Murder and the Digital Self

Social media have changed us into directors of scripts of our own lives. This creates a detachment and possibly a change in "self", making us spectators and would-be journalists who act out our scripted fantasies, which in some tragic cases such as the Virginia live TV shootings, include murder.

ISIS Savagery Explained

Carrying out beheadings and other extreme acts is unthinkable for most people, but the right cocktail of factors can make anyone an extremist.

Four Reasons Why Luis Suarez Bites

Luis Suarez's biting is inseparable from his soccer genius. to exercise it, he has to let automatic brain systems operate by toning down the inhibitory systems which would prevent undesirable habits like biting being released.

The Danger That Lurks Inside Vladimir Putin's Brain

Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea are driven partly by a psychological profile characterised by contempt for others, and this in turn is a natural outcome of the near-unfettered power he has held directly or by proxy for the last 15 years in Russia. Appeasement of his actions will only reinforce this contempt and strong sanctions are the only way of addressing this.

The Personality Profile of Leaders Who Make War

Leaders who have a personality profile which includes a high need for power are more likely to take their countries to war. After more than 15 years in power, Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing many of the symptoms of the "hubris syndrome"—a set of personality changes which afflict most leaders who hold power for more than ten years.

Embrace Boredom to Become More Creative

Boredom is an emotion with a purpose. It lets our minds range free and free us from current goals so that new, perhaps more interesting ones, can spring to mind more easily. Boredom stimulates creativity.

Can Smartphones Reduce Your Creativity?

Constant smartphone use can become a bad habit like nail biting. If every few seconds you are checking your smartphone, beware - you might be sapping your creativity and worsening your memory. Doing nothing can sometimes be the very best brain trainer.

Madiba: The Gray Areas of Greatness

Lord Acton said that power corrupts but he went on to say that "great men are almost always bad men." Is this true of Nelson Mandela? He did bad things but the good things he did reshaped him to transform him into the inspirational person he was. Everyone does some bad some time, including psychotherapists and denying the bad can lead to its perpetuation.

Success and Fear of Failure in Sport and Life

The struggle between approach and avoidance is one of the most fundamental in the human mind. Approach focuses on rewards and fosters optimism, confidence and good motivated performance. Avoidance focuses on punishment and triggers wariness, anxiety, inhibition and doubt. Each can become self-fulfilling, with success breeding success, and failure breeding failure.

What Motivates You?

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? The big three motivators are affiliation, achievement and power, David McLelland showed. But often what we do doesn't match well with our motivational profile. For example, to be a good manager, you shouldn’t have too great a need to be liked and you might be happier in a support position rather than being boss.

Accidents and the Driver's Brain

Keeping your mind on routine tasks is one of the hardest challenges for the human brain. But without it, the mind wanders, and the result when people are in control of tons of fast-moving steel can be carnage. How does our brain keep focused under conditions of routine when drifting into 'automatic pilot' is so temptingly easy?

Are Women Less Greedy than Men?

Men figure more than women in financial scandals and more often are drug addicts and compulsive gamblers. Greed arises from 'mainlining' of powerful reward agents directly into the brain's reward system, including drugs such as cocaine and activities such as sex, power and gambling. Does men's greed distorts personality and morals in the way drugs can do?

Can Your Posture Make You Feel in Control and Less Stressed?

Fake it till you make it: Research shows that adopting the trappings of being top dog—by an expansive posture for instance—boosts testosterone and hence triggers feelings of confidence. Power poses like this even lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So pay attention to your posture and make sure you aren't sabotaging your confidence by low power stances.

What Two Things Most Shape our Lives? Love and Attention

Love and attention shape our lives more profoundly than anything else. Experience physically reshapes our brains, but only if attended to and attention is a set of skills which have to be shaped in children by a loving carer. Emotional problems disrupt attention and can cause cognitive and learning problems, while poor attention makes it hard to control emotions.

Genetics as Social Work? A Thought Is as Real as an Atom.

Many billions of dollars more are spent in biological research into mental disorder than in psychological or social research, yet biological research has largely failed to produce new treatments. Psychology is no less 'real' than physics or genetics and real progress in finding new treatments will only come when biologists, psychologists and social scientists pull together

Margaret Thatcher UK Death Celebrations Reveal Sick Society

The widespread public celebrations of Margaret Thatcher's death by some sections of the UK population reveal a dangerous loss of one of humanity's most basic social instincts, which is to show respect or reverence for the extinction of a human consciousness. Would the death of a key figure on either side of USA's acrid political divide yield similar responses?

Women, Power and Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher showed that the limits to women's power and leadership are social, not biological. But she also showed that women are almost as vulnerable to the cognitively and emotionally distorting effects of power.

The North Korean Dictator Is Behaving Rationally

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un is behaving rationally. The survival of his dictatorship depends on maintaining a sense of threat from the outside world, and empowering his impoverished people with images of military power and nuclear attack. But absolute power distorts rational judgment and there is a real risk of miscalculation.

The Lazy Doctor and the Drunk Electrician

ADHD is being grossly over diagnosed, with around one in five US high school students having been labelled with this disorder. The adolescent brain is uniquely malleable and any drugs can produce long term changes - no-one knows what these might be in the future. Drugging the adolescent brain without good medical cause is like having a drunk electrician rewire your house.

What the Pope’s Resignation Tells Us About His Brain

One of the less commonly recognized effects of age on the brain is a diminished ability to recognize your own errors, leading to an impaired ability to be aware of your own reduced capacities. Pope Benedict's decision to resign is a remarkable demonstration of self control and intact cognitive functionin someone who holds enormous power, the first pope since 1415 to do so.

The Inauguration of a Black President

For the second time in history, a black man is being publically inaugurated as US president. Hopefully, supporters and opponents will come together to celebrate a democratic system working well, and that a slowly improving economy will raise peoples’ mood. But there can be little doubt that the fact that he is African-American fuels bitterness for some.

Brain Vacations: Stress, Boredom and Travel

Life is a balancing act between over- and under-stimulation and vacations may reduce stressful stimulation or give our brains a nourishing boost of novelty. Novelty stimulates the brain and travelling with a purpose as I did recently, in the footsteps of the great Italian painter Caravaggio, left me with more vivid memories than other journeys I have made.

Psychology of the Fiscal Cliff

On Tuesday the world may tip over the Fiscal Cliff and plunge into a new global recession. If this happens, the psychology of the relationship between President Obama and Republican representatives will have played a part in the disaster.

School Shootings Solved Forever

In 1996 there was a shooting at an elementary school in Scotland. 16 children ages 5-6 were killed, along with one teacher. The following year, the UK banned the private ownership of all cartridge ammunition handguns, regardless of caliber. There have been no school shootings since.

The Weapons of Male Violent Fantasy

On the same day as 20 children and five teachers were murdered in Connecticut, 22 children in a Chinese elementary school were stabbed but none died. Male violent fantasies are common and are nurtured by violent games and media but seldom enacted, too seldom to be predicted. Easy access to assault weapons means a high death rate and the only solution is to limit access.

What 3 E's of New York Changed My Brain?

Big city stimulation can rejuvenate your brain neurologically by the chemical effects of excitation, expectation and empowerment. Novelty is one of the most potent of brain-changing substances, acting via the chemical messenger noradrenaline to stimulate new brain connections and even new brain cells. How do we capture New York's recipe for other cities in the world?

A New Pharaoh and the Fiscal Cliff

The fiscal cliff conflict may annoy us but democratic checks and balances act as antidotes to the inevitable effects of power on leaders' brains. Unfettered power's neurological effects include reduced self-awareness as well as a loss of judgment, narcissism and a belief in one's indispensability. Egypt's President Morsi is at risk of this illness.

The Power Struggle of Relationships

Why do some otherwise decent people treat their partners badly? One answer is that they become corrupted by the power of holding the emotional cards in the relationship. Power makes us see others as objects, and that can result in contempt. Contempt triggers ill-treatment and then cognitive dissonance rationalizes it by blackening the partner's character.

Petraeus, Sex and the Aphrodisiac of Power

Power is a potent drug with aphrodisiac properties for both leaders and the admirers who cluster around them. We will lose many fine leaders if we condemn them for slips in self-control caused by power.

The Racial Presidential Race

Racial attitudes may determine who becomes president in a highly polarised contest. Though Obama's achievements may have shaped the brains of millions of Americans, reducing the unconscious prejudices of some, ultimately democracy should be decided on rational decisions about policies and not unconscious gut responses.