What Is... Series (Insights into Psychology)

What Is… the Illusion of Causality

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychology-related terms. This week’s term is the illusion of causality. The illusion of causality is a cognitive bias that makes us see causal relationships between things that aren’t actually related. This often comes into play in superstitions and pseudoscience. We naturally look for …

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Cutting through the serotonin hypothesis confusion - graphic of a serotonergic neuron

Clearing Up the Serotonin Hypothesis/Depression Confusion

Some people write off antidepressants as being useless because the serotonin hypothesis was wrong, while others insist they need antidepressants because they don’t have enough serotonin. There’s a lot of confusion about what the serotonin hypothesis was and what it meant, so this post will try to clear up some of that. A bit of …

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The use and misuse of jargon - diagram of science equipment

The Use and Misuse of Jargon

Many fields have their own jargon, which Wikipedia describes as “specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity” that often isn’t well understood by people outside of that particular field. While jargon can help people within a field communicate precisely, that doesn’t necessarily translate well outside of the field. It can be …

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the placebo effect: what causes it?

The Placebo Effect: What Is It and Why Does It Happen?

We’ve probably all heard of the placebo effect, but what is it, and how does it work. For something that happens regularly, it’s not all that well understood. A placebo is any substance that’s not intended or expected to have any therapeutic effect. Ethically, it generally wouldn’t be considered acceptable to give a patient a …

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"High vibration" essential oils: do they really vibrate, or is that just pseudoscience?

“High Vibration”? Essential Oil Frequency Debunked

I’m a very science-minded person, and one of the things that really grates my rutabagas is when people make things up and call it science. In particular, I’m not impressed with pseudoscientific made-up vibrations, and especially the made-up idea of vibrating thoughts, law of attraction style. Somehow, the notion of essential oil frequencies and “high …

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Psychic surgery: a real thing, or just a very wacky placebo?

Is Psychic Surgery a Real Thing?

There are plenty of odd pseudoscientific health practices out there, but psychic surgery kicks it up to a whole new level of weird. Psychic surgery isn’t like what happens in an operating room; it’s more like what happens on a magician’s stage. Sleight of hand, fake blood, and animal parts are used to make the …

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Perceived vs. objective reality: our senses give us information, but it's not an exact representation

Perceived vs. Objective Reality

Our minds play all kinds of tricks on us. We’ve got all kinds of cognitive biases that influence what we do with our thoughts, and our brains do interesting things with what they pick up through our senses. There’s a philosophical argument as to whether or not there is a truly objective reality, but for …

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Does your body need to detox/cleanse?

Do You Need to Detox/Cleanse?

Detox diets and cleanses are quite popular these days, especially if you’re of the Goop-y persuasion. And while they might seem to make sense on an intuitive level, from a science perspective, is there anything to actually back that up? The “toxins” Commercial detox products tend to refer vaguely to “toxins” without actually specifying what …

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The Science Corner: Can you believe statistics?

Can You Believe Statistics?

There are all kinds of statistics that get thrown around, some of which appear rather dubious. As a result, there seems to be a lot of suspicion about statistics in general.  But is that warranted? Let’s start with what statistics are. According to Wikipedia, statistics is “the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, displaying, analysis, …

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