To make sense of human voices, we rely on senses beyond hearing. The songs of Taylor Swift can be sweet and soft. Lady Gaga’s singing feels dark. Johnny Cash’s voice was low and rough. That’s because voice is not just sound: it can be seen and heard, but also tasted and touched. The sound we … Continue reading Rough, smooth or deep: why the sound of a voice is multisensory
The first decades of the 20th century saw a raft of psychological terms fall into popular usage. Freudian notions of ‘denial’ and ‘displacement’, ‘projection’ and ‘transference’, were the first to become part of everyday language; thanks to Alfred Adler, feelings of ‘inferiority’ and ‘superiority’ (and the forms of compensation that accompanied the former) were soon … Continue reading What was the beguiling spell of Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’?
We all know what Neanderthals looked like: the beetling brow ridges, thick nose, long skull, massive bone structure – and probably red hair and freckled skin. You might do a double-take if you saw one on the subway, wearing a suit, or you might not. But you would surely look twice at the hunter-gatherers that … Continue reading When evolution is not a slow dance but a fast race to survive
Crabs and lobsters have a tough time at the hands of humans. In most countries, they are excluded from the scope of animal welfare legislation, so nothing you do to them is illegal. The result is that they are treated in ways that would clearly be cruel if inflicted on a vertebrate. This might in … Continue reading Crabs and lobsters deserve protection from being cooked alive
Organised violence – the term war boils down to – has long been a unifier of peoples. Archeological evidence shows that nearly half those who lived during the last part of the Stone Age in Nubia, an area along the southern reaches of the Nile River, died violent deaths. Many other tribal societies through the … Continue reading War once helped build nations, now it destroys thema
Metaphysics is the attempt to understand how existence works by examining the building blocks of reality, the distinctions between mental and physical entities, and the fundamental questions of being and reality. But metaphysics is not only an arcane branch of philosophy: human beings use metaphysical assumptions to navigate the world. Assumptions about what exists and … Continue reading Which is more fundamental: processes or things?
‘You said that you’re afraid of dying. What are you afraid of?’ ‘Oblivion. Of not being alive, quite simply, of not feeling life, not smelling it.’ From an interview with Philip Roth by Martin Krasnik, The Guardian, 14 December 2005At some stage in evolution, it must have dawned on human beings that the death of … Continue reading Humans are the only animals who crave oblivion through suicide
Trust has always been a dangerous business. Every instance of it brings the risk of let-down, disloyalty and betrayal. Still, in recent times, the vulnerability inherent in trust seems more pronounced. Technological advancements enabling increased access to information mean that awareness of corporate scandals, fake news and political lies has increased exponentially: Volkswagen; the Panama … Continue reading Who can you trust in a post-truth world?
Last night, most of us went to the safety and comfort of our beds before drifting off to a night’s sleep. For some, this was the last conscious action before an episode of sleepwalking. Recent research from Stanford University shows that up to 4 per cent of adults might have had such an experience. In … Continue reading Sleepwalking is the result of a survival mechanism gone awry
Cast your mind back over the past week. How many times were you tempted to act dishonestly? Perhaps you were given too much change at the pub and deliberated whether to tell the barman. Maybe you thought of lying about your weekend plans in order to avoid an awkward dinner party. Dishonesty is a common … Continue reading Dishonesty gets easier on the brain the more you do it