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What, why, and how do we respond?

When?
Tuesday, February 11 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Stephan Lewandowsky

What's the talk about?

Imagine a world that considers knowledge to be "elitist''. Imagine a world in which it is not medical knowledge but a free-for-all opinion market on Twitter that determines whether a newly emergent strain of avian flu is really contagious to humans.

This dystopian future is still just that---a possible future. However, there are signs that public discourse is evolving in this direction: Terms such as "post-truth'' and "fake news'', largely unknown until 2016, have exploded into media and public discourse.

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky will explore the implications of the growing abundance of misinformation in the public sphere, how it influences people and how to counter it. He argues that for counter-measures to be effective, they must be informed by the larger political, technological, and societal context.

The post-truth world arguably emerge as a result of societal mega-trends, such as a decline in social capital, growing economic inequality, increased polarization, declining trust in science, and an increasingly fractionated media landscape. Considered against the background of those over-arching trends, misinformation in the post-truth era can no longer be considered solely an isolated failure of individual cognition that can be corrected with appropriate communication tools.

Stephan suggests that responses to the post-truth era must therefore be multi-pronged, including technological solutions that incorporate psychological principles, an interdisciplinary approach that we describe as "technocognition.'' Technocognition uses findings from cognitive science to inform the design of information architectures that encourage the dissemination of high-quality information and that discourage the spread of misinformation.

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Professor Stephan Lewandowsky is a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol. He was an Australian Professorial Fellow from 2007 to 2012, and was awarded a Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council in 2011. He is an award-winning teacher and was Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition from 2006-2008.

He is currently serving as Digital Content Editor for the Psychonomic Society and blogs routinely on cognitive research at https://featuredcontent.psychonomic.org/. His personal blog is at http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/.

How what you know is grounded in your body and senses

When?
Tuesday, January 14 2020 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Rachel Moseley

What's the talk about?

It seems like a kind of magic - the way that a word, lines on a page, can conjure up vivid images, emotions and sensations. Deep within our brain lies our knowledge of everything from cats to Christmas, but how does the brain store our knowledge of objects, places, people and concepts?
 
Many scientists believe that how people experience the world, even the differences in our bodies and the way we move, fundamentally shapes our brains and the way we think.
 
In this talk, Dr Rachel Moseley will explore the exciting and surprising neuroscientific research around the question - where and how do you know what you know?
 
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Dr Rachel Moseley is a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University. She completed her PhD and two postdoctoral years in Cambridge, investigating language and brain differences between autistic and non-autistic people. Since moving to Bournemouth, she has further explored mental health, ageing, sex differences, and aspects of cognitive processing in autistic people, and teaches neuropsychology and neuroscience to students.  

When your mind is in my mind

When?
Tuesday, November 12 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Xun He

What's the talk about?

Human beings are evolutionarily shaped social animals. We often play and work together either independently or aiming at common goals. Have you ever wondered that, when we are engaged in group activities, whether we perform everyday tasks in the same way as we do them alone?

Recent findings in psychology showed that one person’s cognition and behaviour (such as attention, memory, perception, and action) can be shaped by another person who performs similar tasks in the same environment. But the answer to the question is more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

This talk will introduce these findings and to explain the theories behind. You will see psychological experiments in action and be engaged with some tests and discussions.

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Dr Xun He is a senior lecturer working at Department of Psychology, Bournemouth University. As an experimental psychologist and a social neuroscientist, he studies the behaviour and neural underpinnings of social attention and social perception. The main research question he asks is how human attention and perception performance is shaped by social interactions.

Matthew Tompkins

When?
Tuesday, October 8 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Matthew Tompkins

What's the talk about?

Is seeing believing? Is believing seeing? How can we hope to conduct experiments on things that only exist within our minds, and, on a related note, can scientists ever be trusted to study deception without being deceived themselves? What can scientists learn about the mind from the illusions developed and practiced by professional magicians? Join magician and experimental psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins, author of The Spectacle of Illusion, for a fascinating talk exploring the psychology of magic.

Everyone's heard, and most of us have told, a story about an uncanny or supernatural seeming experience. Accounts of wondrous and impossible phenomena can be found around the world throughout recorded history. These extraordinary events often seem to be facilitated by extra-ordinary individuals: sorcerers, spiritual mediums, psychic sensitives. Such phenomena have even been reported under 'test conditions', witnessed by scientists—men professionally trained in the practice of empirical observation. To date, such events have not led conventional scientists to embrace the reality of supernatural phenomena- but they have arguably led to scientific breakthroughs how we understand the psychology of illusion.

This talk will feature a mixture of storytelling and magical scientific demonstrations to explore how scientists, past and present, have approached the study of illusion. Matt will discuss how magic played a weird but fundamental role in the in the establishment of psychology as a scientific discipline, and how he and other contemporary researchers have been using magic tricks to create new experiments in order to investigate human memory, perception, and reasoning.

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American magician-turned-psychologist Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins completed his DPhil in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. Previously, he had obtained a BA in Psychology at the State University of New York at Geneseo and an MSc in Psychological Research from Oxford. He is currently a Visiting Academic at The Queen’s College, Oxford and also works as a freelance writer.

His research, which has been featured across various international media outlets, including the Washington Post and BBC Future, focuses on the cognitive psychology of illusions. Matt was working as professional magician before he began his academic career, and his experiences performing continue to influence his work. He is the first member of The Magic Circle to have been admitted on the basis of a peer-reviewed scientific publication. His new book, The Spectacle of Illusion, explores the historical and contemporary relationships between scientists, magicians, and fraudulent mystics. matt-tompkins.com/soi

Jon Butterworth

When?
Tuesday, September 10 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Jon Butterworth

What's the talk about?

Jon Butterworth will explore our current state of knowledge of particle physics, the so-called standard model, which was completed by the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. This gives us a map of the invisible world of subatomic physics. But what does the map reveal, what lies beyond its limits and what are the latest experiments telling us?

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Jon is a physics professor at University College London who works on the Atlas experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. He won the Chadwick prize of the Institute of Physics in 2013 for his “pioneering
experimental and phenomenological work in high-energy particle physics, especially in the understanding of hadronic jets”.
 

Shining a light on the autism spectrum

Rachel Moseley

When?
Tuesday, August 13 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Rachel Moseley

What's the talk about?

The road to understanding autism spectrum conditions (ASC) has been a long and twisting one, with many false turns, but scientists have now come to realise that autism is a neurodevelopmental condition: one that is genetic, lifelong, and has its roots in the structure and function of the brain.

It appears that autistic brains are wired differently, and that this gives rise to a very different way of experiencing the world. How good we are at socialising; how well we communicate; how we experience sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches; all of these ways in which we differ can be traced back to the natural diversity in our brains.

In this talk, Dr Rachel Moseley will explore the brain basis of autism, adding a perspective from brain science to explain some of the differences between autistic and non-autistic people.

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Dr Rachel Moseley is a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University. She completed her PhD and two postdoctoral years in Cambridge, investigating brain differences between autistic and non-autistic people. Since moving to Bournemouth, she has further explored mental health, ageing, sex differences, and aspects of cognitive processing in autistic people.

Marika Taylor

When?
Tuesday, July 9 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Marika Taylor

What's the talk about?

A quantum computer makes use of the quantum states of subatomic particles to store and process information. Quantum computing has the potential to solve problems faster than standard computers can do, and thus many researchers are working on developing large scale quantum computers.

Remarkably, black holes can help us understand how a quantum computer might work: black holes are believed to be the most efficient quantum computers than can exist in nature.

In this talk we will explain what black holes might teach us about quantum computing and conversely what quantum theory implies about the fundamental properties of black holes.

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Professor Marika Taylor studied for her PhD with Stephen Hawking in Cambridge. Following research at Cambridge and Harvard, she spent ten years working at the University of Amsterdam. She is currently the Head of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Southampton.

What's The Alternative?

Keith Kahn-Harris

When?
Wednesday, June 12 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

41 Windham Arms, Bournemouth BH1 4RN

Who?
Keith Kahn-Harris

What's the talk about?

One of the most challenging and frustrating questions for scientists is how to combat denialism: Holocaust denial, global warming denial, anti-vaxxers, 911 conspiracism, creationism and more. Debunking denialist claims is essential - yet also rarely effective. We are now living in a world where even the most apparently basic truths are routinely contested. 

In this talk, Keith Kahn-Harris, author of Denial: The Unspeakable Truth, argues that to really understand denialism, we have to face up to what he calls 'the deniers alternative'. Denialism emerges when this alternative is so 'unspeakable' that denialism becomes a preferable option. In thinking about how to combat denialism, we also have to consider whether a world without it might not be a truth-filled utopia, but something even worse. 

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Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer. Denial: The Unspeakable Truth is his fifth book. His badly-designed website can be found at kahn-harris.org and he tweets irregularly at @KeithKahnHarris

Rebecca Nesbit

When?
Wednesday, May 8 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Rebecca Nesbit

What's the talk about?

‘Save the Honeybee’ stories are never far from the news, but is the species really under threat? Given that they are managed by beekeepers, should we see them as livestock not wildlife? Parasites such as the hairworm, on the other hand seldom attract attention – would they be a better use of conservation funds?

Dr Rebecca Nesbit will examine how we set conservation priorities, and whether the arguments for protecting nature really stack up.

Rebecca is an ecologist and writer with a particular interest in the science and ethics of setting conservation priorities. For her PhD she used radars and flight simulators to study butterfly migration, and she now works in science communication. She has written two books: ‘Is that Fish in Your Tomato?’, looking at the fact and fiction of GM foods, and ‘A Column of Smoke’, a novel.

Dara Mojtahedi

When?
Wednesday, April 10 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

199 Malmesbury Park Road
Charminster
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH8 8PX

Who?
Dara Mojtahedi

What's the talk about?

Would you electrocute a puppy if someone asked you to? How about if you were a soldier during the Nazi regime, would you have followed orders and executed innocent bystanders? Whilst these questions may sound unusual— and frankly, a little odd — they serve a purpose in demonstrating how most individuals perceive the causes of evil behaviour.

When asked such questions, people have often confidently answered ‘no’ due to not considering their selves as being evil. However, what people often forget to account for is to the power that situational factors can have on influencing our actions.

Throughout history, notable cases have demonstrated how easy it is for ordinary individuals to be manipulated by their environment into carrying out unspeakable crimes. This talk will be discussing the situational factors that can turn good people evil.

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Dr Dara Mojtahedi is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Huddersfield.

Communicating With Ourselves

Claire Elliott

When?
Wednesday, March 13 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Claire Elliott

What's the talk about?

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) are the anomalous speech-like sounds found on some electronic recordings. For believers, EVP represents communication with paranormal entities and evidence of the afterlife.

For sceptics, it is a product of the recording methods and top-down processing of the listener. Whilst we all experience auditory illusions, research suggests some groups may be more susceptible than others. Claire Elliott's MSc research explored the cognitive-perceptual factors and role of suggestion in illusory speech perception (auditory pareidolia).

The debate surrounding EVP can tell us much about the human tendency to find meaning in random data (apophenia) and desire to believe. With no scientific evidence for the validity of EVP, are we merely communicating with ourselves?

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Claire Elliott’s fascination with the paranormal started young, listening to her Mother’s ghost stories. She spent most of her childhood desperately wanting to see a ghost. She didn’t. Studying psychology has made her a skeptic but she stills goes ghost hunting. Her MSc masters thesis was entitled: ”Specific paranormal beliefs (haunting) and proneness to hallucinate may be implicated in illusory speech perception (auditory pareidolia)”.

She recently wrote an article for The Psychologist magazine on “Meaning in randomness” which explored the research and debate surrounding Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). She regularly gives talks and interviews on her research interests, which include auditory hallucinations, the psychology of paranormal belief, ghost hunting and cryptozoology.

Why is 3 so much bigger than 2?

Ben Barber

When?
Wednesday, February 13 2019 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Who?
Ben Barber

What's the talk about?

Maths is about patterns—spotting patterns, then working out whether they carry on forever.  Sometimes you spot patterns in the patterns—similar things happen in different settings—and then you have to ask "why?".

There are lots of places where changing a 2 to a 3 makes all the difference, turning a problem we can solve into one so complicated we may never be able to understand it.  Two player games can be played perfectly by a computer (in theory) but three player games cannot.  It's easy to tell whether exams can be scheduled across two time slots so that no students have any clashes, but very hard to tell whether three time slots are enough. 

In this presentation, Ben Barber will explain some examples of this phenomenon, then speculate wildly about what is going on.

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Ben Barber is a mathematician at the University of Bristol, where he counts the things that don't need to be counted.  He likes to tell stories, and most other things you can do on a stage.

babarber.uk

@bbarber_