Blog

Posts appear in reverse chronological order.

  • Breaking cover on the watching eyes effect

    I have seldom had much to say on the watching eyes effect. Even though it is the most cited research I have ever been involved in, it was always a side project for me, and also for Melissa Bateson, and so neither of us has been very active in the debate that goes on around…

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  • Live fast and die young (maybe)

    Quite a few big ideas have made it across from evolutionary theory into the human sciences in the last few years. I can’t think of any that has been more culturally successful than the ‘live fast, die young principle’. This principle, which was originally articulated by George C Williams in the late 1950s, says something…

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  • The bosses pretend to have theories, and we pretend to test them

    Leo Tiokhin has hosted a new blog series on the use of formal models in metascience and, more generally, in psychology. The starting point for the series is the increasing recognition that psychology’s weaknesses don’t just lie in its recent replicatory embarassments. The underlying theories that all those (possibly non-replicable) experiments aim to test are…

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  • My muse is not (or, possibly, is) a horse

    I’ve written one thing in my life that people really want to read: a 2017 essay called Staying in the game. When I first posted it, the unprecedented traffic over a couple of days caused my web site host to suspend the service. A lot of people commented or emailed when it came out. Many…

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  • Why does inequality produce high crime and low trust? And why doesn’t making punishments harsher solve the problem?

    Societies with higher levels of inequality have more crime, and lower levels of social trust. That’s quite a hard thing to explain: how could the distribution of wealth (which is a population-level thing) change decisions and attitudes made in the heads of individuals, like whether to offend? After all, most individuals don’t know what the…

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  • Why is Universal Basic Income suddenly such a great idea?

    The idea of an unconditional basic income, paid to all (UBI), has a long history. Very long in fact. Yet, although the policy has been deemed philosophically and (sometimes) economically attractive, it has generally languished in the bailiwick of enthusiasts, mavericks, philosophers and policy nerds (these are, by the way, overlapping categories). But now, with…

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  • This is no time for utilitarianism!

    An interesting feature of the current crisis is the number of times we hear our leaders proclaiming that there are not weighing costs against benefits: ‘We will do whatever it takes!’. ‘We will give the hospitals whatever they need!’. And even, memorably, from the UK Chancellor, ‘We will set no limit on what we spend…

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  • Are people selfish or cooperative in the time of COVID-19?

    On March 12th 2020, in a press conference, the UK’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance stated that, in times of social challenge like the current pandemic, the people’s response is an outbreak of altruism. On the other hand, we have seen plenty of examples in the current crisis of bad behaviour: people fighting over the…

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  • The view from the top of the hierarchy of evidence

    About five years ago I began doing meta-analyses. (If, as they say, you lose a tooth for every meta-analysis you conduct, I am now gumming my way through my food.) I was inspired by their growing role as the premier source of evidence in the health and behavioural sciences. Yes, I knew, individual studies are…

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  • Hanging on to the Edges book published

    I am delighted to be able to say that my new book Hanging on to the Edges is now published. Thanks to Open Book Publishers, it’s an open access book; you can read it online, download the PDF, or order paper copies here. People often ask me what Hanging on to the Edges is about, and it is…

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  • HOTTE #14: Morale is high (since I gave up hope)

    Buddhism and the replication crisis: morale is high (PDF)   Click here to return to the Hanging On To The Edges hompage.

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  • HOTTE #13: Is it explanation yet?

    A meditation on Newtonian mechanics, ‘life-history theory’, and optimal bus networks. Is it explanation yet? (PDF)   Back to Hanging On To The Edges homepage

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  • HOTTE #12: The worst thing about poverty is not having enough money

    Casinos, helicopter money, and the illusion of validity. The worst thing about poverty is not having enough money (PDF) Return to Hanging On To The Edges

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  • HOTTE #11: Getting your head around the Universal Basic Income

    Big ideas, money for nothing, and the psychology of sharing out Getting your head around the Universal Basic Income (PDF) Back to the Hanging On To The Edges page

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  • HOTTE #10: Waking up and going out to work in the uncanny valley

    ‘The only thing worse than not getting cited is getting cited’, and other inter-disciplinary conceits:  Uncanny valley.pdf Back to the Hanging On To The Edges page

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  • HOTTE #9: The need for discipline

    A meditation on disciplinary boundaries, small worlds, and choral singing The need for discipline (PDF) Back to the Hanging On To The Edges page

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  • HOTTE #8: What is cultural evolution like?

    A meditation on cultural Darwinism, evolutionary theory, and cross-country running. What is cultural evolution like (PDF). Return to the Hanging on to the Edges homepage.

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  • HOTTE #7: Staying in the game

    A meditation on the highs and lows, the longs and shorts, of academic life. Staying in the game (PDF). Return to the Hanging on to the Edges home page.

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  • HOTTE #6: The cultural and the agentic

    Reflections on culture, agency, and Herb Gintis’ Indiviuality and Entanglement. The cultural and the agentic (PDF) Return to the Hanging On To The Edges home page.

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  • HOTTE #5: Let them eat cake!

    Reflections on hunger and food; their importance in explaining behaviour; their insufficient visibility in the contemporary human sciences; what peer reviewers don’t like; and the strange things we choose to focus on in our research. This is the last installment of Hanging On To The Edges until autumn 2017 Let them eat cake 1.0. (PDF)…

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