The year has come to an end, and it’s time to look back at some of my favourite pieces from 2012. The first half of 2012 saw lots of misconceptions. For example, hypnosis, neuroscience, intelligence, etc. These are some of the things people constantly misunderstand because of the way they are being reported in the media by people who likewise have only a rudimentary understanding of it.
If you missed any of these posts throughout the year, check them out below. Instead of doing a “top ten” list, I’m going to pick my favourites from each month of the year. These somewhat represent the scope of this website, so if you’re new to Skeptikai, browse around. Click on the pictures to go to that page.
“But let’s make something clear. There are some glaring problems that render this whole thing so Swiss that, at best, it could only truly be described as cheese. Pop-psychology cheese.”
Chances are, you have heard that the right-brain is artistic and the left-brain is analytical. This brain-hemisphere dichotomy is often over-reported by people who don’t understand the science. Also, you have probably heard the idea of “learning styles,” such as those people who are “visual learners” and those who are “audio learners.” This article busts all of these myths.
“Hypnosis is real, but the word ‘real’ can be confusing. I don’t mean that it’s necessarily powerful or good; I just mean that we should not write it off as a bogus pseudoscience.”
Almost everyone’s beliefs about hypnosis are wrong. This article looks in-depth at the information gleamed from two very interesting science documentaries, revealing the fascinating psychology of hypnosis.
“Some people call lottery tickets a’tax on stupidity,’ but I’m a little surprised that smoking doesn’t have a similar image.”
Smoking and a lack of wealth are two things that feed each other in a vicious cycle. Poor people turn to smoking, which then makes them even poorer and less productive in every way.
“The thunderous tsunami drowned many, and more froze to death by the end of the night. Could this have been avoided? It’s easy to say yes in hindsight, but the truth is that there are places that had the foresight to prevent such casualties. And surprisingly, such survivors went against everything the Japanese culture stands for.”
This article talks about the incident of the Ōkawa elementary school, where teachers just argued about what to do with their students after Japan’s massive M9 earthquake of 3/11. By the time they made their decision (the wrong decision, by the way), the tsunami came and killed almost everyone. But this is not just a collection of anecdotes; it’s a real and serious guide about what to do in the case of a tsunami. The minority of Japanese people who knew this lesson practically all survived.
“If we allow the media and pop culture to define our self-worth, then what else will we surrender to those who don’t even have our best interest in mind? At some point, the hottest supermodels in the world are going to run out of sizes to drop.”
Cindy Crawford, the model in the picture, would not be able to work today because she would be considered too overweight. Indeed, the models of today are smaller than ever before, and they’re shrinking. But what’s even more surprising is that non-models are actually getting bigger. This article looks at how this phenomenon is affecting people.
“People try to make sense of the world, but it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of our investigations. Or else we’ll start believing something that simply might not be true.”
Personally, the most interesting thing about this article is the attention it got. I wrote about the flaws in international rankings for education and intelligence, and it seems that pretty much the only commenter to read the entire article was Kia Howell. And her response to one very intellectually lazy commenter was fantastic:
You are mixing up the meanings of “most educated” and “most intelligent” even though this article clearly explains the difference between the two. (Maybe you didn’t read that far.) The U.S. is #4 on the most educated list but #17 on the most intelligent list. Reading your comment confirms the reason we are so low on the intelligent list.
“In order to understand the complex events happening around us, we need to be open to the possibility that we don’t know as much as we think – especially when we’re jumping on the bandwagon like every other face in the crowd.”
This article looks at the Kony 2012 phenomenon, as well as the highly reported “pepper-spray incident” at a US campus. It shows why people shouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions; or why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.
“The fact of the matter is that the awful Japanese economy, along with the population falling off a cliff, means that we’re looking at a bleak future of Japan. In just a few decades, Japan will be dramatically downgraded unless there are some substantial changes.”
I’m shocked at the direction in which Japan is going. I wish more Japanese lawmakers and educators took this stuff seriously. In fact, looking back at this article now makes me wonder if I was too optimistic when I wrote that article. It’s probably worse than I thought.
“Using brain-scanning technology is not the golden ticket of marketing, it’s just a more reliable way of gauging people’s arousal and emotions than questionnaires and focus groups, which has been used in previous generations for the same purpose.”
Many people are scared about neuromarketing, but that’s usually because they give it too much credit. This article looks at what neuromarketing is and isn’t.
“International relations are, on average, more diplomatic now and less martial. Military spending is also falling, though the global economic crisis probably has something to do with that.”
I could never have foreseen the popularity of this article, but it’s easily the most popular one on Skeptikai, and by far the most commented on. People seem to be very passionate about their country’s reputation of safety; but there are also a surprising amount of people critical of their own nation.