and motives of the Unabomber and the Zodiac. One year later, the arrest of Theodore Kaczynski and the consequent flood of information pertaining to his past, did nothing to allay my growing suspicion that Kaczynski may have actually committed the crimes of Zodiac."

    During the interview Oswell provides an overview of the Zodiac case and the unabomber case, he outlines the striking connections between the two cases and he discusses the distinction between serial killers, recreational killers and mass murderers.

    Listen To The Interview

    Click Here to download the MP3 file and listen to the interview in full.

    Related Media

    Zodiac Trailer:

    The Unabomber:

    Related Reading

    The Unabomber and the Zodiac By Douglas Evander Oswell

    Book Description

    The Zodiac Killer murdered five people between December of 1968 and October of 1969. The murders were followed by letters to the news media demanding publication of his threats and other written material, on pain of further killings. As the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski murdered three people and injured many more, over a period beginning in May of 1978 and continuing through April of 1995. His murders were followed by letters to the news media demanding publication of the letters themselves, and the so-called "Manifesto," on pain of further killings. Their methods were different, but their madness was the same. This book highlights the amazing similarities between Kaczynski and the Zodiac, the two most enigmatic and cerebral killers in U.S. history.

    Click Here For More Details & Reviews

    Visitors From The UK Click Here

    Exploring Psychology

    Exploring Psychology: Stanley Milgram's Shocking Research

    Exploring Psychology

    (Photo Credit: robotmachine)

    The late Stanley Milgram is widely regarded as one of the most influential social psychologists' ever. His controversial experiments into obedience in the early 1960's continue to be debated and discussed in psychology classes across the world. The following video stands as testament to this.

    The video which originally began as a podcast was put together by Mike Marinetto for a University course on research methods to illustrate how ethical considerations enter the research process.

    Milgram's obedience experiments had a profound effect on ethical conduct within psychological research and this type of research would simply not be allowed today. However, the following video shows a modern reenactment of the Milgram experiment carried out by psychological illusionist Derren Brown for his TV show 'The Heist'

    The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram by Thomas Blass

    Book Description

    The sole and definitive biography of one of the 20th century's most influential and controversial psychologists.

    The creator of the famous "Obedience Experiments," carried out at Yale in the 1960s, and originator of the "six degrees of separation" concept, Stanley Milgram was one of the most innovative scientists of our time. In this sparkling biography--the first in-depth portrait of Milgram--Thomas Blass captures the colorful personality and pioneering work of a social psychologist who profoundly altered the way we think about human nature.

    Born in the Bronx in 1933, Stanley Milgram was the son of Eastern European Jews, and his powerful Obedience Experiments had obvious intellectual roots in the Holocaust. The experiments, which confirmed that "normal" people would readily inflict pain on innocent victims at the behest of an authority figure, generated a firestorm of public interest and outrage-proving, as they did, that moral beliefs were far more malleable than previously thought. But Milgram also explored other aspects of social psychology, from information overload to television violence to the notion that we live in a small world. Although he died suddenly at the height of his career, his work continues to shape the way we live and think today. Blass offers a brilliant portrait of an eccentric visionary scientist who revealed the hidden workings of our very social world. See following link for full details.

    The Man Who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram

    Visitors From The UK Click Here


    Click Here to visit the website.

    Exploring Psychology