psychologist vol 23 no 9
A gift from www.bps.org.uk With support from Wiley-Blackwell For approved psychology textbooks visit www.wiley.com/go/bps
The multisensory perception of flavour Charles Spence on his mouthwatering research
Incorporating Psychologist Appointments ÂŁ5 or free to members of The British Psychological Society
forum 698 careers 762 new voices 806 looking back 808
journey to undergraduate psychology 714 communication from the condemned 724 pleased to tweet you 730 improving the participant experience 732
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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
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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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vol 23 no 9
psychologist vol 23 no 9
forum 698 A-level psychology; clinical training selection; computer simulation; and more
news and digest 706 first psychologist ‘approved clinicians’; torture inquiry; denying science; fetal pain; nuggets from www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog; and more
A special welcome to the students receiving this issue free, in print and online. I hope it will serve as a great introduction to the discipline and the Society, and that you will consider using the form later in this issue or www.bps.org.uk/join to get the force of the Society behind your studies. This month we meet a psychologist conducting fascinating research on the multisensory perception of flavour with top chef Heston Blumenthal; there’s analysis of the last words of death row prisoners; and a host of features on the student experience, including what will be expected of you during your degree and a fresh look at Milgram’s classic study. Also, do check out our ‘New voices’ section and the thinking behind it. The Psychologist is the publication for all those studying or working in the field, and we look forward to welcoming you into it. Dr Jon Sutton (Managing Editor)
media psychology in the movies, with Ceri Parsons
The journey to undergraduate psychology Christian Jarrett talks to those in the know, to get some travel tips; and presents an evidence-based guide to studying psychology
Communication from the condemned Janelle Ward studies the last statements from those on death row
Pleased to tweet you @jonmsutton fired questions at psychology’s Twitterati
Methods: Improving the student participant experience Thomas L. Webb with a practical guide
A PALMER WATTS
book reviews 736 an account of the life and work of Hans Eysenck, reviewed by his son; and more society 742 President’s column; Honorary Life Members, Honorary Fellows and Presidents’ Award; counselling psychology; Division and Branch news; and more 758 careers misconceptions about the psychology degree and subsequent careers, with Peter Reddy and Caprice Lantz; we talk to Joan Baxter; the latest jobs, and more new voices 778 building for the future of psychology: José Cuenca with the first of a new series aiming to unearth budding talent looking back the early evolution of Stanley Milgram’s infamous obedience to authority experiment, with Nestar Russell
one on one …with Cary Cooper
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The multisensory perception of flavour Charles Spence on his mouthwatering research 720
These events are designed to inspire A-Level and Undergraduate students who want to pursue a future in Psychology
Nottingham Lectures Wednesday 17 November 2010
Brett Smith, Lecturer, School of Sport & Health Sciences, University of Loughborough Why, after suffering a traumatic event like spinal cord injury, do some people adapt more successfully than others? Carol Ireland, MSc Forensic Psychology Director, Lead for Sex Offender Therapies and Crisis Negotiation, Mersey Care NHS Trust Crisis negotiation is used when an individual experiences extreme crisis, and where they have become emotionally overwhelmed. Catriona Morrison, Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology, University of Leeds Catriona is engaged in research in cognitive psychology, specifically the mechanisms involved in language and memory. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, Nottingham Trent University The psychology of slot machine gambling and how the gaming industry uses psychology to get people gambling. Alison Lee, Neuropsychologist, Bath Spa University How small changes in the visual world can make a big difference to the lives of Parkinsonâ€™s patients.
London Lectures Tuesday 7 December 2010, Kensington Town Hall Paul Gardner, Principal Teaching Fellow at the School of Psychology, University of St Andrews What makes other people attractive to us and what mechanisms might underpin falling in love. John Oates, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at The Open University How our genes and environments interact as our attachments develop. Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) The foetal testosterone theory of autism: Autism affects males much more often than females. Why? For further information visit: www.bps.org.uk/nottingham2010 or www.bps.org.uk/london2010 or call 0116 2529555.
Rhiannon Turner, Lecturer in Social Psychology, University of Leeds Using different forms of intergroup contact to reduce prejudice. Peter Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of York The perception of movement, and visual illusions in the real world.
The cost to attend this event is ÂŁ15 and for every 10 places booked you will receive a FREE tutor place.
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4â€“6 May Marriott Hotel Glasgow
Themes: Development, learning and education Psychology, the law and justice Psychologists and neuroscience
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Developing good psychologists Over the years there have been a number of pieces in The Psychologist questioning whether A-level and Scottish Higher psychology should be a prerequisite for undergraduate study (Toal, special issue, October 2007; Smith, Forum, November 2009; McCarthy, Forum, December 2009). We would like to prompt discussion on this issue with a focus on what would be of benefit to those who receive the services of psychologists. There have been many articles that discuss what qualities make a good psychologist (e.g. Bennett-Levy, 2006; Jennings & Skovholt, 1999). Although essential, the required knowledge can be acquired at various stages in a person’s career and is not the only quality needed. The declarative, procedural and reflective (DPR) model highlights the importance in practice of ‘self-schema’ (which includes the therapist’s attitudes, interpersonal skills, personal knowledge and
experience). This model emphasises the importance of reflective practice to ‘apply existing knowledge and skills from other contexts to the new situation’ (BennettLevy, 2006, p.60). This element of personal growth is perhaps particularly important in psychology, and it can develop from many different experiences, at different stages for different individuals. We are all too aware that psychology is subscribed to largely by white middle-class females and we would hope that any decisions to enhance the profession would be one that would support the application of those from a more diverse background. We do appreciate that many of the applicants to psychology degrees are unaware of the true content of this subject and the reality of this career path. We were those naive first-year students. But would A-level psychology have helped us? Given that, as Marc Smith
(November 2009) says, A-level ‘content is vast’ and there are several different specifications to choose from, perhaps a foundation year to the degree will always be necessary. This would teach individuals transferable skills such as how to use journal articles, how to write references, what constitutes a theory and a model, basic research skills, etc, so that if the student eventually chooses to study a different subject they have been equipped to transfer courses. We’re not denying that A-level psychology may be one of the subjects that develops suitable skills and knowledge. However, we feel that as a profession who welcomes and needs diversity to relate to the population we serve, a skill mix obtained from a broad spectrum of disciplines will surely enhance our profession rather than hinder it. The core competencies required to develop as a psychologist at degree
Inequalities and the perfect system
I read with interest Phil Boyes’ letter ‘Clinical training selection ‘inequalities’’ (July 2010), which outlined his difficulties in attaining an interview for clinical training given a non-standard background. Having recently meandered through the same minefield, I have found myself thinking a lot about the muchmaligned process for selecting candidates for clinical training. What I began to wonder was whether we would recognise a perfect system even if we had one. There is a fundamental difficulty that there are far more suitable candidates than there are
places available. Many that apply would make ‘good enough’ clinical psychologists. Therefore, to make the job of selection at all possible, some screening criteria are necessary. These will often look arbitrary, even more so to those who do not meet them. Even if the process correctly identified only those candidates that would successfully complete training and be retained within the NHS as productive and competent psychologists, it would still be the case that only a subset of those who could have been selected actually were. Those who were not selected are likely
to feel aggrieved, overlooked, frustrated, disheartened, and disappointed. The fact that people feel that way is not in itself a reason to believe that the system is fundamentally flawed. Also, the fact that different courses respond differently to the same candidate speaks more to the diversity of the profession and the courses than a problem with the recruitment process. Whilst I am sure that the present system is not perfect, I am not confident that the
These pages are central to The Psychologist’s role as a forum for discussion and debate, and we welcome your contributions.
Send e-mails marked ‘Letter for publication’ to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to the Leicester office.
Letters over 500 words are less likely to be published. The editor reserves the right to edit or publish extracts from letters. Letters to the editor are not normally acknowledged, and space does
perfect system would look as perfect from the outside. Lucy Robinson PhD Student Academic Psychiatry, Newcastle General Hospital
not permit the publication of every letter received. However, see www.thepsychologist.org.uk to contribute to our discussion forum (members only).
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level and beyond should be identified through research; we should then look at all possible routes by which they could be developed. If it was shown through research (including studies of viable alternatives) that A-level psychology is in fact essential to the development of good psychologists we would happily support its implementation as a prerequisite to degree level study.
After seeing a letter from the animator Stan Hayward (May 2009), I became intrigued by his idea that written language is rapidly being replaced by graphic representations. As a philologist, an ex-ITer with an interest in the cognitive foundations and possibilities offered by AI, and a psychologist researcher, I wanted to know more. Stan believes that drawing should be taught equally with literacy and numeracy as an enabling skill. ‘Visual literacy’ could become a common educational goal. The insight Stan offers should make psychologists (especially educational psychologists) take a
Sarah Masson Assistant Psychologist Nicole Stokoe Associate Psychologist & Research Officer South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust References Bennett-Levy, J. (2006). Therapist skills: A cognitive model of their acquisition and refinement. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 34, 57–78. Jennings, L. & Skovholt, T.M. (1999). The cognitive, emotional, and relational characteristics of master therapists. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46(1), 3–11.
different stance. We need a clear view on the value, strengths and limits of visual thinking and how this relates to the overall cognitive functioning. There is a lot of research to be done, like exploring the dynamics between the visual and the verbal systems, or how drawings may be used to assess the intelligence of future generations. I have interviewed Stan, and this is available
via http://bit.ly/9cRbKR. I would be very interested to hear the views of the psychological community on this issue. Cristina Vellinga Birkbeck, University of London
As a physically disabled Oxford undergraduate who has a youthful aspiration to change the world, I’ve been reading the letters in The Psychologist on diversity in relation to clinical psychology training with great interest. With a little bit of mathematics the 2009 equal opportunities numbers on the clearinghouse application website at http://tinyurl.com/29qmt4u revealed the following: I 28.1 per cent of applicants from the ‘white group’ were accepted, compared to 12.2 per cent of applicants from the ‘other’ group
27.6 per cent of applicants who did not declare a disability a disability were accepted, compared to 21.9 per cent of applicants who did declare a disability 27.4 per cent of female applicants were accepted, compared to 25.6 per cent of male applicants 22.4 per cent of applicants aged 20 to 24 were accepted, 34.2 per cent of applicants aged 25 to 29 were accepted, 23.8 per cent of applicants aged 30 to 34 were accepted, 23.8 per cent of applicants aged 35 to 39 were accepted, 9.62 per cent of applicants aged above 40 years were accepted.
Last year there were only 10 applicants out of 2269 who declared a disability due to mental health problems. It is impossible to know how many of them were accepted due to the way the statistics presented on the website. Naturally there are many interpretations of this data, and without more information about the applicants or comparable information relating to other professions it is very hard to differentiate between them. Unfortunately neither
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seemed easy to find. Nevertheless, I think they demonstrate the continued existence of a problem, both for the individuals concerned and in terms of effective service provision. It is clearly important that services meet the differing needs of different individuals, and without suitably diverse experiences within the profession how will that be possible? I also feel my personal experience helps to demonstrate the dangers of structural discrimination. Due to disability I cannot use a standard computer interface without expensive adjustments. It also means that I cannot straightforwardly perform many tasks that might typically be considered ‘low-level’ and typical of work experience or unskilled care jobs. In essence I imagine the adjustments required for me to work as a clinical psychologist would be perfectly reasonable, but that the adjustments required for me to work in the standard experience-giving roles would be significantly more difficult, both in terms of ease and cost. Tris Smith Woking Surrey
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Limitations of computer simulation Padraic Monaghan and his colleagues have shown us how computational methods can be used to simulate certain aspects of human behaviour (August 2010), but I am less sure that they have shown us that such methods tell us anything about how human minds and brains work. Let us consider the process
of reading, not by analysing how computers might simulate it, but by analysing how humans actually do it. And, as an example, let us consider the following passage and the four different ways it might develop in the process of reading it: The man raised his arm above
FORUM BEYOND BOUNDARIES Murder is not antisocial. If you want a demonstration that we are governed by society even when breaking its rules, homicide is one of the best and grimmest examples. Studies show that victim and offender tend to resemble each other to a striking degree – the young murder the young and the old murder the old, rich and poor rarely kill each other, gang bangers prey on other gang members, and you are likely to be personally acquainted with the person who later ends your life. Socially conservative it may be, but homicide remains a deeply social act. In a remarkable 2010 study published in the American Journal of Sociology, academic Andrew Papachristos took these findings to their logical conclusion and conceptualised each murder over a three-year period in Chicago as a social interaction between groups. Surprisingly, the pattern of homicides resembled an exchange of gifts. One gang ‘presents’ a murder to another, and that group must reciprocate the ‘gift’ or risk losing their social status in the criminal underworld. From this perspective, murder is perhaps the purest of social exchanges as the individual is left in no position to reciprocate on his own. Murder, is not, however, an equal opportunities reaper and you are considerably more likely to be dispatched if you are poor and marginalised. It was not always the case though. Historical records show that homicide was used equally by all levels of society but has become increasingly less democratic over time as access to formalised systems of dispute resolution have become more widely available. The fact that the legal system is preferentially used by those with money is perhaps not surprising, although the fact the distribution of justice is unjust should give us pause for thought. Nowhere is this contrast more striking than in Latin America. Although the region has the highest murder rates in the world the generalisation tell us little – the devil is really in the detail. A 2008 study led by the Venezuelan sociologist Roberto Briceño-León found that poverty in the region predicted little of the homicide rate on its own. It was inequality that explained the trend: in areas where wealth and extreme poverty coexist, violence occurs more frequently. Despite the horror, society adapts and nations with higher levels of slayings have been found to have higher acceptance of murder. If we want to prevent violence we need to understand that murder is not a stain on the fabric of society, it is one of its threads. Vaughan Bell is a clinical psychologist and academic working in Medellín, Colombia. Share your views on this and similar cross-cultural, interdisciplinary or otherwise ‘boundary related’ issues – e-mail email@example.com.
his head and brought the cat down with a loud crack... Then (a) …upon the table. then (i) The hubbub abruptly subsided and men looked up from their beer, startled by this unwelcome interruption in their conversation. or (ii) The animal lay still with its tongue lolling and blood starting to seep from its mouth. The others looked on horrified at this gratuitous cruelty. Or (b) …upon the sailor’s back. then (i) The man arched his back and screamed with pain. The onlookers looked away with a mixture of fear, and distaste at the poor man’s humiliation. or (ii) The man grunted but made no other sound. His face became set in an expression of gritty determination and defiance. The others looked on with a sense of hatred – yes – but also of reluctant admiration. Now – pause at each choice point and reflect on what is in your mind at that time. I suggest that it is far more than the pure literal meaning of the passage; it is a quasipictorial image together with other associated knowledge of the likely scene that would support the words. It consists of ideas about what has happened before and what is likely to happen in the future. It is part of a story – a framework. So it is clear that we possess ‘story frames’ just as we possess frames about eating in restaurants, etc., as per Schank and Abelson (1977). Such frames are knowledge structures. As you read a story the frame gets fleshed out or, in Schank and Abelson terms, the slots get filled in with values. In my terms the frame gets ‘instantiated’ (Campion, 2009). This is not a linear
process, nor is it one that occurs at a single level. It might include word-level processes if, for example, one is interested in the author’s writing style, or it might just include story-level processes if one is speed reading to get the gist of a passage. Normally, in reading for pleasure, many different levels would be involved. Understanding how knowledge is acquired, stored, structured and used in any particular task is fundamental to understanding human cognition. We are all skilled perceivers, readers and thinkers and, as Gary Klein (Klein, 1993) has pointed out in relation to decision making, skill entails possessing sophisticated suites of different types of knowledge structure. Such processes are not mentioned by Padraic Monaghan and his colleagues and, indeed, it is difficult to see how they could be simulated by computational methods, and even more difficult to see how studying such methods could help us understand them. John Campion Liphook, Hants References Campion, T.J. (2009). Consciousness: Paradigm for a science of real minds and brains. SOTU Press. Klein, G. (1993). A recognition-primed decision (RPD) model of rapid decision making. In G. Klein, J. Orasanu, R. Calderwood & Z. Zsambok (Eds.) Decision making in action (pp.138–147). Northwood, NJ: Ablex. Schank, R. & Abelson, R. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals and understanding. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
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John Newson (1925–2010) In early July over 70 people gathered at Nottingham University to celebrate the life and work of John Newson, who died in May aged 84. The many tributes testified to the seminal role that he played in the growth of developmental psychology in the second half of the 20th century. John studied psychology at University College London, following service in the army. A fellow undergraduate was Elizabeth Palmer and 50 years later they recalled that era in a chapter in Psychology in Britain (2001). John and Elizabeth were married on the day that their degree results were announced in June 1951 and their professional lives were to be inextricably intertwined thereafter. John had been appointed to an assistant lectureship in psychology at Nottingham University before he had been awarded his BSc; the whole of their careers were spent there. Experience with their first child made John and Elizabeth question the basis of our understanding of childhood and family life. He was a ‘difficult’ baby and they turned to child rearing manuals and then to research for guidance. British child psychology at that time focused on older children and education, with the study of infancy largely the preserve of psychoanalysis. As John wrote recently: ‘...it took us some time to realise that whereas different people hold strong, but often contradictory, opinions about the best way to raise a baby there was hardly any knowledge about what most ordinary parents actually do believe.’ He and Elizabeth set out to provide what they called a ‘listening ear’, allowing parents’ beliefs and practices over a wide range of topics to be heard, without judgement from an ‘expert interviewer’.
The study of 700 families began in 1958 and involved interviews with mothers about their one-year-olds. Infant Care in an Urban Community (1963) helped secure funds to continue the study when the children were 4 and there were subsequent rounds of interviews at 7, 11, 16 and 26. The published findings – four books in all – were jointly constructed and written. John’s role was the statistical analysis around which Elizabeth crafted a narrative richly informed by a selection of verbatim accounts from the transcribed tapes. John concentrated his energies on these publications, reasoning that they would reach a larger and more diverse audience than articles in academic journals would. The books’ approach and accessibility appealed to parents as well as to those with professional concerns for children’s well-being, yet the message that underlay the analysis of the data was not universally welcome. The identification of social class as a major determinant of parenting styles led the Newsons to be labelled as sociologists by some in the psychological community, but many sociologists saw their work as too psychological and data-focused. 1967 saw the birth of the Child Development Research Unit, with John and Elizabeth as co-directors, and also the first intake of students onto an innovative master’s course, which provided training for clinical and educational psychologists. At the same time the Psychology Department moved to new premises, which included a state-of-the-art playroom. The CDRU quickly established a reputation for innovative thinking and research. Several master’s students progressed to doctoral
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research, and the growing availability of video recording technology encouraged some like Susan Gregory and Susan Pawlby to undertake detailed analyses of mother–infant interaction. John became increasingly intellectually gripped by the origins of social understanding, an extension of the reflections on parental roles prompted by the longitudinal study. His commitment to understanding how infant and adult guide each other as the infant develops and the adult adjusts to this contributed to an explosion of theory in the early 1970s. His much cited 1974 paper ‘Towards a theory of infant understanding’ demonstrated John’s ability to draw great insight from careful observation of seemingly mundane events. John was not a man for committees and contrived to avoid much BPS bureaucracy. However, in 1974 he became the first chair of the Developmental Psychology Section, a fitting recognition of his standing and influence. John was also a practical man, a skilled carpenter who applied his craft to his wider interests, designing and making toys for assessing and remediating developmental delays. In the 1970s he and Elizabeth established one of the first toy libraries at Nottingham, and published Toys and Playthings. A generation of students was profoundly influenced by John Newson’s dedication and insights, carrying these principles forward into their own careers. The wide respect that he commanded in the field of developmental psychology in the UK and beyond is further testimony to his intellect and his humanity. Peter Barnes formerly of The Open University Charlie Lewis University of Lancaster
I Are there any clinical psychologists (working or retired) with a special interest in neuropsychology who could become involved in Headway North West London on an occasional or regular basis? This long-established group of brain injury survivors and their families meets in Harrow Weald on the first Thursday of every month in the evening. There are many types of support which this group and the weekly survivors group could benefit from, besides contact with a professional who has a good knowledge of brain injury and its impact. Frances Clegg 020 8422 8694 firstname.lastname@example.org I Is there a graduate psychologist who would be interested in gaining some voluntary assistant forensic/ clinical psychologist experience within a mental health setting? This would involve being part of a therapy team that offers CBT, EMDR, schema-focused therapy, DBT and art therapy to detained female patients primarily with a diagnosis of personality disorder. We can offer experience of multidisciplinary working, varying assessments and both individual and group treatment. Opportunities to be involved in research may also be available. We are flexible on time and based in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Claire Thompson Claire.Thompson@raphaelhealthcare .org.uk I Are you a chartered psychologist or a psychologist registered with the HPC? I’m an occupational psychologist researching whether the recent changes in the regulation of psychology could affect how you practise as a psychologist and whether this change might have an impact on how you view yourself and your profession (as part of a professional doctorate). If you would like to take part, I will be running focus groups and interviews in Scotland and via teleconference. For more information please contact me. Bridget Hanna email@example.com 0141 331 8613
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The depth perspective This is why we need psychologists and other social scientists. We are equipped with skills in based objectivity and observed subjectivity, to lend distance and measure to the debate. We get it wrong when we claim to be the only experts in human experiencing (the same error that termed theology the ‘queen of the sciences’ for centuries). But our stance as scientists, as reflective practitioners, as rigorous thinkers is needed to make a case for the long view, the anti-intuitive, the considered path that takes more into account than reflex action. We are sometimes mocked for the depth perspective. Popular press characterises psychological research expensively re-telling ‘common sense’. For instance I found
on a web search for ‘silly psychology’ research by Johnston et al. (2010). It investigates ‘Why are you smiling at me? Social functions of enjoyment and nonenjoyment smiles’. The findings seemingly state the obvious: we naturally discriminate the meaning of the smiles of others. But this research is not silly. It deepens a field of assumed knowledge with precision and with rigour. We now know more. We are aware of the ‘how’ and ‘where’ as well as ‘what’. All such disciplined research can free us from stereotypes of knowledge and release subtlety, context and creativity. The function of psychology is to give this depth and perspective and to introduce caveats. Common sense must not be allowed to become a tyrant or a kind of social see-saw, that
Discovering Research Methods in Psychology: A Student's Guide presents an accessible introduction to the research methodology techniques that underpin the field of psychology. 344 pages Price £16.99 ISBN 978 1 4051 7530 2 Visit www.bpsblackwell.co.uk
Peter Martin Division of Counselling Psychology Communications Lead Reference Johnston, L., Miles, L. & Macrae, C.N. (2010). Why are you smiling at me? Social functions of enjoyment and non-enjoyment smiles. British Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 107–127.
prize crossword The winner will receive a £50 BPS Blackwell Book Token. If it’s you, perhaps you’ll spend it on something like this...
would never allow consistent and wise action. Psychology is about questioning the obvious. It is about putting common sense to the test and then locating limits and contexts. Perhaps, we can borrow (and decontextualise) Barack Obama’s refusal ‘to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom’ (Oval Office speech on the oil spill, 16 June 2010) in the debate about the safety of vulnerable children and adults. The skill of the psychologist is essential in the debate lest ‘common sense’ becomes a synonym for truth and we all become paralysed by alternating stereotypes.
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3 Send your entry (photocopies accepted) marked ‘prize crossword’, to the Leicester office (see inside front cover) deadline 11 october 2010. Winner of prize crossword no 52 B.V. Allan, Hythe, Kent no 52 solution Across 1 Occupational, 9 Education, 10 Press, 11 Inbred, 12 Impostor, 13 Neuron, 15 Anteroom, 18 Examiner, 20 Awaken, 22 Equality, 23 Loggia, 26 Irene, 27 Four-walls, 28 Psychologist. Down 1 Obedience, 2 Crumb, 3 Placebo, 4 Trip, 5 Ointment, 6 Approve, 7 Textbook, 8 User, 14 Unamused, 16 Mental set, 17 Beatific, 19 Illness, 21 Who’s who, 22 Epic, 24 Golgi, 25 Auto.
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Competition vs. cooperation Research cited on the Society’s www.researchdigest.org.uk/ blog asks ‘Does greater competition improve performance or increase cheating?’ In view of our modern emphasis on competition as the driver of economic and social progress, psychologists could well publish the research on cooperation. In history mankind has always got further through cooperation than competition. Competition as wars and as occasional rivalry has achieved a certain amount, often of dubious value, but cooperation has been the means by which we have really achieved – hunting
in bands, dividing tasks in agriculture, commerce and industrial production, and in the family itself. We really suffer today by all the means whereby firms keep their competitive edge. If these claims rouse controversy, that would be good for making everyone think about this. Valerie Yule Mount Waverley Victoria, Australia
Editor’s note: Matt Ridley’s recent TED talk has some fascinating ideas on cooperation: see tinyurl.com/mattridley
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A variation whereby they accept blame for treatment type (8,7) Psychologist’s first to connect with cleric (7) Artery supplying the brain represented as rib, alas (7) Lightly cooked and unusual (4) What may be keen on rim (4) Group accepting first of treatment let it stand (4) In the direction of closed hospital rooms (7) Assessed delusion’s beginning to be associated with speed (5) Sanctuary’s operating system seen as one is admitted (5) Retired professors note excellence exhibited by one (7) Girl found hideout in church (4) Brood about poem (4) Heard connection to national (4) Computer options, backed up in pub? (4,3) Who’s to blame for rip-off covered up by sect? (7) Somehow steers on her land for air-raid protection (8,7)
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Desire expressed in sound of consonant (10) Feature might be raised with some surprise (7) Damage produced by short panic attack (4) Exaggerate points relating to excessive intake of 5? (8) Plate for pill (6) Comfortable address (4,6) Affliction of one with mental disorder (7) You old soldiers accepted in former times (4) Doctor’s one to shortly push bed to emergency room? (10) These days, religious leader to do the paper work (10) What may be paid to press, etc? Unlikely (8) Examined, cursorily? (7) Come into home with their doctor (7) One at rudimentary stage beset by more complications (6) Girl identified initially by Eysenck, Maslow (twice) and Adler (4) Off colour? (4)
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FORUM LIGHTER SIDE The late, great, Richard Gregory, who died in May, wrote Eye and Brain, a perception text enjoyed by almost every student mainly because it has no formulas or graphs, just visual illusions galore. On Richard’s website (www.richardgregory.org) is a paper, somewhat improbably written for the Vatican, which says, ‘it is hard to believe that learning can’t be fun’. Richard was a fun teacher, and he was fun because he was funny, finding ‘funny ha-ha’ and ‘funny peculiar’ in the most mundane phenomena. The ever-punning Richard would have enjoyed his own commemoration, called a funeral. Psychologists ought to know about fun, because everyone else does. On ‘fun’, Google has 531,000,000 pages of images (and turning off Safe Search illustrates Freud’s description of people as ‘polymorphously perverse’). There is ‘Nuns having fun’, ‘Fun with Braille’, ‘Making geometry fun’, ‘Put the fun between your legs’ (a bike advert), and a contrived eight-line mathematical proof on what constitutes fun. What though of the psychology of fun? All that PsycINFO has is such heartsinks as, ‘Sexual behavior at work: Fun or folly?’, ‘Exploring the role of positive and negative consequences in understanding perceptions and evaluations of individual drinking events’, and ‘Pottermania: Good, clean fun or cultural hegemony?’. Neither fun nor informative. An exception may be, ‘Is sex just fun? How sexual activity improves health’, but I won’t provide a plot spoiler. Few psychologists have asked how people have fun. Fortunately University College London undergrads are made of sterner stuff. In our three-week, second-year attitudes lab, a hundred students use focus groups, structured interviews, grounded theory, and attitude questionnaires to Chris McManus studied scrotal explore a single-word topic, asymmetry in Greek sculpture: such as ‘Fashion’, ‘Art’, see http://tinyurl.com/greekballs ‘Science’, ‘Europe’ or ‘Careers’. Two years ago we knew we’d enjoy the class, because everyone laughed and clapped when we announced the topic: ‘Fun’. Loads of ideas and data were generated, and we found five different types of fun: sociability (laughing with friends), contentment (relaxing with family), achievement (doing things well), ecstatic (that’s a small ‘e’, and means crazy and excited), and sensual (do I have to explain everything?). Not everyone liked all of them (and certainly not at the same time). The un-fun thing was when Adrian Furnham and I wrote a research paper, full of correlations and factor analyses. Perhaps we shouldn’t have called it, ‘Fun, fun, fun’, but good, indifferent and bad journals all rejected it. For some sad, po-faced, reviewers, fun meant dumping from a great height on those doing fun research. Eventually a new journal understood us: ‘It is fun to read this study about fun.’ Find out more at Psychology (had no-one thought of that title before?), via www.scirp.org/journal/psych. Have fun! Chris McManus is at University College London. This column aims to prompt discussion and debate, and the odd wry smile.
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The unsung pioneers in the study of prejudice When did the scholarly study of prejudice begin? Most people cite Gordon Allport’s seminal work The Nature of Prejudice published in 1954, but according to Russell Webster and colleagues, the first scholar to propose a working definition of prejudice was actually the English humanist and literary critic William Hazlitt, writing way back in 1830. Inspired in part by his visit to France where he discovered the French were not as ‘butterfly, airy, thoughtless, fluttering’ as conventional stereotypes of the time predicted, Hazlitt proposed that ‘prejudice…is prejudging any question without having sufficiently examined it, and adhering to our opinion upon it through ignorance, malice, or perversity, in spite of every evidence to the contrary’ – a definition that accurately anticipated Allport’s own definition and research more than a century later. Ironically, Hazlitt revealed his own sexist prejudices in his writing, claiming that women are ‘naturally physiognomists, and men phrenologists’, by which he meant that women judge by sensations, men by rules. The first psychologist to define prejudice and urge psychologists to study it, according to Webster and co., was Josiah Morse (born Moses), a student of G. Stanley Hall’s at Clark University. Morse, a Jew, changed his name after struggling to gain postgraduate employment (as an aside, Harry Harlow, born Israel, is another Jewish psychologist who changed his name to boost his employment prospects). Morse encountered these difficulties despite Hall writing a letter of recommendation, shocking by today’s standards, in which he stated that Morse ‘has none of the objectional Jewish traits... and has no Jewish features’. No doubt inspired by his first-hand experience of prejudice, Morse in 1907 wrote a paper in which he drew attention to the ubiquity of prejudice and, with echoes of William Hazlitt – pioneering role proposed in the Hazlitt, defined it as ‘when one fails to adjust summer issue of the Journal of the History of the or correct one’s prejudgement in favour of Behavioural Sciences contrary evidence’. Another early psychologist to write on prejudice was G.T.W. Patrick, also a student of G. Stanley Hall. In 1890 Patrick published a paper in which he defined prejudice as ‘individual deviation from the normal beliefs of mankind, taking as standard the universal, the general, or the mean’. Unlike Hazlitt and Morse, he failed to recognise that a key aspect of prejudice is the inability or reluctance to modify judgements in the face of fresh evidence. But like Hazlitt, Patrick betrayed his own sexist prejudices, writing that the ‘woman’s mind is less adapted than the man’s’, although to be fair he did concede that this is only ‘an indication’ and ‘not proved’. What’s remarkable about the writings of Hazlitt, Patrick and Morse is their prescience. For example, they recognised the influence of both explicit and non-conscious, implicit beliefs, and they realised that prejudice has some adaptive value in helping strengthen in-group bonds. Writing in 1904, William Thomas, a sociologist and the last scholar mentioned by Webster and colleagues, even anticipated Allport’s Contact Hypothesis – the idea that inter-group prejudice can be reduced by members of distinct groups socialising with each other. ‘These early pioneers deserve explicit credit for recognising prejudice as a phenomenon and one in dire need of psychological study,’ Webster and colleagues conclude. ‘Contemporary psychologists and sociologists who study stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination will hopefully have a renewed appreciation for these individuals who planted the roots of prejudice research in psychology and sociology.’
The instinct for idleness In the July issue of Psychological Science Being forced to wait for 15 minutes at the airport luggage carousel leaves many of us miserable and irritated. Yet if we’d spent the same waiting time walking to the carousel we’d be far happier. That’s according to Christopher Hsee and colleagues, who say we’re happier when busy but that our instinct – driven by an evolutionary vestige that ensures we conserve energy – is for idleness. Consider Hsee’s first study. His team offered 98 students a choice between delivering a completed questionnaire to a location that was a 15-minute round-trip walk away, or delivering it just outside the room and then waiting 15 minutes. A twist was that either the same or different types of chocolate bar were offered as a reward at the two locations. If the same snack bar was offered at both locations then the majority (68 per cent) of students chose the lazy option, delivering the questionnaire just outside the room. By contrast, if a different (black vs. white) bar was offered at each location then the majority (59 per cent) chose the far away ‘busy’ option. This was the case even though earlier research showed both snack options were equally appealing, and even though the location of the two types was counterbalanced across participants. In other words, Hsee said, the students’ instinct was for idleness, but when they were given a specious excuse for walking further, most of them took the busy option.
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Crucially, when asked afterwards, the students who’d taken the walk reported feeling significantly happier than the idle students. In a variant of this first study, students asked to evaluate a bracelet had the option of either spending 15 minutes sitting idle or spending the same time disassembling the bracelet and rebuilding it. Those given the option of rebuilding it into its original configuration largely chose to sit idle – consistent with our having an instinct for idleness. By contrast, those told they could re-assemble the bracelet into a second, equally attractive and useful design tended to take up the challenge – again, an excuse, however superficial, for activity seems to be all it takes to spur us on. As before, those who spent the 15 minutes busy subsequently reported feeling happier than the idle. Given that being busy makes us happier but that our instinct is for idleness, Hsee’s team say there is a case for encouraging what they call ‘futile busyness’: ‘busyness serving no purpose other than to prevent idleness. Such activity is more realistic than constructive busyness and less evil than destructive busyness.’ The researchers proceed to argue that, unfortunately, most people will not be tempted by futile busyness, so there’s a paternalistic case for governments and organisations tricking us into more activity. In fact, according to Hsee’s team, such interventions already exist, with some airports deliberately increasing the walk to the luggage carousel so as to reduce the time idly waiting.
It’s never too late to memorise a 60,000 word poem In the July issue of Psychological Science Pounding the treadmill in 1993, John Basinger, aged 58, decided to complement his physical exercise by memorising the 12 books, 10,565 lines and 60,000 words that comprise the second edition of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. Nine years later he achieved his goal, performing the poem from memory over a three-day period, and since then he has recited the poem publicly on numerous occasions. When the psychologist John Seamon of Wesleyan University, Connecticut, witnessed one of those performances in December 2008, he saw an irresistible research opportunity. Seamon and his colleagues tested Basinger’s memory systematically in the lab. They provided two lines as a cue and then ‘JB’ (as they refer to him in their report) had to reproduce the next ten. With the exception of books VII, his least favourite, and XI, JB’s performance was uniformly exceptional – regardless of whether the researchers revealed which book and book section the cue
lines were from or not, and regardless of whether they tested portions of the poem in sequence or picked them randomly, JB displayed an accuracy of around 88 per cent in terms of correctly recalled words. When mistakes were made, they tended to be omissions rather than altered or added words. The researchers also tested JB’s everyday memory and found that in all non-Milton respects it was agetypical. Seamon and his co-workers claim JB’s feat shows that ‘cognitive expertise in memorisation remains possible even in later adulthood, a time period in which cognitive researchers have typically focused on decline’. Just how did JB manage to pull off this incredible feat? He studied for about one hour per day, reciting verses in seven-line chunks, consistent with Miller’s magic number seven – the capacity of short-term, working memory. Added together, JB estimates that he devoted between 3000 to 4000 hours to
learning the poem. Seamon’s team interpret this commitment in terms of Ericsson’s ‘deliberate practice theory’, in which thousands of hours of perfectionist, self-critical practice are required to achieve true expertise. JB didn’t use the mnemonic techniques favoured by memory champions, but neither, the researchers say, should we see his achievement as a ‘demonstration of brute force, rote memorisation’. Rather it was clear that JB was ‘deeply cognitively involved’ in learning Milton’s poem. JB explained: ‘During the incessant repetition of Milton’s words, I really began to listen to them, and every now and then as the whole poem began to take shape in my mind, an insight would come, an understanding, a delicious possibility. ... I think of the poem in various ways. As a cathedral I carry around in my mind, a place that I can enter and walk around at will. ... Whenever I finish a "Paradise Lost" performance I raise the poem and have it take a bow.’
The material in this section is taken from the Society’s Research Digest blog at 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.
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The journey to undergraduate psychology
‘The biggest challenge’, says Paul Sanders, a lecturer at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff (UWIC), ‘is the change in culture. Most students come from the relative cosiness and safety of school to the big, open, almost dismissive atmosphere of university.’ Class sizes will be considerably Christian Jarrett talks to those in the know, to get some travel tips larger, perhaps into the hundreds, he explains. There’ll be less contact with teaching staff and a shift from being nurtured and looked after to having to stand on your own two feet. avvy travellers check the latest into a ‘literate, numerate and critical According to Peter Reddy, a former information on where they’re going: thinker, a very good graduate who will teacher and A-level examiner who now what to expect, what to pack and be exceedingly competitive in the job lectures at Aston University, the how to prepare for their new market’. Just how will this place compare distinction between the two teaching surroundings. This article is a guide for with your pre-degree experience? What cultures was first described by the great students considering making the journey challenges will you face and what more Prussian naturalist and explorer to undergraduate psychology, a could lecturers and we, the psychology Alexander Von Humboldt in the 19th destination that lecturer Catriona community, do to make your move as century. ‘At school you are presented with Morrison says promises to transform you smooth as possible? material as if it’s the facts,’ Reddy says. ‘Whereas at university, ideally you should be enrolled into some kind of joint enterprise where both you and the academic staff are trying to work on incompletely solved More and more would-be psychology undergrads have a pre-degree psychology qualification even though problems.’ most universities do not list psychology A-level or Scottish Higher as a prerequisite. It’s a situation that Phillip Banyard was an marks psychology out from the more traditional sciences. If you wanted to study biology, physics or A-level examiner for over 20 chemistry at university, you’d be expected to have an A-level or Higher in the subject. years and currently lectures at One of the reasons some university academics have yet to fully embrace A-level and Higher psychology Nottingham Trent University. is they are concerned that school and further education psychology teachers often aren’t qualified in He too believes that new psychology. This anomaly has arisen in part because there is a dearth of PGCE (teacher training) courses undergraduates will be struck with psychology as the main subject. by the change from the ‘Lots of teachers coming through have to specialise in another curriculum subject and then switch to prescriptive nature of school psychology, so they’re not specialists,’ says Dr Sara Berman, or college psychology to the head of psychology at Claires Court School in Maidenhead. ‘If more creative demands of the a school believes you’re capable, perhaps you have a biology degree. ‘The biggest challenge degree or a sports degree, with a little bit of psychology, and is to think more widely, to be you’re very keen and enthusiastic, they’ll take you, they’ll let aware that many questions you, there are no criteria.’ Berman says this is a real problem don’t have answers, and to and she understands the concerns of university academics. recognise that there are big ‘There should be some way of saying you’ve got to have a disagreements between psychology degree or some sort of academic qualification,’ psychologists about what she says. ‘A lot of people who teach A-level psychology don’t things mean,’ he says. have the academic knowledge in what they’re teaching.’ What do current students Marc Smith at Guiseley School in Leeds has experienced think the biggest challenges this situation first-hand. Although he has a degree in were in their first year? psychology, he was unable to find a PGCE in the subject. Nicola Williams, now on her ‘I actually trained as an RE teacher, simply to get into teaching second year at the University A-level in schools,’ he says. ‘And that is quite common – we of Chester, echoes Sanders’ have people doing business studies, RE, or this type of thing, comments about the change teacher training and then coming straight in [to teach of culture. ‘At A-level I was psychology]. There’s a view in teaching at the moment that taught in a class of around 10 if you are a teacher you can teach any subject and it doesn’t pupils, and the teacher spent necessarily have to be the one you have qualified in.’ a lot of one-to-one time with Fortunately this is an improving situation. Whereas us. All the information we Marc Smith – ‘There’s a view in in 2002, there were just two PGCE training courses with needed was provided for us, teaching at the moment that if you are psychology as the main subject, today there are seven: two at and so I guess you can say we a teacher you can teach any subject and Edge Hill, and others at Canterbury Christ Church University, were very much spoon-fed at it doesn’t necessarily have to be the Keele University, Manchester Metropolitan University, the times,’ she says. ‘Studying at one you have qualified in.’ University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worcester. degree is very different – you have to be prepared to do a
Who is your guide?
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lot of independent reading and researching. A-level required more knowledge-based answers whereas undergraduate psychology requires you to demonstrate your way of evaluating research in much greater depth.’ From a practical perspective, Williams says the main tasks during her first year were lab reports, five of them, oral presentations and essays. ‘But the biggest challenge,’ she says, ‘was finding a balance between studying and socialising. This really is the most difficult thing in the first year, but it’s so important to find that balance, as both socialising and studying are important.’ For Natalie “We’re looking for Butler, currently people to ask on her first year questions, to have a in psychology at the University sense of wonder” of Huddersfield, the biggest challenge will be those oral presentations that she’s been warned also lie ahead on her course. ‘I am not looking forward to those,’ she admits. Gemma Sweet at the University of Staffordshire points to the group work as one of the first year’s main challenges. ‘I had to work in a group to produce a poster – it’s proving difficult because I don’t know the people I am working with and we have a short space of time to trust each other.’ For Loren Abell at the University of Central Lancashire, meanwhile, it’s the strict word limits and the conventions of academic referencing that have been particularly hard to get used to.
Who should come? If these are the main challenges, what kind of a student is suited to thrive in such an environment? Banyard says the ideal psychology undergrad is someone who engages, who has an interest, has their own ideas and the ability to look beyond the question. ‘So if I ask them a question I’d like to get a question back,’ he says. ‘We’re looking for people who ask questions, to have a sense of wonder and to be inquisitive.’ One question that prospective undergrads are bound to ask is whether or not they need to have studied A-level (or ‘Advanced Higher’ in Scotland) psychology. More and more students are taking the A-level/Higher such that it is now the fourth most popular qualification of its kind in the UK. But the official answer is: No, you do not need to have a pre-degree qualification in psychology to study the subject at university. The
experts are divided on whether this should change. ‘It would make sense to make it mandatory,’ says Banyard. ‘If you were doing Even if you have a psychology A-level, you may be physics at university, you’d shocked to find just how scientific degree-level expect a student to have done psychology can be. ‘There’s a big gap for many of A-level physics. If you see them,’ says Dr Catriona Morrison, a lecturer at Leeds psychology as a science that University. ‘Many students come in saying “Yeah, I’ve builds on previous knowledge done A-level psychology, I’ll be fine” but then they get then it should have a here and it’s a shock. I met one of my undergraduates curriculum pathway through the other day and she’s saying “It’s quite scientific!”.’ school to university.’ One of the reasons the gap may appear larger than Marc Smith studied for his ever is because of recent changes to the A-level psychology degree with the syllabus. When the new specifications in England and Open University and has Wales were launched in 2008, the coursework been teaching A-level component had been removed, and it was this psychology at Guiseley component that had previously given students an School in Leeds for the experience of practical work (north of the border, last six years. He says students studying for Scottish Highers and Advanced that taking A-level or Highers are still required to complete practical Advanced Higher research investigations). ‘When I first started teaching, psychology is the single students had to do five different practicals – an best thing prospective experiment, an observation, and so on,’ says principal undergrads can do to prepare examiner Dr Sara Berman. ‘Then it went down to two, themselves for a degree in one qualitative, one quantitative and then down to one, psychology. ‘It will make their and now A-level students don’t have to do any first year so much more compulsory practical at all.’ straightforward,’ he says. ‘They The syllabus change has been motivated by the will have a grounding, a basis of problems associated with marking coursework, what it’s all about. Some of their including plagiarism. But it comes at a strange time teachers may not teach in the given that A-level psychology was recently officially same way as their lecturers will, rebranded as a science by the QCA (the body that but they will at least have a oversees exam boards in England). ‘They’ve tried to theoretical background.’ encourage us to write exam papers that make the The undergrads we candidates answer with practical skills,’ says Berman, contacted all agreed that having ‘and a good teacher will understand that their students an A-level in psychology has will need to have done some practical stuff to do well helped them at university. ‘You in the exam. But it isn’t compulsory, and that’s my have to do a lot of independent biggest fear. The greatest difficulty for students study, so it’s useful to know the transitioning between A-level and university is this lack basics to psychology first and of practical skills.’ build upon it,’ says Butler. But for every lecturer, teacher or student who advocates the benefits of having a pre-degree says. ‘So you might recognise health qualification in psychology, there are psychology, but you’ll also have to plenty of others with the opposite view recognise that some of the people (see ‘Who is your guide?’ and ‘Mind the teaching you are international experts on gap’ for further controversies). health psychology and they are going to ‘There’s a lack of faith in some of expect you to appreciate their “brand”.’ what’s taught at A-level,’ says Morrison, The most important thing for would-be who lectures at Leeds University. ‘A lot undergrads to understand, Morrison adds, of it is textbook stuff, and we know that is that they will be trained as scientists. inevitably a lot of that is going to be out ‘They should forget any notion of sticking of date and behind the latest research.’ to the softer side of psychology,’ she Morrison advises students with an A-level warns. ‘They will need to understand or Higher in psychology that what they quantitative experimental methods. The understand to be psychology will few students who we do lose, we lose probably be very different from what because they can’t handle the science.’ they’ll get at university. But arts students shouldn’t let this talk A-level and Higher students may of scientific training put them off. ‘We’re think that they’re covering the same looking for students who have an ground, she explains, but in reality the openness to learn,’ Morrison says. ‘Be approach at degree is very different. ‘We open-minded, be prepared for a challenge teach from a research-led perspective,’ she and if you’re smart enough, whatever
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your background, you can cope with psychology.’
Advice for visitors We’ve heard about the culture shock, the lab reports, the independence, referencing, socialising, group work and oral presentations. We’ve heard that the world of degree-level psychology welcomes curious, inquisitive undergrads, with or without an A-level or Higher in the subject; people who are ready for a challenge and prepared for some serious scientific training. Is there any other specific advice our experts and students have for anyone Make the transition from sixth form to university as smooth as possible – open days, school ready to take the plunge? visits and introductory courses all help Sara Berman is head of psychology at Claires Court School in Maidenhead and a principal A-level examiner. She says more.’ He and his colleagues are also lectures!’ Even if you feel like you’re prospective undergrads should look very planning to introduce video conferences covering old ground, she says: ‘It’s carefully at the different degree courses for local schools, which will involve important to attend, as the lecturers on offer and in particular at their varying guided practicals. Sanders says it’s all always add to what you already know.’ content. ‘They do vary considerably,’ she about trying to build local links. ‘If every Butler recommends looking up journals: says. ‘Some are much more biologically psychology department could have a ‘Try reading them and summarising them based, science-based, stats-based whereas champion, somebody to persuade his/her so you get a bit of practice in, and also others are more social and health-related. colleagues to get out, meet local school start the essays really early so you get Students need to realise that and choose teachers, create more of a symbiotic enough references.’ something that matches their strengths.’ relationship – I think that would make Morrison agrees. ‘Degrees at different the transition for students much easier.’ Welcome party universities will be specialised as much as At Leeds University, Morrison helps There’s only so much that would-be possible towards the research interests of run a Psychology at Leeds course, part of undergrads can do to prepare themselves the staff involved, so a degree from Leeds which involves getting the department’s for the leap to degree-level psychology. will be very different from, say, a degree 10 best research leaders to give a lecture University lecturers must also play their at Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. each. ‘In some departments students part in making the transition as smooth Psychology departments want to teach to would be “protected” from these people. as possible. There are a range of ways that their research strengths, and it’s important But we say “These are the best people, they can do and are doing this, including that students selecting a university to go this is why we’re a good psychology open days, school visits, introductory to recognise this individuality and that department and this is also why we’re courses and more experimental schemes. they think about which brand of not always available when you need us ‘We’ve started a shadowing scheme at psychology they will be happiest with.’ because we’re good researchers and we’re Nottingham Trent,’ says Banyard. ‘Some of Sanders advises prospective going to bring you on as our research us are going to shadow a school teacher undergrads that they will need to plan apprentices”. Our students respond really for a day and then they’ll come into the their time and not leave work to the last well to this – they recognise that they’re university for a day. We also try to bring minute. ‘Where are the notes, what do I in a distinctive department, and that A-level students in to visit the university have to copy down? No, it doesn’t work helps them appreciate what academics do. and then that has a knock-on effect on like that,’ he warns. ‘You may only have If you don’t get them on day one, you’ve the people who are here.’ 17 hours of lectures, but this is a full-time lost them.’ Another possibility, Smith proposes, course, so you have to ask yourself what Invoking Maslow’s classic work on could be for A-level or Higher students to are you going to do with the other 23 human needs from the 1940s, Reddy says act as participants in psychology research hours? Horror – you’ve got to read books, it’s vital to provide new students with an conducted at university. ‘We have a lot of find journals and use internet search environment in which they feel secure, kids who’d love to go down to Leeds Uni techniques.’ Reddy, too, highlights the valued and confident that they can and get involved in that kind of element,’ importance of time management, and also contribute. ‘I think university can feel he says. ‘That would also give them more ‘making relationships, feeling engaged emotionally cold after the warmth and of a practical side to their pre-degree with your subject and your department, familiarity of school,’ he says. ‘I want to experience, which at the moment is very avoiding feeling isolated – it’s about allow people’s abilities to emerge because didactic.’ enjoying what you’re studying,’ he says. they feel emotionally engaged and part of Sanders runs an Introduction to What’s the advice from current something – that’s the most important Psychology at UWIC module for all first students? Nicola Williams says new thing.’ years: ‘We cover the student transition, undergrads shouldn’t expect to get I Dr Christian Jarrett is The Psychologist’s the culture, epistemology, approaches to high marks simply from reading their staff journalist, and editor of the Research learning, deep and surface, academic textbook. ‘You have to be prepared to Digest: a great free resource for students. confidence and self-efficacy, reflection and do a lot of reading around the subject,’ See www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog personal development planning and lots she says. Also: ‘Don’t be tempted to skip
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The rough guide to studying psychology Evidence-based tips for students and lecturers from the Research Digest editor, Christian Jarrett Adopt a growth mindset Students who believe that intelligence and academic ability are fixed tend to stumble at the first hurdle. By contrast, those with a ‘growth mindset’, who see intelligence as malleable, react to adversity by working harder and trying out new strategies. These findings come from research by Carol Dweck, a psychologist based at Stanford University. Her research also suggests lecturers and teachers should offer praise in a way that fosters in students a growth mindset – avoid comments on innate ability and emphasise instead what students did well to achieve their success. Sleep well A 2007 study covered on the Research Digest found that lack of sleep impairs students’ ability to learn new information. Participants attempted to remember a series of pictures of people, landscapes, scenes and objects. Crucially half had slept normally the previous night whereas the other half had been kept awake. When tested two days later, after everyone had had two nights of normal sleep, Matthew Walker found that the previously sleepdeprived students recognised 19 per cent fewer pictures in a memory test. Forgive yourself for procrastinating Everyone procrastinates at some time or another – it’s part of human nature. In a 2010 study covered by the Digest, Michael Wohl and colleagues followed 134 first-year undergrads through their first two sessions of mid-term exams. Those who had forgiven themselves for procrastination prior to the initial midterms were less likely to procrastinate prior to the second lot of exams and tended to do better as a result. Test yourself A powerful finding in laboratory studies of learning is the ‘testing effect’ whereby time spent answering quiz questions (including feedback of correct answers) is more beneficial than the same time spent merely re-studying that same material. In a guest post for the Research Digest, Nate Kornell of UCLA explained that testing ‘creates powerful memories that are not easily forgotten’ and it allows you to diagnose your
learning. Kornell also had a warning: ‘Selftesting when information is still fresh in your memory, immediately after studying, doesn’t work. It does not create lasting memories, and it creates overconfidence.’ Pace your studies The secret to remembering material longterm is to review it periodically, rather than trying to cram. In a 2007 study covered by the Digest, Doug Rohrer and Harold Pashler showed that the optimal time to leave material before reviewing it is 10 to 30 per cent of the period you want to remember it for. So, if you were to be tested eleven days after first studying some material, the ideal time to revisit it would be a day later. If it’s seven months from your initial study of the material to an exam, then reviewing the material after a month is optimal. Vivid examples may not always work best Common sense tells us that effective teaching involves dreaming up interesting real-life examples to help teach complicated abstract concepts. However, in a 2008 study by Jennifer Kaminski and colleagues, students taught about mathematical relations linking three items in a group were only able to transfer the rules to a novel real-life situation if they were originally taught the rules using abstract symbols. Those taught with the metaphorical aid of water jugs and pizza slices were unable to transfer what they’d learned. Learn how to nap Numerous studies have shown that naps as short as 10 minutes can reduce subsequent fatigue and help boost concentration. It’s only recently, however, that researchers have turned their attention to napping technique. Dayong Zhao and colleagues recruited 30 undergrad regular nappers and tested whether it makes any difference if you nap lying down or leaning forward with your head resting on a desk. Zhao’s team found that a post-luncheon 20-minute nap in either position was associated with increased performance at an auditory oddball task (listening to a series of tones and spotting the odd one out), but only napping lying down was associated with an increased P300 brain wave signal during the
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task recorded via EEG – a sign of increased mental alertness. Get handouts prior to the lecture Students given PowerPoint slide handouts before a lecture made fewer notes but performed the same or better in a later test of the lecture material than students who weren’t given the handouts until the lecture was over. That’s according to a study by Elizabeth Marsh and Holli Sink, reported by the Research Digest, which involved dozens of undergrads watching video clips of reallife lectures. The researchers warned their results are only preliminary but they concluded that ‘in situations where students’ notes are likely to reiterate the content of the slides, there is no harm from releasing students from note-taking’. Believe in yourself Self-belief affects problem-solving abilities even when the influence of background knowledge is taken into account. Bobby Hoffman and Alexandru Spatariu showed this in 2008 in the context of 81 undergrad students solving mental multiplication problems. The students’ belief in their own ability, called ‘self-efficacy’, and their general ability both made unique contributions to their performance. ‘In learning situations,’ the researchers concluded, ‘there is a natural tendency to build basic skills, but that is only part of the formula. Instructors that focus on building the confidence of students, providing strategic instruction, and giving relevant feedback can enhance performance outcomes.’ Read the Research Digest and The Psychologist magazine The British Psychological Society’s awardwinning and free Research Digest service keeps you abreast of the latest developments in psychological science, via daily blog and RSS or fortnightly e-mail (www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog). For all the latest psychology news, views, reviews and longer-form features, the monthly Psychologist magazine is available free to Society members and free taster samples are frequently made available via the Issuu digital platform: www.issuu.com/thepsychologist
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The multisensory perception of flavour Charles Spence on his mouth-watering research ‘No animal can live without food. Let us then pursue the corollary of this: namely, food is about the most important influence in determining the organization of the brain and the behavior that the brain organization dictates.’ J.Z. Young (1968, p.21).
Eating and drinking are among life’s most pleasurable activities and among the most multisensory as well. However, cognitive neuroscientists have only recently come to realise that their insights, derived from studies of the multisensory integration of auditory, visual and tactile stimuli, can be extended to help explain flavour perception. This approach is already starting to impact upon the design of foods, drinks and dining experiences in locations as diverse as the supermarket and Michelinstarred restaurants. Psychology and cognitive neuroscience can help create novel flavours, taste sensations and dining experiences that can more effectively stimulate the mind, and not just the mouth, of the consumer.
‘Cooking is probably the most multisensual art. I try to stimulate all the senses.’ (Ferran Adrià, El Bulli restaurant, Spain)
Do the same mechanisms underlie the multisensory integration of flavour cues as modulate other combinations of sensory stimuli?
Do smell–taste confusions reflect a kind of synaesthesia common to us all?
Calvert, G.A., Spence, C. & Stein, B.E. (Eds.) (2004). The handbook of multisensory processes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Stevenson, R.J. (2009). The psychology of flavour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/4JEfEr
Alais, D. & Burr, D. (2004). The ventriloquist effect results from near-optimal bimodal integration. Current Biology, 14, 257–262. Auvray, M. & Spence, C. (2008). The multisensory perception of flavor. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1016–1031. Bell, R., Meiselam, H.L., Pierson, B.J. & Reeve, W.G. (1994). Effects of adding an Italian theme to a restaurant on
ognitive psychologists and neuroscientists interested in the topic of multisensory integration have, until recently, largely kept away from the study of flavour perception, preferring instead to focus on the integration of auditory, visual and, to a lesser extent, tactile signals. However, the last few years have seen a rapid growth of interest by researchers trying to apply the insights uncovered in the psychophysics and neuroimaging laboratory to the study of multisensory flavour perception (Stevenson, 2009; Verhagen & Engelen, 2006). As the above quote from J.Z. Young makes clear, food acquisition has likely played a critical role in shaping brain development throughout the course of human evolution. Indeed, food is one of the most effective stimuli in terms of modulating brain activity in hungry participants; with the sight and smell of appetising food leading to a 24 per cent increase in whole-brain metabolism in one PET study (see Wang et al., 2004). Our enjoyment of food and drink comes
the perceived ethnicity, acceptability, and selection of foods. Appetite, 22, 11–24. Blumenthal, H. (2008). The big Fat Duck cookbook. London: Bloomsbury. Calvert, G.A., Spence, C. & Stein, B.E. (Eds.) (2004). The handbook of multisensory processes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Dalton, P., Doolittle, N., Nagata, H. & Breslin, P.A.S. (2000). The merging of
not only from the unified oral sensation of taste and smell (both orthonasal and retronasal), but also from the sound it makes, not to mention what it looks like. The oral-somatosensory qualities of foods are also very important; the texture, temperature, and even the pain, as in the case of eating chilli peppers, all contribute to the overall multisensory flavour experience (or gestalt: Verhagen & Engelen, 2006). The pleasure of food is critically dependent on all these sensory attributes being right, and so food can, for instance, be ruined simply by serving it at the wrong temperature, or if it has an inappropriate colour. For the last 30 years or so, psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists have been investigating how our brains combine what they see, hear and feel in order to generate the rich and varied multisensory experiences that fill our everyday lives (see Calvert et al., 2004, for a review). Researchers have, for example, spent a lot of time trying to work out why it is that people perceive the voice of a ventriloquist as coming from the moving lips of the dummy, and why people hear
The tight coupling between taste and smell means that terms such as ‘a sweet smell’ reflect much more than a merely metaphorical use of language
the senses. Nature Neuroscience, 3, 431–432. de Araujo, I.E.T., Rolls, E.T., Kringelbach, M.L. et al. (2003). Taste–olfactory convergence, and the representation of the pleasantness of flavour, in the human brain. European Journal of Neuroscience, 18, 2059–2068. Ernst, M.O. & Bülthoff, H.H. (2004). Merging the senses into a robust percept. Trends in Cognitive Sciences,
8, 162–169. Gal, D., Wheeler, S.C. & Shiv, B. (2007). Cross-modal influences on gustatory perception. Manuscript submitted. Gallace, A., Boschin, E. & Spence, C. (submitted). On the taste of ‘Bouba’ and ‘Kiki’: An exploration of word–food associations in neurologically normal participants. Cognitive Neuroscience. Green, D.M. & Butts, J.S. (1945). Factors
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better when they put their glasses on. By studying such cross-modal illusions in the laboratory, scientists have started to uncover some of the fundamental rules governing multisensory perception. For example, they have discovered that people’s perception is typically dominated by what they see (as in the case of the ventriloquist’s dummy: Alais & Burr, 2004). There is now a growing body of empirical evidence to show that Bayesian decision theory, incorporating the principle of maximum likelihood estimation, does a remarkably good job of predicting our perceptual Bacon-and-egg ice-cream: the bacon is experiences under conditions of ‘ventriloquised’ towards the crispy bread intersensory conflict (see Ernst & Bülthoff, 2004, for a review). Meanwhile, neurophysiologists have corner shop (e.g. Gallace et al., submitted; shown that individually weakly effective Levitan et al., 2008; Shankar et al., 2009; (i.e. near-threshold) stimuli sometimes Yeomans et al., 2008). combine in a superadditive manner, giving rise to multisensory experiences that are more intense, and richer, than would be Taking the confusion out of fusion predicted by the simple linear combination Flavour perception is, however, not only of their individual parts (Stein & Meredith, of interest to psychologists and cognitive 1993; Stein & Stanford, 2008). Similar neuroscientists but also to an increasing superadditive brain responses have now number of philosophers (e.g. Smith, been documented in the human 2007), given the conceptual uncertainty orbitofrontal cortex (the part of the surrounding how exactly we should brain that controls our perception of the define flavour (Spence et al., 2010). pleasantness and reward value of food) Should flavour be considered as a in response to congruent combinations separate sensory modality, like vision and of olfactory, gustatory and visual stimuli hearing? Or is it instead more appropriate (de Araujo et al., 2003). to consider flavour as a kind of perceptual The latest evidence now shows that system (Auvray & Spence, 2008; many of the same rules of multisensory Stevenson, 2009)? One thing is certain, integration/perception (such as sensory though, we all find it extremely difficult dominance and superadditivity) also help to distinguish between tastes and smells. to explain why food and drink taste the Think only of how hard it is to taste food way they do, and why what tastes nice to when your nose is blocked; under such one person may taste awful to another. conditions, it is, of course, only your While much of the research in this area sense of smell that is actually impaired. requires the use of computer-controlled Some researchers have argued that the olfactometers and gustometers, it is ubiquitous nature of such taste–smell important to note that fundamental studies confusions may reflect a form of on flavour perception can be carried out with nothing more complex than a tub of synaesthesia that is common to us all ice-cream or a packet of sweets from the (Auvray & Spence, 2008; Rozin, 1982;
affecting acceptability of meals served in the air. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 21, 415–419. Levitan, C., Zampini, M., Li, R. & Spence, C. (2008). Assessing the role of color cues and people’s beliefs about color-flavor associations on the discrimination of the flavor of sugarcoated chocolates. Chemical Senses, 33, 415–423.
Morrot, G., Brochet, F. & Dubourdieu, D. (2001). The color of odors. Brain and Language, 79, 309–320. North, A. & Hargreaves, D. (2008). The social and applied psychology of music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Oberfeld, D., Hecht, H., Allendorf, U. & Wickelmaier, F. (2009). Ambient lighting modifies the flavor of wine. Journal of Sensory Studies, 24, 797–832.
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Stevenson & Tomiczek, 2007). What is clear it that the extremely tight coupling between the senses of taste and smell means that terms such as ‘a sweet smell’ reflect much more than a merely metaphorical use of language (Stevenson & Boakes, 2004). For example, placing a drop of sucrose on the tongue (be it at a subor supra-threshold level) leads to a dramatic increase in the ability to detect the presence of a congruent odorant such as benzaldehyde (which has an almond-like odour familiar to those who like Bakewell tart; Dalton et al., 2000). Interestingly, however, this particular multisensory effect appears to be culture-/experiencespecific: While Europeans and North Americans, for whom the combination of almond and sugar is very common (in marzipan, for example), are able to integrate this particular combination of stimuli, they show no such multisensory enhancement effect when an almond odour is paired with a salty taste (monosodium glutamate). By contrast, the Japanese, for whom almond odor is associated with salty tastes in pickled condiments, typically show the reverse effect. That is, they exhibit enhanced responding to the combination of almond and salt, but not to almond and sugar. Results such as these suggest that our brains learn to combine just those tastes and smells (i.e. flavours) that commonly co-occur in the foods we eat (Blumenthal, 2008; Spence, in press). In fact, we apparently start learning our responses to flavours before we have even left the womb (Schaal et al., 2000).
The ventriloquist in your mouth While many people might think that the ventriloquism illusion only occurs in the cinema or when watching a ventriloquist’s dummy, the latest evidence suggests that a similar effect also occurs in the mouth. Ventriloquism may help explain why it is that we always seem to perceive flavours in the mouth (rather than in the nose,
Parr, W.V., White, K.G., & Heatherbell, D. (2003). The nose knows: Influence of colour on perception of wine aroma. Journal of Wine Research, 14, 79–101. Rozin, P. (1982). ‘Taste–smell confusions’ and the duality of the olfactory sense. Perception & Psychophysics, 31, 397–401. Schaal, B., Marlier, L. & Soussignan, R. (2000). Human foetuses learn odours from their pregnant mother’s diet.
Chemical Senses, 25, 729–737. Shankar, M.U., Levitan, C.A., Prescott, J., & Spence, C. (2009). The influence of color and label information on flavor perception. Chemosensory Perception, 2, 53–58. Shankar, M.U., Levitan, C. & Spence, C. (2010). Grape expectations: The role of cognitive influences in color–flavor interactions Consciousness & Cognition, 19, 380–390.
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where the majority of flavour perception originates): olfactory and gustatory stimuli, which are difficult to localise, are perceived as emanating from the mouth because they are referred to the highly localisable tactile sensations associated with mastication. The ventriloquism illusion may also play a crucial role in one of the classic dishes on the tasting menu at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in Bray, The Fat Duck. When bacon-andegg ice-cream was first created, it was only moderately pleasant; the flavours did not appear to stand out from one another. The breakthrough came when a piece of crispy fried bread was added to the plate. While the bread does not, in-and-of-itself, impart much flavour to the dish, its addition brought the dish alive, seemingly helping to separate the bacon and egg flavours. It appears as though the bacon is ‘ventriloquised’ towards, and hence becomes perceptually localised within, the crispy bread, while the eggy flavour stays behind in the more texturally appropriate soft ice-cream.
Sound bites Try eating a crisp (or potato chip) without making a noise. It’s simply impossible! Do such food-related sounds exert any influence on our perception? Experiments conducted here at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory in Oxford have demonstrated that foodeating sounds contribute to the perception of crispness and freshness in foods such as crisps, biscuits, breakfast cereals and vegetables (Zampini & Spence, 2004). The participants in our study (for which we were awarded the 2008 IG Nobel prize for nutrition) had to bite into 180 potato chips and rate each one on its perceived crispness and freshness. Pringles were ideal for this research because they are all more-or-less identical in size, shape and consistency. The crisp-biting sounds were picked up by microphone, modified and then immediately played back over headphones. The crisps were rated as
Smith, B.C. (Ed.) (2007). Questions of taste: The philosophy of wine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Spence, C. (2010). The colour of wine – Part 1. The World of Fine Wine, 28, 122–129. Spence, C. (in press). Multisensory integration & the psychophysics of flavour perception. In J. Chen & L. Engelen (Eds.) Food oral processing: Fundamentals of eating and sensory
tasting significantly crisper (and fresher) if the overall sound level was increased, or if just the highVisual cues can have a profound effect on both the sensoryfrequency discriminative and hedonic aspects of multisensory flavour components of the perception crisp-biting sound were boosted. People’s perception unable to modulate people’s perception of the carbonation of a beverage served in of saltiness using food colouring. The a cup is also modulated by what they hear problem here is that salty foods come in (Spence & Shankar, 2010). Companies all manner of colours, and hence there is such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and no natural colour–taste association on Nestlé have now started to use this which to build. psychologically inspired technique inWine is particularly interesting from house when developing their new drythe point of view of flavour research food products. because it allows one to look at the effects of expertise. In what is perhaps the most Grape expectations famous study in this area, 54 students Many studies published over the last enrolled on a university oenology course 75 years have shown that visual cues in Bordeaux were given two glasses of (especially those concerned with a food wine to sniff, one white, the other red or drink’s colour) can have a profound (Morrot et al., 2001); They had to indicate effect on both the sensory-discriminative which of the wines presented a range of and hedonic aspects of multisensory characteristics most intensely. Descriptors flavour perception (Spence et al., 2010). such as lemon, honey and straw were So, for example, people find it particularly chosen for the white wine aroma, and difficult to correctly identify fruitanother set of terms, such as prune, flavoured drinks that have been coloured chocolate, tobacco, etc. to describe the red incongruently, as when an orangewine. A week later, the students were given flavoured drink is artificially coloured two further glasses of wine (one white, the green. Similarly, many people will other red, just as before). This time, reportedly run to the bathroom to be ill if however, what looked like red wine was they find out that the steak that they have actually a white wine that had been been eating is actually coloured blue. artificially coloured red. The budding More seriously, multisensory research on oenologists – who hadn’t been made aware flavour may turn out to have important of the deception – all chose the red wine health implications, given that, for odor descriptors when evaluating the example, beverages can be made to taste inappropriately coloured white wine. as much as 11 per cent sweeter simply When it comes to wine, people appear to by adding the appropriate amount of red smell what they see! food colouring. Colours associated with Professional wine tasters and wine the ripening of fruits are particularly makers also fall prey to this visual effective in modulating perceived dominance effect (see Parr et al., 2003). sweetness, while foods and drinks with If anything, they appear to be even more a green hue (i.e. associated with unripe susceptible to such cross-modal effects fruits) are often judged to be sourer. As than social drinkers. This is presumably yet, however, researchers have been because wine experts’ expectations
perception. Oxford: Blackwell. Spence, C., Levitan, C., Shankar, M.U. & Zampini, M. (2010). Does food color influence taste and flavor perception in humans? Chemosensory Perception, 3, 68–84. Spence, C. & Shankar, M.U. (2010). The influence of auditory cues on the perception of, and responses to, food and drink. Journal of Sensory Studies, 25, 406–430.
Stein, B.E. & Meredith, M.A. (1993). The merging of the senses. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Stein, B.E. & Stanford, T.R. (2008). Multisensory integration. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 255–267. Stevenson, R.J. (2009). The psychology of flavour. Oxford: OUP. Stevenson, R.J. & Boakes, R.A. (2004). Sweet and sour smells. In G.A. Calvert, C. Spence & B.E. Stein (Eds.)
The handbook of multisensory processing (pp.69–83). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Stevenson, R.J. & Tomiczek, C. (2007). Olfactory-induced synesthesias. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 294–309. Verhagen, J.V. & Engelen, L. (2006). The neurocognitive bases of human multimodal food perception. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 30, 613–650.
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concerning the taste, aroma and flavour characteristics that are likely to be associated with a particular colour, and/or by any other visual appearance cues associated with the wine, are that much stronger than in the non-expert (Shankar et al., 2010; Spence, 2010). Many fast-moving consumer goods companies have already started to play with the mapping between food colour and flavour. Think only of green tomato ketchup, or the recently introduced Fruity Smarties or Confused Skittles, where the colours and flavours of the individual candies have been deliberately mixed up. Similarly, some of the chefs that I work with, such as Heston Blumenthal, have also started to play with their diners’ expectations through dishes such as the ‘beetroot and orange jelly’ dish. When the waiter brings this dish to the table they will recommend that the diner should start with the beetroot. People naturally go straight for the purple-coloured jelly. However, beetroots turn orange on cooking, while Heston uses blood oranges that naturally have that dark purple colour.
Environmental contributions Thus far, I have focused on the contributions to multisensory flavour perception of the various sensory cues – gustatory, olfactory, oral-somatosensory, auditory and visual – that are intrinsic to food and drink. However, the packaging in which a food is presented, the name/label it is given (Gallace et al., submitted; Shankar et al., 2009; Yeomans et al., 2008), and even the environment in which it is served, play an equally important role in modulating our perception of, and responses to, food and drink (Spence & Shankar, 2010). When, after all, was the last time you enjoyed airplane food (see Green & Butts, 1945)? Everything from the red-and-white checked tablecloth in a Mediterranean restaurant through to the colour of the lighting and the background music all affect both the foods and drinks we choose to order and how much/quickly
Wang, G-J., Volkow, N.D., Telang, F. et al. (2004). Exposure to appetitive food stimuli markedly activates the human brain. NeuroImage, 212, 1790–1797. Yeomans, M., Chambers, L., Blumenthal, H. & Blake, A. (2008). The role of expectancy in sensory and hedonic evaluation: The case of smoked salmon ice-cream. Food Quality and Preference, 19, 565–573.
we consume them (Bell et al., 1994; see North & Hargreaves, 2008; Spence & Shankar, 2010, for reviews). But could environmental cues also influence the flavour and hedonic qualities of food and drink? The latest research suggests that they can. In one study, Heston Blumenthal and I demonstrated that people rate bacon-andegg ice-cream as tasting significantly more bacony when listening to the sound of sizzling bacon than to a farmyard of clucking chickens. In a second experiment, people rated oysters eaten while listening to the ‘sound of the sea’ (i.e. the sound of seagulls squawking and waves crashing gently on the beach) as tasting significantly more pleasant than oysters eaten while listening to the farmyard noises. Taken together, these results (Spence & Shankar, 2010) highlight just how dramatically environmental sounds can influence (or bias) people’s perception of food. These findings led directly to the introduction of the ‘Sound of the Sea’ dish at The Fat Duck. Diners are presented with a plate of food that is reminiscent of a beach (with foam, seaweed, and sand all visible on the plate). The dish also comes with a mini iPod hidden inside a sea-shell, with the earphones poking out. Diners are encouraged to insert the headphones (whereupon they hear the ‘Sounds of the Sea’ soundtrack) before starting to eat. The dish is currently the signature dish on the tasting menu. Wearing headphones also has the advantage that is focuses the diners’ attention on the food itself. Elsewhere, Oberfeld et al. (2009) have shown that the ambient lighting can also affect people’s perception of the flavour, taste and market value of wine. They changed the colour of the ambient lighting at a winery on the Rhine from white to blue, red, or green, while 200 wine buyers rated Riesling (white) wines served in an opaque black glass (to ensure that the room colour did not impact on the colour of the wine itself). The customers liked the wine significantly more when it was tasted under blue and red lighting than under green or white lighting. What is more, the
Young, J.Z. (1968). Influence of the mouth on the evolution of the brain. In P. Person (Ed.) Biology of the mouth. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Zampini, M. & Spence, C. (2004). The role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived crispness and staleness of potato chips. Journal of Sensory Science, 19, 347–363.
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maximum price that they were willing to pay was also nearly 50 per cent higher for wine tasted under red lighting than when the same wine was evaluated under green or white lighting. Follow-up experiments revealed that blue and green room lighting made wines taste spicier and fruitier, while a Riesling was rated as tasting nearly 50 per cent sweeter under red lighting than under blue or white lighting. In another recent study, Gal et al. (2007) demonstrated that the brightness of the ambient lighting can also affect people’s consumption of coffee. People who like strong coffee were found to drink more of the stuff under bright lighting than under dim lighting, whereas the reverse was true for those who preferred their coffee weak. Taken together, these results therefore demonstrate that both the intensity and colour of the ambient lighting can affect people’s perception of, liking for, and even their consumption of, drinks such as wine and coffee. Our perception of flavour involves not only the multisensory integration of all of the available cues in the food itself, but can also be influenced by the environment in which we happen to eat and drink (North & Hargreaves, 2008; Spence & Shankar, 2010).
Conclusions The last few years have seen many important advances in our understanding of the multisensory perception of flavour at both the psychological and neural levels (see Stevenson, 2009; Verhagen & Engelen, 2006, for reviews). Cognitive neuroscientists have uncovered many key rules (such as sensory dominance and superadditivity) used by the human brain in order to combine the different sensory signals when we eat and drink. It should come as no surprise then to learn that chefs and other food producers are now starting to prepare dishes that more effectively stimulate the senses of the customer/consumer, because they have been designed on the basis of these recently discovered rules of multisensory flavour perception (see Blumenthal, 2008). The hope is that psychological insights can be harnessed in order to make food healthier (by reducing sugar, fat, salt, etc.) while not sacrificing flavour.
Charles Spence is head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cunningham & Vigen, 2002). Criminal punishment usually aims to reform the prisoner in the hopes that he can someday return to society: Is he demonstrating better behaviour? Has he earned his freedom? But in the case of the death penalty, this person is told that there is no chance of reformation. His life will be taken, but he is given the opportunity to Janelle Ward studies the last statements from those on death row speak some final words. These last statements have long held public interest, and a desire to take a closer look at these ‘To the Wright family, I pray for Those sentenced to death for statements has surfaced in academic you, please find peace in your heart. committing a crime are given one literature (e.g. Miller & Hunt, 2008). I know you may hate me for whatever last opportunity to speak their The case of the Texas death row in the reason, the Lord says hate no one.’ minds. These last statements are United States has made this possible. The (Richard Hinojosa, executed 17 sometimes given in the company US is the only Western country to still August 2006) of friends and family or in front of have the death penalty (for a detailed living victims of the crimes. history, see Argys and Mocan, 2004). In Sometimes the statements are s the only living creatures able to 2009, 94 per cent of all known executions defiant but most often they express critically reflect on their mortality, took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia sorrow, repentance, and love: they humans hold a fascination with all and the US (for 2009 figures from demonstrate the prisoner’s things death-related. The finality of death Amnesty, see http://bit.ly/d1td6w). The humanity. alarms yet intrigues us. Perhaps because death penalty is currently legal in 35 states Mainly focusing on the US of this fascination we have created formal (see www.deathpenaltyinfo.org), but since and the Texas death row, recent rituals around the 1976 more than a third of research has addressed these departed: accident all executions in the US issues, primarily by examining sites are adorned with have occurred in Texas. “Do these interpretations the content of last statements flowers, and funerals Texas was also the first state provide humanity to made by death row prisoners, often include a to allow homicide survivors the prisoners?” but sometimes also taking into viewing of the (i.e. friends and family of account the context of the deceased’s body. victims, also known as executions: Who was present? Words uttered on a living victims) to attend How did this influence the content deathbed are often quoted (see ‘Famous executions. One only has to visit of the statement? This article seeks last words’, p.726). The same is true for www.tinyurl.com/texasdr to learn about to uncover these findings and shed executions, when a state-based authority the process of execution and to uncover light on how prisoners use this final has deemed that an individual’s crime is detailed information about each prisoner, opportunity for self-expression. so heinous that he (for the vast majority including the crime they were convicted of those on death row are male) must lose of, demographic information (gender, race, his life for it. A common ritual associated education level), and a photograph of the with the death penalty is the last prisoner. Most importantly for our How do death row prisoners use final statement, which is the focus of this purposes, the full text of last statements is statements to express themselves? article. available on the website, greatly facilitating In certain parts of the world, the death the process of examining content and penalty has been part of the penal culture perhaps contributing to an appearance of for centuries. The academic world has transparency. At the very least, online begun to take notice, with work examining provision makes the Texas case easier to Texas Department of Criminal Justice the psychological characteristics of study, with the data more readily available. Death Row Information: prisoners (Frierson et al., 1998; Lewis et Though I focus mainly on www.tdcj.state.tx.us/stat/deathrow.htm al., 1986) and the effectiveness – and, understanding the content of last ultimately, the morality – of the death statements, I address two distinct penalty (Bedeau & Cassell, 2004; perspectives. First, I examine research that
Communication from the condemned
Argys, L.M. & Mocan, H.N. (2004). Who shall live and who shall die? An analysis of prisoners on death row in the United States. Journal of Legal Studies, 33(2), 255–283. Arndt, J., Routledge, C., Cox, C.R. & Goldenberg, J.L. (2005). The worm at the core: A terror management perspective on the roots of psychological dysfunction. Applied and Preventative Psychology, 11,
191–213. Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: Free Press. Bedeau, H. & Cassell, P. (2004). Debating the death penalty: Should America have capital punishment? New York: Oxford University Press. Cunningham, M.D. & Vigen, M.P. (2002). Death row inmates’ characteristics, adjustment and confinement: A critical review of the literature.
Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 20, 191–210. Eaton, J. & Theuer, A. (2009). Apology and remorse in the last statements of death row prisoners. Justice Quarterly, 26(2), 327–347. Frierson, R.L., Schwartz-Wattz, D.M., Morgan, D.W. & Malone, T.D. (1998). Capital versus noncapital murderers. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 26, 403–410.
Heflik, N.A. (2005). Sentenced to die: Last statements and dying on death row. Journal of Death and Dying, 51(4), 323–336. Karremans, J.C., Van Lange, P.A.M., Ouwerkerk, J.W. & Kluwer, E.S. (2003). When forgiving enhances psychological well-being: The role of interpersonal commitment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1011–1026.
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death row statements
‘I love ya’ll, ya’ll take care. I am so sorry.’ (William Kitchens, executed 9 May 2000)
Even the most fervent opponent of the death penalty will grimace after scrolling through the offender information on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website. Sympathy brought to this exercise will be tested when they read about the gruesome deeds that led to convictions. The mind may be encouraged to draw conclusions about the race of offenders, their educational background or previous criminal history. But what about taking a step back, and trying a different tactic? Instead of exploring parallels between the demographics and the crime, focus instead on the text of the statement. Look only at the words that these prisoners chose to express. Vollum and Longmire (2009) took this approach, and searched for humanity in last statements. Through a content analysis of last statements, they uncovered major themes and constructed a detailed typology. Dominant themes that emerged in their research related to transformation and positive messages of connection to others. Despite the horrific nature of the reported crimes, this research demonstrated that prisoners wish to portray themselves positively during their final moments. Together with Andreas Schuck, I recently wrote an article entitled ‘Dealing with the inevitable: Strategies of selfpresentation and meaning construction in the final statements of inmates on Texas death row’ (Schuck & Ward, 2008). As in the subsequent study by Vollum and Longmire (2009), we chose to look only at the content of the last statements, leaving out any references to demographic
Lewis, D., Pincus, J., Feldman, M. et al. (1986). Psychiatric, neurological and psychoeducational characteristics of 15 death row inmates in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 838–845. Maltby, J., Day, L. & Barber, L. (2005). Forgiveness and happiness. The differing contexts of forgiveness using the distinction between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness.
variables or type of crime. We simply wanted to examine the statements as final words from individuals that were facing imminent death. We started from the perspective of terror management theory (TMT) (Becker 1973; Solomon et al., 2004). People are motivated to avoid the negative feelings that result from imagining their own death: terror management. This is employed through defence mechanisms that help people to feel more secure about their place in the world. In other words, in order to deal with the reality of death, individuals Upon entering the viewing room, witnesses observe the immerse themselves in their prisoner already strapped to the gurney. Thick glass and cultural beliefs. TMT research steel bars separate the inmate chamber from the has empirically demonstrated viewing room. A microphone is suspended above the that individuals, when inmate’s head and there are speakers in both viewing reminded of their eventual rooms. The unit warden stands at the head of the gurney death, will reinforce their and the unit chaplain stands at the foot. Both remain cultural worldviews and there until the inmate is pronounced dead… Prior to the identify more strongly with, for execution, the warden will ask the inmate if they want to example, religion, ethnicity and make a last statement. At this time the inmate may say political affiliation, and even anything they desire. Some express remorse for their with their favourite sports team crime; others will use this time to criticise the Texas (for a review of findings see criminal justice system, or proclaim their innocence. A Arndt et al., 2005). few will choose not to make a statement. The witnesses At the time we conducted are discouraged from attempting to communicate in any the study we were only aware manner with the inmate. of one similar piece of work on the topic. Heflik (2005) published a content analysis of 237 last statements (between 1997 and 2005, also from the Texas death responsibility) and then dealt with the row) and found six themes: forgiveness, situation (e.g. through self-comfort, claims of innocence, silence, forgiveness or accusations). They ended love/appreciation, activism, and afterlife with a short statement of closure. belief. We expanded on Heflik’s method We found that final statements are and examined 283 statements between primarily used to construct a position self1982 and 2006 and searched for strategies image, stemming from an apparent desire of self-presentation (that is, opportunities to gain control over a powerless situation. to represent one’s identity). We reported The structure we uncovered works for a textual framework that demonstrated both those expressing a discourse of a consistent pattern in the statements. acceptance (‘I am guilty’) or a discourse of Prisoners began by addressing relevant denial (‘I am innocent’). Do such findings relationships and moved to expressing enhance an understanding of the prisoner’s internal feelings. Next, they defined the situation? Do these interpretations provide situation (e.g. accepting or denying humanity to the prisoners? Next, I turn to
Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 1–13. Miller, K.S. & Hunt, S.A. (2008). Exit stage left: A dramaturgical analysis of media accounts of executions in America. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 15(2), 189–217. Rice, S.K., Dirks, D. & Exline, J.J. (2009). Of guilt, defiance, and repentance: Evidence from the Texas death chamber. Justice Quarterly, 26(2), 295–326.
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Schuck, A. & Ward, J. (2008). Dealing with the inevitable: Strategies of selfpresentation and meaning construction in the final statements of inmates on Texas death row. Discourse and Society, 19(1), 43–62. Solomon, S., Greenberg, J. & Pyszczynski, T. (2004) The cultural animal: Twenty years of terror management theory and research. In J. Greenberg, S.L. Koole & T.
SCOTT LANGLEY – DEATHPENALTYPHOTO.ORG
focuses exclusively on the text of last statements, excluding all other contextual features. Second, I look at studies taking into account how the presence of living victims at executions may influence the content of last statements.
Pyszczynski (Eds.) Handbook of experimental existential psychology (pp.13–34). New York: Guilford. Vollum, S. & Longmire, D. (2009). Giving voice to the dead: Last statements of the condemned. Contemporary Justice Review, 12(1), 5–26.
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death row statements
research that also takes into account the victims’ perspective.
The living victims
‘I just want to thank all my friends and family who gave me support these past eight years. I want to apologize to the victim's family for the pain I caused them. And to everyone at the Polunsky Unit, just keep your heads up and stay strong.’ (Richard Cartwright, executed 19 May 2005)
Sympathy rarely lies with the defendants in death row cases. Rather, many are concerned with the state of mind of (living) victims. Two recent articles in Justice Quarterly (Eaton & Theuer, 2009; Rice et al., 2009) acknowledge the idea that last statements may in some way benefit the living victims of the crime. For victims, the healing process can be enhanced if prisoners confess to the crime or show repentance (e.g. Karremans et al., 2003; Maltby et al., 2005). Perhaps with this logic in mind, from 12 January 1996, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice adopted a rule that permitted living victims to attend executions. During the execution a wall separates victim witnesses and prisoner witnesses though both have visual access to the death chamber. Rice et al. (2009) argued that it is necessary to balance survivors’ rights and prisoners’ rights, calling this ‘emotionally intelligent justice…a way to reduce the cruelty of offenders and of the justice system itself’ (p.296). Rice et al. (2009) focused on the emotional makeup (i.e. emotional language) of the prisoners’ statements. They also looked at the potential impact of
survivors attending the execution. They found that prisoners were more likely to make a final statement when living victims were present (68 per cent made a final statement prior to 12 January 1996, before victims were present, and 82 per cent made a final statement after this date). Further, prisoners about to be executed were more likely to express guilt and repentance in the presence of living victims, and were less likely to make a claim of innocence. It is unclear what living victims’ presence explicitly means here, but the authors also mentioned benefits to prisoners: if a confession is embedded in the statement, it may also be therapeutic to the prisoner himself. With this in mind, another article in same issue attempted to discover more about remorse-related content in last statements. Looking at last statements between 1982 and 2007, Eaton and Theuer (2009) found that one third of prisoners apologised and most of these apologies were directed Last words are an individual’s final utterances at death or at the victim’s family. As in Rice are spoken as death draws near, and are often but not et al. (2009), they theorised always accurately recorded. This fascination extends that both victims and prisoners beyond the last words of death row prisoners. For benefit if the offender offers an example, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_words apology and shows remorse. documents a number of famous last words, including The authors pointed out that Oscar Wilde’s ‘Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.’ a death row prisoner’s apology www.mapping.com/words.html lists Real Last Words would do nothing to change from Famous People, such as Charles II, King of England, the death sentence, so it Scotland, and Ireland: ‘I have been a most probably does not occur out of unconscionable time dying, but I beg you to excuse it.’ selfish motivation. This does in Francisco ‘Pancho’ Villa, the first Mexican Revolutionary fact support their perspective General, said, ‘Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said on benefits for living victims. something.’ Another website, www.planecrashinfo.com/ But might there also be other lastwords.htm, is dedicated to last words via cockpit voice motivations for showing recordings, transcripts, and traffic control tapes. remorse? How about the image that the prisoner is attempting
Famous last words
to portray? After all, the last statement is not just about consoling the victims – it also signals the end of the prisoner’s life.
‘My request is that you get yourselves in church and pray for forgiveness because you are murdering me. I did not kill anyone in my life.’ (William Chappell, executed 20 November 2002)
Academic interest appears to be growing when it comes to better understanding the content of last statements. At the same time, a common criticism of textual analysis is that it is necessary to speculate about the broader contextual meaning. For example, how can we be sure that last statements are not being expressed with irony? Moreover, should we take the context into account when deciding on meaning? It is important to remember that the person giving the last statement is lying strapped to a table, with both friends and adversaries observing his last moments of life. Clearly these words are spoken under duress. The state takes this prisoner’s life; in exchange, he is offered a few minutes to speak his mind. Given such a powerless situation it seems quite reasonable that prisoners would respond in an emotional way. But what, precisely, shapes their words? Is it the presence of living victims that spurs an urge to confess and ask for forgiveness? Other factors may be at play. A prison chaplain is part of protocol at Texas executions. Perhaps because of this religious presence prisoners find a need to turn back to a moral code. Whatever the motivation or combination of factors, it is clear from
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a number of studies mentioned here (i.e. Schuck & Ward, 2008; Vollum & Longmire, 2009) that in this moment for many prisoners, a demonstration of their own humanity is of utmost importance. When factoring in the presence of victims, this urge seems to intensify. However, at a jury-chosen death’s door and even when witnesses are present, a substantial number of prisoners choose not to speak. About a quarter of all prisoners put to death do not make a final statement Shuck & Ward, 2008). After examining the research presented above, what can we say about those that remain silent? They seem to break with predictions made by terror management theory, and provide no clue whatsoever to their state of mind. There seems to be a limit in understanding prisoners with this method of analysis. Research presented here also leaves conflicting views about the predictability of the statements’ content. In Schuck and Ward (2008), we argued that there is a clear underlying pattern to all statements, whether the prisoner admits guilt or claims innocence. On the other hand, when factoring in the presence of victims, Rice et al. (2009) found that prisoners seem more
likely to make a final statement that expresses guilt and repentance and also were less likely to express innocence. In the early stage of any research topic such conflicting findings are common; if interest continues to grow, future researchers should take into account these various viewpoints in constructing a more holistic view of this topic. Articles in the fields of psychology and psychiatry have made earlier attempts to better profile death row prisoners (e.g. Lewis et al., 1986); perhaps future research can find a way to mesh what we know about prisoners with what we know about the content of their last statements.
Conclusion Executions continue in the US, and many more prisoners remain on death row. For example, Mumia Abu-Jamal is a 55-yearold African-American man who was convicted for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death. He has continually claimed his innocence, though he sits on death row near Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. On 6 April 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that his original conviction
Life Happens Waking up to yourself and your life in a mindful way
of 28 years ago would stand, but no decision has been made on whether he will remain imprisoned or be sentenced to death. Abu-Jamal is well known as an activist and journalist, and has published widely about his experience, for example in his book Live from Death Row. If his death sentence goes forward, what would we expect from him? Will he remain defiant in his final minutes on the gurney? Will he say nothing about his guilt or innocence? Either way, will he have anything to say to comfort the victim’s family? As long as the practice continues, even in a climate of political outrage that often surrounds the practice of the death penalty, such communication from the condemned will continue to provide a link to exploring perspectives on human mortality.
Janelle Ward is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam Janelle.email@example.com
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Pleased to tweet you Psychologist editor @jonmsutton fired questions at psychology’s Twitterati
@jonmsutton – what do you get out of tweeting, personally and professionally? tomstafford – Twitter is ‘like having a little part of you that's always down the pub’ http://bit.ly/bQgQZW (that’s not all good!) Green_Minds – Twitter was described to me as ‘social proprioception’. A mental work environment full of ppl’s interesting ideas sandygautam – a sense of oneness and community; a good feeling of having done something good by sharing what you know/have found jankoch – virtual friendships, empathy (if you follow the right tweeples), news, good laughs. socialemotions – Tweets: like the free discussion you get after a meeting in which an offhand remark sparks the meeting you actually wanted to have. a6ruled – sadly only a small sense that I’m doing something a bit like a sort of thing I vaguely think I should be doing. sophiescott – it’s a very useful way of having discussion abt papers, like a highly distributed journal club. RichardWiseman – professionally; spreading word about my blog, books, and research. Personally; finding out my friends are meeting up without me.
@jonmsutton – Describe your favourite study chriscfrench – Gorillas in our midst. Makes us realise our intuitions about cognition are often v wrong! Just tested our builder on the clip: his reaction was a joy to behold! vaughanbell – Dutton & Aron 74 Men on a shaky bridge tell hot women sexier stories due to misinterpreting anxiety as sexual arousal. TheSocialBrain – The lucky underwear study. Superstitious charms + rituals actually do improve performance: http://alturl.com/7756 UoWPsych – Favourite study: Small children are able to non-consciously process complex algorithms that stump top mathematicians a6ruled – Pedersen, Keithly, Brady, 1986. Women in public loos wash their hands if someone else is there. If alone, they don’t. sandygautam – Simons change blindness experiment where the person seeking direction changes but is unnoticed http://bit.ly/bpYum9 science_fairy – Asch conformity studies showing the lengths (no pun intended! :) ) people will go to to fit in OhMyPsy – Cross (1977): 94% of uni instructors sampled thought they were above cfernyhough – I would love to see Jerry Fodor on Twitter. average on teaching ability I think he would be devastating. ‘better than average effect’ RichardWiseman – Stanley Milgram because it would RichardWiseman – Galton’s suggest he is still alive. study showing that prayer sophiescott – Celia Heyes. Funny + sharp, and has a doesn’t increase the lifespan brain the size of a planet. She would express herself well of those doing the praying or in 140 characters those prayed for sophiescott – levels of
Who would you like to see on Twitter and why?
processing, craik and lockheart, for showing how the ways we engage with info affect memory and recall. j0ns1m0ns – Burgess’s studies taking ppl shopping in London & recording behav in great detail. Many insights into multitasking @jonmsutton – @sapinker says ‘Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart’ – agree? chriscfrench – At the group level @sapinker is right. At the individual level, you could argue it either way. @jonmsutton – What’s your manifesto for the future of psychology?
vaughanbell – Greater diversity in ourselves, our thinking and our study participants a6ruled – bit above my paygrade this one. something like making a vibrant & useful future with & distinct from neuroscience? j0ns1m0ns – Need to boost status of cognitive theorising if psych is to remain at forefront. http://bit.ly/cbuL9v. OhMyPsy – Bolster wider relevance by better marrying academic & practical issues e.g. Evidence based policy/law derived frm psy research RichardWiseman – Study topics that are relevant to people -have a section in all psych papers ‘Why does this matter in the real world?’ cfernyhough – Put the brain in its proper place and stop neglecting the oldfashioned study of mind and experience. sandygautam – more balanced with
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emphasis on positive/neurodiverse stuff; venture into consciousness and other unexplored fields science_fairy – more and better dissemination to public – psychology is not mind-reading and psychologists are not all Freud. UoWPsych – Break down barriers between different fields of psychology: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts @jonmsutton – Is there a place every psychologist should visit? Why? PsychologyMarc – A secondary school: Life in all its unique splendor tomstafford – the past, to get a sense of the huge variety of human experience and psychology possible UoWPsych – The Old Bailey during a major trial – every aspect of the human mind and behaviour challenged and/or exposed. PsychologyMarc – an alternative reality where psychology is seen by the public as relevant and scientific @jonmsutton – what would your psychological superpower be? sophiescott – I think psychologists already have superpowers. However I would like to be able to calm people down. OhMyPsy – statistical power! vaughanbell – My superpower would the ability to speak and understand all languages. alexfradera – Amplified emotional contagion: when I laugh, everybody laughs. I laugh a lot. RichardWiseman – the ability to convince referees that there are no problems with a paper that I have submitted for publication. tomstafford – I’ve already got psychological superpowers: I can detect others’ thoughts from vibrations they make in air! sandygautam – being able to muster positive emotions like happiness on demand: every time, any time. KPUNews – That’s easy – mind-reading. Either that or identifying the quickest queue at the supermarket PsychologyMarc – the ability to engage students for more than 10 minutes (on a good day) cfernyhough – Superpower: being able to experience the world through the eyes of a child
jsnsndr – If I could speak to animals (& other noncommunicatives) there are also some things I’d like to say to mosquitoes and newborns.
Have you considered using Twitter as a research tool?
@jonmsutton – How might technology change psychological research and practice in years to come? tomstafford – Is using it to keep up with research news a6ruled – i guess the obvious and colleagues not enough?! is really easy portable brain vaughanbell – Twitter as a research tool? Yes, function imaging / measuring in struggling with Twitter API at the moment. any situation cfernyhough – Research tool for writing, but not tomstafford – Rise of personal science. experimentation and selfGreen_Minds – Twitter as research tool: tempting, but monitoring e.g. hard to explain sample characteristics to journals. Many http://nyti.ms/94B218 still dubious about SurveyMonkey. sophiescott – hopefully fMRI KPUNews – Yes @RichardWiseman and I ran twitter sequences will be silent. The mass remote viewing study last summer; now under loud sound hurts auditory review for jrnl publication studies + prob also other psych RichardWiseman – terrible idea, it will never work! fMRI studies vaughanbell – Tech will hopefully make research DrPetra – get involved! Great place evidence more widely available. This for activism, education and networking is a massive problem in the developing vaughanbell – Tech will hopefully make world. research evidence more widely available. @jonmsutton – What’s your advice for This is a massive problem in the non-Twitter users in psychology? developing world sandygautam – get a life. get a twitter KPUNews – Twitter eats time. Use it wisely, my child. account or be doomed to oblivion
A beginner’s guide If you are left confused by these pages, perhaps you haven’t yet ventured on to Twitter. It’s a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s ‘followers’. All users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, external applications, or Short Message Service (SMS). Indeed, it is sometimes described as ‘SMS of the Internet’. Evan Williams, creator of Twitter, says: ‘What we have to do is deliver to people the best and freshest most relevant information possible. It’s not a social network. It's an information network. It tells people what they care about as it is happening in the world.’ Others can see tweets as ‘shouts into the darkness hoping someone is listening’! Why not give it a go and make up your own mind? It takes minutes to get started via www.twitter.com, and the service is free. See http://tinyurl.com/goforth-tweet for a guide. You can add any of the Twitter identities in this piece to www.twitter.com (for example www.twitter.com/vaughanbell) to see their feed. Also, try out some key Society feeds: @researchdigest – News and links from the Editor of the Society’s Research Digest @bpsjournals – The latest news from the Society’s journals @jonmsutton – Managing Editor of The Psychologist @bpsconference – Conference updates from the Society @dcpinfo – Division of Clinical Psychology @occpsychuk – Division of Occupational Psychology @divhealthpsych – Division of Health Psychology @dcpconference – Division of Clinical Psychology annual conference @bpsstudents – Student Members Group @psypag – Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group
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Improving the student participant experience Thomas L. Webb on ensuring students get more out of taking part in research
by their experiences as a research participant. Fortunately, there is some evidence that experimenters are good ambassadors; when Britton asked 1698 participants to rate how polite experimenters were on a 1–10 scale, the mean rating was 9.6. However, being polite is not necessarily the same as presenting the profession in a good light; more research is needed here.
sychology is the study of human behaviour and, often, the humans available to psychologists are undergraduate psychology students. As a consequence, a large proportion of psychological findings are based on research with undergraduate participants (Miller, 1981; Sears, 1986; Sieber & Saks, 1989). But what do participants get out of taking part? In many institutions taking part in experiments earns course credit, but this obligation can promote disaffection. For example, Coulter (1986) reports that when questioned about value ‘a substantial number [of participants]… found the experience to be boring, irrelevant and a waste of time’ (p.317).
Benefits This attitude is a real shame; taking part in psychological research has the potential to provide a number of benefits. Brings to life paradigms and procedures. Being a research participant is to directly experience psychological research; to feel the ideas, effects and phenomena on which psychological knowledge rests. For example, it is only when one does the Stroop task that one feels the intense conflict between word meaning and ink colour.
Improves the design of research. Taking part in research allows the undergraduate participant to see the importance of clear instructions and appropriate debrief, and
Britton, B.K. (1979). Ethical and educational aspects of participating as a subject in psychology experiments. Teaching of Psychology, 6, 195–198. Chartrand, T.L. & Bargh, J.A. (1996). Automatic activation of social information processing goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 464–478. Coulter, X. (1986). Academic value of
possibly to experience the pressures of social desirability (e.g. ‘Can I really admit that?) and demand characteristics (e.g. ‘I know what she wants me to say now’). Each of these insights should make it easier when designing their own research (e.g. for a Level 3 project) to imagine how participants might respond.
So how can we improve participants’ experience and ensure that students are able to capitalise on the potential benefits outlined above?
Provide an informative debrief. Explaining the purpose and method to participants immediately after participation fulfils ethical obligations (Coulter, 1986), but it can also be the Presents psychology in a good light. most direct way to educate the participant Britton (1979) argues that experimenters as to the purpose of the study and, more essentially represent psychology as a broadly, the area of psychology in which science and profession. Thus, participants’ the study is situated. Sieber and Saks opinions of the discipline may be shaped (1989) argue that ‘there should be an appropriate quid pro quo between researcher and student. The student provides data that yield knowledge… the investigator should repay the student in kind – with interesting, worthwhile knowledge’ (p.1057). So what is the best way to debrief a participant? Britton (1979) points to the importance of avoiding technical terms and jargon and also suggests that debriefing includes reference to the potential impact of the research. Davis and Fernald (1975) go as far as to suggest that experimenters should relate their debrief to topics in the undergraduate curriculum. Clearly, however, these aims 47 per cent of the students found preparing laboratory will be constrained in part by reports to be a positive learning experience time; a busy researcher cannot
research participation by undergraduates. American Psychologist, 41, 317. Davis, J.R. & Fernald, P.S. (1975). Psychology in action: Laboratory experience versus subject pool. American Psychologist, 30, 523–524. Holmes, D.S. (1967). Amount of experience in experiments as a determinant of performance in later experiments. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 7, 403–407. Miller, A. (1981). A survey of introductory psychology subject pool practices among leading universities. Teaching of Psychology, 8, 211–213. Palij, M. (1988). What happens to the unwanted subject? Comment on the value of undergraduate participation in research. American Psychologist, 43, 404–405. Sears, D.O. (1986). College sophomores in
the lab. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 513–530. Sieber, J.E. & Saks, M.J. (1989). A census of subject pool characteristics. American Psychologist, 44, 1053–1061. Silverman, I., Shulman, D. & Wiesenthal, D.L. (1970). Effects of deceiving and debriefing psychological subjects on performance in later experiments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 14, 203–212.
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spend 30 minutes with each participant (nor, probably, would the participant want this). The researcher should also be mindful that participants within a subject pool might talk to one another. Thus, revealing hypotheses should be accompanied by an explicit request that the participant does not discuss the research with other potential participants until the study is complete. Britton’s (1979) survey, however, found only a modest correlation between the quality of explanation provided by the experimenter and the participants’ rating of the educational value of the experiment. He concluded that ‘judgments of educational value are partly based on some factor other than the adequacy of the debriefing’ (p.198). The next two ideas for improving the participant experience, therefore, aim to go beyond traditional debriefing: Ask participants to describe the research design and purpose. Davis and Fernald (1975) suggest that participants be asked to write a one-page laboratory report on each experiment covering issues such as the area of psychology, statement of problem, hypotheses, variables, and implications of the research along with a subjective evaluation of clarity and value. It was also suggested that reports be evaluated by the experimenter and credit awarded for satisfactory completion. Davis and Fernald found that writing such reports took an average of 50 minutes and 47 per cent of the students found preparing such reports to be a positive learning experience. However, a word of caution: If participants know that they will be quizzed on the research following participation, then they may be more inquisitive – something that could potentially undermine the experiment. For example, many studies on automatic perception and behaviour are dependent on participants being unaware of the true purpose of the experiment (e.g. Chartrand & Bargh, 1996). It is clear that any effort to improve the participant experience needs to strike a careful balance between preventing both indifference and over-interest. Ask participants to reflect on their experiences. In a recent project at the Department of Psychology in Sheffield (see http://bit.ly/c8s4nj) we asked undergraduate participants who took part in research to reflect on their experiences as part of a Level 1 methods course. After completing initial questions (e.g. What were you asked to do? How did you find the experience? Did you understand at the time why you were doing what was
(Miller, 1981), increasing the educational asked?), students were asked to look at value of participation could be seen as a ‘detailed debrief’ document provided by coercive, as abstainers now have more the experimenter and to consider whether to lose. One partial solution is to provide the information changed their views of sufficient choice of experiments along the experiment. To help them to complete with adequate description of what the assignment a ‘personal journal’ was participation will involve. Most set up on their online learning psychology undergraduates are not environment. Students could use the opposed to taking part in research per se, journal to record their thoughts following but may prefer not to take part in some each experiment that they participated in. types of research (e.g. that involving The reflection exercise proved a success exposure to distressing images). among staff and students. Over 80 per cent of students agreed that the exercise Overuse of participants. There is helped them to understand (a) the evidence that the repeated use of research design process and (b) why they participants can affect experimental are required to take part in experiments. outcomes. For example, Holmes (1967) About half of the students felt that the found that seasoned participants were assignment helped them to develop their more likely to become aware of a reflective skills. Staff feedback was also reinforcement contingency in a verbal positive. For example, an initially conditioning experiment sceptical module and perform differently organiser was as a consequence, yet ‘somewhat won over “participation should not be reported fewer attempts about the benefits of seen as an obligation, but as to determine what the this exercise a valuable opportunity” experiments were about. academically’. Silverman et al. (1970) In short, research found that taking part in a participation can be a single experiment that involved false valuable learning experience that, with performance feedback followed by a few tweaks to current practice, could debriefing influenced performance on form a useful part of training to be a ostensibly unrelated subtests from the psychologist. Hopefully, this article Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. provides some useful – if not definitive – Administrators of participant pools and ideas on how this might be achieved. experimenters need to be mindful of creating the ‘professional participant’ and, Issues where possible, monitor the relationship Finally, I would like to draw attention between number and nature of to three pertinent issues that may arise experiments participated in and through attempts to improve the experimental outcomes. Perhaps a participant experience. reciprocal relationship with a (nonpsychology) department could serve The ‘unwanted participant’. If taking part to widen participant pools? in research becomes an important part of the educational experience for Conclusion undergraduate psychologists then issues The nature of our discipline means that may be raised about experimenters undergraduate psychologists tend to be selectively isolating particular groups of actively encouraged – in some cases, participants, such as non-native English coerced – to take part in research. This speakers (Palij, 1988). One possible article has tried to argue that participation solution is to require that experimenters should not be seen as an obligation, but run groups of non-selected participants as a valuable opportunity to experience through a full, or reduced, procedure so psychology ‘in action’ and to further that they can benefit from the experience understand the principles of research (Aaronson, 1987, cited in Palij, 1988). design. For this to happen, however, we Alternatively, Palij suggests that these all have a part to play; experimenters participants could be run individually and need to give some thought to the their performance compared with selected participant experience and new students participants as a means of testing the embarking on their psychology impact of the inclusion criteria on programmes need to see research findings. participation as the opportunity it can be. Increasing coercion. Although I Thomas L. Webb is in the Department of participation in research is rarely Psychology at the University of Sheffield compulsory, and most departments email@example.com offer an alternative means to gain credits
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Psychology Psychology Edited by MILES HEWSTONE, Oxford University, UK, FRANK D. FINCHAM, Florida State University Family Institute, USA and JONATHAN FOSTER, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia
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A refreshingly accessible text that explores the wide variety of ways people make judgments. Featuring up-to-date theoretical coverage, including perspectives from evolutionary psychology and neuroscience.
Reading NEW Development and Difficulties KATE CAIN, University of Essex, UK Unique in its balanced coverage of both word reading and reading comprehension development, this is an essential resource for undergraduates studying literacy acquisition. 9781405151559 272pp 2010 Pbk £24.99
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A thoroughly updated version of a key practitioner text, this new edition includes a treatment manual of cognitive-behavioural therapy for Bipolar Disorder which incorporates the very latest understanding of the psycho-social aspects of bipolar illness. Series: Wiley Series in Clinical Psychology September 2010 344 pages 978-0-470-77941-5 Paperback £32.99 • €40.90 978-0-470-77937-8 Hardback £75.00 • €93.90
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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 and Professional Training 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
personally regard this column as the most and, in its 110th year, is the second oldest. The important of my Presidential year. Students BPS, as it is more familiarly known, is primarily are the lifeblood of our discipline and, in an organisation ‘of members, for members’. recognising this, we have produced 5000 Through our members’ voluntary activities and additional copies of The Psychologist this month the support of our 100 or so staff in Leicester, for distribution to higher education institutions. London and the Regional Offices, we support I hope you find it a useful every aspect of introduction to the Society. psychology within To those entering their first the UK, including year at university, let me offer research, my warmest congratulations education and as you begin your great professional psychology adventure. training, I scarcely need to remind development and you how competitive entry practice. to a psychology degree is, The Society especially in the current is the largest climate of unprecedented publisher of demand for university places. psychology Have a great time at journals in Europe university/college, but and we have remember to achieve an recently entered an appropriate balance of work exciting publishing and play so that you make the partnership with most of this privileged Wiley-Blackwell opportunity. which will further Other students reading enhance our already Students are the lifeblood of our this column may already have excellent journals discipline completed a year or more of portfolio. One of the undergraduate psychology, or immediate benefits of you may even have begun a postgraduate course. this partnership will be free online access for all Whatever your current status, if you have not Society members to our 11 journals, and to already done so, I would urge you to consider many Wiley-Blackwell titles. enhancing your student experience by joining The Society seeks to have a ‘cradle to grave’ the BPS and participating in our activities. relationship with our members, offering an everYour education in psychology will provide increasing range of member benefits and you with an enviable blend of scientific services. We set educational standards and offer knowledge and broader skills which you can advice and support to institutions on the quality apply in a wide range of employment contexts of their degree courses; we provide a wide range after graduation, or which you can develop of opportunities for continuing professional further through postgraduate study. Whatever development and professional enhancement; we you choose to do, you will have a solid organise a full range of conferences to meet the grounding in scientific methods and you will diverse needs of our membership; our member be qualified in an important STEM (Science, networks (Divisions, Sections, Special Groups, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Branches, support groups and committees) offer subject. As a discipline, psychology attracts more focused services and collegial activity; our more people from non-science backgrounds into BPS Shop offers discounts on conferences, science than any other discipline, and it attracts events, publications, training, education, CPD a very high proportion of women into science. and eLearning; we promote the discipline Let me tell you a little about our great through our media centre, marketing and learned society. With some 48,000 members parliamentary activity; we work with other and subscribers, The British Psychological learned societies on a wide range of joint Society is the second largest learned society and activities; we participate in important professional body for psychology in the world international forums with the aim of promoting
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and growing psychology worldwide (some I Membership of the Student Members 5000 of our members live and work Group, a dynamic member network overseas). catering for student interests; I For postgraduates, PsyPAG is an In terms of our student members, we equally dynamic network offer a host of catering for postgraduate services to support needs; and enhance your “For non-taxpaying students, I The Psychologist each study of psychology. it only costs £21 per year to month, and the quarterly Some examples are: be a member” I Access to lots of PsychTalk publication; I Our award-winning information on Research Digest at our Society www.researchdigest.org.uk/blog where website, including the member-only you can learn about the most up-toareas (our website is undergoing date and exciting published research extensive redesign and the new (you do not even have to be a member improved version will be available to register for this service); soon);
Psychology 4 Students lectures designed to inspire pre-tertiary and undergraduate students who want to pursue a future in psychology (the next P4S lectures are in Nottingham in November, London in December and Belfast in March 2011); Also look out for our BPS App coming soon.
So, why not consider beginning your lifelong relationship with us today. Download an application form at www.bps.org.uk/studjoin. For nontaxpaying students, it only costs £21 per year to be a member. Join us!
Lifetime Achievement Award Alan Cowey The Research Board is delighted to announce that Professor Alan Cowey has accepted the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award for academics and researchers 2010. This award recognises distinctive and exemplary contributions to psychological knowledge. Professor Cowey is recognised as a leading figure in UK and international experimental and physiological psychology. As Professor Vincent Walsh (University College London) said in nominating Professor Cowey, ‘Alan has represented the British psychological community at the highest level and had made a huge contribution to the growing prestige of our discipline’. Professor Cowey has published some 300 academic papers in a distinguished career spanning over four decades. Throughout this period he has been at the forefront of the work on the brain basis of visual perception – a researcher who has earned the respect from neuroscientists for work of the highest technical and scholarly standard in the anatomy of the visual pathway and the effect of lesions on behaviour. His research in these areas has been driven by the goal of connecting to high-level understanding of psychology and human perception. Professor Cowey’s work spans all levels of analysis and he has always worked on visual problems in the context of visual system behaviour. His research career began as a Cambridge undergraduate with work published in 1962 measuring eye position in observers Professor Alan Cowey whose head movements were restricted but not abolished. The first recognition of early achievements was the award of the Spearman Medal in 1967. Subsequent highlights of recognition of his work included holding the Royal Society Henry Head Research Fellowship (1968–73), Council membership of the Medical Research Council (1981–84), president of the European Brain and Behaviour Society (1966–68), Elected Fellow of the Royal Society (1988), and President of the Experimental Psychology Society (1990–92). The clinical relevance of higher-level of understanding vision
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has always been an important component of Cowey’s work. Central to this is the combination of methods that had been traditionally segregated. He has used anatomical, electrophysiological and image methods to solve behavioural problems and was among the first to establish a laboratory for transcranial magnetic stimulation in cognitive neuropsychology, at a time when the method was met with much suspicion. Professor Trevor Robbins commented: ‘His insights into the phenomenon of ‘blindsight’, through experiments with impeccable logic and elegant design, have led us to a new understanding of the functional organisation of the primate visual system.’ Professor Cowey has worked alongside many postdocs and graduate students throughout his career, and many of these have gone on to be internationally distinguished cognitive neuroscientists. Professor Walsh said: ‘Many senior scientists have a career in which they have nurtured their own achievements. One of Cowey’s major achievements is that he has nurtured the achievements and careers of others. Some of his 24 doctoral students are scientists of achievement who have built on their training in Cowey’s hands.’ When told of the award, Professor Cowey said: ‘I am delighted to have received the award. I suppose the award signals that I have not been wasting my time in attempting to combine psychology and neuroscience, and that I am not yet over the hill!’ Professor Cowey will receive a commemorative certificate and £1000 towards further research, and he commented: ‘There is still much to do. The nature of consciousness has been neglected and even dismissed for many years. It is still a huge challenge – but it is gratifying to see so many psychologists grappling with it and using techniques like functional and diffusion-tensor brain imaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation or direct current stimulation of the brain, high density EEG, magnetoencephalography, all hand-in-hand with established psychological methods. Another question is the nature of executive control, which is finally revealing its secrets.’ Debbie James
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Misconceptions and more Caprice Lantz and Peter Reddy on how students can develop a ‘career focus’ in psychology
isconceptions around psychology abound. Psychology is often thought to be just common sense, to teach you to read minds, or to not be a real science, and as Jarrett argues in the September 2008 issue (see www.bps.org.uk/studentgift), some widely known older studies in psychology are poorly reported, misunderstood or just plain wrong. The misconception that we are focusing on here, however, is that a bachelor’s degree in psychology confers
The breadth of usefulness of psychology degrees often escapes students
www.psychapp.co.uk is now open to all. Advertisers can now reach beyond the prime audience of Society members that they reach in print, to include the many other suitably qualified individuals online. Society members have the added benefit of being able to sign up for suitable e-mail and RSS alerts, and we are looking to add more
direct entry to the psychology professions. Unlike some undergraduate ’ologies (e.g. meteorology), a first degree in psychology does not lead directly or automatically to a career as a psychologist. Many students study psychology to become psychologists without realising that this typically requires two or three years of postgraduate study and supervised experience. This time commitment discourages many students, and while some continue undaunted to apply for further study, many find the competition for places on postgraduate courses tough. For example, about one in four applicants who meet minimum entry requirements are accepted on to clinical courses. In the end just about 20 per cent of all UK psychology graduates go on to become psychologists. Highlighting these facts is important. Students planning on a career as a psychologist need to be aware of the commitment involved in attaining the necessary degree classification and gaining experience that will position them to obtain entry to postgraduate courses. They also need to understand that, for most students in most subjects, there is not a simple progression from chosen degree subject to profession; there are choices to be made and actions to be taken. Lecturers too, although often excellent at encouraging students to pursue postgraduate psychology, may benefit from being more aware that no matter how passionate they are about
psychology, the majority of their students won’t be going on to careers in psychology If most psychology students don’t become psychologists, what is the point of studying it? Psychology, like the majority of undergraduate courses, is non-vocational; but this does not mean that it lacks vocational relevance. Like history, economics, biology and many other subjects, it offers high-level general education, training of the mind, the development of mature judgement and reflection, graduate skills and competencies and general employability. To succeed in their chosen career, students need to develop their graduate skills and competencies through the opportunities offered in their degree and reflect on their interests, preferences, strengths and weaknesses. Psychology offers a rich diet of such opportunities, as made clear in the Higher Education Academy’s Psychology Student Employability Guide (see tinyurl.com/heapsyguide). Students who are not sure about becoming psychologists need to be made aware of the value of a degree in psychology and how it can be used in a variety of occupations. They also need to know that being an excellent student, having potential for professional psychology and being highly employable interconnect. The ability to reflect on and analyse a problem will make you an excellent student and make you more employable in a range of occupations and a stronger candidate for professional psychology training. The breadth of usefulness of psychology degrees often escapes students and they graduate uncertain of what they can do with their degrees. Psychology teaches students not only how to do science, but also to take a critical view of its limitations, how to use statistics to get
member-only benefits as the site develops over the coming years. Please let the Managing Editor know what features you would appreciate, on email@example.com. Please help us to spread the word. Recruiters can post online from just £150, and at no extra cost when placing an ad in print. For more information, see p.762.
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meaning out of data and how to analyse text, and how to weigh evidence where there is no clear right answer. Undergraduate psychology helps students to learn how to learn, develops critical thinking faculties, and helps them to see the world from other perspectives. In this way they can jump into roles where they may have little or no experience but learn what’s required; they can see things as they are, get to the point, discard what is irrelevant, and detect sophistry. Psychological theories around learning, motivation and personality can help students to better understand themselves and others, which can contribute to working more effectively alone or in groups – and the ability to work effectively in teams is one of employers’ most sought-after skills. Additionally, because of the independent research project that all psychology students undertake, you will have the opportunity to develop skills in research, analysis, problem solving and reasoning, ethical considerations, and so on. These competencies that psychology students can develop will certainly interest employers.
FEATURED JOB Job Title: Psychological Therapists (and a number of other roles) Employer: KCA KCA’s advertisement headlines the need for a number of psychological therapists to offer short term therapy in GP practices, but it also mentions other roles, including volunteer positions. ‘The whole service is changing,’ says Lesley Rogers. ‘The impact of IAPT and increased use of cognitive behaviour therapy is creating a bigger role for psychological interventions, and these new initiatives are transforming our work more radically than ever. KCA services are now available across London and the Home Counties. We’re looking forward to working with GPs and fund holders to ensure access to psychological therapy is made as easy as possible for anyone who needs it.’ So, what sort of person thrives in the therapist role? ‘Successful candidates may well have a psychology degree but will also have a lot of clinical and counselling experience and will have used, and liked using, CBT. They’ll also love the challenge of change and want to shape a rapidly developing service. We want people who are keen to keep up with “Really good people skills the latest developments in psychological are a must… someone therapies and eager to put new knowledge to with more than just a use.’ psychology degree” Communication is a key skill. Therapists have to be able to talk to GPs and surgery staff and, increasingly, to clients with complex problems. ‘We’re seeing more clients referred from secondary care because of our excellent reputation for CBT work. This taxes the ability to communicate appropriately. Really good people skills are a must. So someone with more than just a psychology degree.’ Is the work very target driven? ‘More than ever. Looking at impact and outcomes is integral to the service. It enables you to see how your clients are progressing, how you’re doing as a practitioner and how the service is performing. The culture is really collegial – we have a staff meeting every week where we discuss issues and trends and share knowledge. It’s good to see recent initiatives having such a profound effect on provision. ‘It’s making for an exciting life. It also means we can develop volunteer roles which could provide valuable experience for graduates who ultimately want to get on postgraduate courses. So we now have a full range of posts – from trainees, through to senior practitioner and clinical manager roles.’
Becoming a registered psychologist Students whose ultimate goal it is to become a psychologist and who have the motivation and resources to pursue it, should not be dissuaded by the somewhat low percentage of graduates who eventually do so. The requirements mostly suggest the importance of planning and preparation; and many manage it, with nearly 5000 UK students gaining doctorates or other postgraduate qualifications in psychology each year. For those pursuing a career as a psychologist, another misconception is that all psychologists become therapists – hence the popularity of clinical psychology. Actually, a variety of career paths exist within psychology (see also Sutton’s ‘What do psychologists do?’ at www.bps.org.uk/studentgift). The Health Professions Council (HPC) (the body that ensures that allied health professionals meet regulatory standards) lists seven distinct areas of psychology: Clinical, Counselling, Educational, Forensic, Health, Occupational, and Sport and Exercise. Psychologists who work in these areas work in very different environments and in different ways. For example, health psychologists use psychology to promote changes in peoples’ attitudes or behaviours around such issues as smoking, diet and exercise. They often work in hospitals, research units or in
You can find this job on p.775, and with many others on www.psychapp.co.uk. The site provides a valuable resource to jobseekers and employers alike, including careers articles and online-only jobs. www.psychapp.co.uk is now open to all, but Society members can sign up for additional features such as job alerts by e-mail or RSS feed. More careers guidance can be found at www.bps.org.uk/careers.
health authorities. Being an educational psychologist, however, is much different. It often involves working in schools and colleges with parents and teachers in an effort to develop awareness and effective practice in those who work with young people with learning and other difficulties. Even students who think they are sure about their chosen subdiscipline will find it educational to investigate all the possibilities. As noted above, there is competition for places on postgraduate courses;
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however, this competition varies with the course and the institution. Those considering particular courses would do well to check on what makes for a strong applicant and then strive to do what is necessary to become competitive. Educational psychology courses, for instance, prefer applicants with experience with children and young people in roles such as teacher, learning support assistant, or care worker. Applicants who plan ahead may be able to acquire such experience during
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undergraduate studies, or have experience as a volunteer in a school or as a mentor or tutor that makes them a stronger candidate for paid work. Checking the applicant requirements at different institutions can also be helpful. Whilst some departments may require a degree at 2:1 or above, others might accept 2:2s with relevant experience. Of note, however, is that not all courses are approved by the HPC and those who complete unapproved courses may not be able to become registered psychologists.
Other options In the subdisciplinary areas described above, becoming a ‘registered’ psychologist is important as it is legally required for professional practice. However, many areas of psychology are not strictly regulated and are often of interest to psychology students. Research psychology, neuropsychology, consumer psychology, environmental psychology, and coaching psychology are just some psychology-related career areas to consider. Whilst some find postgraduate
qualifications necessary to enter or advance in these fields, others put their undergraduate degrees to work by choosing related dissertation topics, taking relevant modules, or gaining the related experience. Beyond career areas labelled as ‘psychology’ are many jobs that are related to various degrees to psychology. For instance, careers advisers are employed by almost every university and by private companies to assist people in making career decisions and in developing job search related skills. Psychology graduates may be able to find jobs in careers advising with related experience only; however, many go on to complete a oneyear postgraduate diploma in careers advising before securing a post.
Likewise a relatively new initiative called Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) has attracted a lot of attention among psychology students who would like therapy-type positions but are not prepared to pursue the full postgraduate qualification. In an effort to provide better public access to mental health care, IAPT has created additional roles such as Low Intensity Therapist and High Intensity Therapist. Psychology students are well placed to pursue such roles, although they do require some additional training beyond a first degree.
Developing a career focus Although undergraduate study in psychology is valuable in helping students to develop skills and competencies useful in the job market, and many graduates are currently using their degrees in a variety of fields, some students and employers perceive psychology somewhat
‘Psychologists have essential transferable skills’ Ian Florance talks to Joan Baxter about providing therapy, being the patient, schools, and more
oan Baxter had only been in the role of CEO at WPF Therapy ‘for a week last Monday’ when we talked in the charity’s new offices at London Bridge. ‘The City is just over the river. One of my aims is to build up contacts and sources of support there.’ Previously the Westminster Pastoral Foundation and wpf Counselling and Therapy, WPF Therapy (www.wpf.org.uk) celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. ‘It was founded by a Methodist minister, Bill Kyle, who had identified a need for “synthesis between social case work and pastoral counselling”. We were based in a Catholic convent in Kensington for many years, but we no longer have a religious affiliation. What has remained from those early days is a strong psychodynamic and psychoanalytic tradition. We provide a range of training,
from introductory courses and post-qualified CBT training to master’s degrees and postgraduate diplomas in psychodynamic, group analytic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.’ WPF also see over 500 clients a week at London Bridge and over 15,000 across the national network of centres for one-to-one and group sessions. Many clients self-refer and pay for themselves. ‘We offer lower price clinics for full-time students and those on jobseekers allowance. Our contract and partnership work will become more important in difficult financial times. We’ve been working with Wandsworth PCT to reduce waiting lists under the IAPT initiative, for instance, with Kensington and Chelsea to support carers, and we’re developing groups for older people. We’re building
links with Community Action Southwark and with commissioners in local areas.’ Joan says she is particularly keen to strengthen a third strand of activity: research and development. ‘We need more robust evidence of the effectiveness of our interventions. Impact analysis was an integral component of a recent grant from the Department of Health to develop CBT services.’ New government emphasis on third sector involvement, funding for IAPT and personalised budgets means that there is real scope for WPF to grow and develop. I can understand why Joan saw the job as a fascinating challenge, but I can’t see how she got here, since she trained as an educational psychologist and, in recent years, worked for the Audit Commission. ‘I wasn’t sure what to study at university. My father wanted me to study medicine. I did hard
science A-levels. I was drawn to psychology but no one from my school had studied it before. So I played safe and went to Reading University, where the first year allowed me to sample psychology alongside physiology and biochemistry and zoology. By the end of my first degree, I knew I wanted to be a psychologist. At the time clinical psychology was very much aimed at adults with mental illness, and I decided to become an educational psychologist. There’s something hopeful about educational psychology: you’re in at the beginning. I followed a fairly standard route: I did my PGCE at the Froebel Institute, taught for two years in Hackney and then trained as an educational psychologist at North East London Polytechnic.’ Joan came out of her training with a ‘full set of behaviourist assumptions, but in the real world there was not enough in that toolbox. My first
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negatively. One obvious reason is the lack of understanding amongst both about how psychology can be useful in a variety of careers. Another is that whilst the study of psychology can be valuable in terms of its broad applicability and keeping options open, there are so many options open to students that they struggle to decide or are so engrossed in meeting course requirements they don’t make careers a priority. As a result, career decisions get put off and students graduate without direction and struggle to find it and jobs. Indeed there is evidence to support this. Employers have noted psychology graduates in particular can lack of career focus making them less desirable job candidates – see Siobhan Hugh-Jones and Ed Sutherland’s report at tinyurl.com/27l4o4c). So for students who pursue nonpsychologist career paths, what is the remedy for misinformation and lack of career focus? Misinformation can be corrected by students gaining a better understanding of what makes their degrees valuable and then articulating this to employers through well-written
job brought me into contact with the Tavistock Clinic, which had a huge influence on my work… I became interested in emotional aspects of learning and became much more systemic. I soon realised that the emotional culture and power relations within a school have a significant impact on children’s well-being. There was a real tension in the work. Educational psychology embraces a social model of disability. The SEN framework has encouraged schools to locate difficulties within the child. The growing autonomy of schools encouraged a view that it was the institution and not the child or parent who was the real client, with an emphasis on keeping the headteacher happy with the services received from the local authority.’ Driven by her insights, Joan applied for a job with the charity theplace2Be. ‘I was Head of Service Delivery and spent five years helping design a model of practice to support children’s emotional well-being in schools. This was my escape from being
CVs and well-done interviews. particular career areas. Interested in In terms of developing a career focus, international relations? Opt for a semester research suggests that it often takes abroad. Keen on business management? graduates up to five years to settle into Consider an occupational psychology careers. Indeed, many take time off to module. Thinking of becoming a teacher? travel or take up non-graduate jobs for A dissertation topic on childhood learning a time until they decide what they would disabilities could evidence interest on like to do. For graduates who have the applications. Want to work in not-forresources to do profit community development this, that is organisation? Find a work absolutely fine. placement or opt for a sandwich “students need to use Some people’s year to develop experience, or if their time at university to careers evolve you are unsure and just want to develop employability” over time or explore it, do a short work occur by experience over the holidays to happenstance. simply try it out. However, graduates who want to develop In conclusion, psychology offers some a focus and land in a job soon after fascinating professional specialisms, but it graduation are advised not to is a misconception to assume that these procrastinate about making career are available to all psychology graduates decisions. To develop a career focus, take or that entry to them does not require stock of job possibilities, consider further training. A psychology degree is personal strengths and weaknesses, access in the great tradition of high level noninterests and test out career areas through vocational education, but students need work experiences, volunteering or partto use their time at university to develop time work. Indeed, students can use their their employability, identify their degree course both to help them make interests, strengths and abilities, and gain career decisions and to gain entry into voluntary or work experience.
a resource guardian, to focus on the child in context.’ Joan moved on to become Assistant Chief Educational Psychologist in Buckinghamshire. ‘I enjoyed the work but found the political dimension very frustrating and a major restructuring placed my job at risk. Whilst there, I was extremely impressed by the Audit Commission’s review of our services for behavioural needs. Their report helped us focus on priorities. So I applied for a position there and learnt a lot about finance and governance while working with hugely varied clients. I also led on the development of webbased tools to help schools and children’s trusts improve value for money in provision for special educational needs.‘ All of this seems a big jump, but as Joan says: ‘Psychologists have transferable skills which are essential in any job – assessment and analysis, generating trust, testing hypotheses. Communication matched to audience is another skill I used in giving evidence to
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parliamentary committees and drafting responses to policy consultations. People with psychological training can make effective organisational leaders. I used all these skills when I had to review governance arrangements at a primary care trust recovering from a £25 million deficit, within ten days!’ Some years ago Joan had some Kleinian analysis herself, an experience she describes as ‘extraordinarily valuable. It’s a shame that psychologists, unlike psychotherapists, are not required to have an experience of being “the patient”. Don’t get me wrong: Psychology offers a really valuable scientific approach, which gives a more certain basis for action than some other approaches. But scientific method has been necessarily slow in providing a full toolkit, and, meanwhile, people need help. People’s fundamental strategies for dealing with the world are formed when they’re very immature and totally dependent on others for their care. Psychoanalysis relies on gaining
an understanding of these habitual ways of managing ourselves, using evidence drawn from the relationship which develops between the therapist and the patient. Ultimately I hope that the disciplines of psychoanalysis and psychology can properly inform each other to build a much richer profession of psychotherapy. ’ And this, among many other experiences, led to Joan’s present role at WPF. ‘I felt I was ready for a CEO role having had plenty of experience as number two. I wanted a fulfilling job back in the charity sector, focused on supporting people’s emotional lives. All my training and experience has pointed me in this direction. As a newcomer to the business you have to identify how best to add value and what are the real priorities – at the moment, making sure we are well positioned to benefit from a new policy context, bringing in new contracts and capturing and reporting the impact of the work. It’s not all rocket science, but it is very worthwhile challenge.’
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Building for the future of psychology José Cuenca offers reflections as a research student in psychology, in the first of a new series aiming to unearth budding talent
click on the ‘Search’ button of a bibliographic database made it clear to me that I was a newcomer to science, a researcher in training; the number of references retrieved was daunting. True, to narrow my search I needed to have a closer look at my notes on how to use the database, but that click made me think. Publishing to secure a job or to obtain a grant has become the main goal in science (Lawrence, 2008) and every day an increasing number of scientists compete for fewer funds (Bauer, 2004). In a context where the scientist’s career depends on the number of published papers (Lawrence, 2003) what do I need to do to secure a job? What are my job opportunities? As a psychological researcher, will I work as a builder or as a brick maker? My main purpose here is to promote reflection on how this context can affect the way students in psychology conduct research. Perhaps reflecting on this will ultimately help us to conduct research of better quality.
Builders and bricks
In Forscher’s (1963) metaphor of scientific research this activity was originally carried out by builders (scientists), who, guided by a blueprint (theory), constructed edifices (explanations) by assembling bricks (facts). Because making bricks for edifices
Bauer, H.H. (2004). Science in the 21st century. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 18, 643–660. Bem, D.J. (2004). Writing the empirical journal article. In J.M. Darley, M.P. Zanna & H.L. Roediger III (Eds.) The compleat academic: A career guide (pp.185–219). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Brown, L. (2009). Could food shortage bring down civilization? Scientific
was difficult and time-consuming a new profession emerged; that of the brick maker (young scientist). This new arrangement was very efficient for some time and those brick makers who had great ideas and worked hard became builders eventually. However, things
changed drastically when the ultimate goal became bricks and not edifices. In Forscher’s view this was partly due to careless training; brick makers came to believe that producing a large number of bricks was the same as building an edifice. As competition grew, brick makers produced more and more bricks ahead of time; now guided by tradition and expediency rather than by blueprints and
American, 300, 50–57. Chamberlin, T.C. (1897). Studies for students. Journal of Geology, 5, 837–848. Forscher, B.K. (1963). Chaos in the brickyard. Science, 142, 339. Hartley, J. & Betts, L. (2009). Publishing before the thesis. Higher Education Review, 41, 29–44. Jacks, G.V. (1961). The summary. Soils and Fertilizers, 24, 409–410.
creativity. Numerous storage places (journals) were needed to organise the mass production. The land soon became flooded with bricks. Over time, a pile of bricks became undistinguishable from an edifice. In Forscher’s (1963) metaphor the decline of the builder and the rise of the brick maker was precipitated by careless training. However, I believe that there was, and there still is, a matter of personal decision by the brick maker. In my view, training as a psychological researcher is an active rather than a passive enterprise. We shape our training; we are able to decide whether we want to make bricks for piles or bricks for edifices. Recognising that training as a psychological researcher is an active enterprise is crucial for reflection; we leave our comfortable seats as observers of the play and take a major role in it. It is also crucial for reflection that we recognise that builders are not an extinct species from which we, the newcomers, inherited the most creative and audacious genes. Builders still exist and we can learn from them directly (in the school corridor, meetings, conferences), indirectly (by reading their work) or, perhaps better, in both forms. As research students we are at an ideal stage of our careers to reflect on how to do research, because we are still developing skills and consolidating habits; perhaps omissions made at this stage will be more difficult to correct later on. Let us take advantage of this stage; let us think about how we go and do research when we hear or read that, without a suitable number of published papers, it will be more difficult to secure a job. The aim of this reflection is not to stop us from publishing; it is vital for science that we publish, because, among other things, this creates and disseminates knowledge (Jacks, 1961). Instead, we need to create awareness of how a very competitive context can influence our activities as researchers. I believe that this
Lawrence, P.A. (2003). The politics of publication. Nature, 422, 259–261. Lawrence, P.A. (2008). Lost in publication: How measurement harms science. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, 8, 9–11. Platt, J.R. (1964). Strong inference: Certain systematic methods of scientific thinking may produce much more rapid progress than others. Science, 146, 347–353.
Prilleltensky, I. (1989). Psychology and the status quo. American Psychologist, 44, 795–802. Strunk, W., Jr & White, E.B. (2000). The elements of style (4th edn). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Webster, R. (1990). An editor’s farewell. Soil Use and Management, 6, 3–6. Webster, R. (2003). Let’s re-write the scientific paper. European Journal of Soil Science, 54, 215–218.
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awareness will enable us to conduct research of better quality – true edifices. Here I propose three areas to reflect on: what we investigate, how we investigate at the individual level, and how we write about our investigations.
What we investigate Research students who have published papers before completing their thesis have recommended doing so because it can be useful when applying for a job (Hartley & Betts, 2009). A job can provide the resources (e.g. food) to sustain a living. If a lack of resources can destabilise governments to the point of bringing down global civilisation (Brown, 2009), are we unwilling to accept a slight rush to publish more so we can secure a job and, thus, sustain a living? In such a context, tradition and expediency rather than novel ideas – as in Forscher’s (1963) metaphor – could be guiding our research. We may be compelled – perhaps without noticing it – to investigate topics that fit smoothly, almost perfectly, with current ideas; topics that are believed to be well received by the editors. As a consequence, we may lose sight of other topics that, despite having social relevance, remain buried in our desks because they seem of low publishable value. Without being aware of it, we could be sustaining a set of ideas and beliefs in society that are beneficial to a few (those who already have more benefits), but are detrimental to others (those who already have more problems) (Prilleltensky, 1989). Perhaps if we reflect more on how the context can influence what we investigate we would be in a better position to construct edifices for, and with, those citizens who need them most.
How we investigate How we investigate at the individual level is perhaps more clearly shown in those private and intimate moments when we are sitting in front of our desks, taking important decisions about our research. Although private and intimate, those moments may still be influenced by the context. Reflection at this level needs, in my view, sincerity at its utmost. The idea that the researcher is not a passive observer of Nature but is an active one that expresses its subjectivity in the process is perhaps becoming an oldfashioned idea among us, the newcomers. An idea we might interpret as so obvious, so overworked, that thinking about it seems a waste of time. I am not proposing here the return of the toga and heated
discussions in public plazas. I am proposing greater awareness of how our hypotheses and designs coexist with our values, beliefs and desires. One of those beliefs could be that our career as a researcher is at stake without an impressive publication record. Perhaps if we acknowledge that as active observers of Nature we can love our hypothesis as a parent loves a child (Chamberlin, 1897), we would be in a better position to consider alternative explanations of our findings. Perhaps if we ask ourselves what experiment could disprove our hypothesis (Platt, 1964) as often as we are compelled to check our e-mail, we would be in a better position to design more novel studies.
Calling ‘new voices’ We are thrilled to launch this section of The Psychologist, where we will give space to new talent and original perspectives. Now we need to hear from you, your colleagues, your students, etc. 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 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. So get writing! Discuss ideas or submit your work to email@example.com. And if you know someone who would be ideal for ‘New voices’, do let us know. Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor, The Psychologist
How we write about our investigations A call has been made to reflect our imagination, excitement, personal choices and, ultimately, our humanity, in the scientific paper (Webster, 2003). This call comes from the soil sciences but, in my view, psychology is the place where it could reverberate more. Psychology is the discipline that deals more directly with our humanity. When we write about our investigations – usually in the form of a scientific paper – it is common to adopt an automaton style; full of jargon, acronyms and convolutions. Perhaps we believe that with this style our paper looks more ‘scientific’ and, thus, more attractive to editors. However, editors of scientific journals usually prefer a style that is ‘direct, light and simple’ (Webster, 1990, p.6). I am not proposing that our papers resemble personal diaries or love letters. Rather I am proposing to rest the jargon, acronyms and convolutions so we can write as we speak; as if we were writing to our grandmother (Bem, 2004). This is as an act of true care for the reader (Strunk & White, 2000) – who is trying to make sense of the world, as we all are – not as an act of true pity. Perhaps if we let our humanity breathe through the scientific paper we would be in a better position to communicate discoveries that make more sense.
psychology may focus on publishing more and more isolated facts (bricks) rather than on attempting to construct explanations of Nature (edifices). Reflection can help us to decide whether we want to make only bricks or construct edifices. Because we play an active role in our training we are able to shape it, and we can do this with the help of more experienced scientists (builders). This is the ideal stage of our career for reflecting on this because we are still building skills and habits. Reflecting more on how the context influences what we investigate may help us to pay more attention to research topics that promote social change and include marginalised groups in mainstream research. Reflecting more on how the context influences how we conduct research at the individual level may help us to design sound and novel studies. Reflecting more on how the context influences how we write about our investigations may help us to write scientific papers that make more sense. All in all, reflection would not stop us from publishing (which is vital for science). It would help us to construct true edifices. José Cuenca is a postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham firstname.lastname@example.org
If our scientific context had a slogan it could be: ‘Publish more, live more’. In such a context, research students in
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The making of an (in)famous experiment Nestar Russell explores the early evolution of Stanley Milgram’s first official obedience to authority experiment
n the early 1960s Stanley Milgram (1963) showed that 65 per cent of a sample of ordinary Americans were willing to inflict potentially lethal shocks on an innocent other. Based on documents obtained from Milgram’s personal archive at Yale University, I was able to retrace some of the important and unmentioned steps that led to this ‘bestknown result’ (Miller, 1986, p.9). We all build on the shoulders of those who came before us, and with respect to Solomon Asch, Milgram’s obedience experiments were no exception. In his renowned 1951 experiment, Asch demonstrated that a third of all participants would conform to a group of confederates in their provision of obviously incorrect answers on a perceptual line judgement task. When Milgram describes how his basic experimental procedure evolved, the influence of Asch is clear:
I was working for Asch in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1959 and 1960. I was thinking about his group-pressure experiment. One of the criticisms…is that they lack a surface significance, because after all, an experiment with people making judgments of lines has a manifestly trivial content. So the question I asked myself is, How can this be made into a more humanly significant experiment? And it seemed to me that if, instead of having a group exerting pressure on judgments about lines, the group could somehow
Adams, G.B. & Belfour, D.L. (1998). Unmasking bureaucratic evil. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Asch, S.E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.) Groups, leadership and men (pp.117–190). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press. Blass, T. (2004). The man who shocked the world. New York: Basic Books.
induce something more significant from the person, then that might be a step in giving a greater face significance to the behavior induced by the group. Could a group, I asked myself, induce a person to act with severity against another person? (Evans, 1980, p.188).
Milgram said he wanted to use group pressure to coerce participants into ‘behaving aggressively toward another person’ (Tavris, 1974, p.80). Later Milgram (1974, p.148) termed such coercive sources of pressure ‘binding factors’: powerful bonds that can entrap a person into doing something they might otherwise prefer not to do. He then imagined a situation like Asch’s experiment, where a naive participant was placed among a group of actors:
you’d have to know how the subject performed without any group pressure’ (Tavris, 1974, p.80). Asch resolved the problem of requiring an experimental control by running the line-judgement exercise on participants in the absence of the group. However, Milgram was this time unable to draw from Asch’s legacy because ‘it was not obvious what the inducement would be for a solitary individual to administer shocks in increasing intensities to another person’ (Miller, 1986, p.18). According to Milgram, he started ‘zeroing in on this experimental control [problem]. Just how far would a person go under the experimenter’s orders? It was an incandescent moment… Within a few minutes, dozens of ideas on relevant variables emerged, and the only problem was to get them all down on paper (Tavris, 1974, p.80). Milgram had his control experiment, but perhaps unwittingly adding ‘orders’ also introduced a new binding factor: a higher-status person trying to impose their will on someone below them in
…instead of confronting the lines on a card, each one of them would have a shock generator. In other words, I transformed Asch’s experiment into one in which the group would administer increasingly higher levels of shock to a person, and the question would be to what degree an individual would follow along with the group (Evans, 1980, pp.188–189).
But there was a problem: ‘to study the group effect you would also need an experimental control;
Evans, R.I. (1980). The making of social psychology. New York: Gardener Press. Harre, R. & Secord, P.F. (1972). The explanation of social behaviour. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Freedman, J.L. & Fraser, C.C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: the foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4(2), 195-202.
Figure 1: Milgram’s ‘Studies in Obedience’: The group were to undergo a ‘pledge to obey’
Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371–378. Milgram, S. (1965). Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. Human Relations, 18(1), 57–76. Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper and Row. Miller, A.G. (1986). The obedience
experiments: A case study of controversy in social science. New York: Praeger. Russell, N.J.C. (in press). Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments: origins and early evolution. British Journal of Social Psychology. Advance online publication: http://bit.ly/aYjF48 Tavris, C. (1974). The frozen world of the familiar stranger. Psychology Today, 8(1), 71–73, 76–79, 80.
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a hierarchical chain of command. situation’. Milgram countered such In support of Milgram’s account is an feelings by introducing what he would undated archival document (circa 1960) later term strain-resolving mechanisms: titled ‘Studies in Obedience’ which measures intended to reduce the tension describes a rudimentary idea to use a normally associated with inflicting harm shock device with a ‘dial that reads from (Milgram, 1974, pp.153–164). For …light-to-fatal’. He then discusses an example, instead of a ‘pledge to obey’, initial goal and the main Asch-like Milgram revealed in his first research coercive technique he intended to deploy proposal (dated October 1960) a new to achieve it: ‘In order to create the idea: ‘Obviously some acceptable rationale strongest obedience situation use findings must be provided’ for inflicting shocks of group dynamics’ (see also Russell, in and this was now to be ‘achieved by press). It seems Milgram was aware that setting the experiment in a context of to make his mark and capture the “social learning”.’ By contributing to attention of academia, he had to develop some greater good, Milgram had an experiment that produced an eyetransformed the infliction of harm from catching result in the first official ‘something evil’ (shocking an innocent publication (after which he could pursue person) into something ‘good’ (advancing numerous variations in an attempt to human learning) – a strain-resolving unravel why so many obeyed). But what conversion process Adams and Belfour was missing was a rationale as to why the (1998, p.xx) termed moral inversion. group might agree to hurt an innocent In this proposal Milgram presented person. Another document also titled a sketch of the proposed shock device ‘Studies in Obedience’ (circa 1960) with (see Figure 2). a sketch of a shock ‘Panel’ (see Figure 1) The proposal also mentioned that attempted to address this problem. That participants were to be run through the is, ‘Because of certain possible hazards’ procedure as one of several members of the group were to undergo a ‘pledge to a group or alone. He presumed the group obey’. variation ‘will cause the critical subject to But there is much in this document comply with the experimental commands that Milgram’s post-hoc account has failed to a far higher degree than in the “alone” to mention: a ‘War Situation’ where one is situation’ and that, although they might to adhere to a ‘pledge to obey’ and all are be interesting, the latter’s primary purpose given a Himmler-like ‘Waver [sic] of was to ‘serve as necessary controls for the responsibility’, all ‘For Germa[n]y’. That group experiments’. Building more on Milgram’s concerns about the Holocaust – Asch’s than his own legacy, Milgram’s where ordinary Germans later frequently ‘Obedience and Group Process’ argued they were just following orders – experiments constituted at this time ‘the provided the inspiration to invent the major concern of the present research’. obedience experiments has been To assess the idea’s viability, Milgram established (Miller, 1986, p.17). However, the above document illustrates that early in the formulation of his idea he was also attempting to ‘cut and paste’ into the controlled laboratory setting many of the Nazis’ tried and tested techniques of coercion. But in order for Milgram to achieve his unofficial initial goal to ‘create the strongest obedience situation’, were participants likely to accept a transparently Nazi-sounding ‘pledge to obey’ orders to inflict severe shocks on an innocent person? The changes that followed would suggest not. Milgram knew that deceiving participants into thinking they were inflicting shocks on another person was internally likely to generate what he termed strain: intense feelings of tension. He also understood such feelings might Figure 2: Milgram’s sketch of a shock generator detract from his initial goal to in the first research proposal create ‘the strongest obedience
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Figure 3: The students’ 12-switch shock generator
soon after had some of his students build a shock machine (Figure 3), hone the experimental procedure and run the first pilot studies. The only ‘group’ pilot Milgram later discussed confirmed his earlier prediction that ‘certain persons will follow the group’ to the end of the shock board. However, the first test runs of the alone control left him ‘astonished’ (as cited in Blass, 2004, p.68). Something about the experimenter’s commands seemed to render them a far stronger binding factor than he had anticipated. Perhaps to advance his own legacy, rather than contributing to Asch’s, from this point onwards the group force variations were relegated from dominating the research programme to consisting of a couple of minor variations. The ‘alone’ variations were now to be the main focus. But there was ‘something’ about the student-run pilots that Milgram ‘was never conviced [sic] of’. He suspected a general lack of professionalism might have tipped some participants off that it was all a ruse. It was of crucial importance that in the official series all participants were convinced the learner was being shocked. However, one would expect that the more believable the experiments, the more resistant to obeying participants would become. This potential obstacle could defeat Milgram’s initial goal to produce a strikingly high completion rate. His solution to this potential problem seems to have been to bombard participants with an array of binding factors and strain-resolving mechanisms that might increase their probability of completing (see Russell, in press). For example, in a document dated December 1960, Milgram noted that some
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participants in the pilot mentioned it was the learner’s prerogative to ‘leave whenever he wants to’, and this belief may have emboldened them to stop. Drawing upon his earlier Himmler-like ‘Waver [sic] of responsibility’, Milgram attempted to reduce the participants’ tension regarding their continued participation by proposing:
was engaging in the ad hoc trial-and-error exploratory method of discovery, where ‘a scientist has no very clear idea what will happen, and aims to find out. He [sic] has a feeling for the “direction” in which to go (increase the pressure and see what happens) but no clear expectations of what to expect’ (Harré & Second, 1972, p.69). …the following change should This is how many major be made; … Possible discoveries occur in the pure conversation: … sciences: often more by accident EXPERIMENTER: I Have than design. Dynamite was very responsibility…go on with the unlikely to have come about experiment. from hypothesis testing! As Milgram (cited in Evans, 1980, On 25 January 1961 Milgram p.191) said: ‘Many of the most completed a second research interesting things we find out in proposal, which presented several experimentation you don’t learn potentially fruitful variations on until you carry it out.’ Figure 4: Milgram’s final shock generator had 30 switches, the basic experimental procedure There was nothing building on his earlier 9-, 10- and 12-switch versions that, after observing the first pilot underhanded about this approach; studies, Milgram suspected might as Miller (1986, p.45) has pointed shed light on why so many participants out: ‘Given that there was virtually no could be heard shouting only) and the ‘no completed the basic procedure. The previous systematic research on feed back’ condition (after being strapped variation mentioned first was stimulated obedience, it was understandable that into the electric chair, the learner could by an observation where some Milgram’s focus was essentially in a not be seen or heard at all). In the latter participants looked away from the learner, context of discovery or exploration rather condition: ‘virtually all subjects, once who they could see dimly through a than confirming or disconfirming specific commanded, went blithely to the end window (Milgram, 1974, pp.33–34), yet hypotheses’. of the board’ (Milgram, 1965, p.61). continued inflicting shocks. It seemed: As the pictures in this article show, Thus, by the final pilot Milgram had ‘…the salience of the victim may in some Milgram’s indisputably creative idea discovered how he could achieve his degree regulate their performance. This emerged gradually. Initially it was weak initial goal of maximising the completion can be tested by varying the “immediacy” but over time it became a more viable, rate. But near total obedience: deprived us of an adequate basis for of the victim’. engaging and truly fascinating project. scaling obedient tendencies. A force After receiving funding in May 1961, When reading Milgram’s publications one had to be introduced that would Milgram prepared for a second series of would be forgiven for thinking that he strengthen the subject’s resistance pilot studies and soon after informed his must have woken up one morning with to the experimenter’s commands research assistant that the new and the complete procedure in his head then (Milgram, 1965, p. 61). improved ‘[shock] apparatus is almost ran the procedure later on that day. done and looks thoroughly professional’. Milgram was clever, but not that clever! In the first official experiment Milgram In the second research proposal, while His piloting studies were the seldom decided participants were to experience alluding to his initial goal, Milgram mentioned tool that clearly led Milgram a little perceptual feedback – auditory asked: ‘if one is trying to maximize to his most fascinating results. Finally, it stimulation in the form of wall-banging obedience, is it better to inform a person is important to reiterate that although at the 300- and 315-volt shocks. The of the worst of what he may be asked to Milgram may have played an active role intention of this procedural adaptation do at the outset, or is compliance best in maximising the completion rate in the was to slightly increase the intensity of extracted piecemeal?’ Going by the Remote condition, the official series of strain (instead of his usual approach of increasing number of switches in experiments were still methodologically reducing tension). Milgram’s successive envisioned and very tight. As mentioned, Milgram did On 7 August 1961 Milgram felt actual shock machines from 9 (Figure 1) not find the student-run pilots totally confident enough to run the first official to 10 (Figure 2) to 12 (Figure 3) to 30 convincing and it was very important to ‘remote’ condition, generating his ‘best(Figure 4), it would appear Milgram saw him that the participants in the official known’ 65 per cent completion rate. In merit in the latter. It could be argued research programme really believed the light of the subtle changes, he probably these changes represented the inclusion learner was being shocked. expected a slightly higher completion (and extension) of another binding factor Methodologically, it would seem to me rate. Nonetheless, with most participants that would later become known as the that the obedience research is a very inflicting every shock, he had still foot-in-the-door technique (Freedman & robust series of experiments, and in part achieved his initial goal of maximising the that is perhaps why their influence is still Fraser, 1966). This is where persons are completion rate. And this result became more likely to agree to a significant felt almost half a century later. the centrepiece of Milgram’s (1963) request if it is preceded by a (in)famous publication ‘Behavioral study comparatively insignificant request. I Nestar Russell is at Victoria University of of obedience’ and had its intended effect. In late July 1961 Milgram embarked Wellington What can Milgram’s study tell us on a second series of pilots that aimed to firstname.lastname@example.org about experimental psychology? Milgram both eliminate participants’ penetrating
‘the cover story’ and to trial his recent idea to vary the ‘“immediacy” of the victim’. The two variations piloted were the ‘voice feedback’ condition (learner
vol 23 no 9
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2nd UK Paediatric Neuropsychology Symposium: Rehabilitation and Educational Support Following postponement of the symposium due to UK ﬂight restrictions caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in April 2010, the symposium has been re-scheduled for 28 February - 4 March 2011.
UCL Institute of Child Health & Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London. This symposium will provide a contemporary account of rehabilitation programmes, speciﬁc interventions and educational support for children with cognitive, behavioural and emotional difﬁculties following neurological injury or neurodevelopmental disorder. A host of leading international speakers will participate in this unique symposium in order to consider how professionals may best support children and their families following neurological injury and what opportunities there may be to exploit brain plasticity in promoting positive learning, behaviour and socio-emotional development.
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ONE ON ONE
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One regret Not having spent as much time as I would have liked with my two kids from my first marriage. I was starting my university career at the time, working long hours, going to conferences, etc. One should never miss those precious early years of childhood: you can never recapture them.
…with Cary Cooper Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School
One book that you think all psychologists should read Joseph Heller’s Something Happened. It’s fiction, but it describes in psychological detail, with wonderful humour, how people behave in the workplace. It is frighteningly close to what the science of occupational psychology tells us about work.
One source of energy My children. They have always kept me grounded, active and I have worked hard to make them proud of me. Also, coming from a family that had to leave the Ukraine and Romania in desperate straits because of the antiSemitism they experienced, some of my energy comes from an inherited insecurity. One way organisations could reduce stress overnight Carry out an annual stress audit and then publish the headline results in their annual report. There is a move afoot in the HR world for sickness absence rates, corporate job satisfaction scores, etc. being reported in annual reports, so we may get there one day!
One cultural recommendation Schindler’s List means a great deal to me, not only because I come from an Eastern Cary Cooper CBE European Jewish firstname.lastname@example.org background where members of my distant family perished, but also know everything there is to because it highlights all know about human behaviour. human behaviour, from the dark side to the heroic. We see With every day that passes, I learn more just by watching in this work so much of the and listening, whether in my human spirit, man’s ability to professional or personal role. withstand the worst atrocities and above all the bravery of More answers online at one man to do something for www.thepsychologist.org.uk others without personal gain.
Cooper, C.L., Field, J., Goswami, U., Jenkins, R. & Sahakian, B. (2009). Mental capital and mental wellbeing. London: Wiley-Blackwell. ‘Based on a government Foresight project, it represented two years of work with great collaborators. I am proud of what it could achieve.’
Articles on working in an NHS alcohol service, golf, fathers’ behaviour and children’s psychopathology, the motor system, an interview with Chris Frith and much more… I Send your comments about The Psychologist to the editor, Dr Jon Sutton, on email@example.com, +44 116 252 9573 or to the Leicester office address I To advertise in The Psychologist: firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 116 252 9552 I For jobs in the Appointments section: email@example.com, +44 116 252 9550
One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists Be on ‘Receive’ and not on ‘Transmit’ mode: We have a lot to give as a profession but it is important that we ‘listen’ to others and not assume we
One challenge occupational psychology faces Individuals, small businesses and others will face huge survival pressures over the next few years – we need to help, and we have the skills to do it.
One thing I would change about psychologists Engage more with the media, to show the world we have
something very significant to contribute to society, which is far more important than pure economics: it is about the human condition, particularly during hard times like today.
One way to raise mental capital Never put other people down, see their positive attributes and try to be kind and supportive. Mark Twain got it right when he wrote: ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that
you, too, can somehow become great.’
One moment that changed the course of your career I was a master’s student at the University of California, Los Angeles when I met a visiting professor from Leeds University who invited me to England for a year. I’ve been here ever since!
Think you can do better? Want to see your area of psychology represented more? See the inside front cover for how you can contribute and reach 48,000 colleagues into the bargain, or just e-mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
vol 23 no 9
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Published on Aug 19, 2010
Selected highlights from the September issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. To purchase the entire PDF...