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psychologist vol 24 no 5
The menopause Beverley Ayers, Mark Forshaw and Myra Hunter look at lessons learned from a global outlook
Incorporating Psychologist Appointments £5 or free to members of The British Psychological Society
letters 322 big picture centre careers 380 looking back 392
‘they flash upon that inward eye’ 340 teaching happiness 344 interview with Alan Baddeley 354 creativity in the curriculum 356
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The British Psychological Society Contact The British Psychological Society St Andrews House 48 Princess Road East Leicester LE1 7DR tel 0116 254 9568 fax 0116 227 1314
Welcome to The Psychologist, the monthly publication of The British Psychological Society. It provides a forum for communication, discussion and controversy among all members of the Society, and aims to fulfil the main object of the Royal Charter, ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’. It is supported by www.thepsychologist.org.uk, where you can view this month’s issue, search the archive, listen, debate, contribute, subscribe, advertise, and more. We rely on your submissions, and in return we help you to get your message across to a large and diverse audience. See www.bps.org.uk/writeforpsycho
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Associate Editors Articles Vaughan Bell, Kate Cavanagh, Harriet Gross, Marc Jones, Rebecca Knibb, Charlie Lewis, Wendy Morgan, Tom Stafford, Miles Thomas, Monica Whitty, Barry Winter Conferences Sarah Haywood International Nigel Foreman, Asifa Majid Interviews Nigel Hunt, Lance Workman History of Psychology Julie Perks
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psychologist vol 24 no 5
letters diagnostic dangers; census and anti-cuts march; Eysenck; and more
news and digest 328 expert witness immunity lost; nappy curriculum; kids behaving badly; regrets; Psychology for All report; nuggets from the Society’s Research Digest; and more media controversy over unusual teaching methods, with Mark Sergeant
The menopause Beverley N. Ayers, Mark J. Forshaw and Myra S. Hunter look at lessons learned from a global outlook
‘They flash upon that inward eye’ Emily A. Holmes, Ella L. James, Simon E. Blackwell and Susie Hales look at mental imagery in the lab and the clinic
Teaching happiness – A brave new world? Maggi Evans on well-being initiatives and whose vision is being pushed
The memory man Alan Baddeley talks to Lance Workman about Bertrand Russell, Neanderthals and working memory
Creativity in the curriculum Dominic Upton and Douglas A. Bernstein offer a framework
book reviews 362 a Rough Guide to Psychology from The Psychologist journalist and Research Digest editor; media and youth; psychometric theory; and more society 366 a day in the life of the Society President; more online journals for members; Society Twitter feeds; public engagement grants; research interests database; new Society website; wellbeing consultation; and more
THE ISSUE The menopausal woman may not be ‘an unstable oestrogen starved’ woman responsible for ‘untold misery’ as sixties gynaecologist Robert Wilson would have had us believe. But viewed through the lens of Western biomedical science, ‘the change’ is still a time of poor emotional and physical health. Yet rural Greek women and those in the Mayan culture report few problems during the menopause transition. As Beverley Ayers, Mark Forshaw and Myra Hunter say on p.348, between biological and cultural understandings of menopause there is a gulf that psychologists are well placed to explore. Elsewhere, allow me to highlight two relatively new additions to The Psychologist which I feel are going from strength to strength. Our ‘Big picture’ centrespread is a striking image on some interesting work: I hope it will adorn psychologists’ walls across the land. ‘Looking back’ (p.392) is a fascinating detective story on the hunt for ‘Little Albert’, one of psychology’s most enduring mysteries; and there’s plenty of good news for members in ‘Society’. Happy reading, and tweet your thoughts on the issue @psychmag. Dr Jon Sutton
380 careers and psychologist appointments Jamie Durrance talks about her work at Rowan House; Kirsty Golden gives a view of the Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner role; and all the latest vacancies new voices 390 Marc Smith asks whether A-level psychology fails both boys and the discipline in the latest of our articles by first-time Psychologist authors looking back
a seven-year search for psychology’s lost boy, Little Albert, by Hall P. Beck, with Gary Irons one on one
…with Sam Cartwright-Hatton
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Expert witness immunity lost Expert witnesses will no longer be immune from litigation brought against them in civil courts by their clients. The change in law follows a UK Supreme Court decision, announced in March, which was triggered by a case involving a clinical psychologist. A man struck and injured by a car – the appellant – had been diagnosed as suffering PTSD by his psychologist, liability had been accepted by the driver, and damages were due to be awarded. However, the psychologist subsequently signed a joint agreement with the driver’s psychiatrist, who was acting as an expert for the defence, in which they both agreed the man had exaggerated his symptoms – he therefore received significantly reduced damages. Because of this, the appellant attempted to sue his psychologist for negligence – a case that was thrown out because of expert witness immunity. The man appealed, the case went to the Supreme Court, and the law has now been changed.
Professor Graham Davies of the University of Leicester is on the British Psychological Society’s Advisory Group on Expert Witnesses. ‘This narrow decision by the Supreme Court removes at a stroke the 400year-old immunity which experts have enjoyed in our courts,’ he told us. ‘Though the expert in the case appeared clearly at fault in ignoring the content of their own report in signing up to a joint report, the wholesale removal of immunity runs a serious risk that psychologists and other experts could be the subject of formal complaints or timeconsuming litigation by disappointed clients, as
emphasised by the minority opinion on the court.’ In related news, the Law Commission has published recommendations and a draft Bill
‘Nappy curriculum’ softened A review of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS, nicknamed the ‘nappy curriculum’), commissioned by the Coalition government last summer, has recommended that the scheme be radically slimmed down and made more flexible. The EYFS was launched by the previous government in September 2008, setting out a compulsory framework for nursery staff and child minders to assess the development of young children in England aged up to five years. With a 112-page guidance document and 69 developmental milestones, critics argued the scheme was intrusive and overly complicated. The vast majority of parents and professionals surveyed for the new review in fact said the EYFS was successful, but 30 per cent also
said there was too much paperwork and bureaucracy. Led by Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children, the review suggests revising down the number of early learning goals to just 17, and proposes a new focus on three prime areas: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development. ‘It has been apparent from the start of the review that the EYFS has had a positive overall impact on children in early years settings,’ Tickell said, but she added: ‘The current EYFS is cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic. And it isn’t doing enough to engage parents in their child’s development or to make sure children are starting
school with the basic skills they need to be ready to learn.’ Professor Trisha Maynard, Director of the Centre for Research into Children, Families and Communities at Canterbury Christ Church University, told us she broadly welcomed the new recommendations, particularly the recommendation for the guidance to be simplified so that it is accessible to all those
who work with children. ‘I welcome, also, the recognition of the vital role played by parents and carers as partners in young children’s learning; the significance of young children’s personal, social and emotional development; the appropriateness of a playbased approach to learning; and the importance of highly qualified staff who, sensitively and skilfully, are able to extend
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regarding the admissibility of expert evidence in courts in England and Wales. These developments follow a consultation that started in 2009, to which the BPS was a contributor. The main thrust of the draft Bill is that a new test should be established to ensure that expert evidence is reliable and impartial. According to Professor Davies, specific features of the draft Bill consistent with the Society’s submission include a recommendation that judges should be more proactive in ensuring that expert witnesses are not lured away from their areas of expertise under cross-examination, and that judges should be given new powers to consult with external experts to help them determine whether expert evidence is reliable or not. Professor Jane Ireland, head of the BPS Advisory Group on Expert Witnesses, said the draft Bill is very welcome, especially since the English legal system has lagged behind other
young children’s play, thinking and understanding,’ she said. However, Maynard, who is chair of the Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators, also had some concerns – particularly in relation to assessment being tied to early learning goals and developmental milestones, albeit that the list of these has been slimmed down. ‘This is likely to constrain practitioners’ thinking and practice in a way that a focus on young children’s interests and capabilities would not,’ she said. ‘Importantly, it does not capture the complex and non-linear nature of young children’s development and learning.’ CJ
I Access the review: tinyurl.com/6xcbka7
countries on this issue. ‘If the Bill comes to fruition as it is hoped, then it will for the first time more clearly assist judges in what makes good “psychological science” versus either “specialised knowledge” or “junk science”,’ said Ireland, who holds positions at the University of Central Lancashire, Mersey Care NHS Trust High Security and Åbo Akademi University, Finland. ‘The latter [junk science] has unfortunately enjoyed some presence in the admissibility of evidence from experts. More attention is certainly being given to the admissibility and quality of expert evidence, with the judiciary also currently funding a study into the quality of expert psychological assessments.’ What about the implications for Society members who work as expert witnesses? ‘Experts need to keep a sharp focus on the importance of this Bill and use it to assess the quality of the measures that they are applying in Court so that they do not mislead the Court into a judgment that is later appealed or may lead to the expert being disciplined,’ Ireland advised. ‘Experts carry considerable weight in a number of cases and their methods will at last be open to more detailed scrutiny prior to its admission.’ CJ I Access the draft Bill at tinyurl.com/3rfv3qp; further information on the Supreme Court decision at tinyurl.com/3e8ccvz
MEMORY CLINIC PRIZE The Croydon Memory Clinic, part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), has won an award for the best evidence-based psychosocial intervention for people with dementia and their caregivers. The service’s clinical director Professor Sube Banerjee was presented with the award at the Annual International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) held in Toronto in March. The Clinic involves family members in its rapid assessment and diagnosis and also provides support and advice to patients and their carers. SLaM have also just launched a new Developmental Neuropsychological Service for children, which will be accepting a wide range of referrals including for neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD, acquired brain injury cases, and memory, attention and language problems with an unknown cause. CJ
PUT YOURSELF ON THE SCIENCE MAP The Science Council is calling people who are using science, maths, engineering or technology as the foundation for their work or career to come out and help them show just how much science is used every day all over the UK, and the amazing range of different jobs there are out there. You can put yourself on the ‘Hidden Science Map’ at www.hiddensciencemap.org, launched as part of 2011 National Science and Engineering Week.
Comenius ethos lives on British Psychological Society member and Spearman Medal winner Dr Emily Holmes has been selected as one of the two winners of the Comenius Early Career Psychologist Award 2011. The award was given to the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) by the Union of Psychologists’ Associations of the Czech Republic, to be awarded to a young psychologist from Europe who has made an original contribution to psychology as a science and profession. The selection committee noted: ‘Dr Holmes is one of the foremost researchers in trauma, cognitive and emotional processing, and memory… Her distinctive theoretical contribution has been to link the limited field of imagery and cognitive psychology to the rich
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clinical and experiential material of emotional memories following trauma.’ Dr Holmes told The Psychologist: ‘I am very honoured to receive this award from the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations and for the support of the BPS. It comes as a real encouragement for my team’s research in experimental psychopathology. Interestingly, Comenius was a theorist and practitioner from the 1600s in the area of education research and learning. Our work seeking to better understand and modify psychopathology embraces “learning” in the domain of emotional processes, and it is exciting to see that the ethos of combining theory and practice is still strong four centuries on!’ JS I See p.340 for an article from Dr Holmes
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Kids behaving badly
TROUBLESOME TEENS Researchers at the University of Cambridge have performed the largest ever study to look at the brain structure of teenagers diagnosed with conduct disorder (American Journal of Psychiatry: tinyurl.com/63exz4l). Graeme Fairchild and colleagues at the University of Cambridge scanned the brains of 65 male teenagers (average age 18 years) with a conduct disorder diagnosis and 27 male, age-matched teenage controls. The results, published online in March, found reduced amygdala volume in teenagers with conduct disorder, but no differences in brain structure according to age of onset of the disorder. The amygdala result matches findings using functional brain scans and the presentation of fearful faces (see ‘Kids behaving badly’ report), but the lack of correlations between brain structure and age of onset undermines a popular theory in the field (the developmental taxonomic theory), which proposes the condition consists of two subtypes – an early-onset version associated with neural abnormalities, and a later-onset version triggered by peer influence. The study also uncovered a correlation between insula volume and severity of conduct disorder. Given previous research on the function of the insula, this anomaly is possibly associated with a diminished ability to process other people’s emotions and an insensitivity to punishment. Reduced volume was also observed in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, involved in executive control and reasoning about other people’s mental states. In contrast to previous research, no correlation was observed between amygdala volume and callous/unemotional traits. But there was a positive correlation between these traits and increased volume of caudate nucleus and ventral striatum – perhaps reflecting a greater sensitivity to reward in these teenagers. ‘Our results…support the proposal that both forms of conduct disorder [early- and later-onset] may stem from dysfunction in neural circuits involved in emotion processing, contrary to the developmental taxonomic theory,’ the researchers said. CJ
Jon Sutton reports from Whitehall ‘Three years ago, my site manager was put on the Christmas party list of the local glaziers’, said Geoff Allen, Headteacher at Westfield School in Bucks. ‘That’s not a joke. I had to do something – I could not watch any more of my staff being seriously injured. But this stuff works, it really works.’ Allen was speaking at ‘Kids behaving badly: How neuroscience can help’, an event in Whitehall organised by the Learning Skills Foundation and Centre for Educational Neuroscience. The two bodies are working together to raise the profile of research and provide a bridge to practical application, and it was heartening to hear such positive reactions from those on the ‘front line’. The first talk had come from Essi Viding, Reader in Developmental Psychopathology at University College London and the Centre for Educational Neuroscience. She showed how charting the neurocognitive profile of different subtypes of children with antisocial behaviour may give important clues for intervention. Of particular interest are those children displaying callous-unemotional (CU) traits: a lack of empathy and remorse, and a shallow and insincere affect. Antisocial children who do not display CU traits may be impulsive, learn from ‘time out’ anger management training and are heavily influenced by parenting style. But CU kids are more premeditated, severe and persistent in their antisocial behaviour, show little link to parenting style and do not benefit from ‘time out’. As Geoff Allen would say later, ‘a few years ago our approaches were often not more subtle than a chapter in a Dickens novel – if you are nice to people they’ll be nice to you. But these children don’t give a monkey’s. They don’t want a reciprocal relationship, they want to be in control. We learnt not to use those approaches.’ So what’s going on in the brains of these children? We might have known that the pesky amygdala would be implicated: it seems to be getting a bad press in all sorts of areas these days.
Not too few to mention Lost loves and unfulfilling relationships have come top of the list in a US survey of people’s regrets. Women were particularly likely to mention romantic regrets; men more often focused on career or education (Social Psychological and Personality Science: tinyurl.com/436u55d). Mike Morrison at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign and Neal Roese at Northwestern University used random telephone dialling to interview a representative sample of 370 adults (207 women). A finding that contrasted with earlier research, nearly all of which depended on student samples, was that
regrets about things done and regrets about missed opportunities were equally prevalent, rather than the former being cited more often. Regrets involving inaction tended to be longer-lasting but regrets involving actions were more intense. Another novel detail was that people’s stated regrets were associated with their life circumstances – for example, participants who lacked a higher education or a romantic relationship tended to have regrets in those areas. Also, those with high levels of education had the most career-related regrets. ‘Apparently, the more education obtained, the more acute may be the sensitivity to aspiration and fulfilment,’ the researchers said. CJ
REGULATION PLANS Current plans for the statutory regulation of counselling and psychotherapy by the Health Professions Council – the same body that regulates practitioner psychologists – are in doubt following the publication of a Department of Health paper in February. The Command Paper Enabling Excellence Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers outlines the Coalition Government’s plans to reduce the costs of regulation in health and social care, including devolving greater autonomy to existing regulators, increasing their accountability, and encouraging mergers. The document also proposes that professions not yet under statutory regulation should instead be encouraged to form voluntary registers.
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y Viding and colleagues, as well as other research groups, have found lower amygdala activity to fearful emotional faces in adolescents with CU traits, as compared with healthy comparison adolescents and those with ADHD. Children with high levels of CU also focus less on the critical eye region when they process fear – could this be at the root of their problems with emotional reactivity? Other research looked at the prefrontal cortex, finding abnormal activity when punished during a trial, along with increased grey matter suggestive of a maturational delay. All of this research suggests a neural basis for why antisocial children with CU lack empathy for others’ distress, make poor behavioural choices and have difficulty learning from their mistakes. Importantly, it leads to a very different intervention approach compared with that traditionally used with emotional behaviour disordered children, becoming more about instant rewards for good behaviour – a focus on what good behaviour ‘gets the child’ – and less about relying on empathy. Next up was Norah Frederickson, Professor of Educational Psychology at UCL and CEN, and Senior Educational Psychologist for Buckinghamshire County Council. She pointed to a new Green Paper Support and Aspiration: A New Approach to Special Educational Needs and Disability, which states: ‘We want to ensure that assessments of SEN and any assessments of children displaying challenging behaviour, by any professional, identify the root causes of the behaviour rather than focus on the
IN DOUBT ‘A system of assured voluntary registration is a more proportionate way of balancing the desire to drive up the quality of the workforce with the Coalition Government’s intention to avoid introducing regulation with its associated costs wherever possible,’ the Command Paper says. In a joint statement, the British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) welcomed the new proposals: ‘BPC and UKCP now wish to work with CHRE [the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, the body which will
accredit voluntary registers] to help develop a robust, credible and flexible regulatory framework based on the government’s proposals for assured voluntary registration.’ However, the Command Paper does also say that ‘there are limitations to the model of assurance for some groups of workers and, particularly for self-employed practitioners, there may be no team or employer present… In a limited number of cases therefore, statutory regulation may be the only way of effectively mitigating against risks to people using services…’ CJ
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symptoms.’ So are the characteristics associated with CU traits considered in planning bullying prevention and intervention programmes? Not according to Frederickson. Those seeking to utilise awareness of the distress caused and engage empathy are doomed to fail with CU children, ‘zero tolerance’ sanctions have little impact on those who are unable to learn from punishment, and skills training runs the risk of giving skilled social manipulators further ammunition. Surveillance and incentives, said Frederickson, have the best chance with CU children. In Westfield Primary, staff trained by educational psychologist Laura Warren and led by senior teacher Tara Deakes have introduced strategies that include short targets for good behaviour with immediate rewards; ‘emotional thermometers’ to help children recognise the impact of their emotions on their body and readiness to term; and SMART thought chains to encourage accurate, helpful and socially desirable cognitions. Externalising problems (conduct, aggression, hyperactivity) are down significantly in the high CU group. For anyone feeling uncomfortable about a focus on brain and biology, discussant Uta Frith (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) had a simple and confident message: ‘We do much better for some children in recognising the biological bases of their behaviour.’ And from Geoff Allen’s passionate perspective, befitting a headteacher: ‘What this team has done has allowed me to employ another teacher rather than replacing windows.’
THE GUANTANAMO WAY There was confusion last month over whether or not Larry James – the army psychologist who, it is alleged, failed to intervene to prevent abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib – had been appointed to a White House task force called ‘Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family’. It was reported in March that James, now based at Wright State University, claimed in a recent e-mail circular that he’d been appointed by Michelle Obama to the task force and would be meeting with her and others at the White House. According to the respected online magazine Salon, however, the White House made contact to deny that James had been appointed, and to clarify that he would not be attending the White House meeting. In a related development in April, a New York court heard the case against another army psychologist, Dr John Leso, who stands accused of designing abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo. The case arrived at the court at the request of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Justice and Accountability, after the New York State Office of Professional Discipline chose not to investigate the complaints made against Leso, stating that incidents at Guantanamo were beyond its remit. As we went to press, the judge Saliann Scarpulla had yet to rule. The Wall Street Journal reported that she empathised with the human rights advocates but also quoted her as saying she was unsure ‘the judicial process is the right way to do this’. CJ
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Sharing the secrets of the mind Catherine Loveday (University of Westminster) reports from ‘Psychology For All’, the Society’s public engagement event organised by the BPS London and Home Counties Branch hile there may have been a time W when psychologists preferred to keep the mysterious secrets of the mind
to themselves, the current climate is quite the opposite, with psychologists being called on to comment on anything from the meaning of Katie Price’s body language to the devastating psychological effects of a natural disaster. With funding cuts all around us and an increasing emphasis on impact, there has never been a time when public engagement with psychology has felt so vital to the health and development of our profession. It was therefore very exciting to see that the second Psychology For All
event was once again a sell-out. As Gerry Mulhern explained in his welcoming address, this is our chance to share our science with the general public and to stimulate an interest and awareness in the many ways in which psychology contributes to society.
Luck Richard Wiseman kicked off his keynote address with a simple but slickly delivered magic trick, generating an enthusiastic applause accompanied by a kind of nervous buzz. ‘Ah, I can smell your disbelief!’, Wiseman quipped but went on to reassure us that we were right to be sceptical because what we see in our
mind’s eye is often not what’s really there. He explained that it was a chance sight of an illusion in a psychology textbook that convinced him in his teens he wanted to learn more about how to unpack the mysteries of perception. Wiseman continues to be intrigued and fascinated by the way in which context can fool our brain, and he illustrated this with an array of brilliant and entertaining illusions and a little more magic. What did this have to do with ‘The Luck Factor’ – the title of his talk? Well, according to Wiseman, a very similar perceptual mechanism is behind why some of us consider ourselves lucky and some unlucky. Again, context is everything. Our notion of whether we’re lucky or unlucky, says Wiseman, is all to do with where our attentional spotlight lies, the extent to which we spot opportunities and the context in
Louise Marshall with more from Psychology For All How trusting are you? Ros Searle and Volker Patent (Open University) asked the audience to examine their own propensity for trust, using a psychometric tool. They went on to facilitate an assessment of mutual trust among delegates and to show how this might be experienced in real-life scenarios, such as when changing jobs. Presenting a workshop on ‘The secret life of happy and productive workplaces’, Sarah Lewis asked the audience to think back to the aspects of the best place they had ever worked, and discuss this in pairs. Her own take gave 10 aspects that make for positive and happy workplaces, including authentic leaders, reward-rich environments and using our strengths. Nash Popovic, an author, counsellor and lecturer at the University of East London, led an engaging workshop about ‘pub psychology’, an approach based on ideas from coaching psychology, positive psychology and the personal synthesis model. Pub psychology started after the Psychology for All conference in 2009 and involves weekly drop-in sessions in a pub focusing on a different subject each week, for example self-esteem, worrying or relationships. Popovic gave us a glimpse into the sessions by giving an entertaining example of a task in a session based on lying. The scope and aims of neuropsychology were the subject of Catherine Loveday and Trudi Edginton’s (University of Westminster) fascinating lecture on how brain injury can help us to understand the mechanics of the mind. Loveday used a series of well-known historical examples, such as Paul Broca’s patient ‘Tan’ and Phineas Gage, to show early evidence of brain modularity: the notion that different areas of the brain have specific functions. These classic case studies provided a foundation for Loveday to explain our more contemporary understanding of the links between structure and function, but she also used examples from her own practice to elaborate on this and to raise awareness of the widespread causes and day-to-day effects of
brain injury. Loveday concluded on a hopeful note with some insight into current approaches for rehabilitation, including reference to her own work with SenseCam, a camera that automatically takes regular pictures that can later help to trigger episodic memories [see February’s ‘Big picture’]. Loveday took to the podium again after lunch with a presentation that outlined the biological and cognitive changes that happen to the brain as it ages and some of the ways in which we can protect against this. While it is true that many neurons die or become dysfunctional, the good news, Loveday pointed out, is that the brain is capable of ‘plasticity’, a remodelling of synaptic connections and even growth of some new neurons, throughout life and on into old age. She explained that although some cognitive decline is inevitable, there are many abilities that are spared and continue to grow, most notably those that are used the most. Physical health and regular exercise were cited as good ways to keep the brain and mind in good shape, along with psychological well-being. She also explained that keeping the mind active and employing specific cognitive strategies can all minimise or reverse the effects of age. Miles Thomas gave an interesting and engaging presentation using psychology to describe the experience of wine. Thomas was able to clearly give a context and history of wine, bringing psychological theories and models to the world of wine. Studies were described that have shown how consumers are primed to enjoy a product more by it being described as more expensive and how fMRI scanning has been used to show this is a physiological effect. He recognised that wine buying can be a self-conscious experience and gave some useful tips on wine tasting and buying which were well received by the audience. Louise Marshall BPS London and Home Counties Committee Member Educational Psychologist, Southend-on-Sea
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showing that daily hassles and longer-term stressors, as well as perceived stress, each influence different aspects of illness development and recovery. Moss-Morris concluded on a positive note, suggesting that management of stress and social support can both provide significant buffers.
FUNDING NEWS The MRC invites proposals for high-quality, innovative medical research that increases the current knowledge base of CFS/ME. Areas that may be of particular relevance to psychology include cognitive symptoms – including short-term memory and thinking, difficulties with concentration and attention span and impaired information processing; fatigue; pain and sleep disorders. Proposals must involve partnerships between CFS/ME researchers and leading investigators working in relevant areas that are new to the CFS/ME field. Closing date: 7 June 2011. I http://bit.ly/gLchDo
Love and lust Wiseman was followed in the main auditorium by Lisa Matthewman, who attempted to unravel the mysteries of love and lust. She began by defining love and debunking some of the love myths before moving on to explain Sternberg’s theory that love is a combination of intimacy, passion and commitment. Matthewman addressed the role of hormones and neurotransmitters, describing these as the ‘love brigade’ that underlie many of the emotional and physical aspects of love and lust. She explained how these fluctuate throughout the days, weeks, months and even decades, suggesting that each period brings its own rewards and challenges in terms of love-making. The lecture concluded with a discussion around the compatability of love and sexual styles and an illustration of how this can feed into relationship coaching.
Stress Rona Moss-Morris gave an excellent balanced and informed overview of the role that stress plays in illness, explaining how social and psychological factors influence our physiology via the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic pituitary axis. She outlined a number of landmark studies in the area,
All in all, a great day for the 450 attendees. For another view, see the box on the opposite page.
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The second round of the Digging into Data Challenge has been launched. This challenges researchers to think about the changing nature of research methods and how to use advanced computation and digitised scientific resources to expand how research is undertaken. The first round created enormous interest in the international research community and led to eight cutting-edge projects being funded. Four additional funders have joined the Challenge for round two, including research bodies in the US, UK, Netherlands and Canada. Applications deadline:16 June 2011. I http://bit.ly/hVz7zt The European Commission is offering International Outgoing Fellowships for Career Development, designed to give European researchers the opportunity to be trained and acquire new knowledge in a high-level organisation active in research outside Europe. Closing date: 22 June 2011. I http://bit.ly/fKLAyk Breast Cancer Campaign has funding available for innovative, world-class research in the UK and Ireland. Applications in all aspects of breast cancer research are welcome, included prevention – the impact of diet and lifestyle on risk, psychosocial sciences and palliative care. Project grants provide funding of up to £65K for research proposals of relevance to breast cancer that expect to lead to a significant advance of understanding of breast cancer and its impact. PhD studentships are also available – application for these should be made by the potential supervisor. Closing date for both schemes is 1 July 2011. I http://bit.ly/eEsuvR
which we place events that happen to us. A person caught in a raid and shot in the arm might consider themselves lucky to have only been shot in the arm rather than the heart, while a £4m lottery winner that Wiseman interviewed during his research considered himself unlucky because he’d had to split the £8m prize with another winner! This highly entertaining and informative lecture closed with Wiseman providing practical suggestions on how to make our own luck.
The event closed with Geoff Beattie’s keynote address ‘Get the edge: Understanding the body’s little secrets’, which was so popular that a video link to a second auditorium had to be activated. Beattie began by challenging some of the more stereotypical ways of reading body language, such as those presented by Allan Pease in his book Body Language (1991). He used his own research to argue that bodily communication cannot be easily interpreted from static pictures because the real meaning lies in the dynamics and micro-expressions, the small fleeting changes. For example, a genuine smile has bilateral symmetry with gradual onset and a slow fade; a fake smile tends to be asymmetrical and to fade abruptly. A fascinating clip of Gordon Brown ‘smiling’ at Tony Blair demonstrated this perfectly and also illustrated Brown’s use of ‘self-adaptors’ – small strokes to the face that are used as self-comforting gestures. Beattie also stunned the audience by showing us how the change in use of selfadaptors revealed the point at which Charles Ingram began to allegedly cheat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. Beattie went on to discuss his more recent interest in hand and arm movements as an integral part of communication, showing us that speech and gesture are significantly more powerful in combination than either on their own. Again he used clips to elegantly demonstrate how subtle differences in use of gesture can give away lying behaviour and how unnatural use of gesture in advertisements makes us distrust the actor or character. Beattie rounded off this very compelling lecture by showing that consistency between speech and gesture supports our memory of what has been communicated, a finding that has many applications.
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Doing homework The beneficial effect of homework on pupils’ subsequent academic grades has been shown before. It’s somewhat surprising, therefore, how little research has looked at how teenagers feel about homework, where they do it and who they do it with. Hayal Zackar and her team have made a start. The researchers asked 331 school pupils (aged 11 to 18) in the USA to wear for one week a special watch that beeped eight times a day at random intervals. When the watch went off, the teenagers had to fill out a brief form indicating what they were doing, who they were with and how they felt. This process, known as the experience sampling method, captured a total of 1315 homework episodes in various places. The results suggested a developmental trend in the way teens view their homework. Middle school pupils (average age 13 years) reported similar levels of concentration regardless of where they did their homework – be that at home, in class, at school (not in class) – whilst overall they enjoyed doing homework more away from home. High school pupils (average age 16) showed a different pattern, experiencing more interest and enjoyment of homework when at home. Another distinction arose for company. Middle schoolers preferred doing their homework with their peers whereas high schoolers experienced higher concentration and enjoyment when doing homework alone. One caveat to this finding related to parents – older pupils were happier with their parents being involved than were the younger pupils. There were also some gender differences. Generally, girls found homework at home, alone, In the March issue of the Journal of more stressful than boys, Applied Developmental Psychology but found homework less stressful than boys when with their friends. There was also one specific ‘age by gender’ interaction, with high school girls not liking doing homework alone (whereas the general trend with age was for high-schoolers to prefer working alone). The study has several limitations and should be seen as a preliminary effort. For example, the sample were mainly middle and upper-middle class. Also, although this is a newly published study, the data were actually collected 10 years ago. The explosion in internet tools and distractions could well have changed how teens do their homework, although the researchers say there’s no evidence that pupils are doing less homework today than they were before. ‘It is important for educators, parents, and others who work with adolescents to know about probable variations in adolescents’ experience of homework so that they can better plan for and help adolescents to structure their homework,’ the researchers concluded. ‘Given the importance of fostering a homework habit for academic success in high school and beyond, it is necessary to understand adolescents’ perspectives about this important activity.’
How anger can make us more rational In the January issue of Cognition and Emotion Imagine you’re in a room with four people, one is lip-snarling angry, the others are calm. Could the angry individual actually be the more rational decision maker? A new study suggests so, because they’ll be less prone to the confirmation bias – our tendency to seek out information that supports our existing views. Maia Young and her colleagues had 97 undergrads take part in what they thought were two separate experiments. The first involved them either recalling and writing about a time they’d been exceptionally angry (this was designed to make them angry), or a time they’d been sad, or about mundane events. Next, all the participants read an introduction to the debate about whether handsfree kits make speaking on a mobile phone while driving any safer. All participants had been chosen because pre-study they believed that they do. They were then presented with onesentence summaries of eight articles, either for or against the hands-free idea. The participants had to choose five of these articles to read in full. Which participants tended to choose to read more articles critical of hands-free kits and therefore contrary to their own position? It was those who’d earlier been made to feel angry. What’s more, when the participants’ attitudes were retested at the study end, it was the angry participants who’d shifted more from their original position on the debate.
These findings were supported in a follow-up during the 2008 presidential election. Once again, participants provoked into feeling angry tended to choose to read articles that ran counter to their original position (be that favouring Obama or McCain). Another detail was that this effect of anger was entirely explained by what the researchers called a ‘moving against’ tendency, measured by participants’ agreement, after the anger induction, with statements like ‘I wanted to assault something or someone’. Young and her team said their results are an example of anger leading to a cognitive pattern characterised by less bias. ‘Although the hypothesis disconfirming behaviour that anger produces may well be an aggressive act, meant to move or fight against the opposition’s opinion,’ they said, ‘its result is to provide those who feel angry with better information.’ The researchers conceded that it’s unrealistic to make people angry as a way to improve their decision making. However, they said that in a work meeting, if someone is angry, they might be the one best placed to play the role of devil’s advocate. ‘By encouraging angry group members to select information necessary for group discussion,’ the researchers explained, ‘the group as a whole may get the benefit of being exposed to diverse views and, as a result, achieve a more balanced perspective.’
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That which does not kill us…
In the March issue of Psychology and Health
In the March issue of Biological Psychology
Psychologists investigating the well-being of patients with an acquired brain injury (ABI) have documented a curious phenomenon, whereby the more serious a person’s brain injury, the higher their selfreported life-satisfaction. With the help of the charity Headway UK, Janelle Jones and her colleagues recruited 630 people (aged 9 to 81) with an acquired brain injury. Most had sustained their injuries from road accidents, with other causes including stroke and falls. Based on the time they’d spent in a coma, the majority of the participants’ injuries were judged to be moderate to severe. Participants answered a brief, 20-item questionnaire about their sense of identity, their social support, relationship changes since their injury, and their life-satisfaction. Having a strong sense of identity, seeing oneself as a survivor, having plenty of social support and improved relationships were all independently related to higher life satisfaction. These different factors also influenced each other. ‘It is likely that personal identity and social network support factors operate in a cyclical way,’ the researchers said, ‘whereby becoming personally stronger from effectively relying on social support also makes individuals more likely to continue to seek out social support and, in that way, to develop social capital.’ Perhaps the most curious finding was that participants who’d sustained more serious injuries tended to report being
No one really knows how or where in the brain our sense of time is enacted. One suggestion is that the pulses of an ‘internal pacemaker’ are based on bodily feedback, and in particular the heart-beat. Consistent with this is a recent brain-imaging study that showed activity in the insular (a brain region associated with representing internal bodily states) rose linearly as people paid attention to time intervals. Now a behavioural study by Karin Meissner and Marc Wittmann has built on these findings by showing that people who are more sensitive to their own heart-beat are also better at judging time intervals. Participants listened to auditory tones of either 8, 14, or 20 seconds duration. After each one, they heard a second tone and had to press a button when they thought its duration matched the first. Counting was forbidden during the task and a secondary, number-based memory task helped enforce this rule. Heart-beat perception accuracy was measured
more satisfied with their lives. This association was mediated by the social and identity factors – that is, participants who’d sustained a more serious injury also tended to identify more strongly as a survivor, and to have more social support and improved relationships. Perhaps the more seriously injured participants might not have complete insight into their lives? The authors doubt this is the case, in part because of the logic of the results, with identity and social support mediating the higher life-satisfaction among these participants. ‘Sustaining a head injury does not always lead to a deterioration in one’s quality of life,’ the researchers concluded. ‘Data from this study serves to tell a coherent story about the way in which the quality of life of those who experience ABIs can be enhanced by the personal and social “identity work” that these injuries require them to perform. …Nietzsche, then, was correct to observe that that which does not kill us can make us stronger.’
separately and simply involved participants counting their own heart-beats over periods of 25, 35, 45 and 60 seconds. Participants who were more in tune with their heart-beats also tended to perform better at the time estimation task. A further detail is that physiological measures taken during the encoding part of the task showed that as time went on, the participants’ heart-rate slowed progressively, and their skin conductance (i.e. amount of sweat on the skin) reduced. Moreover, the rate of change in a participant’s heart-rate (but not skin conductance) was linked with the accuracy of their subsequent time estimates. ‘Processing of interoceptive signals [i.e. of internal bodily states] in the brain might contribute to our sense of time,’ Meissner and Wittmann concluded. The new findings build on past research showing that drug-induced speeding or slowing of the autonomic nervous system (including heart-rate) affects people’s estimation of time intervals.
This material is taken from www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog, and is written by its editor Dr Christian Jarrett. Visit the blog for full coverage including references and links, additional current reports, an archive, comment and more. Also, do visit our new Occupational Digest at www.occdigest.org.uk and follow @occdigest.
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Let’s talk about sex Mark Sergeant on an unusual demonstration, and the media’s role in the fallout n 21 February Professor J. Michael O Bailey held a slightly unusual lecture and practical demonstration as part of his
popular human sexuality class at Northwestern University (NU). Professor Bailey invited Ken Melvoin-Berg to present material on ‘networking for kinky people’. During this presentation, one of Melvoin-Berg’s associates, Faith Kroll, was stimulated to orgasm in front of a class of students by what has been described as a motorised sex toy. ‘I was more than happy to,’ she said. ‘We had fun with it. I’m an exhibitionist.’ Jim Marcus, one of the other presenters in the session, insisted ‘what we did was not designed to titillate people, but to educate people,’ and noted that there was an accompanying discussion on safety and consent issues. Such lectures and demonstrations are a regular feature of Professor Bailey’s human sexuality class, and cover a wide range of topics. Professor Bailey stated: ‘This year, for example, we have had a panel of gay men speaking about their sex lives, a transsexual performer, two convicted sex offenders, an expert in female sexual health and sexual pleasure, a plastic surgeon, a swinging couple.’ He added: ‘The students find the events to be quite valuable, typically, because engaging real people in conversation provides useful examples and extensions of concepts students learn about in traditional academic ways.’ Attendance at these after-class demonstrations and lectures are purely voluntary and, in the case of the 21 February demonstration, the students were repeatedly warned in advance that it would be explicit. Of the 567 students in the class, around 100 decided to attend the after-class activities and, according to Professor Bailey, ‘Student feedback for this event…was uniformly positive’. It was, perhaps, inevitable though that word of this unusual class would reach
The Media page is coordinated by the Society’s Media and Press Committee, with the aim of
the attention of the wider press, given the number of students who could have spread the word via social networking sites such as Facebook. A number of blogs and online news forums also picked up coverage soon after the event, and some even compared the event, in a lighthearted manner, to the sex education scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, where John Cleese delivers a ‘practical demonstration’ of intercourse to a class. The demo has, however, caused some degree of controversy within NU as well as being picked up by other media outlets in the US and around the world (see tinyurl.com/4g9ulu6). Morton Schapiro, the President of NU, also issued a formal statement outlining that ‘Many members of the Northwestern community are disturbed by what took place on our campus. So am I.’ This contrasts with some media outlets reporting that initial responses from NU administrators to Professor Bailey’s activities were ‘approving but cautious’ (tinyurl.com/4lwgnc8). Although it would be wrong to suggest that negative media attention is the primary cause of the concern now expressed by NU, it could possibly be a contributing factor. This is also not the first time that Professor Bailey has courted controversy with his teaching and research activities. His 2003 book The Man Who Would Be Queen caused heated debate within some parts of the transsexual community (tinyurl.com/3mt65r6). Based on the negative issues generated by this book
promoting and discussing psychology in the media. If you would like to contribute, please contact the ‘Media’
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it is very unlikely that Professor Bailey decided to deliberately run the demonstration in order to get media attention, and he has gone as far as stating that ‘I have not enjoyed the press, because I have assumed that reporters will sensationalise what happened and will not provide my side’. President Schapiro promised to ‘investigate fully the specifics of this incident, and also clarify what constitutes appropriate pedagogy, both in this instance and in the future’. This raises an important issue of issue academic freedom, debated in the student newspaper at NU (tinyurl.com/3nrmldl). In an editorial, The Daily Northwestern says that Schapiro is perfectly within his rights to make a critical statement to the media, is under no obligation to defend Professor Bailey in the press and is also within his rights to order Professor Bailey’s teaching to be investigated. However, the editorial argues that NU should not be able to dictate what Professor Bailey, or indeed any other member of staff, teaches: ‘NU professors must have the power to exercise academic freedom and teach even the most controversial viewpoints in their research fields’. This, they warn, would set a dangerous precedent of control over what material should, and can, be taught. This issue of academic freedom has recently been addressed by the British Psychological Society over the decision to have Professor Ken Zucker deliver a keynote address at the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) Annual Conference. Professor Zucker is seen by some as a controversial figure in the field of sex and sexuality research, and has been the focus of criticism and protest in the past. While the DCP is aware of the controversy surrounding Professor Zucker, they felt it was important to publicly debate his views. It is beyond the scope of this article to assess the appropriateness of either Professor Bailey’s teaching activities or the research of Professor Zucker, though these issues should be explored and debated in other forums. It is however appropriate to echo the argument that open and free debate should lie at the heart of academia. In the age of social networks and rolling media coverage, it is perhaps appropriate that academics should bear potential media fallout in mind. Indeed, as we go to press, news breaks of another US academic who has allegedly hired strippers to perform lap dances in a seminar on business ethics (tinyurl.com/vbadidea).
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At Stirling University, Scotland, postgraduate student Emma Scott-Smith is researching how art can be used as a tool to stimulate critical discussion about individuals’ daily experiences of mental illness. The research project, ‘the Artivism Intervention’, combines art, activism and awareness raising. ‘I’m using Conscientisation,’ Scott-Smith tells us, ‘a concept developed by Freire whilst reading Marx. It can help mental health participants to become aware of social, psychological and political conditions that can oppress disadvantaged groups.’ Experiences of mental illness can be difficult to express into words, so the Artivism Intervention allows individuals to use a visual narrative alongside discussion to express their experiences of mental illness on canvas. This particular artwork is entitled ‘Pressure’ by an
Artivism workshop member, Zack. ‘The work expressed his feeling of being watched and judged by society, weighed down by treatments and medical professionals,’ says Scott-Smith. The art workshops took place in a local mental health and arts Image by Zack, for a project by Emma Scott-S support group. ‘The Artivism critical psychologist. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Intervention allowed me to work with people experiencing mental illness during an initial threeof mental illness, their daily month period of art workshops once a week. This discrimination people face.’ culminated in a six-week exhibition of participants’ artwork to the public. The exhibition aimed to raise I Find out more by contacting awareness and insight into individuals’ experiences on email@example.com
The artivism int
ntervention cott-Smith, visual artist and community bps.org.uk to feature in ‘Big picture’. daily experiences from the ce.’ acting Emma Scott-Smith directly @stir.ac.uk.
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The menopause Beverley N. Ayers, Mark J. Forshaw and Myra S. Hunter look at lessons learned from a global outlook
Why do Japanese women report fewer menopausal symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) than North American and European women?
Avis, E., Brockwell, S. & Colvin, A. (2005). A universal menopausal syndrome? American Journal of Medicine, 118, 37s–46s. Ayers, B., Forshaw, M. & Hunter, M. (2010). The impact of attitudes towards the menopause on women's symptom experience: A systematic review. Maturitas, 65, 28–36. Hunter, M.S. & Rendall, M. (2007). Biopsycho-socio-cultural perspectives on menopause. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 21, 2, 261–274.
Menopause is experienced by approximately half the population and represents an opportunity for psychologists to examine the psychological and social factors that influence perceptions of bodily changes. There is considerable cultural variation in the experience of menopause – what role do attitudes, cognitions, behaviours, lifestyle and socio-economic factors play in this? In particular, what are the psychological factors affecting women’s perceptions of hot flushes and night sweats? And might a new cognitive behavioural intervention benefit the 15–20 per cent of women who have problematic menopausal symptoms?
Andrikoula, M. & Prevelic, G. (2009). Menopausal hot flushes revisited. Climacteric, 12, 3–15. Avis, N.E., Crawford, S.L. & McKinley, S.M. (1997). Psychosocial behavioural and health factors related to menopause symptomatology. Womens Health, 3, 2, 103–120. Avis, N.E. & McKinlay, S.M. (1991). A longitudinal analysis of women’s attitudes toward the menopause:
n his book Feminine Forever, Brooklyn gynaecologist Robert Wilson (1966) argued that the menopausal woman was ‘an unstable oestrogen starved’ woman who is responsible for ‘untold misery of alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce and broken homes’. This belief might seem extreme to our 21st-century minds, but Western biomedical science still promotes a view of menopause as a time of poor emotional and physical health. However, the cessation of menstruation does not occur in isolation – it takes place within a gradual process of physiological change, occurring alongside age and developmental changes, and within varied psychosocial and cultural contexts. Perhaps not surprisingly, many Western women tend to report a range of physical and emotional symptoms at the time of the menopause: hot flushes, night sweats, irregular and/or heavy periods, depression, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and weight gain. However, apart from menstrual changes, only hot flushes and night sweats have been clearly associated with the menopause and alterations in hormone levels (lowering of oestrogen levels). Many women in Western cultures report such symptoms, but they are not so common in, for example, India, Japan and China (Freeman & Sherif, 2007). Japanese women in particular, tend to report headaches, chilliness and shoulder stiffness as the most troublesome menopausal symptoms. Interestingly, rural Greek women and women in the Mayan culture have been found to report few problems during the menopause transition
Results from the Massachusetts Women’s Health Study. Maturitas, 13, 1, 65–79. Avis, N.E., Stellato, R., Crawford, S. et al. (2001). Is there a menopausal syndrome? Menopausal status and symptoms across racial/ethnic groups. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 345–356. Ayers, B., Forshaw, M. & Hunter, M. (2010). The impact of attitudes
other than monthly menstrual cycle changes (Beyene, 1989). In fact, menopause can be a positive event for some women, particularly when it comes with a positive change in social roles and status (Flint, 1975). Since women experience relatively similar endocrine changes at menopause, a biological perspective suggests that symptoms should be universal. Yet there are marked differences in experience of menopause in anthropological studies. Somewhere between biological and cultural understandings of menopause there is a gulf that psychologists are well placed to explore.
A changing sociocultural history The menopause transition is an interesting example of a biopsychosocial process in that the majority of women experience some physiological changes, which may be influenced by a range of psychological, social and cultural factors. This makes menopause an important area for psychological research. For example, psychologists have been interested in the social and cultural meanings of menopause; that is, the way in which menopause is discussed and constructed by society and how this impacts upon experience of the menopause. In the 19th century, Western psychiatry dominated thinking on menopause, and it was considered a time of emotional vulnerability with women losing emotional control and exhibiting ‘hysterical’ behaviour. In the 20th century, the medical approach took hold and centred on gynaecology; menopause became an ‘oestrogen deficiency disease’, akin to diabetes, and with a whole host of physical and emotional sequelae, which could be treated with hormone therapy. Late 20th-century and early 21st-century thinking moved towards possible longterm health risks associated with menopause, such as increased risks of depression, heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment and even dementia. These biological/medical meanings of
towards the menopause on women's symptom experience: A systematic review. Maturitas, 65, 28–36. Ayers, B., Mann, E. & Hunter, M.S. (2011). A randomised control trial of cognitive behavioural therapy for women with problematic menopausal hot flushes: MENOS 2 trial protocol. BMJ Open, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2010-000047 Beyene, Y. (1989). From Menarche to
menopause: Reproductive lives of peasant women in two cultures. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Bromberger, J.T., Schott, L.L., Kravitz, H.M. et al. (2010). Longitudinal change in reproductive hormones and depressive symptoms across the menopausal transition. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67, 6, 598–607. Chedraui, P., Aguirre, W., Calle, A. et al.
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menopause served to increase fear of the consequences of menopause if left untreated, and were fuelled by the promotion of hormone treatments. We would argue that these negative stereotypes can influence today’s women in their attitudes towards menopause and subsequently their experience of it. There have been – and still are – polarised theories and approaches to menopause and middle-aged women, from biomedical and gynaecological to psychiatry and psychological to psychosocial and feminist theories (Hunter & Rendall, 2007). Each approach suggests different perspectives and quite different treatments for women who have troublesome menopausal symptoms. Until recently, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was the main treatment for menopausal symptoms in most Western countries. HRT is central to the biological/medical model and boasts a 75 per cent reduction in hot flushes and night sweats. However, the publication of large
prospective trials of HRT such as the US Women’s Health Initiative (Rossouw et al., 2002), and the UK-based WISDOM trial (Women’s International Study on long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause: Vickers et al., 2007) suggest small but increased risks of breast cancer and stroke on taking HRT, and the initial hopes for prevention of cardiovascular risks have not been supported. In 2004 the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) issued guidance stating that hormone therapy use should be restricted to the treatment of symptoms and the lowest dose should be used for shortest possible duration. Consequently there has since been a decline in the use of HRT from 30 to 10 per cent between 2002 and 2004 (Menon et al., 2007). The results of such trials and the considerable variation in experience of the menopause, both within and between cultures, have challenged the biomedical model. As a result there has been increased interest in the psychological and
Japanese women may report fewer hot flushes because they have a diet high in soy
(2007). Risk factors related to the presence and severity of hot flushes in mid-aged Ecuadorian women. Maturitas, 65, 4, 378–382. Cooper, I.A. (2007). The hypothalamic– pituitary–adrenal axis: Cortisol, DHEA and mental and behavioural function. In A. Steptoe (Ed.) Depression and physical illness (pp.280–298). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dennerstein, L., Guthrie, J.R., Clark, M. et al. (2004). A population-based study of depressed mood in middleaged Australian-born women. Menopause, 11(5), 563–568. Flint, M. (1975). The menopause: Reward or punishment? Psychosomatics, 16(4), 161–163. Freeman, E.W., Sammel, M.D., Grisso, J.A. et al. (2001). Hot flashes in the late reproductive years: Risk factors
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sociocultural aspects of menopause, and increased awareness of the need for safe and effective treatments for women seeking help for menopausal symptoms who often prefer non-hormonal interventions.
How can we explain cultural differences? Cross-cultural research is difficult to carry out but there is increasing evidence that a range of culture-related factors, such as lifestyle (smoking, diet, exercise and reproductive history), socio-economic status, body mass index, mood, climate and cognitions (attributions of symptoms to the menopause, beliefs and attitudes towards menopause) might explain cultural variations in reports of menopausal symptoms (Andrikoula & Prevelic, 2009; Avis et al., 2001; Freeman & Sherif, 2007; Hunter, Gupta et al., 2009). Some of these factors are thought to directly influence menopause-related physiology, but further research is needed. For example, Japanese women may report fewer hot flushes because they have a diet high in soy (which includes phytoestrogens) (Freeman & Sherif, 2007). Within the literature there are conflicting views on the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and hot flushes, with some studies suggesting a protective effect of body fat, others the reverse, and some finding no associations (Andrikoula & Prevelic, 2009; Chedraui et al., 2007; Freeman et al., 2001; Schwingl et al., 1994; Whiteman et al., 2003). However more recently, Thurston et al. (2009) have found that body fat gains during the menopause transition, rather than high or low BMI, were associated with hot flush symptoms. Women who smoke and have sedentary lifestyles have been found to report more menopausal symptoms. Reproductive history may also be relevant; for example, in the Mayan culture women marry between the ages of 14 and 18 years, have many children and few repetitive menstrual cycles. Mayan
for African American and Caucasian women. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 10(1), 67–76. Freeman, E.W., Sammel, M.D., Lin, H. et al. (2005). The role of anxiety and hormonal changes in menopausal hot flashes. Menopause, 12(3), 258–266. Freeman, E. & Sherif, K. (2007). Prevalence of hot flushes and night sweats around the world. Climacteric,
10, 197–214. Hunter, M.S., Coventry, S., Hamed, H. et al. (2009). Evaluation of a group cognitive behavioural intervention for women suffering from menopausal symptoms following breast cancer treatment. Psychooncology, 18, 560–563. Hunter, M.S. Coventry, S. Mendes, N. & Grunfeld, E.A. (2009). Menopausal symptoms following breast cancer
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women usually enter the menopause in their early to mid 40s, which is about 10 years earlier than women in the UK and North America (Beyene, 1989). The relationship between depressed mood, menopause and hot flushes is complex; in general, some studies have found a slight increase in depressed mood which subsides after the menopause, while other studies find no change. Importantly, depressed mood is more strongly associated with life events and stresses than hormone changes (Bromberger et al., 2010). Nevertheless, women who are depressed tend to report hot flushes as more problematic – but the causal direction is unclear (Hunter & Mann, 2010). There is evidence suggesting that early abuse and neglect has an effect on later hot flush reporting (Thurston et al., 2008). This could be explained by the influence of early adverse experiences on the Figure 1: A cognitive model of hot flushes and night sweats hypothalamic–pituitary axis, which has been shown to affect cortisol and diurnal rhythm of cortisol levels (Cooper, 2007). of residence and anxiety best predicted hot Anxiety before the menopause is by socio-economic factors. flushes overall; and poor general health, associated with the presence and severity Could climate also influence the anxiety and less acculturation predicted of hot flushes; women with moderate or experience of hot flushes and night hot flushes within the UK Asian group high anxiety levels were three and five sweats? Sievert and Flanagan (2005) (MAHWIS study: Hunter, Gupta et al., times more likely to report hot flushes suggested that women who live in seasonal 2009). The Study of Women’s Health than women in the normal anxiety range climates may have a greater frequency of Across the Nation (Avis et al., 2001) (Freeman et al., 2005). hot flushes due to the variations in compared women living in the US from In a study comparing Caucasian and temperature. This idea supports a range of ethnic communities; African Asian women living in the UK and in physiological theories of a greater Delhi, peri– and postmenopausal women American and Hispanic women reported sensitivity to temperature changes in were interviewed about their experience most hot flushes, Japanese and Chinese menopausal women experiencing hot of menopause, lifestyle and health. Asian ethnicity the least, and Caucasian women flushes. An international study is in women and Caucasian women living in fell in between. These ethnic differences progress to examine the impact of climate, the UK reported the greatest number of were partly explained by lifestyle factors, altitude and temperature upon experience hot flushes while Asian women living in such as obesity, smoking, alcohol of menopause and will hopefully answer Delhi reported the least flushes. Country consumption and acculturation, and this question.
treatment: A qualitative investigation of cognitive and behavioural responses. Maturitas, 63(4), 336–340. Hunter, M.S., Gupta, P., Papitsch-Clark, A. & Sturdee, D.W. (2009). Mid–aged health in women from the Indian subcontinent (MAHWIS): A further quantitative and qualitative investigation of experience of menopause in UK Asian women, compared to UK Caucasian women
and women living in Delhi. Climacteric, 12(1), 26–37. Hunter, M.S. & Liao, K.L.M. (1996). Evaluation of a four-session cognitive behavioural intervention for menopausal hot flushes. British Journal of Health Psychology, 1, 113–125. Hunter, M.S. & Mann, E. (2010). A cognitive model of menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Journal of
Psychosomatic Research, 69, 491–501. Hunter, M.S. & O’Dea, I. (1997). Menopause: Bodily changes and multiple meanings. In J. Ussher (Ed.) Body talk. London: Routledge. Hunter, M.S. & Rendall, M. (2007). Biopsycho-socio-cultural perspectives on menopause. Best Practice & Research in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 21(2), 261–274. Hunter, M.S., Smith, M. & Ayers, B. (in
press). The Hot Flush Behaviour Scale (HFBehS): A measure of behavioural reactions to menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Menopause. Mann, E., Smith, M., Hellier, J. & Hunter, M.S. (2011). A randomised control trial of a cognitive behavioural intervention for women who have menopausal symptoms following breast cancer treatment (MENOS 1):
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Cultural attitudes and meanings of menopause may also influence how women perceive or report symptoms; for example, the extent to which menopause is seen as a medical condition versus a natural phenomenon, or whether mid-life represents positive or negative social changes within a society. Rural Greek women have been found to report menopausal symptoms as not very troublesome and tend not to seek medical help. Non-European and nonEuropean-American women tend to have more favourable attitudes and expectations of menopause and they report fewer hot flushes. Early studies suggest the benefits of menopause in some cultures include freedom from societal taboos and restrictions associated with menstruation as well as freedom from the burdens of repeated pregnancies, which can be dangerous and stressful due to a lack of medical facilities (Beyene, 1989; Flint, 1975). Furthermore, menopause in many developing countries tends not to be regarded as a medical problem and thus might be accepted with less focus on ‘symptoms’ and more as a natural part of life or ‘God’s will’ (Hunter, Gupta et al., 2009). There are also cultural differences in the attributions of different types of symptoms to the menopause. For example, in the MAHWIS study Asian women commonly attributed visual changes (becoming short-sighted in middle age) to the menopause as well as weight gain and high blood pressure, while white British women attributed tiredness and mood changes to the menopause, in addition to hot flushes. In Western societies women tend to be valued for their physical and sexual attractiveness, reproductive capacity and youthfulness. Ageing is often viewed negatively among women and wider society. To add to this there is a general belief that women going through menopause inevitably become depressed, irritable and moody, yet there is no conclusive evidence to support this
Trial protocol. BMC Cancer, doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-44 Menon, U., Burnell, M., Sharma, A. et al. (2007). Decline in women using hormone replacement therapy at recruitment to a large screening trial in the UK. Menopause: Journal of the North American Menopause Society, 14(3), 462–467. Rendall, M., Simonds, L.M. & Hunter, M.S. (2008). The Hot Flush Beliefs
(Dennerstein et al., 2004). In a recent health promotion aimed at smoking systematic review, Ayers et al. (2010) cessation and avoiding weight increases concluded that there is a relationship during the menopause warrant further between attitudes and experience, but research. further research is needed. Two prospective studies show that negative attitudes before Hot flushes and night sweats menopause predict depressed mood and During the past 20 years psychologists hot flushes during the menopause, have begun to examine the cognitive and suggesting that negative attitudes towards emotional consequences of hot flushes menopause can affect symptom experience and night sweats and to develop – a self-fulfilling prophecy (Avis & interventions to ameliorate them. McKinlay, 1991; Avis et al., 1997). Cognitive reactions to menopausal Yet, for many women, menopause is symptoms have been examined, leading a time for reflection – a natural process or to the development of the Hot Flush life transition. Hunter and O’Dea (1997) Beliefs Scale (HFBS) (Rendall et al., 2008) interviewed British women on their with three main subscales based on factor experiences and beliefs about menopause analysis: and found they had positive, neutral and I beliefs about hot flushes in a social negative reactions. Women reported that context; they were pleased that they no longer had I beliefs about coping and control over to deal with periods, premenstrual hot flushes; and problems or fear of pregnancy, suggesting I beliefs about night sweats and sleep. menopause was a relief rather than a sense of loss. Women were fairly neutral about Beliefs related to the social context were the ending of reproductive capacity feeling most commonly mentioned: women that this had been dealt with in the 10 described negative self-beliefs about years before. They also spoke about appearance, attractiveness in social negative aspects of menopause such as situations, resulting in embarrassment dealing with problematic hot flushes and and shame – for example, ‘during a flush night sweats and the general consequences I feel stupid, embarrassed, incompetent, of ageing. However, a common theme was unattractive’ – which were associated with a concern about the unknown and a fear of higher levels of distress. ‘falling apart’ and Common behavioural ‘letting yourself go’ strategies included avoiding during the “for many women, social situations, covering menopause, which menopause is a time for the face and using fans or appeared to draw on wipes (Hunter, Coventry, negative social reflection” Mendes et al., 2009; discourses of ‘decline Hunter et al., in press). and decay’. Smith et al. (in press) went on In summary, the to examine the validity of these beliefs. cultural variation in experience of In a survey of younger men and women’s menopause might be partly explained by beliefs about women showing signs of the social meanings of menopause, which redness or sweating in a work context, influence beliefs and attitudes as well as they gained evidence that did not support healthcare services. Women with negative the menopausal women’s fears. While stereotypes of menopausal women and these younger men and women did hold negative beliefs about menopause may generally more negative stereotyped fare worse as they move through the beliefs about menopause and its menopause transition. But in addition, consequences, they had fairly neutral lifestyle and the social and economic or positive reactions to their work context should not be overlooked and
Scale: A tool for assessing thoughts and beliefs associated with the experience of menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Maturitas, 60(2), 158–169. Rossouw, J.E., Anderson, G.L., Prentice, R.L. et al. (2002). Risks and benefits of oestrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: Principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative randomised
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controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, 321–333. Schwingl, P.J., Hulka, B.S. & Harlow, S.D. (1994). Risk factors for menopausal hot flashes. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 84(1), 29–34. Sievert, L.L. & Flanagan, E.K. (2005). Geographical distribution of hot flash frequencies: Considering climatic influences. American Journal of
Physical Anthropology, 128, 437–443. Smith, M.J., Mann, E., Mirza, A. & Hunter, M.S. (in press) Men and women’s perceptions of hot flushes within social situations. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. Thurston, R., Bromberger, J., Chang, Y. et al. (2008). Childhood abuse or neglect is associated with increased vasomotor symptom reporting among midlife women. Menopause,
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colleagues. In fact, younger people attributed a range of causes to visible hot flush symptoms (signs of redness and sweating) that were not confined to menopause; for example they could be due to health problems, emotions, physical exertion, body temperature and environmental factors. Also, younger people did not report negative reactions to women with signs of flushing. These findings suggest the social anxieties of menopausal women may be overestimating the extent to which people can identify their menopausal status/symptoms. Smith et al. suggest that this evidence can be used in cognitive therapy interventions with menopausal women, which might alleviate their distress and reduce social avoidance. A cognitive model of hot flushes and night sweats, developed by Hunter and Mann (2010), describes how a range of psychological factors might influence the perception and appraisal of hot flushes and night sweats – see Figure 1. The model draws upon theories of symptom perception, self-regulation theory and cognitive behavioural models, and suggests that biological, psychological, social and cultural factors are linked in determining a women’s menopause experience. A menopausal woman might perceive the physical sensations of a hot flush, attribute them to the menopause by deciding it is a menopausal hot flush (as opposed to another explanation, such as just being hot) and appraise it as troublesome or not before taking behavioural actions. The model suggests areas for future research and suggests how psychological interventions might target particular pathways in the hot flush process. For example, depressed mood and negative beliefs are associated with problem rating – the extent to which hot
15(1), 16. Thurston, R.C., Sowers, M.F.R., Sternfeld, B. et al. (2009). Gains in body fat and vasomotor symptom reporting over the menopausal transition. The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation. American Journal of Epidemiology, 170(6), 766–774. Vickers, M.R., Martin, J., Meade, T.W. & the WISDOM study team. (2007).
flushes are seen as bothersome or problematic – and problem rating is strongly associated with help seeking. Thus cognitive factors may have an important role in whether women seek help for their hot flushes and night sweats.
What can psychologists do to help menopausal women? The model was designed to identify factors that might be the focus of interventions to help women deal with hot flushes and night sweats. A cognitive behavioural treatment has been developed with promising outcomes, suggesting a 40–50 per cent reduction in hot flushes and their problem ratings. This is based on either individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) of four sessions (Hunter & Liao, 1996) or group CBT of six sessions (Hunter, Coventry, Hamed et al., 2009). The CBT approach is psychoeducational with individual treatment goals and a focus on cognitive and behavioural changes. This treatment is now being tested in two randomised control trials (Ayers et al. 2011; Mann et al., 2011). One is for breast cancer patients who have developed menopausal symptoms following breast cancer treatment, and the other is for well women from the local community. The aim of the intervention is to help women to understand the factors affecting hot flushes and night sweats, to reduce triggers and stress, and to use paced breathing and cognitive and behavioural strategies to deal with hot flushes, night sweats and sleep.
The future Cross-cultural research has challenged the idea that menopause is a universal phenomenon, suggesting it is fluid and
The Women’s International Study of Long-Duration Oestrogen after Menopause (WISDOM). BMC Womens Health, 7, 2, doi:10.1186/1472-6874-7-2 Whiteman, M., Staropoli, C., Benedict, J. et al. (2003). Risk factors for hot flashes in midlife women. Journal of Women's Health, 12(5), 459–472. Wilson, R.A. (1966). Feminine forever. New York: Evans.
a product of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors. This resonates well with the claims made by many feminist commentators of previous decades. Biologically, something happens to women, but the experience is so diverse that rather than uniting women across the globe, menopause serves to demonstrate how varied the perceptions of physical changes can be. While the majority of women experience the menopause as a relatively neutral event, women, living in Western countries tend to report more symptoms. We argue that menopause is an important life stage for psychologists to consider, as a large number of women seek help during the menopause transition for health education, information, and advice as well as for treatment for problematic hot flushes and night sweats. It is important that health professionals are aware of the influences of menopause beliefs, lifestyle and cultural traditions and are able to provide women with balanced, evidencebased information to enable them to make informed choices. There is still a lot of research to be done. Cultural differences in menopause experience are still not clearly understood, nor are the precise causes of hot flushes and night sweats. It is hoped the results of the cognitive behavioural intervention studies will provide further direction for the development of non-medical interventions to enable women to have a choice when dealing with troublesome menopausal symptoms. Health education about menopause is still needed to actively challenge the combination of the biological/medical model and a degree of ageism and sexism in Western cultures and to promote a bio-psycho-social-cultural approach to this stage of life.
Beverley N. Ayers is in the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry (at Guy’s), King's College London Beverley.Ayers@kcl.ac.uk
I Mark J. Forshaw
is in the Centre for Health Psychology, Staffordshire University M.J.firstname.lastname@example.org I Myra S. Hunter
is in the Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry (at Guy’s), King's College London Myra.Hunter@kcl.ac.uk
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Calling out for new voices When someone is making waves in psychology in years to come, we want to be able to say they published their first piece in The Psychologist. So we have introduced a section, ’new voices’, which will give space to new talent and original perspectives. We are looking for sole-authored pieces by those who have not had a full article published in The Psychologist before. The only other criteria will be that the articles should engage and inform our large and diverse audience, be written exclusively for The Psychologist, and be no more than 1800 words. The emphasis is on unearthing new writing talent, within and about psychology. The successful authors will reach an audience of 48,000 psychologists in print, and many more online. And as if that wasn’t enough, the best contributors to ‘new voices’ will receive free membership of the Society for a year if eligible. So get writing! Discuss ideas or submit your work to email@example.com. And if you are one of our more senior readers, perhaps you know of someone who would be ideal for ‘new voices’: do let us know.
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The memory man Alan Baddeley talks to Lance Workman about Bertrand Russell, Neanderthals and working memory
’d like to begin with two basic questions – what led you into Ipsychology and how did you become
interested specifically in memory? I actually applied to Cambridge to do geography and didn’t get in, so I started to think again. I was interested in philosophy, but didn’t think I’d be able to earn a living as a philosopher. Bertrand Russell said that if he was starting again he would probably be a psychologist so I thought, ‘why not?’ I borrowed some books and when I asked around I was told the best place was UCL, so I applied and got an interview. By this time I’d read a number of books and was intrigued by one called Listening with the Third Ear: The Inner Experiences of a Psychoanalyst. I thought that’s what I’d really like to do, but when interviewed at UCL I was too cautious to admit that I wanted to be a psychoanalyst and declared an interest in experimental psychology’. To my surprise it turned out that I was much more interested in experimental psychology than psychoanalysis, and that’s continued to be the case. Why memory? When I graduated I went to the States for a year hoping, when I returned, to do research on partial reinforcement in rats. But when I came back the whole behaviourist enterprise was largely in ruins. The big controversy between Hull and Tolman had apparently been abandoned as a draw and everybody moved on to do something else. On return, I didn’t have a PhD place, and the only job I could get was as a hospital porter and later as a secondary modern school teacher – with no training whatsoever! Then a job cropped up at the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge. They had a project funded by the Post Office on the design of postal codes and so I started doing research on memory. So it was happenstance really. Moving forward, one of the things you’re best known for of course is the Baddeley and Hitch model of working memory.
How do you think that changed the way we now think about memory? I think what we did was to move away from the idea of a limited short-term memory that was largely verbal to something that was much broader, and that was essentially concerned with helping us cope with cognitive problems. So we moved from a simple verbal store to a three component store that was run by an attentional executive and that was assisted by a visual spatial storage system and a verbal storage system. That structure was just guess work, but we seem to have guessed well because the three components are still in there 30 odd years later – although now with a fourth component, the ‘episodic buffer’. Your model with Graham Hitch has a central executive controlling ‘slave’ systems. People sometimes have a problem with the term ‘slave’? This is presumably because people don’t like the idea of slavery. The term was borrowed from electronic engineering, but I tend to avoid the term now. Even the phonological loop, which is probably the most slavish of the three, can be used to control behaviour, the sort of thing that Luria emphasised, in using self-instruction as a means of controlling action. But we can certainly say that the central executive is dominant, controlling and using the verbal and visual storage systems, while the episodic buffer allows information from lots of sources to be combined into a multidimensional code. Cognitive models seem to evolve. Has your model for working memory changed much in recent years? Well it has as far as the episodic buffer is concerned. I think that the buffer underpins conscious awareness. I used to think that it was a system for actively binding the information. Richard Allen, Graham Hitch and I have been doing a series of experiments on this, and we now
think that the buffer is essentially a passive multidimensional store and that the binding goes on elsewhere, possibly in a number of different brain areas. The phonological loop, which is probably the most widely investigated part, certainly ties in with systems that have evolved for understanding language and generating speech. Similarly with the visual spatial sketch pad, there’s a lot of work on fractionating it, understanding in much more detail how information is stored by looking at the neurobiological underpinning. In terms of the central executive, the whole issue of attention and how it’s controlled is a massive one, and progress is being made in many directions. I think our model of working memory provides a framework that’s sufficiently broad that it helps hold areas together. The basic model is not too hard to understand, but potentially it’s expandable. I think that’s why it’s survived. These separate systems that you’ve worked out were very theoretical when you first came up with them 30 years
ago. Can we tie these into specific parts of the brain today? Well, yes and no – there is controversy about the evidence. Initially the lesion evidence and the neuroimaging evidence looked reasonably strong with the phonological loop being in the left hemisphere around about Wernicke’s area for storage and further forward around Broca’s area for articulatory rehearsal. Also a visual spatial system involving at least three areas appears to be in the right
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hemisphere, probably occipital for the more visual aspects, parietal for the more spatial, depending heavily with the central executive on frontal areas. But attempts to further localise have led to less clarity, and if you look at attempted meta-analyses combining results from many studies, then they tend to be a bit ‘plum puddingy’ – a bit messy. I think it’s because of the unreliability of current neuroimaging methods. So there are certainly broad areas that are involved, but it’s much more likely that, rather than a specific area, there are networks. In the case of the phonological loop, for example, there are broad white-matter pathways that join together several areas that are involved in the phonological loop. At the moment we can structurally image these pathways but we can’t do functional imaging on their operation. People like to think that when there’s a paradigm shift, as there was with working memory, this comes about through a blinding insight – that you wake up in the middle of the night or whatever and it’s there. Was it like that for you? No, it was fairly slowly chipping away. But in the end I suppose the model came reasonably quickly. Graham and I got a three-year grant to look at the relationship between long- and short-term memory just at a time when people were abandoning the study of short-term memory because the concept was running into problems. One of the problems was that patients who seemed to have a very impaired short-term memory, with a digit span of only one or two, nevertheless could have preserved long-term memory. The problem is that short-term memory was assumed to be a crucial stage in feeding longterm memory, so such patients ought to have been amnesic as well. They were not. Similarly, if short-term memory acted as a working memory, the patients ought to be virtually demented because of problems with complex cognition. In fact they were fine. One of them worked as a secretary, another a taxi driver and one of them ran a shop. They had very specific deficits that were inconsistent with the old idea that short-term memory simply feeds long-term memory. So what we decided to do was to split short-term memory into various components, proposing a verbal component, a visual spatial one, and
clearly it needed some sort of attentional controller. We reckoned these three were the minimum needed. As we were working on the model I was contacted by Gordon Bower who edited a rather influential annual series, inviting me to write a chapter for it. We hesitated because we thought we didn’t really understand the model yet, but it seemed too good an opportunity to miss so we thought ‘oh what the hell let’s go for it!’ Which is just as well, because we still don’t fully understand the model! It’s certainly created a huge amount of research since. As well as working memory one of things you’ve looked at is the effects of changing pressure on divers. I’ve done a bit of scuba myself and I’d be interested in what happens. Well, it depends what you’re breathing. I’m sure as a diver you know that if you breathe air much below 30 metres you get drunk! I started out because I was an amateur diver with the Cambridge University underwater exploration group, which organised an Easter dive off the Welsh coast and a summer expedition. I thought I might look at nitrogen narcosis as I’d seen a paper by a couple of US Navy people doing work on manual dexterity at a pressure at 30 metres in a dry pressure chamber. They found there was an impairment, and so I persuaded the director of the Medical Research Council unit I was working in, Donald Broadbent, to give me a couple of extra weeks holiday and a little bit of funding to go out and run an experiment underwater at sea. We got a much bigger effect than the US Navy dry land study had done. But why? It turned out eventually, after a few more diving holidays, that the crucial difference was fear. The initial dives had been into the blue in the middle of Famagusta Bay in Cyprus with divers who weren’t used to diving to 30 metres in the open sea and were very anxious. We replicated the anxiety effect off the Scottish coast which is much more anxiety-provoking than the Mediterranean, but a rather less tempting experimental environment! You’re also associated with work on ageing and memory. There’s lots of gizmos you can buy to train your brain as you get older. Do you think any of these really help? There is growing evidence to suggest that certain carefully designed and monitored programmes can improve working memory performance in ways that generalise. However there appears to be little evidence that most of the gizmos advertised for so called brain training
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help very much. In the case of long-term memory, I know of no convincing evidence that training programmes help the memory itself. People can, however, be taught useful strategies, although these are often quite hard work, and it is usually easier to write things down or use reminders. Is there nothing we get better at as we get older? The content of semantic memory keeps going up so as you get older you know a few more words, though you don’t retrieve them so quickly. Recognition vocabulary keeps climbing, but not much else. I’d like to finish by coming back to something interesting I read recently about working memory – I read that it is now claimed that this is what sets us apart from the Neanderthals. Can you tell me something about this idea? There was an article in Science recently discussing the proposal that working memory may have been the difference between the survival of Homo sapiens and the extinction of Neanderthals. It had been proposed by a psychologist, Fred Coolidge, and a paleoanthropologist, Tom Wynn who were interested in why modern humans had survived while Neanderthals hadn’t. They came up with a whole series of examples of evidence for cognitively demanding activities achieved by early Homo sapiens but not by Neanderthals. They suggested that the one capacity needed for all of these was working memory. There might well be something in this, but it’s difficult to gather more direct evidence for the claim. I guess the evidence has to be quite indirect – like looking at artefacts? That’s exactly right. You have to start by looking at what the two groups did and didn’t produce in terms of artefacts, then working backwards as to what they could and couldn’t do in terms of cognitive processes. They decided on the basis of this that Neanderthals may well have lacked working memory and that this was what allowed us to succeed instead of them. If it turned out that working memory was an important step in our evolution and that it is the thing that sets us apart from the Neanderthals, how would that make you feel? I’d be happy – but I don’t know that I would ever be convinced because the evidence has to be so indirect. But I’m delighted that people find the model useful.
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Shining a torch into the mental nooks and crannies The saying goes that almost all of us psychologists took up the subject because of the desire ‘to know about ourselves’ and that after only a few weeks into the first term, this nonsense goes right out of our heads. Instead we are excruciatingly embarrassed to ever have had such a silly idea about the rigorous, empirical study of mind, brain and behaviour. Only the uncool non-scientific versions of psychology, the psychobabble type, would pretend to be able to reveal our innermost being. Christian Jarrett has turned the tables. He has succeeded in shaking off the cobwebs over a well-kept secret, namely, that cool scientific psychology can do this much better. So, we don’t need to be embarrassed any more, but can embrace the refreshing idea that rigorous, respectable academic psychology can shine a torch into the ‘crooks and nannies’ of our mental life. Jarrett has a brilliant track record as science journalist in the blogosphere. He unerringly picks those nuggets of information from the thousands of currently published papers that contain streaks of gold. Like his many other followers, I have long been impressed at how he manages to dig out the really interesting bits. It has to be admitted that among the thousands of publications in psychology, there are always only a very few that deserve to attract attention. Yet, all these bits make up a steady The Rough Guide to stream of information. Moreover, this stream flows in a landscape Psychology that has shape and form, and this is where the Rough Guide leads Christian Jarrett you to explore. The landscape of the mind offers surprising vistas, and there are signposts to future explorations. Like any proper guide it gives warnings as well as recommendations. Some of Jarrett’s most intriguing sections are about the new advances in linking mind and brain. He does not shrink from discussing notorious critiques of neuroimaging, or from debates about such controversial topics as ‘nudge’, gender differences, intelligence testing, false memories and false confessions. Because this book is disarmingly appealing to the deep desire to know ourselves it follows a nice and logical path from what psychology offers about your own mind, and this includes emotions, to what it can tell about personal relationships, to the social psychological phenomena that are among the most important insights gained by psychologists. For example, stereotype threat, altruism, persuasion and compliance are all soundly discussed in the context of the groundbreaking experiments that established them as topics of further study. But what is so appealing in this book is that you are given everyday context; for instance, what happens when we are shopping, working with others, doing sports, learning in the classroom. As obligatory in any ‘know yourself’ book there are also excellent short sections on mental disorders and their treatments. This book presents psychology today ‘in a nutshell’, and it is almost frighteningly up to date. But then this is what you should expect of a Rough Guide that is properly researched. This guide tells readers about the outstanding discoveries made by explorers of psychology in an extremely engaging way. It invites travellers to consider these discoveries not only with due wonder but also healthy scepticism. The invitation to follow up with recommended readings is well judged. You should be able to find the primary references using Google Scholar and PubMed; but besides these there are other sources of information on the web, notably in blogs, and these you have to explore by yourself. If I had to help a young person choose the subject they should study I would not make any direct suggestions, but if I was convinced they should take up psychology, I would simply recommend this book. The rest would follow. I Penguin; 2011; Pb £11.99 Reviewed by Uta Frith who is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London For your chance to win a copy of The Rough Guide to Psychology, simply follow @psychmag on Twitter.
Comprehensive survey Media and Youth: A Developmental Perspective Steven J. Kirsh The impact of media on youth has long been a contentious issue. As Steven J. Kirsh makes clear, there have been scares for as long as there have been worried parents. Along with violent video games, we could cite skinny models encouraging anorexia, predators lurking in internet chatrooms, and children’s academic potential wilting under the glare of all those screens. Kirsh’s objective is neither to create nor dispel such fears. Rather, he provides a clearheaded and admirably comprehensive survey of the available evidence, discussing how youth consume media and how it affects them both positively and negatively as they grow up. A diverse range of topics are addressed from a developmental perspective, giving readers a good grounding in theory and findings alike. With his lucid writing style, clearly structured chapters and a slew of rather endearing personal anecdotes, Kirsch makes a labyrinthine subject remarkably navigable. He reveals that the areas most influenced by media are not necessarily what we might think. Media and Youth: A Developmental Perspective has much to offer both inside and outside an academic context. I Wiley-Blackwell; 2010; Pb £25.99 Reviewed by Abi Millar who is a Science Journalism postgraduate at City University
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Passes the test
A wealth of material
The Passionate Mind: How People with Autism Learn Wendy Lawson
Introduction to Psychometric Theory Tenko Raykov & George A. Marcoulides
Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development (2nd edn) Usha Goswami (Ed.)
This book is a wide-ranging introductory text to psychometric theory, covering latent variable models such as exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, generalisability theory, and item response theory. The mixture of written accounts, equations, software commands (including code for several packages such as MPlus, SPSS, and R), and software outputs is highly commendable. This mixed approach does a good job of ‘mentoring’ you from study design all the way to analysing and interpreting your data. The book easily passes the ‘Did I wish I had used this book during my PhD?’ test, and some of the more advanced chapters (e.g. regarding item response theory) have dropped several pennies for me. The writing itself can be a little difficult, quite dense and featuring several over-long and (to me, at least) baffling sentences. The book does assume basic statistical knowledge, and potential readers should be aware that, with only 318 pages, it’s a whistle-stop tour. Having recourse to fuller treatments of the material is likely to be beneficial for those less gifted souls such as myself.
This is an authoritative, comprehensive and cuttingedge account of psychological theory and research on children’s cognitive development from infants to early adolescence. Written by a cast of world leading academics, this handbook provides a single volume resource that covers all the major topics. The material is organised into sections each with a useful introduction, which provides an important thread of contextual coherence across the book. This second edition reflects the significant developments within the field arising from the latest cognitive neuropsychological research. New data about the connections between neural mechanisms and children’s learning is considered in relation to topics as diverse as memory, spatial development and theory of mind, leading to new insights and explanatory frameworks for cognitive development. A theme that runs through many of these
Wendy Lawson writes passionately about how her cognitive theory of autism – selective attention and associated cognition in autism (SAACA) – fills the gaps left by other theorists. Lawson argues that ‘neurotypical’ individuals access and process information in a polytropic way; attention can shift between multiple topics or channels. Conversely, autism spectrum (AS) individuals are monotropic in their approach; attention occupies a single topic or direction. This ‘attention tunnel’ is determined by the individual’s interest, and is proposed to connect to the sensory motor loop to create a specific cognitive style. Lawson believes that a better understanding of this allows for personalised interventions to be successful. Unfortunately, little evidence exists to support her theory. Lawson cites anecdotal evidence or re-interprets the existing literature, but recognises the weaknesses of this approach, calling for researchers to test her theory. I would second this, as what SAACA cleverly does is provide a simple yet comprehensive theory of cognitive style in autism – one that is interesting and warrants further attention. I Jessica Kingsley; 2011; Pb £15.99 Reviewed by Léonie McDonald who is a clinical psychologist with Suffolk Community Healthcare
I Routledge; 2010; Hb £44.95 Reviewed by Chris Beeley who is with the Institute of Mental Health, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
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New autism theory
accounts is the incredible learning power and plasticity of the infant brain and its superbly adapted capacity for learning through experience. Subsequent chapters consider the development of core cognitive functions, such as imitation, categorisation, concept development and causal reasoning, and broader aspects of development, such as reading, mathematical understanding, scientific thinking, moral reasoning, as well as executive functioning and language development. A final section critically reviews established theories (i.e. Piaget and Vygotsky) while also introducing newer theoretical frameworks, such as information processing and neuroconstructivism. This handbook brings together such a wealth of material to constitute possibly the single best reference book in its subject area and, as such, should serve as a key text for advanced students, researchers and practitioners. I Wiley-Blackwell; 2010; £120.00 Reviewed by Paul Riddick who is Senior Educational Psychologist, Leicester City
Sample titles just in: Zen and the Art of Consciousness Susan Blackmore Dream Life: An Experimental Memoir J. Allan Hobson Positive Psychology at Work Sarah Lewis Applied Psychology Graham Davey Culture and Cognition: Evolutionary Perspectives Bradley Franks For a full list of books available for review and information on reviewing for The Psychologist, see www.bps.org.uk/books Send books for potential review to The Psychologist, 48 Princess Road East, Leicester LE1 7DR
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The British Psychological Society
President’s column Gerry Mulhern
President Dr Gerry Mulhern
Contact Gerry Mulhern via the Society’s Leicester office, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Elect Professor Noel Sheehy Vice President Sue Gardner Honorary General Secretary Professor Pam Maras Honorary Treasurer Dr Richard Mallows Chair, Membership Standards Board Dr Peter Banister Chair, Psychology Education Board Professor Dorothy Miell Chair, Research Board Professor Judi Ellis Chair, Publications and Communications Board Dr Graham Powell Chair, Professional Practice Board Dr Carole Allan The Society has offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London, as well as the main office in Leicester. All enquiries should be addressed to the Leicester office (see inside front cover for address). The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901, and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1965. Its object is ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied and especially to promote the efficiency and usefulness of Members of the Society by setting up a high standard of professional education and knowledge’. Extract from The Charter
his month I thought I would say something and just as the May Psychologist pops through about my work on behalf of the Society. letter boxes, it’s off to the Society’s showcase I had intended to comment on the apparent event, our Annual Conference in Glasgow. On unraveling of the government’s policy on tuition day one I will open the conference, introduce fees. However, the issue continues to develop our first keynote speaker, the eminent Professor and we will know more about the extent of the Elizabeth Loftus, and attend a civic reception at shambles in a month’s time. Glasgow City Chambers hosted by the Glasgow So, instead, have you ever wondered what City Council. That evening, I will say a few a day in the life of a BPS President is like? Take words at the BPS and Wiley-Blackwell the months of April and May which admittedly publishing partnership celebration. Day two are among the more intensive. By the time this will see my Presidential Address followed by the column appears, I will have attended the Society’s Awards Ceremony where I will present Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research awards to nine in Child Development in Montreal. As well highly deserving as being there as part of my day job as an recipients. That academic, I am delighted also to have been evening, Professor invited to represent the Society at two Ken Brown, Chair events in Montreal. The first is an invitation of Standing to speak at a symposium on international Conference research collaboration in developmental Committee, and science and is the direct result of having I will each say a met the symposium convener, Professor few words at our Oscar Barbarin, at the General Assembly Awards Gala Dinner of the International Union of Psychological before attending Science earlier this year. The second is an other social events. invitation to a Wiley-Blackwell round table I am pleased to say on developmental psychology where I have that we will also have …a day to get over jet lag been asked to contribute to a discussion on an opportunity to the theme of ‘Putting research into practice’. remember and This is the second such round table in a celebrate our late planned series by Wiley-Blackwell, and I was colleague and friend Liz Campbell in her home pleased to have attended the first in Melbourne city. earlier in the year. Lest you think I may be indolent during Next, after a day to get over jet lag, I will any spare time, there is much routine Society have travelled to Southampton to attend the business to see to as well – mopping up after AGM of the Wessex Branch, to give an invited March Board of Trustees and preparing the lecture and to chat with the Branch committee business for the May board, responding to over dinner. For me, the opportunity to visit members enquiries and comments, dealing member networks has been one of the most with invitations from other societies and public enjoyable aspects of the presidency and I am bodies, and reacting to a host of unanticipated looking forward to my visit to Wessex. The matters. If I have one niggle, it is that much following week will see me attending the activity is concentrated towards the end of the Society’s annual meeting with the Health presidential office, perhaps inevitably, since the Professions Council in London. Later that same start of the term of office has shifted to late week I will be off to another member network, June. this time much closer to home. I look forward Throughout the year I have been struck by to speaking at the Annual Conference of the the significance placed on the presence of the Northern Ireland Branch where I first became President at events, both within the Society actively involved in the Society. After a short and outwith. Particularly salient has been the respite I will be off to Brussels for two days to consistently warm reception I have received represent the Society at the Presidents’ Council internationally, reflecting the esteem in which of the European Federation of Psychologists’ the Society is held. The quality and extent of Associations (EFPA). our international engagement remains a Almost as soon as I get back from Brussels, personal priority.
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Measuring national well-being The Society has responded to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) consultation regarding the measurement of national well-being. The Prime Minister, who announced the policy in November last year, wants the results to complement traditional indicators of national success, such as GDP, to provide a ‘general picture of how life is improving’. The ONS wants to stimulate a series of debates among experts and the general public to get an idea of what we mean by well-being, what aspects of life should be included in the measurement and how the results should be used. Peter Kinderman, Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, prepared a response on behalf of the Society. It concluded: ‘The ONS programme to measure the nation’s well-being is a very positive, but very complex, exercise. To plan Government policy purely on economic indicators such as GDP seems inadequate, so the development of an additional index of well-being is wise. ‘But it’s a complex exercise. Wellbeing necessitates a focus on a wide range of domains of human life, including areas such as relationships, autonomy, and “meaning and purpose”. Measuring these is difficult. Well-being also has both subjective (“I feel happy with...”) aspects and objective elements – suicide rates, literacy rates, divorce rates, crime figures, environmental pollution indicators, etc.’ The response suggests that the expertise of psychologists could be used more effectively: ‘…there are well established approaches to measuring subjective factors like this, including psychometric properties such as confirming factorial stability and reliability of measurement; psychologists have long-standing experience and expertise to contribute in this domain.’ The Society response expressed a preference for a single index of well-being, ‘based on a measure of subjective well-being assessed in a coherent fashion across core domains, plus objective indicators for a number of the factors shown by research to have significant impact on well-being’. However, the response cautions that the resulting index will need to
be used with care. ‘We would also sound a note of caution in advocating [its] use as the sole mechanism for evaluation, especially for government policy: variations in people’s self-reported wellbeing should only be considered alongside more tailored, specific evaluation of policies, and the validity of the measure
should be fully tested and validated before it is used in this way.’ Ben Watson I The full response can be seen at tinyurl.com/3gho5ej and other responses from the general public have been published at tinyurl.com/3wagpeu
ALLOTMENTS WILL HELP A LOT OF MEN A horticultural project for men who are at risk of depression and possible suicide was launched this spring in Barking and Dagenham with the support of a British Psychological Society public engagement grant and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust. The project, ‘Young at heart’, aims to improve the mental and physical health of socially isolated men by involving them in regular gardening sessions and monthly support meetings. The project will feature in Radio 4’s All in the Mind with Claudia Hammond, who will also follow its progress later in the summer. ‘Young at heart’ aims to build on the history of allotment gardening in Barking and Dagenham, which makes this an acceptable method to engage men who may not otherwise access services for emotional
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support. Men are less likely than women to seek help for emotional issues and they are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression but they are three times more likely to successfully take their own lives. Chartered Clinical Psychologist Dr Victoria Winson, leading the project, said ‘There are some 58,000 adult men in Barking and Dagenham and if you estimate that one in four of this population may suffer from mental health problems this would result a high number of men experiencing some form of emotional problem, the majority of whom will not access formal or informal treatment or support. Social isolation and exclusion is a known risk factor for poor mental health. Allotments often have a strong sense of community and are places where people from a wide range of backgrounds come together
and provide an ideal place to challenge social isolation. Many thanks to the British Psychological Society and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust without whose support this project wouldn’t have been possible.’ The project was funded by the British Psychological Society’s 2010 ‘Sharing our Science: Psychology in Action’ public engagement grants. Each year the Society provides grants for sustainable activities that demonstrate the benefits of psychology to the public. The 2011 grants are now open with £40,000 available to Society members – all applications will be considered, but we are particularly keen to hear from sport and exercise psychology projects. The closing date for applications is 1 July. I For more information please visit www.bps.org.uk/grants
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More online journals for members Further to the announcement in February of free access for Society members to all BPS journals and a selection of 32 other Wiley Blackwell journals, we are pleased to announce two further developments (and more to come), significantly widening the range of free resources available to all members.
BJP archive issues from 1904 First, we are delighted to announce that the archive issues for the British Journal of Psychology have now been published on the Wiley Online Library. All BPS members will be able to read articles from Volume 1 Part 1 (published in 1904) as a benefit of membership via www.bps.org.uk/journals. Society members will be some of the first people who will be able to access the breadth and depth of research published over the last 102 volumes of the journal online. Peter Mitchell, current British Journal of Psychology Editor, commented: ‘The 100-year archive of the British Journal of Psychology contains groundbreaking articles by the world’s most influential researchers. The backfile provides an outstanding resource that allows these important articles to be easily accessible to a wide audience. This will insure that the fine legacy of the British Journal of Psychology will continue to influence our discipline during the 21st century.’ Wiley-Blackwell is working with the Society on digitising the archive issues for all Society journals, and we look forward to alerting members to their
availability as soon as we can.
EBSCO As part of the Society’s ongoing commitment to enhance the benefits of membership, a trial arrangement has been set up with EBSCO giving all members free access to the Psychology & Behavioral Sciences (PBSC) journals database. PBSC currently contains 540 full-text peer-reviewed journals, plus 23 other full-text titles, all indexed and abstracted. Members of all grades, including student members, can now gain unrestricted access to the collection from within the BPS website members’ area. In addition to an extensive coverage in psychology, the collection includes titles in anthropology, psychiatry, observational and experimental methods, and mental processes. The interface with PBSC is via EBSCOhost, an intuitive resource that offers various ways of searching the database – including basic and more advanced options. It is also very simple to create a personalised ‘My EBSCOhost’, which will allow setting preferences, saving search history, bookmarking, creating alerts, and much more. The trial officially runs from 1 May for six months, though unofficially access
Chemical engineers A Chartered Occupational Psychologist is among a number of leading figures in the chemical engineering sector to be named one of IChemE’s first Associate Fellows. Ronny Lardner – who is also the Director of The Keil Centre, Edinburgh – and 10 others received the new membership grade, which has been introduced to recognise professionally qualified individuals without a formal chemical engineering qualification, who hold senior positions in the chemical, biochemical or process engineering industries. Lardner told The Psychologist: ‘It’s good to see the results of yet more successful collaboration between British Psychological Society members and other professions to address real-world problems being recognised… Early in my career I completed the Sheffield University MSc Occupational Psychology course – this was around the time that the Cullen Report into the Piper Alpha disaster was published. One of the causal factors of this disaster was poor communication at shift handover. I decided to complete my MSc project on how to improve this important aspect of 24-hour operations in the nuclear industry. I published the results in the IChemE magazine and that was the start of a 20-year involvement with IChemE and its members.’
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began to be available in early April. Towards the end of the trial period, an assessment will be made based on both the level of usage and the spread of usage across membership categories. A decision will then be made on whether it is worth while entering into a longer-term centrally funded arrangement with EBSCO. Society President Gerry Mulhern said: ‘Throughout my term of office I have received regular requests from members for free access to as wide a range of journals as possible. This is a welcome development and a clear example of the Society’s willingness to invest significant resources to meet members’ needs. During the trial, I would urge members to demonstrate demand for the database. Use it or lose it!’ To access PBSC go to www.bps.org.uk/ebsco – you will need to enter your membership number and password if not already logged on as a member. From there a link takes you straight to the EBSCOhost search page. There is also a link to EBSCO support pages, where you can find out more about using the system through online tutorials, FAQs, etc. We will also be offering live online tutorials to help members get the best out of EBSCOhost. Dates and times have yet to be arranged but will be announced via the e-mail Member Update.
I For information on all library resources currently available to members of the British Psychological Society, go to www.bps.org.uk/resources
NEW SOCIETY WEBSITE – UPDATE A detailed project plan for the launch of the first phase of the new BPS website has been agreed. The initial launch will focus on the main website, with the migration of other BPS subsites and communities to follow in subsequent phases, which will start immediately after main site launch. The new website will be demonstrated at the Annual Conference in May, with the full launch expected shortly afterwards. I For more information visit: www.bps.org.uk/webproject; for any enquiries or suggestions, contact: email@example.com
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CONSULTATIONS NEWS Making an impact The Society responded to the Implementation of Autism Strategy consultation in October last year, and we were very pleased to hear that a number of points from that response were noted by the Department of Health and helped shape the final guidance. The following aspects of the guidance, in particular, reflect recommendations made by the Society: I it has been made clear that local authorities should appoint a local lead commissioner; I a description of the two types of training covered by the guidance has been included, and the discussions relating to these two areas of training have been separated out; I it has been noted that autism awareness training should not be seen as a 'one-off’; I it has been made clear that those completing assessments of need with people with autism are skilled; I a more definitive statement about carers assessments has been included. In addition to the above, we were pleased that the Society is noted as one of the key partners that the Department of Health has committed to working with in order to improve the quality of autism awareness training. The full report and final guidance are available from our website (www.bps.org.uk/consult). We have also heard this month that Society responses have helped shape the updated NICE Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Guidance and the Scottish Government’s Self-directed Support Strategy. Consultations responses The Society submitted responses to 10 consultations during March. Full details are available from our website (see above). In the response to Developing the Healthcare Workforce, recommendations were made in the areas of education and training (including commissioning), representation of psychology, research funding and respectful cross-collaboration between clinicians and managers. The Bailey Review, which expressed concern over the pressures on children to grow up to quickly, was welcomed by the Society. Our response noted that this is a multilayered area with many interacting factors, and that applied psychological experience and opinion should be married with the available research. The eight other responses were: I Breaking the Cycle (Green Paper) (Ministry of Justice) I Head Injury (NICE-review) I Healthy Lives, Healthy People (White Paper) (Department of Health) I Mental Health & Wellbeing (Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety, Northern Ireland) I Alcohol Problems Screening (UK National Screening Committee) I Autism in CYP (NICE-guidance) I Brain & CNS Cancer Measures (Department of Health) I New Indicators for QOF (NICE-QOF) The preparation and submission of the Society’s responses to consultations are coordinated by the Consultations Response Team (CRT). All those holding at least graduate membership are eligible to contribute and all interest is warmly welcomed. Please contact the CRT for further information (firstname.lastname@example.org; 0116 252 9508).
Research interests The Society has launched an updated database of UK academic research interests. The database is intended to be used for keyword searches to facilitate research collaborations, to identify suitable reviewers for Research Council grant proposals, to identify possible PhD supervisors, to identify where research in specific areas is being conducted, and so on. It is not limited to Society members and includes any academics in the UK. Professor Judi Ellis, Chair of the Society’s Research Board, said: ‘We have utilised publicly available information from university websites and are not publishing individual e-mail addresses (although we have these within the database records to use to contact entrants for admin reasons). We also consulted with the Association of Heads of Psychology Departments prior to embarking on this project to ensure that Heads of Departments were content with this database being established.’
I See www.bps.org.uk/researchinterests to use the database or submit your details for inclusion.
Forensic testing The Committee on Test Standards (CTS) and the Executive of the Division of Forensic Psychology invite all Graduate and Chartered Members to respond to a consultation on standards in testing in forensic contexts. CTS proposes three levels of certification of test users’ competence as Assistant Test Users undertaking test administration, operating under the supervision of a Test User (Level 1), as Test Users trained as competent test users of ability/aptitude and personality tests (Level 2) and as Specialists in Test Use (Level 3). This is the second phase of this consultation and follows the first stage which closed on 31/12/10.
I The consultation opens on 3 May and closes on 3 August 2011 at www.bps.org.uk/dfp/psychologists/cts-consultation
Official Twitter The British Psychological Society now has an official Twitter feed – @BPSOfficial. It will be used to tweet news about Society events and publications, as well as news and weblinks likely to interest members. A number of other Twitter feeds are flourishing within the Society, including: The Psychologist @psychmag Conferences Team @BPSConference BPS Journals @bpsjournals Division of Occupational
Psychology @occpsychuk Division of Clinical Psychology @DCPinfo Student Members Group @bpsstudents Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group @psypag Occupational Digest @occdigest Research Digest @researchdigest
The Research Digest has also compiled a list of psychologists who tweet – www.tinyurl.com/psychologists whotweet2. Sign up and follow at www.twitter.com.
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taught by a male teacher, at least in primary school (Skelton, 2007): while 38 per cent of secondary schools teachers are men, the proportion is significantly lower in primary schools. Evidence in support of such suggestions remains tenuous, and it is perhaps more likely that a number of factors converge to disadvantage boys within the educational system.
Failing boys, failing psychology Marc Smith with the latest in our series for budding writers (see www.bps.org.uk/newvoices for more information)
A female pursuit?
ew boys do psychology; and those who do, don’t do it very well. A-level psychology is now the fourth most popular A-level with nearly 55,000 young people having entered for the exam in 2010 – not bad for a subject that attracted only 275 candidates when the first exam was sat back in 1972. Recent years have seen a huge explosion of interest in Alevel psychology, and it has now become a serious topic for investigation by the academic community, with articles on the future of A-level psychology (Smith, 2010) and its popularity (Walker, 2010), not to mention several articles in The Psychologist (September 2010 and October 2007). However, few have turned their attention to a potentially damaging pattern: the near total exclusion of boys and the severe underachievement of those boys who dare to adopt the role of the ‘rogue male’ (Sanders et al., 2009). Figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, a body representing the main exam boards in the UK, state that 54,940 students sat psychology A-level exams in June 2010. Of these 14,802 were male while a staggering 40,138 were female. The pattern is similar to that of psychology in Higher Education, where in 2006/7 the ratio of males to females was 1:4 (Sanders et al., 2009). This suggests that psychology is very much a female discipline. Even more disconcerting than the gender imbalance in participation is the notable imbalance in performance between male and female candidates in
Banister, P. (2003). Impact of post-16 qualifications on the undergraduate curriculum: Views from heads of psychology departments. In C. McGuinness (Ed.) Post-16 qualifications in psychology. Leicester: British Psychological Society. Elwood, J. (1995). Undermining gender stereotypes: Examination and coursework performance in the UK at 16. Assessment in Education:
A-level psychology. In 2010 5.2 per cent of females obtained the newly introduced A* grade (awarded to students achieving an overall A grade with a 90 per cent pass rate in the second year of studies) while the number of boys achieving this coveted accolade stood at just 2.8 per cent. In fact, between 2005 and 2010, males consistently underperformed in relation to females by a significant margin. Such a pattern of male underperformance is now common within primary and secondary education. It has been described as a moral panic (Smith, 2003), with the issue being addressed at length over the past decade or so (e.g. Epstein et al., 1998). The phenomenon appears to be global rather than localised (e.g. Majzub & Rais, 2010), and despite considerable research (e.g. Francis, 1999) and a number of initiatives, the trend for male underachievement (or female overachievement) appears to continue unabated. Recently it has been strongly suggested that continually informing boys that girls do better may actually activate and reinforce the stereotype in some boys (Hartley, 2010). Indeed male underachievement could be the result of automatic social behaviour where educational professionals are unconsciously teaching boys how to fail, rather than reinforcing strategies more geared towards achievement. The female domination of the teaching profession has also led some to suggest that boys may engage more appropriately with learning if
Principles, policy and practice, 2, 283–303. Epstein, D., Elwood, J., Hey, V. & Maw J. (Eds.) (1998). Failing boys? Issues in gender and achievement. Open University Press. Francis, B. (1999). Lads, lasses and (New) labour: 14–16-year-old students’ responses to the ‘laddish behaviour and boys’ underachievement’ debate. British Journal of Sociology of
The past few years have seen an increase in interest in the merits and problems surrounding A-level psychology (e.g. Smith, 2010). To some extent, pre-tertiary education in psychology has felt marginalised by higher education, with universities continuing to insist that Alevel psychology provides an inappropriate grounding for degree level studies in psychology (Jarrett, 2010). Other factors may work to further disadvantage those boys who do choose psychology at A-level. Rowley and Delgarno (2010) surveyed A-level psychology teachers in an attempt to better understand who they were and what they thought about their subject. According to their study, nearly 30 per cent of psychology teachers in schools do not hold a first degree in psychology and, perhaps more interestingly, nearly 80 per cent of those who responded to the survey were female, significantly higher than the 62 per cent of female teachers in secondary schools generally. Such a significant gender imbalance creates the impression of psychology being a wholly female pursuit and an inappropriate choice for a boy, rather than the inclusive pursuit favoured by the psychology community. This can be seen further in the choice of topics at A2 level (the second year of the A-level). Taking the most popular examination specification as their yardstick, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance specification A (AQA A), Rowley and Delgarno discovered that the most popular topics chosen by teachers and heads of department at A2 were (in order
Education, 20, 355–371. Hartley, B. (2010, 2 September). Girls believe they are better than boys by the age of four. Paper presented at the British Education Research Conference. Jarrett, C. (2010). The journey to undergraduate psychology. The Psychologist, 23, 714–716. Maras, P. & Bradshaw, V. (2007). A-level psychology: Exploring the views of
pre-tertiary psychology teachers. University of Greenwich, UK. Majzub, R.M. & Rais, M.M. (2010). Boys’ Underachievement: Causes and Strategies. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 2, 3160–3164. Rowley, M. & Delgarno, E.L. (2010). Alevel psychology teachers: Who are they and what do they think about psychology as a subject and a discipline? Psychology Teaching
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of preference) relationships, biological also more successful at it than boys who rhythms, sleep and dreaming and prochoose psychology. Interestingly boys also and anti-social behaviour. While other represent the majority in physical topics were chosen (e.g. cognitive education and sports science, with very development and perception) these little difference between genders in terms remained in the minority while some of achievement. These subjects generally (language and thought) failed to make an include a significant amount of appearance. These results lend weight to psychology including studies of previous accusations (e.g. Banister, 2003; personality and motivation, areas that Smith, 2010) that the form only a very biological and the minor part of most cognitive aspects of psychology psychology are being specifications. neglected, an argument Despite the proffered by universities re-classification of in the case for rejecting A-level psychology A-level psychology as it appears that a pre-requisite for students themselves undergraduate study. It is doubt or are worth noting that in the unaware of recent revision to the Apsychology’s level syllabus some topics scientific have been withdrawn credentials. Maras while others have been and Bradshaw altered; however, the top (2007) found that three remain almost intact, only 62 per cent of and it can be assumed that Near total exclusion of boys teachers surveyed their popularity is likely to thought that remain high. It could be argued that nonpsychology is a science. However, Rowley specialists shy away from topics with a and Delgarno found that, just three years more ‘traditional science’ feel, and plump later, 87 per cent of psychology teachers for topics they feel will engage their agreed with the proposition that mainly female student base. psychology is a science. Despite this more favourable position the teachers in Rowley and Delgarno’s sample rated Boys do science chemistry, physics, biology and geology Although A-level psychology has been as more scientific than psychology. This, classified as a science since 2008, boys according to Rowley and Delgarno, raises appear to be more attracted to traditional some interesting questions about teachers’ science-based subjects. In 2010, 44 per judgements concerning the nature of cent of biology candidates were male, science and what makes a discipline significantly higher than the 27 per cent scientific. This may be compounded for psychology (boys outnumber girls in when considering the large number of both physics and chemistry; however, psychology teachers without a science girls still achieve higher grades but by background (or a psychology degree) a very small margin). In addition, while and the significant number of psychology boys underperformed by an average of teachers who also teach sociology – of 13.5 per cent (between 2005 and 2009) those without a psychology degree in against girls in psychology, in biology this Rowley and Delgarno’s sample, around difference stood at only 3.4 per cent over a quarter were sociologists. the same period, suggesting that not only Boys choose science and do well at it; are more boys choosing biology, they are those boys who choose psychology tend
Review, 16, 54–61. Sanders, L., Sander, P. & Mercer, J. (2009). Rogue males? Approaches to study and academic performance of male psychology students. Psychology Teaching Review, 15, 3–17. Skelton, C. (2007). Gender, policy and initial teacher training. Gender and Education, 19, 677–690. Smith, E. (2003). Failing boys and moral panics. British Journal of Educational
Studies, 51, 282–295. Smith, M. (2010). A-level psychology: Is there a way forward? Psychology Teaching Review, 16, 33–37. Stewart, W. (2010, 18 June). Exams for boys, exams for girls. Times Educational Supplement. tinyurl.com/32xyq6e Walker, K. (2010). Explaining the popularity of psychology at A-level. Psychology Teaching Review, 16, 45–53.
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to underachieve significantly. Boys are also more likely to choose fact-based subjects, such as economics, business studies and maths, and do well at these. Whilst the A-level psychology specifications allow for the study of topics including visual perception and cognition, many teachers appear to be choosing topics that best suit their own background, perhaps leading to a social psychological bias that may disadvantage the boys in their class due to the speculative nature of the topics. Subsequently schools are less likely to promote psychology as a science and more likely to classify it as a social science like sociology, where the gender imbalance is even more noticeable. Boys then find themselves the minority in a subject perceived as female; issues of participation, therefore, appear directly linked to issues of performance. Teachers may have changed their view concerning the scientific nature of psychology, but this hasn’t manifested itself in a change in direction towards a more scientific A-level, a change that could work towards breaking the cycle. It has been suggested that boys can be placed at an advantage through the implementation of an exam-only syllabus, and AQA intends to roll out a series of gender-specific GCSE science programmes as early as September 2011 (Stewart, 2010), claiming that boys do better at exams while girls are better at coursework. However, the removal of the coursework element from psychology in 2008 appears to have done little to rectify the gender imbalance. According to Elwood (1995), coursework plays only a minimal role in achievement differences between the genders and a larger role is played by teacher and pupil expectations as well as syllabus content. Such a situation can only deter boys from choosing psychology and disadvantage those who choose to be part of the minority. With so little research conducted into the area, however, it may be some time before the picture becomes clearer. All that can be said for now is that while the popularity of A-level psychology is a cause for celebration, those issues that plague the subject continue to the detriment of those who study it – particularly boys. Marc Smith is a Chartered Psychologist and A-level psychology teacher email@example.com
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2 March and 16 March 1919. Adding 12 months 21 days, the age of the last assessment, to the birth date indicated that data collection concluded between 23 March and 6 April, 1920. The process by which these dates were derived is more fully described elsewhere (Beck et al., 2009). We had learned a great deal about Albert. Now came the most difficult part of our inquiry: finding an individual whose characteristics matched Albert’s attributes.
Finding Little Albert Hall P. Beck, with Gary Irons, reports on a seven-year search for psychology’s lost boy
n 1920 the British Psychological Society invited John Broadus Watson to address a symposium on behaviourism (Watson, 1920). Watson was disappointed that his university was unable to fund his crossing. This article provides new information about a study Watson would most likely have presented to the Society had his monetary circumstances been more favourable. In the winter of 1919/20, Watson and his graduate assistant, Rosalie Alberta Rayner, attempted to condition a baby boy, Albert B., to fear a white laboratory rat (Watson & Rayner, 1920). They later reported that the child’s fear generalised to other furry objects. The ‘Little Albert’ investigation was the last published study of Watson’s academic career. Watson and Rayner became embroiled in a scandalous affair, culminating in his divorce and dismissal from Johns Hopkins. Despite its methodological shortcomings and questionable ethics (Cornwell & Hobbs, 1976; Samelson, 1980), the attempted conditioning of Albert is a staple in psychology textbooks and one of the most influential investigations in the discipline. The continuing appeal of Watson and Rayner’s research is not solely due to the importance of their purported findings. Much of the fascination with the study is attributable to Albert himself. After the last day of testing, Albert left his home on the Johns Hopkins campus. His disappearance created one of the greatest mysteries in the history of
Beck, H.P., Levinson, S. & Irons, G. (2009). Finding Little Albert. American Psychologist, 64, 605–614. Buckley, K.W. (1989). Mechanical man: John Broadus Watson and the beginnings of behaviorism. New York: Guilford. Cornwell, D. & Hobbs, S. (1976, 18 March).The strange saga of little Albert. New Society, pp.602–604. Deaths: Mrs. Flora Belle Brashears. (1924, 24 May). The Frederick Post, p.5.
psychology. ‘Whatever happened to Little Albert?’ is a question that has intrigued generations of students and professional psychologists (Harris, 1979). This article is a detective story summarising the efforts of my co-authors, my students and myself to resolve a 90-year-old cold case.
Traces of Albert
We searched archives for the investigators’ notes, drafts of the study and other pertinent documents, but found no clues as to Albert’s or his mother’s identity. An attempt to locate Watson’s private papers was particularly maddening. Watson (Buckley, 1989) burned these documents What was known about Albert late in his life, declaring ‘When you are From Watson’s writings we learned that dead you are all dead’ (p.182). We will Albert’s mother was a wet nurse in the never know what historical treasures he Harriet Lane Home, a paediatric facility destroyed that day. on the Hopkins campus. She and her son Efforts to uncover patient and lived at Harriet Lane for most of the boy’s employee records at Hopkins were first year. Watson and Rayner reported equally futile. With no private papers, no that Albert was tested at 8 months 26 patient records, and no employee records days, 11 months 3 days, 11 months 10 to guide us, we were without direction. days, 11 months 15 days, 11 months 20 At this point, we could only confirm why days, and 12 months 21 days of age. It previous attempts to find Albert had was also known that Albert was a male failed. Caucasian. Though useful, this If I had thought through the information had not implications of the led other researchers information Watson and (e.g. Resnick, 1974) Rayner provided, I would “It was a very emotional to Albert. New have known where to look moment when Gary evidence was clearly for Albert on the initial day phoned.” needed if we hoped to of our inquiry. Two of the identify Watson’s first facts we learned were famous participant. that the investigation was In addition to written descriptions, a performed during the winter of 1919/20 movie that Watson (1923) made of Albert and that Albert and his mother lived on and other infants provided a critical the Hopkins campus. In 1920 a census information source. By concurrently was conducted throughout the US. If a census was taken at Hopkins then it examining the investigators’ write-up, the might include Albert’s mother and movie and Watson’s correspondence with perhaps Albert. President Goodnow of Johns Hopkins we On 2 January 1920 a census taker determined that Albert was born between
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record, BC) (1919). Baby Merritte, 70288, 02/25/04/006. Maryland State Archives (MSA T310–230), Annapolis, MD. Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics (Death Record Counties) (1925). Douglas Merritte, Carroll County, 10 May 1925. Maryland State Archives (MSA S1179, MdHR 50, 259-
375, 2/56/62(1), Annapolis, MD. Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to little Albert? American Psychologist, 34, 151–160. Hemans, F. (189-?). The poetical works of Mrs. Hemans. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. Howland, J. (1912–1913). The Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children, Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine, 1, 115–121.
Jones, M.C. (1924). A laboratory study of fear: The case of Peter. Pedagogical Seminary, 31, 308–315. Park, E.A. (1957). [Records of the Harriet Lane Home]. Collection Harriet Lane Home [Series 4b]. The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD. Park, E.A. (n.d.). The Howland period from 1912 to 1926. [Records of the Harriet
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recorded the names of 379 persons residing on the Hopkins campus (US Bureau of the Census, 1920). I downloaded a copy of the census, but did not have time to study it. I was packing for Germany to conduct a series of human–computer interaction studies.
child. Levinson’s discovery of the foster mothers gave our inquiry new direction, but did not constitute proof that these women were wet nurses. After returning to the United States, my students and I set out to discover whether Pearl Barger, Ethel Carter, and Arvilla Merritte were lactating during the winter of 1919/20. Our attention initially focused on The census provides a clue Pearl Barger. Could Albert B. be Albert I incorrectly assumed that my work in Barger? Several hundred hours were spent Europe would delay the search for Albert. searching death certificates, marriage However, the next step on the road to licences, birth records and other Albert would not be taken by travelling to documents in the Maryland State an American archive but by journeying to Archives. These efforts failed to produce Granada, Spain. There, at the 2005 evidence of Pearl’s motherhood. European Congress of Ethel Carter Psychology, I met my gave birth on 26 future co-author Dr August 1920 at Sharman Levinson, Hopkins. She could who was then a have been a wet professor at the nurse and probably University of Angers, knew Albert. Ethel, France. We discovered however, was not a mutual interest in Albert’s mother. Watson’s career. After She was a black the conference, woman and her I mailed Levinson child was a female. copies of many Arvilla Merritte historical documents was a 22-year-old that my students had Caucasian. On 9 digitised. March 1919, she Her attention was delivered a boy caught by the census. (‘Baby Merritte’) No one under 14on the Hopkins years-old was listed campus even though Watson (Department of and other sources Health and Mental John Broadus Watson indicate that children Hygiene, 1919). The were living on campus. father was listed as Almost everyone on William Merritte. the census was single, divorced or Further searches for Arvilla Merritte widowed, so it is reasonable to speculate yielded no additional information. Like that the census taker never asked about Albert and Pearl, she had disappeared. children. For months, Levinson, my students and Neither were any wet nurses included I searched for clues, finally noticing that on the census. Three women, Pearl an unknown individual had jotted down Barger, Ethel Carter, and Arvilla Merritte, Arvilla’s maiden name on the birth record: however, were listed as ‘foster mothers’. ‘Irons’. Maiden names were not typically Foster mother is an occupation included on these documents, so I asked encompassing a variety of activities myself: What motivated someone to add involving the maternal care of another’s it to this record? Did the record keeper
Lane Home]. Collection Harriet Lane Home [Series 4b]. The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD. Resnick, J.H. (1974). In pursuit of Albert. Professional Psychology, 5, 112–113. Samelson, F. (1980). J.B. Watson’s Little Albert, Cyril Burt’s twins, and the need for a critical science. American Psychologist, 35, 619–625.
US Bureau of the Census (1920). Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland. In 14th Census of the United States, 1920 (Enumeration District 82, Sheet 4A; Roll: T625_661). Retrieved 29 June 2009 from Ancestry Library database. Watson, J.B. (1920, 30 March). [Letter to Frank J. Goodnow]. The Ferdinand Hamburger, Jr., Archives of The Johns Hopkins University (Record Group 02.001/Office of the President /Series
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believe that Arvilla was unmarried? One of my most trusted students was assigned to investigate. The breakthrough came when she entered ‘Arvilla Irons’ into a genealogical database. Suddenly, the ancestors and descendents of the foster mother appeared across her screen. Arvilla’s grandson, Larry Irons, left an e-mail address so relatives might contact him. I responded, describing the importance of Albert to psychology, and requesting further contact.
Meeting the Irons family It was a very emotional moment when Gary, Larry’s brother, phoned. Gary confirmed that Arvilla worked at the Harriet Lane Home and that she gave birth to a boy on 9 March 1919. I learned from Gary that Arvilla named her son, Douglas. Could Douglas be Little Albert? Descriptions of the Harriet Lane Home (Howland, 1912–1913; Park, 1957) and blueprints of the facility suggest that there were never many, probably no more than four in-residence wet nurses at any time. Douglas was certainly at Hopkins when Albert was tested, but was he Albert or Albert’s nursery mate? What is the likelihood that a Harriet Lane Home wet nurse would give birth to a male between 2 March and 16 March? To better record my own reasoning, I made my assumptions explicit. If half the babies were male and births were randomly distributed throughout the year, then the probability that the child would be male and born in this period would be 1 in 52 (1/2 x 1/26). Although my assumptions were estimates, the calculations definitely showed that it was unlikely that anyone other than Albert would share these attributes. The strongest argument against Douglas is his name. Why did Watson not refer to the baby as Douglas? As we will see, Arvilla was reluctant to share aspects of her personal life. Although it is possible that Arvilla requested anonymity,
1/File 115 (Department of Psychology) 1920–1921). Watson, J.B. (Writer/Director) (1923). Experimental investigation of babies [Motion picture]. (Distributed by C. H. Stoelting Co., Chicago, IL). Watson, J.B. & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
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a more probable explanation is that Watson did not know the baby’s name. In 1920 Hopkins was a very stratified social environment (Park, n.d.). Interactions between professors and wet nurses were almost solely restricted to professional matters. But why call the child Albert B.? At the 2008 meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, I asked the eminent Watson scholar, Charles Brewer that question. He reminded me that Watson was named after a prominent Baptist minister, John Albert Broadus. Naming Albert for his own namesake might not have been Watson’s only playful use of names. John and Rosalie married soon after Watson’s divorce. They had two children, William and James. Perhaps it is coincidence, but it is interesting that Watson greatly admired his predecessor, the philosopherpsychologist, William James.
Arvilla’s story In the early 20th century, the Irons family moved from New Jersey to rural Amelia, Virginia, about 64 km west of Richmond. On 18 December 1915, Arvilla, age 17, gave birth to Maurice Irons: the father was not recorded. Maurice eventually fathered Larry, Gary and five sisters. In 1918 Arvilla became pregnant again. Later that year or in early 1919, she moved to Baltimore, leaving her parents to raise Maurice. Before giving birth, she lived in the Baltimore Home for Fallen and Friendless Women, a Christian facility 1.1 km from the Hopkins campus. Arvilla went to work at Harriet Lane shortly after Douglas’ birth. In the early 1920s, she and Douglas left Hopkins and moved into the home of Raymond Brashears, a farmer in the area of Mount Airy, Maryland. Raymond’s wife, Flora, was very ill; she needed help fulfilling her domestic duties and caring for her young daughter. Flora succumbed to meningitis on 15 May 1924 (‘Deaths: Mrs. Flora Belle Brashears’, 1924). In 1926 Arvilla married Wilbur Hood. Thirteen years later, a daughter, Gwendolyn, was born to the couple. ‘Hoody’ and Arvilla grew apart after Gwendolyn’s birth and divorced in the 1940s. Arvilla’s senior years were healthy and vigorous. She died in 1988, leaving behind a trunk containing her most precious possessions, the landmarks of her life. Following her mother’s funeral, Gwendolyn discovered two photographic portraits in the trunk. One was of Maurice when he was four or five years old. The second was of a baby she did not
recognise. Puzzled, Gwendolyn asked if Gary knew who the child was. Many years before, Gary had inadvertently come across the open trunk. He questioned his mother about the portraits. She told him that one child was his father and the other was Douglas. Gwendolyn was understandably upset to learn about Douglas. Her mother never told her that she had a second brother.
Comparing the portrait and film I asked Gary if he would send me a photograph of the portrait. To obtain a better image, he removed the old picture from its glass-covered frame. On the back was the address of the photographic studio. It was located less than 3 km from Hopkins. After the portrait arrived, several colleagues compared Douglas’ photograph to stills of Albert made from the Watson movie. No one saw any features indicating that the two boys could not be the same person. Therefore, I felt that a more expert assessment was justified. The principal shortcoming with the photographic evidence was that we did not know Douglas’ age when the portrait was taken. Babies’ facial features rapidly change making positive identification impossible. The quality of Watson’s movie was another problem. Albert’s eyes look like black dots; it was not possible to determine where the eye sockets began and ended. Enlarging stills from the movie brought forth some features, but the resolution was poor. Although we could not confirm that the two boys were the same individual, a disconfirmation might be possible. In other words, the baby’s features might be so different that they could not be the same individual. Money is no object if you have none. When in need, I have always depended upon the kindness of scientists. Friends called friends and I was eventually put in contact with Dr William Rodriguez of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. He graciously consented to compare Douglas’s portrait with a number of stills of Albert. As expected, Rodriguez (personal communication, 13 June 2008) noted that the fast rate of tissue growth during infancy precluded a definitive identification of Albert. He then addressed the question: Did the photographic evidence reveal that Douglas and Albert were different people? My examination using a simplified cross sectional ratio comparison appears to suggest that one cannot exclude the subject in question as possibly being baby Albert. There are
certainly facial similarities based upon my observations even taking into account the differential chronological age of the subjects depicted. In conclusion the two photographs could be the same individual (personal communication, 13 June, 2008).
Although visual and biometric comparisons found a resemblance, if the sole evidence were the photographs, we would not claim that Douglas was Albert. Fortunately, the photographic data can be evaluated in conjunction with other findings to determine the likelihood that Douglas was Little Albert.
Conclusion After seven years of investigation, we discovered an individual, Douglas Merritte, who shared many characteristics with Little Albert. Our findings are summarised as follows: I Watson and Rayner tested Albert during the winter of 1919/20. Douglas’ mother, Arvilla, resided on the Hopkins campus on 2 January 1920. I Watson and Rayner tell us that Albert’s mother was employed at the Harriet Lane Home. According to family history, Arvilla worked at the Harriet Lane Home. I Albert’s mother was a wet nurse. Arvilla gave birth on 9 March 1919 and was listed as a foster mother on the 1920 Hopkins census. She could have served as a wet nurse. I Documents suggest that there were probably no more than four wet nurses residing in the Harriet Lane Home at any one time. Thus, Arvilla is one of very few women who could have been Albert’s mother. I Douglas was born on the Hopkins campus and cared for by his mother after she left the hospital. Therefore, it is very likely that Douglas lived on campus with his mother during the winter of 1919/20. I If Douglas lived with Arvilla, then he, like Albert, spent almost his entire first year at Harriet Lane. I Like Albert, Douglas left Hopkins during the early 1920s. I By jointly considering Watson and Rayner’s article, the film, and Watson’s correspondence with Goodnow, we determined that Albert was born between 2 March and 16 March 1919. Douglas was born on 9 March 1919. I Albert and Douglas were Caucasian males. I Visual inspection and biometric
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analyses of the Douglas portrait and Little Albert film find ‘facial similarities’. No features were so different as to indicate that Douglas and Albert could not be the same individual. Although some of these attributes are shared by more than one person, the probability that the complete set applies to anyone except Albert is very small. The available evidence strongly supports the proposition that Douglas Merritte is Little Albert. After 90 years, psychology’s lost boy has come home.
Epilogue Gary, his wife, Helen, and I set flowers on Arvilla’s grave. Then we drove several miles to the Church of the Brethren. Beside the church is a small well-kept cemetery. I followed Gary to a modest-sized tombstone. It read, ‘Douglas, Son of Arvilla Merritte, March 9, 1919 to May 10, 1925.’ Below his name, were inscribed lines from a Felicia Hemans poem (189-?, p.331). The sunbeam’s smile, the zephyr’s breath, All that it knew from birth to death.
Why are we drawn to Little Albert? It can be argued that discovering Little Albert’s identity is not important. It will not alter the impact of behaviourism on psychology. Finding Douglas will not change how we conduct therapy, train intellectually challenged individuals, conduct computer-assisted instruction, etc. Yet many people do find the discovery of the identity of Albert significant or at least interesting. So why does Little Albert have such magnetism? Here are a few things which may have contributed to Albert’s popularity. I What happened to Little Albert is a mystery. People love mysteries. Nevertheless, that fact alone cannot fully account for the interest Albert generates. What happened to the many other babies that Watson tested is also a mystery and no one to my knowledge has attempted to locate them. I There is a lack of closure. The Watson and Rayner study was never completed. The original plan was to decondition Albert. Unfortunately, he left Hopkins on the last day of testing. I Many people believe that Albert was mistreated. Certainly, by modern standards, establishing a fear in an infant is ethically questionable. Not removing the fear makes matters far worse. People want to know if Albert suffered any longterm negative consequences as a result of his conditioning. I For many psychologists, the Little Albert study is one of the first investigations that they learn about. We tend to value those early experiences that brought us into the discipline. It is remarkable how many people have told me in vivid detail about the first time they heard of the Albert study. I We know Albert’s name. Whether intentional or not, giving the baby a name was a publicity masterstroke. It would be much harder for people to emotionally relate to the child if he was not given a name or called Baby A, Baby 32, or the like. I Albert was a baby. Many people are simply interested in and protective of babies. Babies bring out powerful emotional responses.
Standing beside Douglas’ grave, my prevailing feeling was one of loneliness. Douglas never grew up; our search was These six factors account for some of Albert’s magic. This list, however, cannot fully explain the little boy’s longer than the child’s life. The continued appeal. Albert has transcended his role as a participant and become an integral member of our quest, which had for so long psychological family. been a part of my life, was Albert’s fame is widespread. As much as Pavlov’s dogs, and Skinner’s pigeons, Albert is the face that over. I put flowers beside my psychology shows the general public. A more important, and often ignored role, is that stories, like that of little friend and said goodbye. Albert, are part of our collective memory. Our identification as psychologists is predicated upon a Whatever happened to knowledge and appreciation of our mutual history. Little Douglas? We may never know if he experienced any long-term negative consequences from his conditioning. We did discover that his that Watson and Rayner’s procedures generalisation encouraged the health deteriorated after leaving the provoked criticism in the 1920s, development of effective treatments for Harriet Lane Home. His death certificate Douglas’s treatment now exemplifies the phobias and an array of other behavioural (Department of Health Bureau of Vital need for an ethical code to protect the problems. Statistics, 1925) states that Douglas died rights of participants. All behaviour from hydrocephalus and convulsions. therapies trace their lineage to Mary I Hall P. Beck is at the Appalachian State To conclude that Douglas’s story Cover Jones’s (1924) counterconditioning University, Boone, North Carolina ended in a rural Maryland graveyard of Peter, a follow-up to the Albert firstname.lastname@example.org overlooks much of the significance of his investigation. Watson and Rayner’s simple I Gary Irons lives in Finksburg, Maryland life. Although we found no indication study of fear acquisition and
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