The frailty and error-proneness of human cognition and the decision to torture

Under many conditions (including difficult and stressful ones), people rely on heuristics (cognitive shortcuts that enable decisions) and are prone to effects of social processes such as groupthink. We have a guide from more than fifty years of data in experimental psychology and experimental brain research to understand how human rationality and reason is bounded… Read More

Counterfactuals and metacognition regarding ticking time bombs and torture: A lesson from Mel Gibson

Payback, a Mel Gibson thriller from 1999, is a tough and visceral film, with an extraordinary torture scene involving a hammer. Gibson plays Porter, a hardened, unpleasant enforcer and killer, who is possessed of a curious sense of honour (and seemingly lacking a forename). Payback nicely shows that torture can be used to extract information, but… Read More

Should you rely on first instincts when answering a multiple choice exam? From The Conversation

Should you rely on first instincts when answering a multiple choice exam? (Reposted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives Licence) Justin J Couchman, Albright College Often, you’ll hear people say that you should “trust your instincts” when making decisions. But are first instincts always the best? Psychological research has shown many times that no, they… Read More

Brain for Business @SciGalleryDub: The Neuro-Psychology of Person and Brand Perception Wed, Oct 14, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 – 18:00 to 19:15 €5 – PRE-BOOKING ESSENTIAL Paccar Theatre [Further Information and Booking Details] The human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Brain For Business is a new series of events at Science Gallery Dublin, that explores the latest findings from neuroscience and psychology and applies them to… Read More

Our paper, ‘Evidence for Spatially-Responsive Neurons in the Rostral Thalamus’ is now available for download

We have a new paper which explores the spatial functions of the rostral thalamus, a complex group of thalamic nuclei. Here, we concentrate on analysing the functions of three of these nuclei (the anteromedial nucleus, the parataenial nucleus and nucleus reuniens). We show that there are place cells, head direction cells, and border/perimeter cells present in these nuclei.… Read More

(Released from behind the paywall – my piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education) The Neuroscience of Interrogation: Why Torture Doesn’t Work

Here is the piece I wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the American Psychological Association’s Independent Review on its collusion in the programme of enhanced interrogation. I focus here on the broader context. My book, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation is available on Amazon. deals with these and related issues in depth. It will be released in November, 2015.… Read More