Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Neuropsy

Be Mindful of the Gap

Credit: MarekPhotoDesign.com

Credit: MarekPhotoDesign.com

By Tim Hannan

The lack of evidence for mindfulness as a therapeutic technique raises serious questions for health and education professionals.

To Sleep, Perchance to Learn

By Tim Hannan

New research finds that we can learn while we’re asleep under certain conditions.

We spend one-third of our life asleep, but those who don’t seem to appreciate the joys of oblivion at the end of a day bemoan that this is a waste. It has often been speculated that the time spent asleep could be used productively to learn verbal information, such as a new language, although evidence for this has been so limited that some neuroscientists have declared it impossible. Now, a new study has found that if complex auditory information is presented at exactly the right time in the sleep cycle, learning of verbal material may indeed occur.

The Dark Side

By Tim Hannan

A new study suggests that dark personality traits are the expression of a single underlying disposition.

Both the course of human history and the events of everyday life provide many examples of the worst of human nature. These behaviours don’t seem to be diminishing in frequency given the prevalence of serial killer documentaries on Netflix, the findings of the Royal Commission into banking, and the off-season transgressions of rugby league players.

What Makes Words Funny?

By Tim Hannan

A new study predicts the most amusing words in the English language.

Two Canadian psychologists walked into a lab. They opened a Funk & Wagnells and – fortuitously coinciding with Neuropsy’s 50th column – tried to work out which are the funniest words in the English Language. While humour is strongly determined by personal preferences, it is evident that some events and stories are found amusing by almost everyone, at least within a cultural group at a particular point in time.

Among the many explanations of humour offered over the centuries, contemporary theories have focused on two main notions.

Too Many Choices

By Tim Hannan

Decisions are most easily made when the right number of options are available.

The Moving Finger Writes, and Tells a Ghost Story

Credit: Couperfield/Adobe

Credit: Couperfield/Adobe

By Tim Hannan

A reduced sense of personal agency persuades Ouija board users to believe in ghostly messages.

Ouija board users believe that a spirit is able to send messages to the living by moving a pointer across a lettered board. While the veracity of these beliefs may be readily debunked, psychologists have long been interested in understanding why devotees are so readily convinced that the movement is not of their own or others’ making. A new study has now proposed that participants are unknowingly taking turns at controlling the board, and that it is this incomplete awareness of their own control that encourages the feeling that an external agent is at work.

Rise and Shine, Soldier!

By Tim Hannan

Army research suggests that the timing of your caffeine hit is more important than the amount consumed.

CC0 Public Domain

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On

By Tim Hannan

Extreme re-listening to popular songs reflects personality type.

Music plays an important role in our lives, and new digital technologies make it possible to access just about any song at the touch of a button. So why does my teenage daughter listen to the same few songs repeatedly? As far as I can tell, it is not due to any musical merit, as the selections in question all seem to me to be indistinguishable and utterly forgettable. (In defence of my parenting, I would add that her musical taste is not the result of deficiencies in her upbringing, as she was exposed to only classical music from the time of her birth – Dylan, Sondheim and Lehrer).

The Criminal Brain

By Tim Hannan

Antisocial behaviour after brain injury is associated with lesions to a single neural network.

Seeing Is Believing

By Tim Hannan

Illusory pattern perception is associated with a belief in conspiracy theories.