And the finalists for the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize are…

3QD_not a finalist

That’s a trick question!

You can still vote for one of the nominees for the 3QD Science Prize 2014 until September 1st at 11:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time!

The top 20 most-voted-for posts (out of a grand total of 85, so that makes 23.5% of the entries) will make it into the finals. Seems like pretty good odds, eh? Much higher than applying for a grant.

Imagine now that you could lobby for federal funding via popular vote:

“I deserve to be among the scientific One Percenters. Vote for my ground breaking research on Bunny Hopping as an animal model for compulsive drug taking behavior and I will cure addiction .”

The Neurocritic has two posts nominated for the 3QD Prize:


{Looks like I should not abandon my day job for a lucrative career in science blogging any time soon…}

For Your Consideration: In the event that you haven’t cast your ballot for one of the other nominees, there’s still time to end your search for meaning and VOTE FOR EXISTENTIAL NEUROSCIENCE (alphabetically filed under “The Neurocritic”).

Otherwise I will be obligated to add another Banner of Failure to the sidebar of my main blog.

Thank you, and good night.

Continue reading


Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st Century (2011-2014)


Like much of life, I’m afraid…

THIS is the true meaning of Negative Psychology, my friends. Melancholia and Futility.

Don’t be fooled by false idols claiming that followers of “Negative Psychology” are all bullies out to destroy others’ reputations, with public shaming as their primary motivation.

I am here to take back the term “Negative Psychology” as an outlook (or mood or stance) in opposition to Positive Psychology, which is mainly for rich white people.

And in fact, sometimes it’s positive to be negative — as Dr. Margaret Nichols, a clinical psychologist, explains:

I acknowledge that for many endeavors, having a positive and confident attitude increases the odds of your success. But as a total life strategy – it’s got some major flaws.  For starters,  unless you’re unusually lucky, as you go through life you will encounter numerous situations where good is NOT rewarded, evil goes unpunished, and bad shit happens to you that you can’t control,  and it happens for no particular reason, let alone a good one.

And positive thinking can get you in trouble here.  For the entire ‘positive thinking’ philosophy rests on two flawed assumptions:  That most of our life is under our control, if only we approach it correctly;  and that things that we can’t control are at least governed by laws  that are fair and just.  In short, the principles of “visualize and you will attain it” and “what goes around comes around.”

…and when bad things happen, it’s all your fault!

Of course, this has nothing to do with academic psychology research or the social psychology replication movement. It’s simply that I didn’t agree with the co-opting of the term for use in the current “replication debate“.  But I’m not a psychologist, and I’m operating outside this debate. I was actively trying to avoid the acrimony, in fact, because I found it depressing.

Finally, “public shaming” has never been my goal (assuming I was included among “a handful of other blogs devoted to exposing bad science”). For the record, I think shame is corrosive, which is laid bare in The Destructive Power of Shame.

But in the end, this blog post is futile, much like everything else I write.


Coupland wall

Images: Douglas Coupland, Slogans for the 21st Century (2011-2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery. NOTE: the artist encouraged photography and tagging of his work


Jonah Lehrer on Jonah Lehrer

Feb 12 2013

Knight Foundation: Informed & Engaged Communities

Media Learning Seminar 2013

Read: “In first public comments since plagiarism scandal, Jonah Lehrer blames ‘arrogance, need for attention’ for lies” on Knight Blog by Elise Hu

Jonah Lehrer speaks

Advance to 60 min and wait for buffering. Lehrer takes podium at 1:02.

“I’ve been asked to give a talk about decision-making. I’m going to focus today on bad decisions. On the causes and repercussions of failure. The failure I’ll be talking about is my own.”


ADDENDUM (Feb 13 2013):

Just when you think he’s expressing sincere remorse and apologizing for specific transgressions (including plagiarizing Christian Jarrett), he digresses into an irrelevant ramble about unconscious bias in forensic science. By comparing his deliberate journalistic transgressions to FBI fingerprint errors that resulted in wrongful arrest, he diminishes personal responsibility for his own errors and negates his prior confession and apology. Sad indeed.

He supposedly longs to use what we know about the psychology of deceit and the neuroscience of broken trust to “fix” himself.  He also applies Dan Ariely’s work on the ubiquity of cheating (in small ways) to justify his own actions. “The human mind is a confabulation machine.” Then why don’t we see similar scandals every day of the week?

Lehrer reveals “a consistent asymmetry in the ways in which I noticed error” to claim that he was blind to his own failings, but never to the mistakes of others.

“If I’m going to regain some semblance of self-respect, then I need the help of others. I need my critics to tell me what I’ve gotten wrong if only so they can show myself I’m able to listen.”

Um, Spindle Neurons and Science Writing in 2007, Depression’s Cognitive Downside in 2010, and Revisiting Depression’s Cognitive Downside in 2011.1 Not to mention the many many book reviews and blog posts of others. See, for example, this recap by Christopher Chabris.

Self-Sabotage vs. Hubris and Narcissism

I’m reminded of my recent post on The Neuroanatomical Correlates of Self-Sabotage. It described the unconscious strategy of self-handicapping, or slacking off and then compiling a list of reasons for why you didn’t succeed, as a way to preserve self-esteem. Lehrer is indeed trying to preserve his ego and self-dignity, but the external blaming routine seems motivated by narcissism instead of being a shame-avoidance mechanism. In order to regain his writing career, he admits that he must join the rest of us, the unwashed masses of fact-checkers and footnoters.

However, I have no real insight into what his motivations might be. Cynics point to the $20,000 speaking fee he received from the Knight Foundation. But given the uproar and the outrage and the tweet wall of shame, was it really worth it?


1  Despite being THE Neurocritic, I was never comfortable piling on during the original Jonah-bashing, because I thought it was mean. Back in the ScienceBlogs days, I occasionally commented on Jonah’s Frontal Cortex blog.  He’d reply back sometimes and other times linked to my blog. I don’t actually condone personal attacks, and perhaps this low level of personal interaction made me even more loath to do so.

Trends in Spam Commenting


The latest in spam comments on blogs is to incorporate a portion of the post into your comment. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Orthopedics & Knee Center, you can still leave comments about Glutamate Agonist LY2140023.

Here’s the routine:

(1) Hire a ridiculous SEO company that employs low-paid workers from the Philippines.

(2) Have them do Google searches like this:

Search Engine – Google: inurl:blogspot “post a comment” -“comments closed” -“you must be logged in” “ADHD”

(3) Have them leave comments like this:

“Scott”  in Manila (IP Address has left a new comment on your post “Born This Way?“:

Such a great article it was this is a surface rendering of B.W.’s brain viewing the medial left hemisphere surface with thickened cortex highlighted, which approximates the lesion site. In which was discontinued after a few visits.During ages seven to nine B.W.’s parents describe a ’cause and effect problem’ in which he would behave badly and be punished and the following day would engage in the same behavior that led to the punishment. Thanks for sharing this article.


Here’s my advice:

Hey classicphotoboothrental, heathersandersonphotography, abetterexposure, thelandings-cda, jessesbluff-spokane!! Stop hiring idiotic SEO firms that use spammers from the Philippines to leave comments on blogs. Especially blogs that are completely unrelated to the product(s) you’re trying to sell.

You’re wasting your money and everyone’s time! It doesn’t work!*


* Although I suppose spammers from the Philippines need jobs too…

The Journal of Lady Gaga Studies

Gaga Stigmata


 Established in March 2010 as the first mover in Gaga studies, Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga is a technological journal that critically-creatively participates in the cultural project of shock pop phenomenon Lady Gaga. Keeping with the spirit of our zeitgeist, Gaga Stigmata moves at the speed of pop.


Here’s a sample essay that takes a psychoanalytic approach to the Marry the Night video:

The Warrior Queen: Marry The Night, Trauma, Regression, and Recovery

By K.M. Zwick

. . .

Sigmund Freud posited that sex (creation/joining) and violence (destruction/separation) are attractive to the most primal and perhaps truest internal aspects of all of us. He called us “polymorphously perverse,” which means that what we really want is often considered “perverted,” linking sex, fetishes, violence, comfort, nurturance, joy, and death together in so many different ways and, ahem, positions, that our unconscious is basically a clusterfuck of perversion, desire, and fantasy. Modern-day analysts might suggest there is no such thing as perversion, per se, in terms of what is desired within the mind, because perversion is so ubiquitous. Additionally, what is consensually enacted between two (or more) individuals might not be considered perverse as much as it would be considered honest – an honest engagement with what is often a combination of sex and death. Simultaneous creation and destruction. Our libidinal instincts intertwined with our aggressive ones can create powerful wishes, fantasies, fetishes, and proclivities that are not only intensely sexual but are also intensely mortal; that is, destructive. It is, perhaps, the constant repression of our deepest fantasies that leads to neurosis; it is, perhaps, the denial of the interplay between sex and death – pleasure and aggression – that results in anxious and escapist symptoms in so many. Telling ourselves that sexual and aggressive fantasies are “bad” or “wrong” is likely to lead to puritanical subversion of what is most basic, and therefore authentic, in us. Freud might have argued that we are not sick when we are in touch with our most primal instincts (in safe, consensual fashions) but rather that we are most sick when we deny their existence, relevance, and the pleasurable effect of such instincts.



The Neurocritic Named a Top 50 Blog by a Nursing School LinkBait Site



50 Best Blogs for Physiology Students

Despite considerable advances in science and technology, the human body still harbors a litany of secrets. Biology students, regardless of whether or not they elect to go on and practice medicine, frequently enjoy exploring anatomy and physiology. Doing so provides them with a first-person look at the myriad beautiful nuances of how every bit works together. And, with the internet being as it is, plenty of online resources exist to serve as valuable supplements to their classroom studies. More than the following 50 are available to visit and discuss, of course, but they certainly make for a nice starting point.


And for Neurology blogs we have:

44. The Neurocritic: Psychopharmacology and human brain imaging blend with cognitive and neuroscience, resulting in a very provocative read dissecting the latest relevant medical and health news.

Also included in this category are Mind Hacks, Frontal Cortex, NeuroLogica Blog, Neurophilosophy, Neuroanthropology, Neuroskeptic,, NeuroDojo, and Talking Brains.

via @mocost

The Neurocritic Not Selected for Open Laboratory


Since everyone else is announcing that their posts have been chosen to appear in The Open Laboratory, the annual printed anthology that compiles “the best writing on science blogs” in convenient book form, I thought I would publicly announce that Ketamine for Depression: Yay or Neigh? was not selected.

But congratulations to The Open Lab Finalists! (and to editor Jason Goldman for all his hard work).

The Neurocritic Named Top Blog by a Psychology LinkBait Site

…and that site would be Psychology Degree But hey, it’s probably the only time The Neurocritic will named Top Blog by anyone…


50 Mind-Bending Psychology Blogs

The field of psychology unites philosophy and biology, the sciences and the humanities, the physical and the metaphysical. Its vast scope and immediate relevance makes it one of the most popular majors on college campuses and a fascinating subject for professionals and laypeople alike. The following fifty blogs capture the beauty and complexity of modern psychological research and practice.

Our Top Five