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Mind Matters: The Science of Magic 

Thursday 4th May 2017

View the videos of the talks on our blog

Experiencing the Impossible:  Why Magic Works

Magic is one of the most captivating and enduring forms of entertainment and magicians all over the world have baffled and amazed their audiences by creating magical illusion.  Recent advances in our scientific understanding of magic are providing new insights into the nature of magic, and the ease by which magicians trick us highlights many of our mind’s limitations. These surprising and stunning illusions provide intriguing insights into how our brain works.  We will use science, interactive demonstrations and magic to explore the psychology of magic and explain why our mind is so easily deceived.  

Magicians create many of their illusions by exploiting huge gaps in our conscious experience, holes that we are typically unaware of.  For example they use misdirection to manipulate your attention, which prevents you from noticing things that are right in front of your eyes. In this talk we will illustrate that the world you experience as being real is in fact simply an illusion, and question the idea that seeing is believing.  

Understanding how and why our brain is fooled will dramatically change the way you judge yourself and others, and it will also provide you with a new appreciation of your brain’s amazing capacity.  For example, did you know that you can really see the future?  

Dr Gustav Kuhn

Dr. Gustav Kuhn is a magician and member of the Magic Circle, and was his interest in deception and illusions that sparked a curiosity about the human mind. Dr. Kuhn is a Reader in the department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and director of the MAGIC Lab.  He as authored over 50 scientific papers and is one of the leading researchers in the science of magic.

Dr Megan Freeth

Dr Megan Freeth is a lecturer in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Sheffield with a specialism in Attention. Her work has provided a range of important insights into typical and atypical attention (e.g. how those with autism view aspects the world differently). She is a faculty member of the Sheffield Autism Research Lab.

Click here to see more about our speakers and their work. 

Mind Matters: Laughter, Humour & Creativity

Thursday 20th April 2017

View the videos of the talks on our blog

The Science of Laughter 

Laughter – we all do it, anytime, anywhere with almost anyone! But what’s the science behind it?

We are thrilled to be joined by Professor Sophie Scott for our second Mind Matters event where she will be sharing her research on the status of laughter as a ‘basic’ expression of emotion, the evolution of laughter and its purpose as a social emotion. She will show how it acts as a way of making and maintaining social bonds, and how nuanced its use can be in adult humans. Additionally, she will also address how the brain responds to laughter, and some evidence that laughter is an important method for regulation emotions states in interactions.

Dr Sophie Scott

Dr Sophie Scott is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. Her research interests include the neural basis of vocal communication – how our brains process the information in speech and voices, and how our brains control the production of our voice. She is also interested in the expression of emotion in the voice and individual differences in speech perception.

See more about Professor Scott. 

Where does humour come from? 

People around the world enjoy humour. But where does it come from in the first place?

Our very own Dr Elena Hoicka will discuss the research she has been carrying out in Sheffield exploring when babies first experience humour and what types of humour they like. She will also talk about what drives humour development, including children’s developing understanding of language, the social world and all the help they get from their parents. Additionally, there will be speculation on why humour might be useful for little kids – it might help them become creative people!

Dr Elena Hoicka

Dr Elena Hoicka is a developmental psychologist currently undertaking research on child development at The University of Sheffield. Her research places particular focus on examining how children come to understand conventional and factual wrongness through mistakes, jokes, pretending and deception. This is important to learning, intention understanding and innovation in cultural evolution.

Mind Matters: Can Science Help Turn You into Mind Readers? | Touch Sensing

In collaboration with the Sheffield Festival of Science and Engineering

Thursday 2nd March 2017

View the videos of the talks on our blog!

Can Science Help Turn You into Mind Readers?

Mind-reading, perhaps through modern mentalists such as Derren Brown, has remained ever popular and intriguing. Since the origin of the concept in the late 19th century, claims for the existence of clairvoyance have not been supported by published scientific evidence. Although science is yet to prove the ability of the brain to gain information about an object, person, or location through means other than the known senses, research using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology has provided demonstrations of thought identification; in some sense, mind reading. Come and learn all about how we apply this modern mind reading marvel in 21st century neuroscience right here at the University of Sheffield. Be part of a ‘live’ demonstration as we test whether fMRI technology can turn everyone in the audience into mind-readers; and discuss the significant ethical questions raised by this new ability to peer inside someone’s head.

Dr Aneurin Kennerley

Dr Kennerley is a Magnetic Resonance Physicist for the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging facility at the University of Sheffield’s Psychology Department. He has won several awards including the AstraZenca Prize for innovative in-vivo MRI research (2010), the University of Sheffield Exceptional Contribution Award (2009) and achieved his promotion to Research Associate at the University of Sheffield in 2007.

Touch Sensing

Dr Kendra Arkley, a member of active Touch Laboratory at Sheffield, focuses on active vibrissal (whisker) touch sensing and how specialised touch sensors (whiskers) are used by animals to explore and make sense of their environment. How the whisker system can be used as a tool for understanding the brain and inspiring robot design will also be discussed.

Dr Kendra Arkley 

Dr Arkley is a Research Fellow in the Active Touch Laboratory at Sheffield. Her research focuses on investigating vibrissal active touch sensing strategies in rats by using high-speed videography to observe the fine and fast-moving whiskers. Specifically, she explores the extent to which whisker sensing is active by demonstrating that contextual variables (e.g. availability of visual cues, presence of obstacles) alter the way in which the rat moves and positions its whiskers. Dr Arkley’s work has real life implications for research on robotics. For example, in search and rescue scenarios where vision may be limited, whiskered robots could use tactile cues to potentially save lives.