Newsletter 14/1/2011

Welcome to the first newsletter for my blog,, with links to my favourite psychology, philosophy and well-being articles that I've read over the last week. If you come across articles you'd like me to share, email me on

The biggest psychology and psychiatry story of the week was, of course, the fatal shooting of six people in Tucson by Jared Loughner, who it appears suffers from some form of schizophrenia. Did the vitriolic hate ads of the Tea Party have an effect on him? Did Arizona mental care fail him? Or was he simply a 'bad person'? The debate rages on. Here's an interesting piece on it, by the NYT's David Brooks (you'll need to have a free NYT login).

On the question of what makes people do evil things, here's an interview I did this week with Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist behind the infamous Stanford Prison Project, talking about whether we can be trained to resist evil influences.

Here is a great a piece from Wired about the controversy within psychiatry over the new DSM 5 manual of mental illness. Are mental illness classifications discrete separate entities, or are they convenient labels?

Meanwhile, as psychiatrists argue among themselves about how to define mental illness, we hear that the number of people forcibly detained (or sectioned) under the Mental Health Act in the UK went up 30% in 2010.

Does mindfulness meditation help us overcome mental and emotional problems? Here's a good piece on mindfulness therapy in the LA Times (thanks to John Laerum for sending it).

The School of Life, in London, is holding its first 'self-help seminar' this weekend, as it attempts to introduce some intellectual rigour into the sometimes flaky self-help market. Psychologist Oliver Burkeman is leading the charge, and has just brought out a book called How To Be Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done. Here's a blog post by him.

Philosopher Alain de Botton, who founded the School of Life, caused a bit of controversy with this piece, which suggested that academic humanities partly have themselves to blame for budget cuts, because they have failed to make themselves relevant to the ordinary punter. Should universities teach us how to live?

'All our leaders are Aristotelians now' - or do the Daily Telegraph's Mary Riddell suggests, in an article about the influence of Aristotle on modern British politics, particularly via Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel:

Witches - good news! Your profession has been officially recognized in Romania. Bad news - that means you're liable for tax. Doh!

And just in case you missed it - news from the Pharmaceutical Journal that reindeer eat psychedelic mushrooms 'because they get bored in winter'.