“Troubling Oddities” In A Social Psychology Data Set

By Neuroskeptic | February 6, 2016 12:16 pm

A potential case of data manipulation has been uncovered in a psychology paper. The suspect article is ‘Why money meanings matter in decisions to donate time and money’ (2013) from psychologists Promothesh Chatterjee, Randall L. Rose, and Jayati Sinha.

This study fell into the genre of ‘social priming‘, specifically ‘money priming’. The authors reported that making people think about cash reduces their willingness to help others, while thinking of credit cards has the opposite effect.

Now, a critical group of researchers led by Hal Pashler allege “troubling oddities” in the data. Pashler et al.’s paper is followed by three responses, one from each of the original authors (Chatterjee, Rose, Sinha), and finally by a summing-up from the critics. Pashler et al. recently published a failure to replicate several money priming effects.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, select, statistics, Top Posts

Would You Stick Pins In A Voodoo Doll of Your Child?

By Neuroskeptic | February 5, 2016 3:24 pm

Well? Would you…?

This was the question faced by the participants in a rather extraordinary series of studies described in a new paper from Illinois psychologists Randy J. McCarthy and colleagues. In total, 1081 parents with children aged under 18 were presented with an outline of a person, and asked to imagine that it was their own child. They were told to think of a time when their child made them angry. Finally, they were asked how many pins they would like to stick into the “doll” in order to “inflict harm on or physically punish their child”.

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Schizophrenia, Hubris and Science

By Neuroskeptic | February 1, 2016 3:14 pm



A press-release from the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute reaches astonishing heights of hyperbole in announcing a new schizophrenia study (Sekar et al. 2016). Here’s the release:

Genetic study provides first-ever insight into biological origin of schizophrenia

Landmark analysis reveals excessive “pruning” of connections between neurons in brain predisposes to schizophrenia

A landmark study, based on genetic analysis of nearly 65,000 people, has revealed that a person’s risk of schizophrenia is increased if they inherit specific variants in a gene related to “synaptic pruning” – the elimination of connections between neurons. The findings represent the first time that the origin of this devastating psychiatric disease has been causally linked to specific gene variants and a biological process…

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The Automatic Neuroscientist

By Neuroskeptic | January 30, 2016 6:01 am

We’ve learned this week that computers can play Go. But at least there’s one human activity they will never master: neuroscience. A computer will never be a neuroscientist. Except… hang on. A new paper just out in Neuroimage describes something called The Automatic Neuroscientist. Oh.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: fMRI, methods, papers, science, select, Top Posts

Plagiarism Is Theft – But Of What?

By Neuroskeptic | January 26, 2016 3:58 pm

It’s widely accepted that plagiarism is a bad thing. But why is this? What makes it wrong?


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethics, PIE, science, select, Top Posts

“Cat-gras Delusion” – The Man Who Saw His Cat As An Impostor

By Neuroskeptic | January 21, 2016 5:39 pm

Capgras syndrome is a strange disorder in which the sufferer becomes convinced that someone close to them has been replaced by an impostor.


Yet now, a new and even stranger variant of the syndrome has been reported – “Cat-gras”. This is the name coined by Harvard neurologists R. Ryan Darby and David Caplan in a new paper in the journal Neurocase. The authors describe the case of a man who believed that his cat was in fact a different cat.

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A Neural Response to “Trigger” Stimuli in PTSD?

By Neuroskeptic | January 17, 2016 8:04 am

A new paper in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience makes some exciting claims about the neurobiology of PTSD – but are the methods solid?

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Genetic Testing for Autism as an Existential Question

By Neuroskeptic | January 16, 2016 5:37 am

A special issue of the journal Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics features perspectives from various people who have experience with genetic testing. Many of the articles look interesting – with titles such as I Had Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease Without My Consent. But my attention was drawn to one piece in particular, called A Sister, a Father and a Son: Autism, Genetic Testing, and Impossible Decisions. The author of the article has chosen to remain anonymous.

The piece recounts how one autistic woman, the author’s sister, was faced with a very personal ethical decision.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: autism, ethics, genes, papers, select, Top Posts

The Myth of the Brain’s Pain Matrix?

By Neuroskeptic | January 9, 2016 8:51 am

How does the brain encode physical pain? Which brain areas (if any) respond only to painful stimuli?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: fMRI, papers, select, Top Posts, Uncategorized

Does Ageism Cause Alzheimer’s?

By Neuroskeptic | January 6, 2016 9:13 am

Last month, a neuroscience paper got a lot of attention for reporting that Negative Age Stereotypes Predict Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers.

It was greeted by headlines such as:

If you think elderly people are icky, you’re more likely to get Alzheimer’s (Healthline)

Lack of respect for elderly may be fuelling Alzheimer’s epidemic (The Telegraph)

Your attitude about aging may impact how you age (TIME)

The research, published in the journal Psychology and Aging, wasn’t about Alzheimer’s disease per se. Rather, the study claims that holding negative attitudes towards the elderly (ageism) is correlated with the later development of neurobiological changes, or biomarkers, linked to Alzheimer’s. The authors, from Yale University and the National Institute on Aging, were led by Becca Levy.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: media, mental health, papers, select, Top Posts


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