February 24, 2010

Blogosphere recommendations

Mind Hacks

I have been checking out Mind Hacks since it featured a really nice review of my blog. The blog evolved out of the 2004 book by the same name, in which authors Tom Stafford (a cognitive neuroscientist) and Matt Webb (an engineer and designer) provide 100 exercises that teach readers neuroscience theories through games and tricks.

Among the scientists who contributed "hacks" is Vaughan Bell, who seems largely responsible for keeping the blog alive through his quirky and eclectic posts. Dr. Bell is a psychologist currently working in MedellĂ­n, Colombia and also a visiting research fellow in the Department of Psychological Medicine and Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.

Just to give you an idea of some of his near-daily offerings, he recently posted on everything from decorative skull shaping to dream smoking (that's when you dream about cigarettes after you quit smoking) to new research on cave paintings. I particularly enjoyed his link to an amazing Russian website that features historical art by and about the mad. It reminded me of when I was living in Paris at age 10 and was influenced by an exhibit of art by schizophrenics that my mother took me to at the Louvres museum. More somberly, the prolific Bell reported on a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health finding that it's a myth that teens think they are invincibile; actually, they greatly overestimate their chances of dying soon. I found it interesting, because the behaviors that result from either thinking error could look very similar.

The psychology of the angry American

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, my forensic psychology colleague Paul G. Mattiuzzi in Sacramento has an interesting analysis at his Everyday Psychology blog of the psychology of the pilot who intentionally crashed his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas on February 18.

Dr. Mattiuzzi based his analysis on the diatribes that Joe Stack wrote before taking his last flight. Although Mattiuzzi doesn't specifically reference the so-called Tea Party Movement, his comments on the "lunatic fringe" seem to apply to these disaffected white Americans:
There is in this country today, it seems to me, a gathering storm of mindlessly angry people who are "fed up" for reasons they can barely explain. There are people in the media who are telling them they should be angry, and perhaps more importantly, that they should be afraid….

[These] people have come to identify the government as an enemy of the people. They are grandiose in their belief that they understand it all better than anyone else. They are self-righteous in their indignation and in their resentment. They express a sense of entitlement, arguing that they have a right not just to their own opinions, but also to their own facts. They shout until no one can hear them and then complain that no one is listening. They expect their individual voice to prevail and then complain that they have been denied representation. They do not wish to contribute to the common good, but demand all the benefits they have been promised. Like Stack, they bemoan corporate greed while demanding that greed be unfettered.
Dr. Mattiuzzi hopes that acts like Joe Stack's do not inspire copycats. As he concludes (in my favorite lines from his essay):
Joe Stack wanted us to believe that in his abject failure, he had achieved success. It's as if he listened to only part of what Bob Dylan once sang ("there's no success like failure"), without bothering to stick around and hear the end of the lyric: "and failure's no success at all."
Mind Hacks is HERE. Everyday Psychology is HERE.