Category: Audio

“Life Matters” (Because it just does)

rte lm

Here is Sunday’s episode of “Life Matters” on RTÉ Radio 1, which features (among many luminaries) none other than yours truly. Entitled The God of Aliens, the programme addresses those famous bedfellows, science and religion. It’s all a very interesting package and I encourage you to give it a listen (don’t worry, it’s mostly other people).

My contributions relate to the evolutionary basis of religiosity, and its implications for our understanding and appreciation of morality. All of which seems far more profound as I type it than it probably really is. Go have a listen and see what you think yourself.

The “Life Matters” series is relatively new (it’s six weeks into its run) and is presented by Seán Duke and Colette Kinsella. The aim is to explore “the ethics of how we live today“, no less. I think it’s been a really great series so far — strong in narrative, diverse in perspective, and comprehensively researched — a terrific example of cerebral but accessible programming.

Previous episodes (and, in due course, future ones) can be streamed here.

Working the crowd

As part of my day job, I’m involved in psychology research examining the effects of having other people around when you’re trying to cope with mental stress. Here’s the summary of our findings to date: it’s complicated. But not to worry. All that means is that there’s plenty of toothpaste left in the tube. And we all know how annoying it is when we run out of toothpaste. Yes?

Anyway, it will be no surprise to learn that quite a lot of researchers are interested in how our behaviour is influenced by the presence of other people. When you think about it, such a topic pretty much encompasses virtually all of human existence. However, one example of social influence that the media tend to be particularly interested in is crowds. This is probably because crowds feature so prominently in newsworthy events, such as socio-political meltdowns, dramatic sporting clashes, and attempts to break the world record for the number of Waldos in a room.

A crowd recently (via

Last week, twice in the same day, I was in the media talking about ‘social facilitation‘, the technical term for how the presence of observers affects our choices, task-performance, and emotions. Of interest, the contrast between the two formats — one a newspaper article, the other a radio talk show interview — nicely illustrates some of the issues that arise when trying to communicate scientific concepts in the media. Continue reading “Working the crowd”

Personality goes a long way…toward making you sick

This is dangerously close to “day job” territory, but yesterday evening I was on the wireless talking about the relationship between psychological traits and physical health. This was part of the excellent Futureproof show on Newstalk 106-108 fm, hosted by the also-excellent Jonathan McCrea (and produced by the just-as-excellent Shaun O’Boyle). You can access the podcast of the show by clicking here (readers who have sold their souls to iTunes can do their business here). My segment begins at 8:32 and lasts for around twelve minutes.

Button fans can click here instead

From a science communication perspective, the item is helpful in addressing a topic that is very often discussed in terms of — how shall I put it? — mumbo jumbo and pseudoscience. For centuries, it has been claimed that personal temperaments affect illness and well-being (consider Galen’s four humours or astrology). Moreover, therapy-merchants of various degrees of rigour have made a good living from offering attractive think-yourself-better solutions for physical health problems. Continue reading “Personality goes a long way…toward making you sick”

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