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Category Archive: Psychology and Cognition

Jul 18 2014

Tribalism and the Myth of the Diseased Immigrant

As we watch the right wing unconscionably attack thousands of child refugees who have come here for safety and opportunity, partly with the old trope about diseased immigrants, Jesse Singal notes that this reaction is based on tribalism and fear of the other that is deeply ingrained in us.

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Apr 25 2014

The Backfire Effect and Human Nature

Big Thing has an essay about the backfire effect, the name given to a well-established psychological phenomenon whereby people actually become more entrenched in a false belief when confronted with evidence that shows that belief to be incorrect.

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Apr 18 2014

Even Atheists Distrust Atheists?

Hemant calls attention to a new study from Will Gervais, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky who has focused much of his scholarly attention to atheism and atheists. That study finds that people will jump at the chance to view a bad person as an atheist even in the absence of any evidence of …

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Feb 26 2014

Stop Calling Religion a Mental Illness

Chris Stedman has a column in which he lists five reasons atheists should not call religion a mental illness. He quotes quite a bit from FTB’s own Miri Mogilevsky and I agree with both of them and I wish that people would stop saying this.

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Feb 17 2014

Sully on Cheney and Rumsfeld

Here’s a great example of why, despite his sometimes irritating grandiosity and other flaws, I still really respect Andrew Sullivan. In two recent posts he takes on Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and the fact that neither of them has the slightest inclination to ever question themselves or their decisions. On Cheney:

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Dec 09 2013

Eyewitness Testimony and the Failings of Memory

Sharon Hill has an article in the Huffington Post about the many failings and misunderstandings of how our memory operates and the implications for the use of eyewitness testimony in criminal trials. She starts with a fact that is now very well-established in science:

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Dec 03 2013

You Will Be Cheerful, Or Else!

Barbara Ehrenreich takes on the ridiculous and downright creepy ideology of “positive thinking,” which is closely related to the colossal fraud of motivational speaking and “life coaching” and other ways to separate credulous losers from their money. A world without Dale Carnegie, Ziz Ziglar and Tony Robbins would be a much better place (yes, I …

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Dec 02 2013

Why It’s Easier to Be Religious

Chris Mooney has an interesting article at Mother Jones listing seven reasons why it’s easier to believe in God and reject evolution. I think most of this is right on the money and it speaks to the question of whether religious belief is, in at least some sense, innate in human beings. A few of …

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Oct 02 2013

Can Free Will Truly Exist In a Mechanical Universe?

This is one of the key questions in science and philosophy, but I confess that I have not thought deeply about it at all. I read Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained more than a decade ago, but didn’t understand much of it. And I’d really like to hear thoughtful people who have grasped with this question …

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Dec 04 2012

Conservatives, Liberals and Brain Differences

ProCon has put together a list of 16 studies on the differences between conservatives and liberals in terms of their brains and their personalities. This is an area that fascinates me and some of these specific results are very interesting. For instance:

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