Scott McGreal

42 posts · 25,411 views

Psychology graduate with boundless curiosity. I've explored many mystical and spiritual philosophies but have become a committed rationalist. The phenomenology of consciousness still fascinates me. I have a particular interest in personality and intelligence. Scientific controversies are best approached with a level head and a regard for truth over politics or ideology in my view.

Eye on Psych
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  • April 10, 2014
  • 12:29 AM

Atheists and Their Capacity for Awe at Life

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Many people think of awe as a particularly religious emotion and therefore seem to assume that people with no religious beliefs at all, e.g. atheists are closed to the experience of awe. This assumption is quite false and reflects a wider prejudice against atheists. Research has shown that people who reject supernatural beliefs actually are capable of experiencing a sense of awe. In fact, the experience of awe may be particularly beneficial for those who do not believe in an afterlife.... Read more »

  • February 11, 2014
  • 02:49 AM

Is Parapsychology a "Taboo" Subject in Science?

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

An opinion piece recently published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, endorsed by 90 signatories calls for a more “open-minded” consideration of the subject. What particularly struck me about this piece was the claim that investigation into the subject is not just controversial, but actually “taboo”. Examination of the history of parapsychology indicates that the scientific mainstream has shown considerable open-mindedness towards the subject, and that claims that it ha........ Read more »

  • December 26, 2013
  • 11:41 PM

Life History Strategy and the Allure of the Dark Side: Evidence against a General Factor of Personality

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Claims about a "general factor of personality" imply that all socially desirable traits are positively correlated. On the contrary, a new study based on Life History Strategy suggests that slow and fast life history strategies respectively each combine a mixture of desirable and undesirable traits. This suggests that a generally desirable factor is illusory. ... Read more »

Sherman RA, Figueredo AJ, & Funder DC. (2013) The behavioral correlates of overall and distinctive life history strategy. Journal of personality and social psychology, 105(5), 873-88. PMID: 23915038  

  • December 5, 2013
  • 01:15 AM

Atheism, Openness to Experience and Dogmatism: A Puzzling Relationship

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Although openness to experience is usually associated with decreased dogmatism, a new study found that among atheists greater openness is associated with greater dogmatism. ... Read more »

  • November 30, 2013
  • 06:27 AM

The Forgotten Role of Individual Differences in the Stanford Prison Experiment

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

The Stanford Prison Experiment has had a remarkable influence in psychology, and has been used to demonstrate the alleged power of situations to triumph over individual differences. However, closer examination of the study's methodology shows that this conclusion is completely unwarranted, and that the study did not provide an adequate test of the role of personality. ... Read more »

  • October 24, 2013
  • 11:32 PM

The Complex Relationship Between Intelligence and Political Orientation

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Intelligence is one of the most controversial and divisive issues in scientific psychology. Add the issue of political ideology and the result is likely to stir up heated debate. The subject is a complex one and not yet fully understood. A review of the research literature reveals some conflicting findings, but one theme that seems to emerge is that the cultural context appears to influence the way that intelligence and political orientation are related to each other.... Read more »

  • September 30, 2013
  • 11:31 PM

Individual Differences in Religious Prejudices

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Some researchers have argued that how dogmatically people hold their beliefs is more important to religious prejudice than the actual content of their beliefs. However, a recent study suggests that when it comes to prejudice against gays and atheists, the content of the belief – specifically belief in God – is as important, perhaps even more important, than how dogmatically a person holds those beliefs.... Read more »

  • July 23, 2013
  • 07:45 AM

The Myth of Catharsis: Why Ranting and Venting are Terrible Ways to Handle Anger

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A study on the effects of using "rant" sites illustrates that cathartic venting actually makes anger worse, contrary to popular opinion. More constructive ways of expressing anger are considered. ... Read more »

Martin, R. C., Coyier, K. R., VanSistine, L. M., & Schroeder, K. L. (2013) Anger on the Internet: The Perceived Value of Rant-Sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(2). DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0130  

  • June 11, 2013
  • 08:24 AM

The Far-Fetched Infidelity Detection Hypothesis of Oral Sex

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A recent paper attempted to confirm the evolutionary hypothesis that interest in oral sex is related to sperm competition and functions to detect infidelity. The study results are inconclusive as there is a more obvious mundane explanation for the findings. ... Read more »

Pham, M., & Shackelford, T. (2013) Oral sex as infidelity-detection. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(6), 792-795. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.034  

  • May 31, 2013
  • 01:25 AM

Could sexbots one day give people longer life? Dream on!

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Research linking orgasm frequency to longevity have led to some wild claims by some transhumanists about people one day using sexbots to prolong their life expectancy. Examination of the actual findings shows that these claims are exaggerated and go far beyond the available evidence.... Read more »

  • May 22, 2013
  • 08:23 AM

Twitter versus the Grim Reaper: Extraverts but not introverts use Twitter to ward off existential anxiety

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A great deal of Twitter content has been described as "pointless babble." However, an experimental study found that Twitter usage can ward off existential anxiety, at least in extraverts. Even banal tweets might serve a deeper psychological purpose.... Read more »

Qiu L, Leung AK, Ho JH, Yeung QM, Francis KJ, & Chua PF. (2010) Understanding the psychological motives behind microblogging. Studies in health technology and informatics, 140-4. PMID: 20543286  

  • May 16, 2013
  • 07:41 AM

The effectiveness of placebo treatment for pain is related to personality traits

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A recent study found that people high in agreeableness, ego-resiliency, and low in neuroticism have a stronger response to placebo pain relief. The placebo effect may be related to a person's capacity for self-control. ... Read more »

Peciña M, Azhar H, Love TM, Lu T, Fredrickson BL, Stohler CS, & Zubieta JK. (2013) Personality trait predictors of placebo analgesia and neurobiological correlates. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(4), 639-46. PMID: 23187726  

  • April 17, 2013
  • 07:44 AM

The Mental Health Troubles of the "Spiritual but not Religious"

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A large British survey found that spiritual but not religious people have poorer mental health compared to both religious and non-religious/non-spiritual people. Reasons for this are no yet clear, but personality traits associated with spiritual beliefs and interests might be a factor.... Read more »

King, M., Marston, L., McManus, S., Brugha, T., Meltzer, H., & Bebbington, P. (2012) Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(1), 68-73. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.112003  

  • March 30, 2013
  • 06:29 AM

What are Porn Stars' Personalities Like?

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Recent studies on porn stars found that performers had higher self-esteem than other people. Little else is known about their personality traits, but it is reasonable to speculate. Porn stars' interpersonal traits might be warmer or colder than average. ... Read more »

  • January 30, 2013
  • 01:09 AM

An Evolutionary Psychology Perspective on Porn Stars

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

New research has opened a window into the lives of porn actors and actresses. Could evolutionary psychology shed light onto the motivations of these individuals? ... Read more »

  • December 25, 2012
  • 01:28 AM

Spirituality through Psychedelic Drugs

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

Recent research has found that users of psychedelic drugs consider themselves more spiritual than users of other drugs and people who do not use any drugs. Whether psychedelic drugs increase spirituality, or if spiritually oriented people are drawn to these drugs is not yet clear. ... Read more »

  • December 15, 2012
  • 02:54 AM

Sex and religion: natural enemies?

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

An interesting research study found that asking people to think about sex subsequently improved their performance on analytical tasks requiring attention to detail. Getting them to think about love improved their performance on creative tasks. Previous studies have found that priming tasks that activate analytical thinking tend to weaken religious beliefs. This raises the intriguing possibility that thinking about sex could weaken religious belief, whereas thoughts about love might strengthen it........ Read more »

  • November 26, 2012
  • 05:45 AM

Eating Disorders and the Not So Female Brain

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A recent paper claimed that eating disorders manifest an "extreme female brain" in contrast to an "extreme male brain" proposed for autism. The evidence for this was mixed especially when some of the results applied more clearly to males than females. Additionally, eating disorders and autism may have certain features in common even though they are supposed to represent opposite brain types. Characterising certain conditions as extremely ‘male’ or ‘female&rs........ Read more »

Bremser JA, & Gallup GG Jr. (2012) From one extreme to the other: negative evaluation anxiety and disordered eating as candidates for the extreme female brain. Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 10(3), 457-86. PMID: 22947672  

  • November 12, 2012
  • 12:03 AM

Psilocybin could improve quality of life in the terminally ill

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

A recent study of people with advanced-stage cancer found that a single dose of psilocybin led to improvements in anxiety and depression. Psilocybin might enhance mood by shifting attention away from negative and towards positive emotional information. Mystical experiences occurring under the influence of psilocybin could help ease existential anxiety by changing a person’s attitudes towards death and dying. Research studies in this area have not used adequate experimental controls and therefo........ Read more »

Grob CS, Danforth AL, Chopra GS, Hagerty M, McKay CR, Halberstadt AL, & Greer GR. (2011) Pilot study of psilocybin treatment for anxiety in patients with advanced-stage cancer. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(1), 71-8. PMID: 20819978  

  • November 1, 2012
  • 04:01 AM

Your brain on psilocybin

by Scott McGreal in Eye on Psych

An fMRI study of the effects of psilocybin made the surprising discovery that brain activity is reduced under the influence of this mind-expanding drug. This has led to speculation about the neural basis of ego-transcendence. These findings could have a more mundane exploration that the authors did not consider. More rigorous research is needed to understand the neural underpinnings of the psychedelic effects of psilocybin and related drugs. ... Read more »

Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, Stone JM, Reed LJ, Colasanti A, Tyacke RJ, Leech R, Malizia AL, Murphy K.... (2012) Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(6), 2138-43. PMID: 22308440  

Wicker, B., Ruby, P., Royet, J., & Fonlupt, P. (2003) A relation between rest and the self in the brain?. Brain Research Reviews, 43(2), 224-230. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2003.08.003  

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