Richard Stephens Ph.D.

Richard Stephens, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University. Richard researches the psychology of emotion, including how swearing can help people to withstand pain and improve strength and physical performance. He was the winner of the 2014 Wellcome Trust/Guardian Science Writing Prize, and his first book, Black Sheep The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad, was announced as the winner of the British Psychological Society Book of the Year Award (Popular Science) 2016. Richard is an Ig Nobel Prize recipient and is a former Chair of the British Psychological Society Psychobiology Section.

Photo by Andrew Weekes

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Artists vs. Psychologists

Some people think psychology research amounts to little more than stating the obvious—an overly laboured and verbose rendering of common sense. This blog examines this understanding by taking an evidence-based view of psychological ideas expressed by popular artists in songs, novels, and movies. Artists generally do not have any psychology training beyond their own real-world observations. This makes their works a rich repository of common sense notions in psychology.

Each blog post will be grounded in a piece of popular art that says something relevant to psychology, using this as a launch point into the psychology research literature to see whether the evidence backs it up. I expect (and hope) that psychology often will reveal more than is deemed to be common sense, but I also expect that this won’t happen all the time. Sometimes artists may veer from common sense in their musings—what will psychology’s retort be then?

Read now.