Stuart Sutherland

Stuart Sutherland, a professor of psychology at Sussex, is the author of Irrationality: The Enemy Within.

Keeping the synapses busy

Stuart Sutherland, 7 July 1994

Of all professionals perhaps doctors are the most gullible; and psychiatrists are perhaps the most gullible of all doctors. Over the last hundred years they have treated mental illness with cold douches, removal of the ovaries or thyroid, castration, hysterectomy, cooling almost to the point of death (and at least once beyond it), extracting the teeth and tonsils, enucleating the cervix, drilling holes in the skull, inducing coma through insulin, using metrazol to cause convulsions and slashing through a large chunk of the frontal lobe. All these savage and useless treatments were praised by their inventors and most were acclaimed by other psychiatrists.

Learning to peck

Stuart Sutherland, 4 November 1993

Astronomers have penetrated billions of light-years into space, explained the changing states of stars from their birth to their death, postulated the existence of black holes in which matter disappears, and rightly or wrongly, pinpointed the origins of the universe to a moment in time. The work of neuroscientists demands the same kind of ingenious speculation and theorising and rests on the invention of just as many subtle techniques. For several reasons, however, most people are less interested in what goes on inside their own heads than they are in events in the recesses of space. First, brain biochemists work with tiny structures, many billion times smaller than those with which astronomers deal: there is perhaps something attractively majestic about the distances and time scales over which astronomy ranges. Secondly, most of the conclusions reached by neuroscientists are less secure than those of astronomers. Finally, it is usually impossible to connect findings on the brain with its actual function.

Think about it

John Allen Paulos, 11 March 1993

Studies have shown repeatedly that children with bigger feet reason better than do those with smaller feet. Many of you have probably noticed this very strong correlation yourselves. Of course,...

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