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Prof Karen Douglas

When?
Wednesday, September 5 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Prof Karen Douglas

What's the talk about?

Was 9/11 an inside job? Is climate change a hoax? Was Princess Diana murdered? Millions of people appear to think so, disbelieving official explanations for significant events in favour of alternative accounts that are often called ‘conspiracy theories’. In recent years, psychologists have begun to investigate what makes conspiracy theories appealing to so many people. In this talk, I will broadly overview what psychologists have found out so far, and will discuss some of my own findings on the causes and consequences of conspiracy theory belief.

Karen Douglas is a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Kent. In addition to conducting work on the psychology of conspiracy theories, she is involved in projects examining sexism in language, the influence of sexist ideology on attitudes toward pregnant women, and the psychology of internet behaviour.

David V Barrett

When?
Wednesday, August 1 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
David V Barrett

What's the talk about?

The End of the World is announced almost monthly. We remember the dire warnings at the Millennium, and the Mayan calendar of 2012, while the Second Coming of Jesus has been a regular event for centuries. The Maitreya was meant to appear in the East End of London, and our Space Brothers were coming to save the elect in their flying saucers...

These prophecies all have one thing in common. Alternative religions author Dr David V Barrett looks at prophecies of the end of the world and at how prophets cover their embarrassment when nothing happens... again.

Jamie Bartlett

When?
Wednesday, July 4 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Jamie Bartlett

What's the talk about?

Jamie will talk about his new book 'The People Vs Tech', which argues there is a looming war between democracy and digital technology. He will explain what Cambridge Analytica did during the Trump election - and whether it made a difference - and suggest that democracies are being slowly undermined by the internet. Jamie will also set out what needs to be done to avoid the drift into techno-authoritarianism.

Copies of Jamie's latest book will be available for purchase at the event and he will be happy to sign copies upon request.

Jamie Bartlett is the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think-tank Demos, where he specialises in online social movements and the impact of technology on society He is also author of the best selling book The Dark Net and a regular commentator on national and international media outlets.

Dr Adam Rutherford

When?
Wednesday, June 13 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Adam Rutherford

What's the talk about?

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE - THIS EVENT IS NOW ON 13th JUNE

Sex, death, murder, disease, warfare, invasion, migration and famine. Of all the historical texts available to us, none is richer than the one we carry inside every cell. In the last few years, we have made extraordinary progress in our ability to read and understand DNA in the living, and to wheedle it out of people who may well have been dead for tens of thousands of years. Only now, are we re-painting the picture of the human story, using a unique combination of archaeology, history, art and our genomes. DNA is the saga of how we came to be who we are today.

 

Jennifer Rees

When?
Wednesday, May 2 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Jennifer Rees

What's the talk about?

What differentiates a Serial Killer from Mass or Spree Killers? During this talk, you will discover how Serial Killers are classified, using case studies to illustrate, whilst debunking common serial killer myths along the way.

We will also explore how common homicidal fantasies are. Have you ever fantasised about killing someone? Jennifer will explore the research into the phenomenon.

Difference between male and female serial killers? What is the psychology underpinning the relationships of Killer Couples, exploring issues such as folie à deux (madness of two) and Hybristophilia – why do serial killers gain admirers, fan mail, and even spouses in light of their atrocious crimes?

This talk will be evidence-based throughout, citing the current research from the field in an accessible way.

Jennifer Rees is a Forensic Science Lecturer at West Herts College and the Programme Manager of the Extended Degree in Science Programme for the University of Hertfordshire’s Consortium. Previously, she has trained Policing recruits teaching on the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing (CKP) programme, on topics such as interviewing, as well as dealing with suspects, witnesses and victims.

In 2016, she was one of 50 Healthcare Professionals selected to write a Whitepaper recommendation for the NHS, and was appointed the Vice Chair of the Mental Wealth Initiative, a sub-committee of the Youth Health Parliament. Their proposals were presented in Parliament in December 2016, aimed to improve provision for 'mid-level' mental health problems.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, April 4 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF SPEAKER, THE ORIGINAL TALK BY GEOFF WHELAN HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

In September 1591, a prosperous Wrocław shoemaker killed himself by cutting his own throat. To avoid the shame associated with suicide and to ensure he received a religious burial, his family concealed the damning evidence. But the shoemaker did not rest in his grave. The whole town was disturbed by his ghost which made noises, appeared to some, and oppressed others. The Council was convened and the man’s corpse was exhumed and examined; what they found shocked the whole community.

In this talk, we will conduct an historical paranormal investigation to look at the many factors which have led to perfectly sane, intelligent people coming to believe that there was a mischievous and dangerous ghost in their midst, including:

  • The history of the Wrocław and its many historical and cultural infuences
  • The context of sixteenth century religious and folkloric belief
  • The historic understanding of biology and bodily decay
  • The social psychology of scapegoating behaviour and ritual
  • The similarity between many varieties of supernatural revenant folklore across Europe, some of which persists to this day.

Deborah Hyde has been Editor-in-Chief of The Skeptic Magazine for over five years. She speaks regularly at conventions, on podcasts and on international broadcast media about why people believe in the supernatural - especially the malign supernatural - using a combination of history and psychology. She thinks that superstition and religion are natural - albeit not ideal - ways of looking at the world.

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky

When?
Wednesday, March 7 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Professor 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. I explore the implications of the growing abundance of misinformation in the public sphere, how it influences people and how to counter it. I argue that for counter-measures to be effective, they must be informed by the larger political, technological, and societal context. The post-truth world arguably emerged 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. Rather, it should also consider the influence of alternative epistemologies that defy conventional standards of evidence. I suggest that responses to the post-truth era must therefore include 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.

Dr Niall McCrae

When?
Wednesday, February 7 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Niall McCrae

What's the talk about?

According to the popular press, we are amidst an epidemic of mental health problems in young people. The internet, and particularly social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp, are often blamed for the rising incidence of depression in teenagers. But there is scant evidence for this. Niall McCrae, with colleagues Sheryl Gettings and Edward Purssell at King’s College London, conducted a systematic review of studies measuring social media use and depression in adolescence. A small statistically significant correlation was found, but this could be due to a minority of psychologically vulnerable young people turning to cyberspace for support. Undoubtedly there is problematic and excessive use of the internet, but the review findings do not suggest that social networking sites and instant messaging cause depression. Niall detects hints of moral panic arising from rapid technological advance and its perceived impact on society. Social media are the medium, but not the message.

 

Dr Niall McCrae is a lecturer in mental health at King’s College London. As well as almost a hundred papers in academic journals, Niall has written two books: The Moon and Madness, on the legendary notion of lunar influence on human behaviour, and Echoes from the Corridors, a history of nursing in the asylums.

NB: Not our usual first Wednesday of the month slot

Dr Vanessa Charland

When?
Wednesday, January 17 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Vanessa Charland

What's the talk about?

NB: Not our usual first Wednesday of the month slot

 

Near death experiences (NDEs) are increasingly being reported as a clearly identifiable physiological and psychological reality of clinical significance. However, the definition and causes of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. Recent work has shown that NDEs memories cannot be considered as imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that all psychological features of the NDE have a neuronal basis; yet the empirical investigation of the NDE phenomenon remains unexplored. We here propose the scientific study of NDE using integration of data derived from both psychological and neurophysiological approaches. We believe that by bridging data from psychology and neurology of NDE this project will open up a new perspective in the science of NDE by providing a rigorous definition and explanation of the phenomenon.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, December 6 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

THE ORIGINAL TALK SCHEDULED FOR THIS MONTH BY DR JULIA SHAW HAS UNFORTUNATELY BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO UNFORESEEABLE CIRCUMSTANCES.

We tend to think of fairies as kindly, gossamer-winged creatures who grant wishes. But Tinkerbell has a lot to answer for!

Some people did sincerely believe in fairies, but the characteristics, behaviour - and even the appearance - of the supernatural creatures were very changeable, reflecting the inconstant circumstances and environments of the humans who recounted the tales.

Our modern caricatures are the end product of a bowdlerising process which has filtered out so much of the potent danger that original, folkloric fairies represented.

Deborah Hyde is editor of The Skeptic (skeptic.org.uk) and writes about belief in the malign macabre at http://www.deborahhyde.com / @jourdemayne

Prof Chris French

When?
Wednesday, November 1 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Prof Chris French

What's the talk about?

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A CHANGE TO OUR ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED TALK. DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES JOSEPH SIMCOX IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE.

This talk will describe my experience of taking part in a documentary investigating reincarnation claims amongst the Druse in Lebanon. The Druse are a religious sect for whom reincarnation is a central belief. The general conceptual problems with reincarnation will be outlined as will the specific problems associated with the Druse version. Case histories that were featured in the documentary are presented and discussed. A plausible alternative (non-paranormal) explanation for apparent past-life memories is outlined. It is argued that, regardless of the truth of such beliefs, believing in reincarnation has been beneficial for the Druse.

Professor Chris French is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a Patron of the British Humanist Association. He is a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He writes for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine. His most recent books are Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke (2012, Palgrave Macmillan), and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience, co-authored with Anna Stone (2014, Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr Kat Arney

When?
Wednesday, October 4 2017 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kat Arney

What's the talk about?

Dr Kat Arney is a science communicator and award-winning blogger for Cancer Research UK, as well as a freelance science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more.

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We're told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library.

With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

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