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Chris French

When?
Wednesday, August 10 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Chris French

What's the talk about?

NB: This replaces Hayley Stevens's talk.

Thousands of people around the world claim to have directly experienced contact with extraterrestrials and in many cases to have been abducted by aliens and taken on board spaceships and subjected to medical examination. How are we to explain such claims? With a few notable exceptions, those making such claims do not appear to be deliberately lying. Neither do they appear to be suffering from serious psychopathology. However, there are good reasons for doubting that such accounts are accurate reflections of events taking place in objective reality. A number of psychological factors have been implicated in attempts to explain such claims including sleep paralysis, personality factors such as fantasy proneness and possibly unusual activity in the temporal lobes of the brain. It seems likely that alien contact and abduction claims are examples of false memories.

Dr Gordon Wright

When?
Wednesday, July 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Gordon Wright

What's the talk about?

Gordon is a psychologist researching deception and other aspects of devious personality and behaviour. Although his mother doesn’t entirely approve, Gordon finds it a fascinating topic of general interest and of applied value to intelligence gathering, investigations and the criminal justice system. As a long time Skeptic in the Pub regular, Gordon is keen to share some of the insights he has gleaned on the liars and cheats around us in everyday life, how this transfers to criminal investigations (and Facebook stalking), but also to touch upon some of the moral and ethical conundrums associated with deception, lie detection, manipulation and intelligence gathering. Well, that’s the plan, but knowing Gordon, it’ll go off topic pretty quickly... 

Michael Story

When?
Wednesday, June 1 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Michael Story

What's the talk about?

NB: This replaces Alom Shaha's talk, which has been moved to April 2017

Since 2011, a team of 200 civilians has been predicting the future more accurately than US intelligence agencies. Formed five years ago under the auspices of IARPA (the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, informally known as 'DARPA for spies'), the Good Judgement Project's 'Superforecaster' teams have been forecasting the specifics of North Korean missile programmes, the movement of Russian troops and the longevity of Robert Mugabe, achieving a 50% lower error rate than the previous state of the art. This talk will cover who makes these forecasts, how they are doing it, and some techniques shown to make nearly anyone more accurate when predicting the future.

Andrew Copson

When?
Wednesday, May 4 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Andrew Copson

What's the talk about?

At this event, Andrew Copson will give an overview of humanism: what it is, what it is not, its history and its long association with skepticism. Andrew will also talk about the British Humanist Association: their aims and the work that they do. Andrew Copson is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association.

Andrew became Chief Executive in January 2010 after five years coordinating the BHA's education and public affairs work. His writing on humanist and secularist issues has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Times and New Statesman as well as in various journals and he has represented the BHA and Humanism extensively on television news on BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, as well as on television programmes such as Newsnight, Daily Politics and The Big Questions. He has also appeared on radio on programmes from Today, Sunday, The World at One, The Last Word and Beyond Belief on the BBC, to local and national commercial radio stations.

Dr Kimberley Wade

When?
Wednesday, April 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Kimberley Wade

What's the talk about?

Suggestive techniques can lead people to remember wholly false childhood events such as being lost in a shopping mall or being hospitalized overnight. Although most false memory research has relied on some form of verbal suggestion to influence what people recall, recent research shows that photographs—both genuine and doctored—can create havoc in memory too. I will discuss the extent to which images and videos can influence memory for significant, recent experiences, and show that people might even confess to, or testify about, events that never happened if they are confronted with fabricated evidence. I will also discuss new research on people with highly superior autobiographical memories. These people demonstrate incredibly detailed and robust memories, but are they immune to memory errors?

Dr Kim Wade is an Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Warwick. She is a cognitive psychologist specialising in autobiographical memory and memory distortions, best known for her research demonstrating the power of doctored images to produce false memories. Kim is especially interested in the mechanisms that drive the development of false memories, and in refining the theories that explain false memory phenomena. Her research is published in many high-impact journals, and appears frequently in the media, in undergraduate texts, and in books for the educated layperson.

Michael Head

When?
Wednesday, March 2 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Michael Head

What's the talk about?

We all love our children dearly and chose to vaccinate them or not vaccinate them because of that deep love. Yet the discussion of whether or not to vaccinate can bring friendships to an end and the decision itself can have life-threatening consequences, not just for babies and unvaccinated children, but for anyone with a compromised immune system such as elderly people in our community.

Michael Head looks at vaccination in the larger context. Smallpox is eradicated, polio has nearly gone the same way and in most countries diphtheria is rare. That’s due to vaccination. Yet headlines are often fixated on measles outbreaks on both sides of the Pond, or the ‘dangers’ of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.

Too many people are just not fussed about vaccines, or worse, they actively preach and campaign against them, with more than the occasional dollop of an absence of morality.

Plus there’s the desperate search for an ebola vaccine, the imperfections of the tuberculosis vaccine, the waning immunity over time of the pertussis (whooping cough) immunisation, that HIV vaccine that just won’t come, and the annual guesswork that is the composition of the influenza vaccine. It’s a complicated business, alright.

This presentation will walk you through some facts and figures, highlight the new vaccines in the pipeline and provide an insight into the public health danger posed by those who, even today, still try and tell you the MMR vaccine gives your child autism (it doesn’t, by the way).

Michael Head is a senior research fellow in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, and a visiting academic in the Farr Institute for Health Informatics at University College London. He has an undergraduate qualification in Biomedical Science, postgraduate degree in epidemiology and is in the final throes of a PhD with the University of Amsterdam in infectious diseases and global health.

Michael has been working in infectious disease research since 2004, has around 30 peer-reviewed publications in journals including Lancet and Nature journals, and for some reason spends far too much of his spare time reading about ‘bad science’ on the web. 

David Frank

When?
Wednesday, February 3 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
David Frank

What's the talk about?

Marketer and former radio show host David Frank will be talking about all things online dating, sex and porn. We could all use some tips on how to market ourselves, whether looking for love online, or trying to make the best impression in any situation. There's a marketer’s insight into porn for women, the formulas romance novels use for their plots and covers, and we'll look at the statistics behind the UK's porn viewing. This talk will prove you're attractive to a great many people, and we'll use science to prove it! There’ll be singing, an acted romance scene, & a very interesting Q&A afterwards.

Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, David has lived in Japan and Vietnam, and most recently moved to Scotland. He has organised dozens of events for Perth Skeptics, Tokyo Skeptics, The Humanist Society of Western Australia and various other Meetup groups. He is an Edinburgh Skeptics committee member, and runs Edinburgh Skeptics' monthly discussion group Skeptics Underground. You can read more about him at www.davidfrank.com.au.

Dr Itiel Dror

When?
Wednesday, January 6 2016 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Dr Itiel Dror

What's the talk about?

In many domains experts are called upon to provide research and analysis. Their expert judgment and decision making is often regarded as error-free, or at least as being objective and impartial. Drawing from the fields of medicine and criminal justice, I will present research and evidence from real cases that many different types of psychological contamination affects experts, including fingerprinting and DNA forensic laboratory decision making as well as errors in medical decision making. I will articulate the psychological mechanisms by which forensic, medical, and other experts make biased and erroneous decisions. This research can help identify such weaknesses and provide innovative, but practical, ways to mitigate them.

Dr Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist. Interested in the cognitive architecture that underpins expertise, he attained a Ph.D. at Harvard University. He has been examining expert decision making and error in a number of expert domains. In the forensic domain he has demonstrated how contextual information can influence the judgments and decision making of experts; he has shown that even fingerprint and DNA experts can reach different conclusions when the same evidence is presented within different extraneous contexts. Dr Dror has published over 100 research articles and has been working with many US forensic laboratories (e.g., FBI, NYPD, LAPD) as well as in other countries (e.g., The Netherlands, Finland, Canada, and Australia) in providing training and implementing cognitive best practices in evaluating forensic evidence, as well as with hospitals and medical training to minimise medical error. More information is available at www.cci-hq.com.

Deborah Hyde

When?
Wednesday, December 2 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Deborah Hyde

What's the talk about?

Krampus, a demon-like creature from Alpine folklore, punishes naughty children at Christmas - in contrast with Jolly St Nicholas who brings presents. Krampusnacht, usually celebrated on December 5th, involves dressing up as the Krampus and roaming the streets frightening children with chains and bells. The Krampus phenomenon has been re-kindled; growing in popularity in the US and increasingly appearing in the UK.

We'll look at where Christmas really comes from. See if you get candies.... or coal and a thrashing!

Rob Bailey

When?
Wednesday, November 4 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Rob Bailey

What's the talk about?

Rob Bailey is a Chartered Psychologist, a member of the Magic Circle and a veteran of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where, for 4 years he performed a one-man show as a ‘mind reader’. During that time, he felt increasing unease that although the show was meant to parody psychic powers and encourage critical thinking, he has risked replacing the audience’s beliefs in the paranormal with unwarranted beliefs in impossible psychological powers.

His new show is a response to that: Rob has stripped his routines back to include only genuine psychological principles. He will perform a few routines, followed by explanations (e.g. quirks of bias, memory and perception).

Exclusively for the Skeptics in the Pub audience, he will also discuss his thoughts about the pitfalls of attempting to promote critical thinking by using illusions.

Ash Pryce

When?
Wednesday, October 7 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

60 Old Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NY

Who?
Ash Pryce

What's the talk about?

Hydesville. New York. 1848. The young Fox sisters begin communicating with the spirit of a murdered beggar and spiritualism is born. This interactive look at a history of talking to the dead will feature an array of magical treats including levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication.

Part magic show, part comedy, part rational inquiry this fun show has regularly packed venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Ash has performed frequently at Skeptics in the Pub groups to positive responses.

NB: This is a skeptically themed show and not intended as an actual demonstration of mediumship or psychic abilities

A special event with the European Skeptics Congress

Gustav Khun

When?
Friday, September 11 2015 at 7:30PM

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Where?

Goldsmiths Students' Union
Dixon Road
New Cross
London
SE14 6NW

Who?
Gustav Khun

What's the talk about?

Magic is one of the oldest art forms, and for centuries magicians have created illusions of the impossible. Some have used these illusions as demonstrations of supernatural powers. However, advances in psychology and neuroscience offer new insights into why our minds are so easily deceived. I am a magician and psychologist with an interest in researching some of the mechanisms involved in magic. Instead of relying on supernatural powers, magicians have developed powerful psychological principle to distort our perception and thoughts.

In this talk we will explore some of the principles used by magicians to distort your perception. For example, we will look at how magicians use misdirection to manipulate your attention and thereby prevent you from noticing things even though they might be right in front of your eyes. Alternatively, magicians may manipulate your expectations about the world and thus bias the way you perceive objects and can even make you see things that aren’t necessarily there. At first sight, our proneness to being fooled by conjuring tricks could be interpreted as a weakness of the human mind. However, contrary to this popular belief, I will demonstrate that these “errors” in fact reveal the complexity of visual perception and highlight the ingenuity of the human mind.

Dr Gustav Kuhn worked as a professional magician and it was his interest in deception and illusions that sparked a curiosity about the human mind. Gustav is a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and one of the leading researchers in the science of magic.

This meeting is in 'The Stretch' in Goldsmith College's Students Union on Friday September 11th starting at 19.30. Being a Skeptics in the Pub event, the atmosphere will be informal and there will of course be a bar!

Please note that this event is in addition to our normal monthly meetings, and is not in our usual venue!

This is an additional event to the main European Skeptics Congress that delegates and non-delegates may attend, tickets for each costing only £5. You may pay at the door but it is best to purchase tickets in advance. To do this or to obtain further information on payment please click here to register on the European Skeptics Congress website.