Real-Time Reaction Polls Distort TV Debates

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A few election cycles ago, a new feature was introduced to televised debates: The real-time reaction tracker. A small focus group of two dozen or so individuals use dials to indicate how much they agree or disagree with the statements being made by politicians during the debate. An aggregated average of these responses is then displayed in real-time for the viewing audience to see. Fascinatingly, this instant reaction poll appears to influence the opinions of the millions of people watching the debate at home. Continue reading

Why Psychology and Statistics Are Not Science

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

A few years ago, I caused considerable weeping and gnashing of teeth among psychologists for a piece I wrote explaining why psychology isn’t science. It was predicated upon a lengthier argument, which I co-authored with physicist Tom Hartsfield, on the difference between science and non-science. RCS Editor Ross Pomeroy followed up with his own haymaker, explaining why Sigmund Freud’s ideas — from penis envy to psychoanalysis — were not just whacky but unscientific and wrong. Continue reading

Creative People Really Are a Little Crazy

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The notion that highly creative people tend to be eccentric or even a little “crazy” is not just a stereotype. New research in the journal Nature Neuroscience has shown that people who are genetically predisposed toward schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are likelier to be artists or a member of the creative professions. Continue reading

Monkeys Suffer Human-Like Depression

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

It’s no secret that depression is a major problem worldwide. A map published by the Washington Postdepicts the prevalence of depression around the world. Every country on Earth, rich or poor, has citizens who experience depression. Coping with sadness is a part of the human condition, but why some of us suffer in near perpetuity is not understood. Decades of research have produced little more than expensive pills that work only slightly better than a placebo. Continue reading

Chris Matthews’ Sick Obsession with Racism

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Those of you unfortunate enough to watch more than 30 seconds of Hardball with Chris Matthews have likely learned that the host, and the American left-wing in general, has a peculiar obsession with racism. It is not an exaggeration to say that “Republican racism” has been a major theme (if not the major theme) of his show for the past seven years. In his latest rant, he concludes that Republican opposition to President Obama, from Day One, is largely explained by racism. In his own toxic words: “The age of Jim Crow managed to find a new habitat in the early 21st Century Republican Party.” Continue reading

A Genetic Link Between Schizophrenia & Pot?

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

It is known that there is a link between schizophrenia and smoking marijuana. However, much to the chagrin of researchers, it is not ethical to randomly assign people to smoke pot to determine if they develop schizophrenia at some point. As a result, it remains unknown if smoking pot causes schizophrenia, if schizophrenics are more likely to smoke pot, or if some unknown third variable links the two. Continue reading

‘Female’ Hurricanes Kill More People

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Just like women, hurricanes are unpredictable. At least that’s what meteorologists before the 1970s thought, so that is why they gave all hurricanes feminine names. (Yes, this is a true story.) Then, society decided that gender stereotypes weren’t funny, and meteorologists — not wanting to be labeled “sexist” — implemented the current system in which hurricanes alternate between male and female names.  Continue reading

Suppress Your Horrible Childhood Memories

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Through movies and other forms of popular culture, everybody knows that suppressing memories of tragedies is bad for your mental health. Completely unbeknownst to you, those tragic images that are buried deep inside your unconscious can fester for years — decades even — affecting everything from your behavior to your innermost thoughts.

Or maybe not. New research published in PNAS suggests that this commonly held belief from pop psychology may not actually be true. Continue reading

Dream Analysis Reveals if You Are Psychotic

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the big problems with psychology and psychiatry is that diagnosing patients relies heavily upon subjective, qualitative observations instead of more rigorous quantitative methods. In fact, publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as DSM-5 and colloquially referred to as the “Bible of psychiatry”) caused a major controversy precisely because its recommendations made no effort to incorporate biological evidence. A field that refuses to incorporate quantifiable markers of disease is going to have a difficult time gaining credibility. Continue reading

Behavioral Change Can Reduce Migraine Pain, Frequency

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Migraine sufferers will do almost anything to prevent or reduce the pain of migraines. Different techniques seem to work for different people. For me, drinking coffee, laying down in a dark and quiet room or taking a hot shower is often helpful. If those methods don’t work, there are also many effective medications, such as sumatriptan and eletriptan. However, life would be much better if there was a more systematic, evidence-based approach to preventing migraines in the first place. Continue reading