Brain's Idea

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I post about science, the brain and the mind. Find me on twitter: @rikunert

Richard Kunert
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  • December 18, 2012
  • 07:02 AM

How Long Should a Scientific Publication be?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

In one word: short. In two words: it depends. A neuroscience expert faces the challenge of 100 new neuroscience articles being published on a daily basis. S/he will never be able to read all that. So, what can be done to get your own publication known to the community? . 1) Know the reader and [...]... Read more »

  • December 9, 2012
  • 07:27 AM

When to switch on background music

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Some things of our daily lives have become so common, we hardly notice them anymore. Background music is one such thing. Whether you are in a supermarket, a gym or a molecular biology laboratory, you can constantly hear it. More than that, even in quiet environments like the office or the library people get out their mp3-players and play background music. Is this a form of boosting one’s productivity or are people enjoying music at the cost of getting things done? Research on the effect of bac........ Read more »

  • October 25, 2012
  • 05:10 AM

Obama should pray for sun – Psycho-meteorological effects on government approval

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Romney should pray for rain because rain improves a conservative’s chances of getting elected. Having covered this ‘Republican rain advantage’ in my last post, I will turn to a second reason why the presidential candidates should monitor the election day weather in this post. It turns out that the weather influences how well the government is perceived. Could this be exploited by the candidates?... Read more »

Mutz, M., & Kämpfer, S. (2011) …und nun zum Wetter: Beeinflusst die Wetterlage die Einschätzung von politischen und wirtschaftlichen Sachverhalten?. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 40(4), 208-226. info:/

  • October 21, 2012
  • 11:57 AM

Romney should pray for rain – psycho-meteorological effects on GOP vote share

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

I would not be surprised if Mitt Romney was going through the weather forecast for November 6th, the date of the next US presidential election. As the Republican candidate, he will know that his chances of being elected are higher if people are faced with pouring rain upon leaving for the ballot box. Research supports this opinion but the underlying reasons could give the Obama campaign a strategy to undo this Republican rain advantage.... Read more »

Carlson M, Charlin V, & Miller N. (1988) Positive mood and helping behavior: a test of six hypotheses. Journal of personality and social psychology, 55(2), 211-29. PMID: 3050025  

Keller MC, Fredrickson BL, Ybarra O, Côté S, Johnson K, Mikels J, Conway A, & Wager T. (2005) A warm heart and a clear head. The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition. Psychological science, 16(9), 724-31. PMID: 16137259  

  • October 16, 2012
  • 05:47 PM

The mysterious appeal of too loud music

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

At 39km above planet earth, would you have made Felix Baumgartner’s step off the platform? It was very dangerous, no doubt. But is this the reason why you wouldn’t have? People engage in many dangerous things. And I am not talking about skydiving. I mean the ordinary, every day kind of danger. Surely, some dangers can hardly be avoided, say road traffic (which is the leading cause of death for people in my age group). For others there is no obvious non-dangerous equivalent. But what if there........ Read more »

  • October 2, 2012
  • 01:07 PM

Is ADHD different around the globe? The role of research cultures

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

An illness is an illness wherever you are. Perhaps this is true for organic diseases but the cultural background can play a tremendous role in the progression and even diagnosis of mental disorders. However, what has been neglected is an appreciation of how culture affects the research underlying the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. As a consequence, our view on the disorder can change.... Read more »

Hodgkins P, Arnold LE, Shaw M, Caci H, Kahle J, Woods AG, & Young S. (2011) A systematic review of global publication trends regarding long-term outcomes of ADHD. Frontiers in psychiatry / Frontiers Research Foundation, 84. PMID: 22279437  

Polanczyk G, de Lima MS, Horta BL, Biederman J, & Rohde LA. (2007) The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. The American journal of psychiatry, 164(6), 942-8. PMID: 17541055  

  • September 26, 2012
  • 07:13 PM

canine confirmation confound – lessons from poorly performing drug detection dogs

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Intuitively, the use of police dogs as drug detectors makes sense. Dogs are known to have a better sense of smell than their human handlers. Furthermore, they cooperate easily. Still, compared to the generally good picture sniffer dogs have in the public eye, their performance as drug detectors in real life is terrible. The reason why scent dogs get used anyway holds important lessons for behavioural researchers working with animals or humans.... Read more »

Doyen S, Klein O, Pichon CL, & Cleeremans A. (2012) Behavioral priming: it's all in the mind, but whose mind?. PloS one, 7(1). PMID: 22279526  

Hickey S, McIlwraith F, Bruno R, Matthews A, & Alati R. (2012) Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?. Drug and alcohol review, 31(6), 778-83. PMID: 22404555  

Lit L, Schweitzer JB, & Oberbauer AM. (2011) Handler beliefs affect scent detection dog outcomes. Animal cognition, 14(3), 387-94. PMID: 21225441  

NSW Ombudsman. (2006) Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001. Sydney: Office of the New SouthWales Ombudsman. info:other/

  • September 16, 2012
  • 01:23 PM

Risk vs. Opportunity across the life-span: Risky choices decline with age

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Risk taking is somewhat enigmatic. On the one hand, risky choices in every day life – like drug abuse or drink driving – peak in adolescence. Never again in life is the threat to die from easily preventable causes as great. On the other hand, in laboratory experiments this risky choice peak in adolescence is absent. Instead, the readiness to take a gamble simply goes down the older you are. How can we explain this paradox? Perhaps, we should look at a tribe in the Amazon rain forest for answ........ Read more »

Everett, D. (2008) Don't sleep, there are snakes. London: Profile Books. info:/

  • September 9, 2012
  • 09:27 AM

Improving Eye-Witness testimony by undoing false memories

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Do you remember August 31st, 15 years ago? Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris along with her partner Dodi Fayed and others. Do you remember seeing the video of the crash? If so, you share that memory with 44% of the participants James Ost and colleagues recruited in 2002 in Britain.

This memory is false.

[...]... Read more »

  • September 1, 2012
  • 08:53 AM

Extreme neural adaptation – how musical ability is lost through focal dystonia

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

‘There was a question of not having a purpose in life. Just floundering’. Leon Fleischer was a true musical prodigy. By the age of sixteen he performed with the New York Philharmonic. He was called ‘the pianist find of the century’. Suddenly, in 1964, he lost control over his right hand. His fingers would simply [...]... Read more »

  • August 25, 2012
  • 08:32 AM

Who dunnit? The avoidable crisis of scientific authorship

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

This year, Germany’s highest court reached a damning verdict concerning academic pay. It is so low that it is in breach of the constitution. Why do research then? One reason is that it gives you prestige – which often precedes money. Brain areas are still talked about in terms of Brodmann areas and not Smith [...]... Read more »

  • August 7, 2012
  • 02:48 AM

Mimicking infants rather than adults – how infants choose their models.

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Parents are often afraid of what happens once their children hit puberty and stop emulating their parents. Recent research suggests that this fear should start a lot earlier: in infancy. Of course, infants need their parents to learn but they need other infants when it comes to imitating things they already know. Two recent articles [...]... Read more »

  • July 31, 2012
  • 01:23 AM

Three fun ways to have three hands – for you at home

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Tired of having been born with only two hands? Jealous of Indian goddesses? Doubtful about Psychology and Neuroscience’s ability to replicate findings? Then this set of exercises is for you. No need for any technical equipment. If all goes well you will grow* a hand as part of all this. You will have the strong [...]... Read more »

Botvinick, M., & Cohen, J. (1998) Rubber hands 'feel' touch that eyes see. Nature, 391(6669), 756. PMID: 9486643  

Ehrsson, H.H., Holmes, N.P., & Passingham, R.E. (2005) Touching a rubber hand: feeling of body ownership is associated with activity in multisensory brain areas. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 25(45), 10564-10573. PMID: 16280594  

Guterstam, A., Petkova, V.I., & Ehrsson, H.H. (2011) The illusion of owning a third arm. PloS one, 6(2). PMID: 21383847  

  • July 16, 2012
  • 05:35 AM

Psychological principles as guidelines for effective PowerPoint presentations

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

You probably wouldn’t have much difficulty if I asked you to imagine a bad PowerPoint presentation. Nowadays one sits through so many of them that confusing, boring or annoying slide shows are sometimes perceived as the norm rather than the exception. A research team from the universities of Stanford, Amsterdam and Harvard headed by Stephen [...]... Read more »

  • July 2, 2012
  • 02:55 AM

How are invisible colours possible?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

To some people I am half colour blind even though I can see everything from blue to red like most people. For them it is odd that I can only see colours when they are directly presented to me. More than that, I can only see colours for which there are proper words. These people [...]... Read more »

Hubbard, E.M., Brang, D., & Ramachandran, V.S. (2011) The cross-activation theory at 10. Journal of Neuropsychology, 152-177. DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-6653.2011.02014.x  

  • June 20, 2012
  • 03:54 AM

Red in the Head – Psychology Predicts Portugal to Win Euro 2012

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Is it possible to predict with great certainty who will be crowned Europe’s best football team this summer? No, but we are flooded with a barrage of statistics which try anyway, e.g. ‘Spain won the last competitions at European and World levels but no one ever went on to win the following European Championship after such a run, therefore Spain won’t win’. Because I neither like unreliable statistics nor understand all that much about football it is time to turn to Psychology and see what........ Read more »

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