A fortnight of fascination

Ella Rhodes previews the Cambridge Science Festival.

This year’s two-week Cambridge Science Festival will host a vast range of fascinating psychology and neuroscience events. The mainly-free festival will feature a talk exploring the science behind out-of-body experiences, a play inspired by bipolar disorder and much more.

The main vein running through the 2016 festival are events exploring our increasingly symbiotic relationship with technology and machines. On the first day of the festival, Monday 7 March, an event organised by Professor Barbara Sahakian brings together speakers from the fields of information technology and robotics; Dr Hermann Hauser, Dr Mateja Jamnik and Professor Alan Winfield, along with neuroscientist Professor Trevor Robbins, will discuss the potential for supercomputers and machine learning to become superior to the human brain.

On Friday 11 March, David Greenberg will discuss his work on what a person’s musical taste can reveal about their personality – and how this can map onto five factors of personality and three different thinking styles. On the same day Naked Scientists presenter Ginny Smith will give an interactive talk entitled ‘Your irrational brain: how we really make decisions’.

Greenberg is also presenting a fascinating live and interactive experiment, on Saturday 12 March, about how music influences experience of films. The audience will be filmed watching clips of films to see how music changes their interpretation of the clips.

Among the many talks taking place during the course of the festival, which runs until Sunday 20 March, are a host of drop-in psychology events. Also on Saturday 12 March Anat Arzi, from the Cambridge Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, will demonstrate olfaction experiments and the cognition behind it – and promises to bust some popular neuromyths along the way. Also between the start of the festival and Friday 11 March Dr Will Harrison will be demonstrating visual illusions to demonstrate ‘how blind we really are’. Between 14 and 18 March the Department of Experimental Psychology consider what we think when we think of nothing.

A play inspired by ‘mental imagery’, emotion and the study and treatment of bipolar disorder, Pictures of You, will be discussed and parts of it showcased on Friday 18 March. It will include discussions around rumination and other thinking biases from clinical psychologist Caitlin Hitchcock, along with discussions about experiences of scientists collaborating with artists.

The following day Dr Jane Aspell, Psychology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, will discuss the latest neuroscientific explanations out of body experiences. She will explain why the science of this phenomena can suggest theories of how brains create the everyday experience inhabiting a body. In the evening, Professor Viren Swami considers the science of how we form relationships.

Most of the 300 events taking place at the festival are free to attend, though some require booking time slots online. Booking opens on 8 February. See the full event listings and information on how to book, and the list of psychology events

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