“I’m Totally Tripping Balls”: The Value of Psychedelic and other Mythopoetic States

In what ways can the psychedelic imagination be “transformative”? The science of psychedelics is having a renaissance currently and the research is helping us understand the mind better and provide us with fresh therapeutic options. Psychotropic substances engender psychological and philosophical states that reveal important features of the self and consciousness. They can reduce the vigilant executive functions in the frontal areas of the brain and release the mind into the involuntary sphere of free-association and mind-wandering (what neuroscientists call the Default Mode Network, DMN). These altered states loosen the tyranny of task-based consciousness, and they also suspend the ego’s usual dominance –letting us feel connected to everything (possibly activating improved empathy).


The Origins of Dads, Jokes, and Dad Jokes

Firstly, how are we to make sense of the apparent popularity of dad jokes given that they are explicitly said to be “unfunny”? Millions of people seek them out and share them avidly with each other on websites like Twitter and Reddit. What gives? Are dad jokes funny, unfunny, or somehow both?

Secondly, what are we to make of the association between dads and dad jokes? One possible answer is that dad jokes are simply bad jokes and that dads have a bad sense of humor, but I argue against this interpretation in my new paper for this journal, “Dad Jokes and the Deep Roots of Fatherly Teasing.”

Dad jokes might seem like a strange topic for a journal called Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, but to understand the dad joke I argue that we have to look at the deep roots of each of its constituent concepts, dads and jokes. In this post, I will walk you through my central argument.


An embodied contradiction: Some personal reflections on the use of 4E perspectives in the humanities

If the personal history behind a research article is sometimes useful to have, its value is less obvious for a review article. Reviewers, after all, should be objective, and even if this can never realistically be achieved, it still seems a little shameless to parade the deficiency. I do so here because I think that the different ways in which I have encountered 4E perspectives illustrate some tensions in the practice of 4E that are usually invisible in the academic literature. These tensions are important because they illustrate how the presentation of 4E as a radical intellectual program by humanities scholars (though not only them) can run ahead of the more prosaic reality of actual 4E research. Should my experiences not chime with those of others who have worked in 4E, I can only remind them that they have foresworn disembodied objectivity on a priori grounds, and thus have no claim against the reviewer who fails to exhibit it.


An Infectious Curiosity: Morbid Curiosity and Media Preferences During a Pandemic

In this study conducted during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, I explored how trait morbid curiosity was related to interest in 1) factual information about Coronavirus that was specifically morbid, 2) general factual information about Coronavirus, 3) pandemic and virus genres of films and TV shows, and 4) genres of film and TV shows that center around threat more broadly. Participants (n = 125) who scored high in morbid curiosity reported increased interest, compared to usual, in pandemic/virus genres as well as horror and thriller genres. Morbidly curious participants were also more interested specifically in morbid information about Coronavirus. Furthermore, disgust sensitivity was unrelated to these preferences. These results provide initial evidence that trait morbid curiosity can predict particular media preferences in the face of a real threat, and that morbid curiosity may reflect an adaptive predisposition in some individuals toward learning about the dangerous and disgusting aspects of a threat. 


ESIC to be indexed by SCOPUS

ESIC is pleased to announce that it will soon be indexed by SCOPUS. The Content Selection & Advisory Board notes that ESIC is a strong and well organised peer reviewed journal which consistently includes articles that are scientifically sound and relevant to an international academic or professional audience in this field, fully meriting inclusion in SCOPUS. More details to follow in the coming months.


Why has it become so difficult to spot who’s the villain in Disney films?

Disney’s animated villains have always been wholly and irredeemably evil, with very few exceptions. They care for nothing but money and power and relish the suffering of pretty much anyone but themselves.

The inner evil of Disney villains was traditionally signaled by more superficial kinds of deviance. The villains typically spoke with a foreign accent, were physically unappealing, dressed in black and imposing garb, and had certain “queer” qualities—a feminine gait for a male character, for instance, or the drag queen-esque look of Ursula from 1989’s The Little Mermaid. They stood out in as many ways as possible.


How Stories About Haunted Houses Become Self-Perpetuating

My recent article for Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture delves into the question of why we find some kinds or physical spaces to be unsettling. Haunted houses, especially as they are portrayed in horror fiction and film, figure prominently in my discussion of why some places succeed so well at creeping us out.

I am interested in why a belief in haunted houses persists long after investigations of the case reveal them to be little more than a good ghost story. In other words, accounts of paranormal events are able to withstand an assault from actual facts quite well.