: What are your views on empathy and its extent into supernatural talents? Ever simce i was little i was able to almost sense someones aura or emotion even when im not looking at them.

My views on empathy make me really disliked among my fellow psychology students. Now I will be disliked also by you, but not for the same reason (although there are similarities between your opinion and the opinion of many psychology students I know, but I’m digressing).

Supernatural talents don’t exist. Auras don’t exist. Empathy is a very natural capacity that has its basis in the mirror neurons in our brains. 


: Is it different from tickling when you move your tongue really gently along the roof of your mouth and it sometimes leaves a really weird sensation afterwards? Like ghost tickles or something.

It’s knismesis.

People are really really fond of tickling. 


: That isn't true?! like I CANN TICKLET MYSELF! It's like the INNER thigh area.... almost near the crotch? are you sure it isn't possible? i mean I have read a lot of facts and they all say the same thing! -BUT it's SO TICKLISH! it ISN'T like when I try to tickle myself anywhere else.. which just 'itches' like you say. -like that feeling is the same as when someone else tickles me...

I’m pretty sure. It is possible to produce a sensation that resembles tickle but it is far more attenuated and doesn’t produce involuntary twitching movements or laughter. But like I said this light form of tickle is knismesis.


: I'm wondering if you know anything about the phenomenon that creates the difference between (for example) being tickled, and tickling yourself. I assume it's to do with the control factor, but how does it work psychologically?

There are two types of tickle. 

Knismesis: is caused by very light movement across the skin, it doesn’t produce laughter but is often accompained by “itching”. Gargalesis: is the laugher inducing tickle produced by touching “ticklish” parts of the body.

It is possible to induce self-knismesis, but not gargalesis. If you touch a “ticklish” parts of your own body you don’t experience tickling sensations.

One explanation is that knismesis could be a vestigial “non-self detector” used to activate a primitive grooming response and in fact knismesis can be triggered by crawling insects. Because of this it does not depend on surprise (insects can crawl on you anytime). In gargalensis the brain distinguishes between self-produced and externally produced tactile stimuli and we experience the first as attenuated and therefore we can tickle ourselves. However some schizophrenics can tickle themselves due to their trouble in differentiate between self-generated and externally generated sensations.


: What is your opinion on Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design is just creationism with a fancy name. It is religion-based pseudoscience.


: Hi, I've always been interested in psychology and your blog is very enlightening about its various aspects. I was wondering if you had any advice about some good psychology books, which possibly don't require previous knowledge in the field. Thanks!

It surprise me, but I have no idea of what book to suggest you. The fact is that I read books that maybe require too much “previous knowledge”.

I have a LOT of books about psychotherapy (guess why I ended up writing a thesis about its negative effects?) but I think you would be not interested in them.

I think (contrary to the opinion of many persons) that to really understand psychology it takes a fairly amount of “previous knowledge”. I often listen or read to people that think they have understood something about psychology, and they have understood nothing really. This often happens even with quite simple things (like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). 

That said, I was thinking about an brief history of psychology book, but it’s from a German author (Helmut E. Luck) and I suspect there isn’t an english translation.

I would suggest: ‘Stress, Cognition and Health' by Tony Cassidy. If I remember correctly it's interesting, informative, and not hard.

The 21st-Century Brain' by Steven Rose is not exactly psychology (it's neuroscience), but it is good and if you are interested, you should read it.

Followers suggestions?


: you have a heart?

I have several of them that I keep in little jars in the shelf above where I keep the comics.


: Suspended Animation? Mark Roth's talks on it have been pretty interesting.

This morning I read this question but I didn’t have time to answer. I had not watched Mark Roth’s talk, so I had no idea what was about. I left home and went to have an ECG. On the way home I was thinking about this question, and I thought about genetically engineering humans to create a new species of  human-frogs that can hibernate. 

Then I arrived home, and I watched Roth’s talk, and it makes a LOT more sense (and it’s very interesting).

Yet, I’d like to see human-frogs.


: How close do you think the scientists at CERN are to discovering the Higgs Boson? The test results that showed that neutrinos were able to travel faster than light seemed to result from a bad connection in the clock but do you think that the neutrinos actually did travel that fast and the clock's connection didn't contribute to the margin of error enough?

About the superluminal neutrino, the official note about the error says they have identified two sources of possible error that have opposite directions: one would increase the size of the measured effect, the other would diminish it. The bad connection could have led to an underestimate of the time of flight of the neutrinos, the problem with the time stamps could have led to an overestimate it. For what I understand of this experiment (pretty much nothing), it seems that since the results are so puzzling, the researchers themselves don’t trust so much their measurements. I guess we will know more in the next months when the new tests will be performed.

And we also need to wait to know more about the Higgs Boson, CERN’s Research Director Sergio Bertolucci said that:

With the data we collect this year, we will definitely be able to confirm or rule out a Standard Model Higgs.

So, if there is an Higgs Boson to discover, we are really close to discover it. Or maybe there isn’t, and I guess it would be interesting even so.


: Where, do you think, is the most beautiful and interesting place in the world?

I don’t know, there are lots of place that I’d like to visit (I don’t have many opportunities to travel): Russia, China, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, New Zealand, and many others.