if only we all had this agony aunt

It’s a funny old world. Bill sent me a story from the Telegraph about sex among Cambridge University students because we’d been talking about sex surveys on college campuses. The survey was in fact conducted by the campus tabloid, so while it’s a very entertaining tidbit, how it made its way to the Daily Telegraph, an actual national newspaper, I’m not sure. It’s sort of like seeing a Harvard student comic strip covered in USA Today However! Finding that article led me to L and L, the Tab’s agony aunt. I think it’s appropriate to countervail today’s 600-word whine about

In which Emily is right about attachment. And the Guardian is wrong. Um, again.

Oh Guardian Science, you make me feel like a critical mother. I’m licking my thumb to smear dirt off your cheek, I’m poking you between the shoulder blades to make you stand up straight, I’m suggesting that maybe your recital would have gone better if you had just practiced more like I told you. I’m sorry. I love you. But I expect more. I expect, in fact, at least two of the following: good science, good writing, good advice. Oh Guardian Science. So this week the Evolutionary Agony Aunt offers us two bits of advice. In the first… well gosh,

how did you get started…?

Periodically – that is to say at least weekly – people ask me, “How did you start doing what you do?” Either they too want to talk about sex in front of crowds of people or they just can’t imagine what preparation might be required for such a profession. The job interview answer is that I started as a peer health educator when I was an undergraduate, going into residence halls and talking about condoms and birth control. I was studying cognitive psychology, which I loved, and I planned to become a clinical neuropsychologist – you know, helping people recover

body scaffolding

Andrew sent me this one, a story about sex and disability, though that’s an obtuse and artless way to describe something so moving. I’m guessing it came to Andrew because he spends a lot of time thinking about bionics and stuff. I’ll figure out something more insightful and appreciative to say later, but I just had to post it right away. Amazing. Amazing.

of chocolate cake, fruit salad, and pornography

I’m sitting at the autoglass repair place, waiting for my windshield to be replaced, and reading about consumer decision-making. I was inspired by a RadioLab story from a couple years ago (though I only just heard it) about, among a great deal else, the relationship between cognitive load and impulse control. Starting at minute 6 there’s a story about how rational effort is finite and when it’s being used up by a cognitive task, you decrease your ability to avoid doing irrational things. Briefly, if you’re in the middle of a high-demand cognitive task and someone puts both cake and

‘taint what you do, it’s the way that you do it…

Imagine this: You get a guy in a room and you sit him down in front of a television. Let him strap a Rigiscan to his penis (exactly what it sounds like) and give him a dial he can tune up and down (“I feel a little aroused, I feel a lot aroused” etc), put a tray over his lap, and then show him some porn. With about 85% accuracy, the tumescence of his penis will match the level of arousal he dials in. It’s not a perfect correlation, but it’s really, really high. The more erect he is, the



This is another one of those things I forget people don’t know: Perception of sensation is context dependent. What I mean is, you know how if someone tickles you when you’re feeling all playful and fun, it can be enjoyable? And then there’s other times when you might be annoyed or bored and someone tickles you and it just pisses you off? Same sensation, different context, therefore different experience. Sensation is contextual. It’s true of pain, as well as tickling. See, experienced sensation can be described with two different dimensions – intensity and valence.    Intensity is the scale  of the experience

Funniest research design EVER.

This cracks me up, man. It’s the least fun experiment ever: we’ll show you pictures of naked women and you tell us how hot they are, BUT FIRST: stick your arm in this bucket of ice water for three minutes – and then while you’re looking at the naked ladies we’ll blast white noise in your ears at random intervals. Awesome. What on earth must these participants have thought the experimenters were testing??