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Literally Psyched

Literally Psyched

Conceived in literature, tested in psychology
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    Maria Konnikova Maria Konnikova is a writer living in New York City. She is the author of the New York Times best-seller MASTERMIND (Viking, 2013) and received her PhD in Psychology from Columbia University. Follow on Twitter @mkonnikova.
  • The shortest farewells are the best

    Bogart starred as Spade in the 1941 adaptation of Hammett's novel.

    “Well sir, the shortest farewells are the best,” Casper Gutman—the fat man—tells detective Sam Spade near the end of Dashiell Hammett’s classic noir novel, The Maltese Falcon. “Adieu.” And with that—well, that and a farewell wave to Miss O’Shaughnessy—he leaves the whole affair behind. Quick, to the point, effective. So effective, in fact, that the [...]

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    Can what you do *before* you write improve your actual writing?

    Mark Twain was a big believer in ritual.

    Thomas Wolfe liked to masturbate before each of his writing sessions: the activity, he said, helped inspire his imagination and put him in the proper mindset for writing (a “good male feeling,” he called it). John Cheever seemingly agreed—except in his case, the activity was actual sex. “Two or three orgasms a week,” he said, [...]

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    Jane Austen is replacing Charles Darwin–and that’s a very good thing

    The new face of the £10 note

    Earlier this week, the Bank of England made an announcement that should warm many a literati’s heart: Jane Austen will be the new face of the £10 note. The reason for the change? Critics had long been demanding a more equitable representation of women in Britain’s currency—a gender imbalance that had grown even more severe [...]

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    Of polar bears and consciousness: A tribute to Daniel Wegner

    polar bear

    Last Friday, July 5, the psychology community lost one of its greatest minds, Daniel Wegner. It’s hard to overstate his influence on psychology as a whole — and on individual students and researchers (myself included) along the way. Just last week, I came across a new study that bears his clear imprint: the effect of [...]

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    The art of storytelling meets the science of autism: A conversation with Richard Panek

    Panek photo

    I’ve never once written about autism. Not a single time. It’s not that I don’t think it’s an important topic—I do, and crucially so—but only that, each time I return to it, I realize how vast and complex the field is, how much it shifts, how multifaceted and equivocal is each study, each researcher, each [...]

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    Why we celebrate the summer solstice

    Anything can happen on a midsummer nights eve.

    Today, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the summer solstice, the longest day of the calendar year (happy winter solstice to the Southern Hemisphere!). Around 1:00AM, the sun was directly above the Tropic of Cancer—and though I was fast asleep at that precise moment, along with most of my fellow East Coasters, I probably woke up earlier [...]

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    The ultimate judge and jury of journalistic responsibility: We, the readers

    Lehrer's "apology" speech--at none other than the Knight Foundation for "quality journalism."

    Picture the following scenario. A well-respected surgeon successfully concludes an operation. It’s the end of a long day, and he is looking forward to going home for a well-earned break. Everything proceeds smoothly. The surgeon promptly forgets surgery and patient alike. The following year, our patient doubles over with stomach pain. Other problems soon follow: [...]

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    A bite of fresh lilac: The age-old allure of edible flowers

    Don't they look appetizing?

    When I was little, I ate lilac petals. With zest. I don’t remember too much about our Moscow apartment, but I do recall with absolutely clarity the large vase overflowing with lilac petals that would appear, like clockwork, every May, along with the long-elusive warmth of spring that was, at long last, allowed to flow [...]

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    Want to be happier and live longer? Protect green spaces

    Central Park

    Central Park almost didn’t exist. When it was first proposed, no comparable urban green space could be found in the whole of the United States—and it seemed unlikely that one would arise on land that could be put to other, more profitable use – especially with New York real estate values on a steady rise. [...]

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    A bagpipe of a moral dilemma

    Unncessary Noise Prohibited

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that, out of all musical instruments, bagpipes make the most infernal noise. That, and an out-of-tune violin. The problem with bagpipes, though, is they maintain their infernality no matter how adept you are at playing them. One of my favorite recent cartoons is a drawing by Sam Gross, that [...]

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