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Why magazines matter As The Psychologist relaunches, we consider style and impact

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advertising Reach 50,000+ psychologists at very reasonable rates. CPL, 1 Cambridge Technopark Newmarket Road Cambridge CB5 8PB recruitment Matt Styrka 01223 378 005 matt.styrka@cpl.co.uk display Michael Niskin 01223 378 045 michael.niskin@cpl.co.uk december 2016 issue 54,776 dispatched design concept Darren Westlake www.TUink.co.uk printed by Warners Midlands plc on 100 per cent recycled paper issn 0952-8229 (print) 2398-1598 (online) © Copyright for all published material is held by the British Psychological Society unless specifically stated otherwise. As the Society is a party to the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) agreement, articles in The Psychologist may be copied by libraries and other organisations under the terms of their own CLA licences (www.cla.co.uk). Permission must be obtained for any other use beyond fair dealing authorised by copyright legislation. For further information about copyright and obtaining permissions, e-mail permissions@bps.org.uk.

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Why magazines matter As The Psychologist relaunches, we consider style and impact

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Email: info@dbt-training.co.uk Tel: 0800 056 8328 www.dbt-training.co.uk www.thepsychologist.org.uk

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The Psychologist is the magazine of The British Psychological Society It provides a forum for communication, discussion and controversy among all members of the Society, and aims to fulfil the main object of the Royal Charter, ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’

The Psychologist needs you! We rely on your submissions throughout the publication, and in return we help you to get your message across to a large and diverse audience. For details of all the available options, plus our policies and what to do if you feel these have not been followed, see www.thepsychologist.org.uk/contribute The main message, though, is simply to engage with us. Contact the editor Dr Jon Sutton on jon.sutton@bps.org.uk, tweet us on @psychmag or call / write to us at the Society’s Leicester office.

Managing Editor Jon Sutton Assistant Editor Peter Dillon-Hooper Production Mike Thompson Journalist Ella Rhodes Editorial Assistant Debbie Gordon Research Digest Christian Jarrett (editor), Alex Fradera

Associate Editors Articles Michael Burnett, Paul Curran, Harriet Gross, Rebecca Knibb, Adrian Needs, Paul Redford, Sophie Scott, Mark Wetherell, Jill Wilkinson Conferences Alana James History of Psychology Alison Torn Interviews Gail Kinman Culture Kate Johnstone, Sally Marlow Books Emily Hutchinson, Rebecca Stack International panel Vaughan Bell, Uta Frith, Alex Haslam, Elizabeth Loftus, Asifa Majid The Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee Catherine Loveday (Chair), Emma Beard, Phil Banyard, Helen Galliard, Harriet Gross, Rowena Hill, Stephen McGlynn, Peter Olusoga, Richard Stephens

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psychologist january 2017



02 Letters 10 News

20 Overrated/underrated Elizabeth Meins with the first in an occasional series

54 Books Rosalind Ridley discusses her exploration of J.M. Barrie and Peter Pan, with Chris Frith 58 Culture

64 ‘Real things are just endlessly fascinating’ We meet James Pennebaker

28 The limits of empathy Diana Kwon on when walking in another’s shoes is not enough 72 Careers We hear from past interviewees; plus the latest 34 The real deal job vacancies Stephen Joseph goes in search of our true selves 76 Looking back Marjory Harper on migration 40 Why magazines matter and mental illness As we relaunch, Ella Rhodes considers style and impact 80 A to Z 46 Writing for impact Some of our regular contributors on the benefits

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In a dizzying couple of years, we have redeveloped both The Psychologist and Research Digest websites, launched apps, produced a regular podcast and branched out into live events. It’s important that we reach out to diverse audiences in new ways, but I am left with a nagging sense that we have neglected those of you who still like to hold The Psychologist in your hands, sit down with a cup of tea or flick through it on the bus. So this is a relaunch for you, the print lovers. Whether or not you like the new direction, please be assured that we set out on this path after careful consideration of reader surveys, along with much discussion at our Editorial Advisory Committee. I think back to a comment in one of those surveys: ‘it seems more of a magazine than anything’. Yes – we believe that magazines matter (p.40), and we are proud to be one. Do engage with us on Twitter @psychmag, or email, write, call, pop round… we hope you stay with us on this journey, because together we can reach great places. Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor @psychmag

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Failure as a platform to learn

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Having made my fair share of mistakes, I have always believed that it is the way you respond to failure that determines whether the eventual outcome is helpful or a hindrance. It is refreshing to see that the Health and Care Professions Council have recently revised their standards of conduct, performance and ethics to include a standard about being open and honest when things go wrong (Standard 8). Creating a culture whereby failure is seen as a platform to learn rather than something to be ashamed of is the first step in encouraging practitioners to be open and honest about their mistakes. Failure should be seen as something that can be positive. A recent psychological term ‘post-traumatic growth’ describes a phenomenon whereby sufferers of difficulties caused by trauma have been seen to result in increased resilience and renewed appreciation for life. Perhaps the same philosophy should be applied to failure; emphasising ‘post-failure growth’ rather than criticism and negative appraisal. Additionally, a study by Daniel Lim and David DeSteno [covered on the Research Digest: see tinyurl. com/zj8ja5o] has recently demonstrated that the more adversity in life someone has experienced, the more compassion they tend to feel and show towards others. In this survey, participants answered questions about adversity they had suffered in life, including injuries, bereavements and relationship breakdowns. They also completed measures of empathy and compassion, and the opportunity to donate some of their participation fee to charity. The more adversity the participant

had experienced (regardless of its nature), the more empathy they had. In turn, this greater empathy was associated with higher sympathy ratings and their generosity (as measured by their donations to charity). Although this study only demonstrates a correlational, rather than causal link, between adversity and compassion/empathy, it is nevertheless indicative that those who have suffered setbacks are more likely to show empathy to others. Is it too tenuous to extend such a conclusion to those who have dealt with failure? A therapy increasing in popularity is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and similar principles could be applied in the workplace to incidents of failure. If we create a culture of admitting failure rather than creating a culture of shame, we create an environment that encourages openness and honesty, a core standard for HCPC practitioners. It also increases the likelihood that the failure will result in personal development rather than in feelings of shame and guilt. With one in four experiencing mental illness, and one in six children experiencing anxiety, it’s about time we changed perceptions of failure and reduced the associated stigma. In turn, we will encourage children to challenge ideas, be ambitious and flourish, rather than increasing their anxiety of potential setbacks and failures. Failure is a part of life and a potential for growth, and the quicker we accept that, the better societal attitudes we create to personal difficulties in general. Gina Wieringa Final-year psychology student University of York

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the psychologist january 2017 letters It was so brilliant to read Vice President Jamie Hacker Hughes’s letter (November 2016) describing how he treasures the empathy with clients that comes from having his own experience of psychological health problems. Surely one of the most important things psychology has to contribute to the mental health field is the idea that there is no ‘them and us’: the alternatives are not being ‘mentally ill’ or being ‘sane’ (see @OnlyUsCampaign on Twitter). Psychological health is a continuum that we all move up and down. The challenge for psychologists is to find ways of drawing helpfully on our own experiences, however extreme, in the service of our clients, rather than pretending they don’t exist. Our current President, Peter Kinderman, has also written openly about his emotions, his ‘particular brain’ and having used mental health services (e.g. see tinyurl.com/z7ayqx9). This new spirit of openness in the Society is hugely welcome and I hope that other professions follow suit. Anne Cooke Salomons Centre for Applied Psych Canterbury Christ Church University

A welcome spirit of openness I have been inspired to write in response to the letter ‘Clinicians with mental health difficulties’ (October 2016) and the candid response from Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes (November 2016). I have also been inspired to write after taking part in a qualitative research study with Shamini Sriskandarajah on the experiences of therapists with a history of eating disorders (EDs). I am a practising clinical psychologist who has experienced mental health problems, specifically anorexia nervosa (and a briefer episode of bulimia). I am happily now free of both disorders and have been for many years. However, until now, I have not found the appropriate forum in which to share these personal facts with professional colleagues – so thank you for opening up the discussion. I know my experience of EDs influenced my decision to specialise in the field, ultimately leading to a job as a psychologist with the Maudsley Eating Disorder Service. I have often thought that my personal experiences gave me some important advantages in my work there. Firstly, not surprisingly, I have always found eating disorders easy to understand. I ‘get’ them. This, I’d say, is a helpful starting point for treating them. Secondly, having already overcome an

eating disorder, I think I was (paradoxically) more able to resist the pernicious distortions of diet, eating behaviour and body image that we are surrounded by when working with EDs. Thirdly, historically at least, EDs have been viewed as chronic, entrenched and even untreatable disorders. Having successfully overcome my own ED(s), I’ve always had a strong belief in the very real possibility of recovery, meaning that I always approached my clients’ difficulties from a position of robust hope. I’ll add that I was later fortunate enough to engage in my own course of (Jungian) therapy (for separate issues). This has given me invaluable experience as a client, as well as a unique role model as a therapist, both of which continue to guide my practice. I hope this letter will further encourage others to share with colleagues their personal experiences of mental ill health. Such openness can surely only strengthen our profession: allowing us to better support each other, gain greater insight into the disorders we work with on a daily basis, and reduce the stigma on mental health by practising what we preach. Dr Philippa East Chartered Psychologist in private practice Sleaford

Join a CLaN Around 20 psychologists, therapists, wellbeing practitioners and NHS managers met recently – the third meeting of the CLaN (Collaborative Learning Network) established as the main output from our British Psychological Society and New Savoy Charter on Psychological Wellbeing and Resilience. Past surveys from New Savoy and the BPS have identified high levels of stress and feelings of depression amongst mental health professionals, and these have been linked to the dominance of the ‘target culture’ in frontline services. Our resultant Charter, endorsed and supported by over 20 organisations, calls for ‘a resetting of the balance in the drive to increase access to psychological therapy services…a greater focus on staff psychological wellbeing

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and promoting effective services through models of ensuring good psychological wellbeing at work… co-creating compassionate workplaces and sustainable services, and… through organisations committing to monitor and improve the psychological wellbeing of their staff’. The latest survey is open until 31 January at tinyurl.com/newsavbps. The results will be reported at the New Savoy Conference on 15 and 16 March. The ClaN aims to build on this work to foster a culture of openness,

support and mutual learning; to develop a network of influence and awareness raising; to share and evolve the wellbeing tool and organisational interventions; and much more. For further information, find our blog post on the BPS website. We really need you, and the organisations that you work for, on board. Jamie Hacker Hughes, Presidential Team Project Champion vicepresident@bps.org.uk Amra Rao, BPS Steering Group Lead psychologicalhorizons@gmail.com Jeremy Clarke, New Savoy Steering Group Lead therapy@practice.demon.co.uk

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president’s letter I’ve quoted Albert Camus before, but he bears repetition – ‘Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself.’ The charitable objects of the British Psychological Society include ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’. Our purpose is to benefit the general public, rather then ourselves. These considerations apply to our avenues for communication – including The Psychologist itself. It could be argued that The Psychologist is our ‘inhouse’ magazine, serving as ‘the voice of the Society’. Alternatively, since we pay for The Psychologist through our subscriptions, there’s an argument that it should serve as the ‘voice of the members’. I am much more strongly attracted to the second option, but I would go further. Human societies (and Societies) have a tendency to become self-serving. For me, The Psychologist could best be seen as having a responsibility beyond the Society, beyond the Members and more properly for the wider public. We have recently relaunched the Society website – designed specifically to welcome and encourage members of the public to engage with psychology and the work of psychologists ‘pure and applied’. As we also relaunch The Psychologist, similar functions are worth considering. I strongly favour the idea that The Psychologist should serve the public first, psychologists (the members of the Society) second, and the Society itself only last. And it is perhaps particularly important to ensure that The Psychologist has the editorial freedom to question and challenge. Like Camus, I believe that academic and scientific disciplines are essentially about real life – and the very real challenges that face us all, perhaps especially now. Professions and scientific disciplines advance though challenge. At best, statements of fact are treated as hypotheses to be tested rather than accepted without question. Practitioners and clinicians develop new approaches to helping people in difficulty by proposing new formulations or methods or approaches, explicitly competing with the status quo. An ‘in-house’ magazine that was not similarly able independently and fearlessly to challenge received wisdom would fail to protect and promote our discipline and profession. The Psychologist has become the place to find intelligent, topical, insightful, independent and critical voices in UK psychology. Long may it continue. Peter Kinderman is President of the British Psychological Society. PresidentsOffice@bps.org.uk or follow him on Twitter @peterkinderman 04

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Positive guidance to get through the maze I was saddened to read the ‘Opinion’ piece by Della Sala and Cubelli (‘Entangled in an ethical maze’, December 2016) regarding the difficulties psychology researchers’ experience with NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECs/ECs). While they acknowledge that their view is partial and ‘does not apply to all ECs’, the tone of their article suggests that they view these difficulties as commonplace, and see ECs as a hindrance, rather than as a support, to psychology research. The authors take issue with the NHS Health Research Authority’s stated primary role as ‘protect(ing) and promot(ing) the interests of patients and the public in health research’. It appears to me that they fail to recognise that, while a significant aspect of this has to do with protecting participants from potential harm (which they acknowledge can be a risk even in research that does not involve new medicines), the other component of the role is that of supporting research that increases the body of knowledge, both within the basic science and in relation to the development of treatments/ interventions that may be helpful to patients, and as such is in the public interest. Such studies are thus not regarded as ‘inferior’ or less important than CTIMPS (Clinical Trial of an Investigational Medical Product). Indeed, some RECs are not ‘flagged’ to review CTIMPS, and, therefore focus exclusively on other research. The authors state that in order to produce reliable and valid results, a study needs to be adequately powered. It is a pity, therefore, to see them

making broad inferences about the functioning of RECs on the basis of a few isolated experiences of individual researchers. However, it is no doubt true that some RECs have limited understanding of psychology and social science research. I endorse the authors’ view that a more collaborative relationship between RECs and psychology researchers is highly desirable. A positive way forward is for more psychologists (both academics and practitioners) to volunteer to become members of RECs. That way, they would be able to educate their fellow REC members (if they need education regarding psychology research…) as well as supporting appropriate ethical psychology research. I have been an expert member on a London REC for some time, and our REC has two psychologist members. I would be surprised if any psychologists who have presented their proposed research to us feel that our committee has not understood the nature of the research, the need for adequately powered studies, or the difference between a CTIMP and psychological research. Ann Malkin Consultant Clinical Psychologist London

Prize Crossword no.89 – Winner Barbra Hughes from Harrogate will receive a £50 BPS Blackwell book token. We are considering whether the crossword has a place in the new style Psychologist – happy to be swayed by the weight of public opinion.

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the psychologist january 2017 letters

Multiple choices on assessment I am worried about the lack of use of multiple-choice question (MCQ) exams in psychology assessments across the UK, both at undergraduate and master’s levels. In many other countries (e.g. the Netherlands and the USA), as well as in other disciplines in the UK (e.g. medicine), the use of MCQs is extensive because of assessment advantages, such as: (1) MCQ exams have many questions, which means that the exams can cover the whole range of material covered; this encourages students to engage with all of the course material; (2) marking is a 100% reliable; (3) the relation between answers and grades is unambiguous; (4) there is, in principle, a realistic possibility of gaining the highest (but also lowest) grade. MCQ exams are regularly criticised for the wrong reasons. For example, some argue that MCQs are too easy or that they do not require critical thinking. In fact, the ease of MCQ exams depends on the difficulty of the questions and scoring algorithm; a good MCQ exam has questions from a range of difficulty levels. Further, there is no reason why MCQs cannot tap into critical thinking skills. This is well illustrated by some of the most sophisticated and best designed international educational surveys using MCQs, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment.

My impression is that psychologists who want to use MCQ exams are often asked to justify their assessment method, whereas such a justification is never asked for essay-style exams. This is not only inconsistent, but also unfair, because the most popular exam type in UK psychology, the essay-style exam, has considerable shortcomings, including the lack of explicit criteria in marking, fluctuations in the markers’ attention and energy throughout the process, and the inherent advantage for those who have good verbal skills and can write fast (even though those skills in and of themselves are irrelevant to the examined subject). Further, essay-style exams rarely cover the full breadth of a module, which raises the question of how we can be certain graduates have the desired skills and knowledge. There is no doubt that essay questions serve a good purpose, but no one should automatically assume that they are better or preferred over MCQ exams. In this respect, the UK can learn much from countries that use MCQ exams extensively and are also known for their high-quality psychological research and teaching. Gijsbert Stoet Professor in Psychology Leeds Beckett University

Dr Ian C. Murphy (1936–2016) We were extremely saddened by the loss of Ian Murphy who died on 6 September, after a long-standing illness. During this time he was cared for with unwavering dedication and compassion by his wife Doreen. Ian gained an honours degree in psychology from the University of Sheffield at the age of 22. His doctoral research explored psychophysiological stress responses in mentally abnormal offenders. Ian’s first post as a clinical psychologist was at the Whitely Wood Clinic in Sheffield, then a unit for people diagnosed with the ‘neuroses’ and home of the university’s Psychiatry Department. Ian’s next post was at Sheffield’s Child Guidance Clinic where he worked for nine years, learning psychotherapy along Jungian lines. Ian then returned to work for the NHS, initially at St John’s Hospital in Lincoln, transferring after a year to Shirle Hill Hospital in Sheffield where he stayed until his retirement, working with children with serious and intractable mental health problems.

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With an appetite for work, Ian always carried a large outpatient caseload, directly referred by local GPs, neurologists, psychiatrists and paediatricians, this in addition to his inpatient work. For many years he also worked half a day a week in each of two GP surgeries consulting to adult clients. One of Ian’s special interests for several years was group psychotherapy, running psychotherapy groups for adults in the evenings and for adolescents in the day. His ease of contact was a great therapeutic asset and it was accompanied by great interpersonal sensitivity. He would ensure no individual‘s efforts to be heard were missed. Ian had the ability to mask his shyness. Long before coming across researched techniques for managing social anxiety Ian had developed the skill of shifting attention away from himself by focusing on others in conversation. He was a wonderful listener. From the perspective on those of us who were his trainee clinical psychologists, and later as qualified clinical psychologists who worked with him, Ian was fastidious in his work with clients; his overarching approach was one which focused on, and indeed celebrated, individual differences. His style as mentor, supervisor, and coach was full of humour, tolerance and empathy. Ian worked best with

colleagues who shared his view of what it meant to be a professional. He strongly believed in ‘managing’ his junior colleagues by discussing our issues, but we did not feel over-managed. It felt more as if we were ‘looked after’. This was in contrast to the mainstream management style at the time. For us those were golden days. Ian had little truck with bureaucratic fashions and the self-aggrandising behaviour of colleagues who had strayed away from keeping clients at the forefront of practice. A wonderful blend of mischief, stubbornness and compassion made him particularly effective when working in challenging and complex scenarios, none more so than in the family courts. Many children were given the opportunity to achieve their potential and now function as healthy adults thanks to Ian’s persistence, his preparedness to take a long-term perspective on change, and his willingness to go the extra mile. Outside of work Ian had been a talented musician including church organist. In keeping with his modest manner, personal knowledge of him came slowly, but like a good novel he showed rather than told. We shall miss his counsel, his sense of the ridiculous, and his compassion. David Briggs, Nigel Hopkins and Caroline Lovelock Chartered Psychologists in private practice

Dr Allan McNeill (1958–2016)

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As well as being a gifted academic with a genuine passion and enthusiasm for psychology, Allan McNeill, who died in September at the age of 57 after a long battle with cancer, was also a very special human being. Ask anyone who knew him what they remember about him and a host of stories emerge. Who knows for example, how many people believed him, that ‘haggis’ was a little Scottish, flightless bird with one leg shorter than the other from walking around the hills in one direction! His love of people and talking to them was almost legendary, whether you were eight, eighteen or eighty if you were privileged enough to be in his presence, you could be sure of an interesting and lively conversation focused on you. Allan loved people and being around them, and he had that gift of making you feel really listened to and important. One thing that defined Allan was his love of music. In his teenage years and early twenties he had an exciting but short-lived musical career as a guitarist in a punk-rock band with a prominent name ‘Johnny and the Self Abusers’, which later became a founding basis of ‘The Simple Minds’. He then went on to open a recording studio in Berkeley Street in Glasgow in the early 1980s. Many people passed through his doors but one day two young lads turned up. The two teenagers were Pat and Greg Kane and that was the beginning of Hue and Cry. Allan thought they were too good to let them get lost in the jungle of the music business and he became their manager. Later, Allan went on to re-invent himself and became a psychologist. He undertook his PhD with Professor Mike Burton, with whom he became friends. For years he represented academic face research in the courts, and a

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great many colleagues directed forensic enquiries his way. He was brilliant in this role – a safe pair of hands when describing the most relevant research findings. Most of the time he delivered unwelcome news saying, ‘No – you can’t reliably make an identification from that evidence’, but his authority and affability made him a very popular expert witness. A couple of times, Allan and Mike went to see bands in the Barrowlands, a legendary Glasgow venue. He seemed to know everyone there, and he cut through the crowds – that friendly authority again. Allan achieved something not often managed by 57-year-old academics. He was cool. When Allan died, he was a senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University and a devoted fighter for the workers’ union. For many years he had also been a stalwart member of the BPS Cognitive Section Committee, most recently as Treasurer, providing fascinating research by day and unforgettably good company by night at the Section’s Annual Conference. Allan in a kilt at the conference ceilidh in 2012 was classic Allan. In recent years, Allan found deep happiness in his personal life with fellow psychologist Dr Monika McNeill, whom he married in a ceremony on the Isle of Arran in December 2015. As well as Monika, Allan leaves behind three children Mhairi, Lewis and Caitlin, his father Joe, sister Elizabeth and a host of friends and colleagues whose lives were richer for having him in them. Sue Sherman, Mike Burton and Monika McNeill

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the psychologist january 2017 letters

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http://dementiaandimagination.org.uk/

Countering hopelessness and frustration D

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ementia now stands as the leading cause of death in England and Wales for the first time, overtaking heart disease, but what can be done to tackle this devastating condition and to improve the experiences of those living with it? A recent British Psychological Society report, Psychological Dimensions of Dementia: Putting the Person at the Centre of Care, highlights the areas where action is needed to improve both understanding and care. We spoke to one of its authors about the role psychologists can play in improving dementia care and why this report has come at a crucial time. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed dementia was the cause of 61,000 deaths in 2015. This shift may be down to both an ageing population and better diagnosis by doctors – the condition is now also given more weight on death certificates, according to a BBC report. Although rates of dementia seem to be falling in some countries it still affects around 850,000 people in the UK as well as having huge implications for the families and friends of those affected.

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The BPS report suggests that to help people live well with dementia we need a better understanding of its psychological impact. The BPS Dementia Advisory Group authored the report, which stressed that dementia affects a person’s sense of identity, how they think and behave, their mood and their personality. Among their recommendations, the authors suggest those with dementia should be supported in making their own care decisions as far as possible, that their care and treatment should be tailored to individual needs and circumstances and that families and carers should be included in care planning at all times and have access to psychological support. The report also emphasises that a person’s care should involve perspectives and inputs of practitioners from various disciplines. Professor Linda Clare, Chair of the Dementia Advisory Group, said psychologists have a key role in ensuring dementia care is as integrated and multidisciplinary as possible. ‘One key skill that psychologists bring is that of formulation – drawing together all the information

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the psychologist january 2017 news

British Psychological Society Book Award

about an individual gained through an assessment, and using psychological theory to provide a framework for describing and understanding an individual’s needs. This understanding is essential in developing a tailored care plan that can optimally support that individual and/or family, which would integrate the contribution of different disciplines.’ In our approach to supporting and caring for people living with dementia and their families, Clare said, we should listen to what they find helpful as well as assessing the research evidence about what is effective. She gave some examples of how this may look in practice: ‘For people in the early stages, individual support with everyday activities to help maintain functional ability, using a rehabilitation approach, can help people remain independent for longer. For people with severe dementia living in residential homes, deploying care staff to spend short periods engaging people with dementia in personally meaningful activities instead of, say, completing paperwork, could reduce the incidence of behavioural problems.’ There is much stigma still attached to a diagnosis of dementia, leaving many sufferers feeling isolated; according to the 2012 World Alzheimer Report, the very idea that nothing can be done to help people with dementia often leads to hopelessness and frustration. Clare suggested that we should listen to and learn from people living with dementia. She said many with early-stage dementia do incredible work advocating for the types of support and services they find helpful. ‘We need to extend this thinking to consider the needs of people with severe dementia. People with severe dementia are the last group in society whom we deem it acceptable, by virtue of their health condition, to place in institutions where, for some, there is a risk that they will experience woefully inadequate care.’ This report has come at a crucial time for both dementia care and research, as the condition is currently a priority among charities and policymakers. There has been a noticeable shift in focus in recent times towards developing effective drug treatments and improving the quality of care people receive. The development of the new Dementia Research Institute is under way and extra funding from the Alzheimer’s Society, which will be launching an ambitious new strategy next year, has ensured that the Dementia Research Institute will cover care and public health as well as biomedical research. Professor Clare concluded: ‘This is an important opportunity to put the person with dementia at the centre of our work, which aims to understand more about the condition – its causes and mechanisms, its effect on cognition, and its impact on people’s lives – and about what kinds of care, services, community initiatives and informal support make a difference.’ er

‘It was a crazy experience announcing the first results from Sea Hero Quest, our mobile game where anyone can help scientists fight dementia. We guessed we would get some media attention after the interest we’d had at launch, but this time the coverage was larger and more intense. ‘The day of my talk at Neuroscience 2016 I woke at 6am in San Diego, gave the talk at 9.30am, then a flight to London, where I was whisked (after a quick shave) to BBC World News for interview. It was somewhat disorienting talking about disorientation on the BBC after all that. ‘I was unsure how the gender difference and country differences might be presented by the press – e.g. “Brits beat French and Germans at navigation” – but the coverage was amazingly well considered (e.g. see tinyurl. com/hmbp97w). It was also amazing to see Chelsea Clinton tweet the story to her 1.24 million followers!’

Full report: tinyurl.com/j5lv9qc. An earlier interview with Professor Clare: tinyurl.com/jpxauv8

Some of Dr Spiers' (University College London) research on navigation, with Anna Jafarpour, was covered recently on our Research Digest; see tinyurl.com/jhmmruz

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The 2016 winners of the British Psychological Society Book Awards have been announced. Awards were split into four categories. Academic Monograph: Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms by Susan Golombok Nominated by Cambridge University Press Popular Science: Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad by Richard Stephens Nominated by Hodder & Co Practitioner Text: Working with Brain Injury – A Primer for Psychologists Working in Under-resourced Settings by Rudi Coetzer and Ross Balchin Nominated by Taylor & Francis Textbook: A History of the Brain – From Stone Age Surgery to Modern Neuroscience by Andrew P. Wickens Nominated by Taylor & Francis Professor Daryl O’Connor, Chair of the BPS Research Board, said: ‘It was a great honour to chair the BPS Book Award committee this year. The number, the breadth and standard of submissions were incredibly impressive. We were particularly pleased to receive a large number of nominations in each of four categories. As a result, the committee had a difficult and challenging task in choosing the winners. Well done to the winning authors.’ On our website, find an extract from Susan Golombok’s book; we are discussing extracts/articles/interviews with the other winning authors.

A busy month for… Hugo Spiers

02/12/2016 14:12


Mind awards This year’s Mind Media Awards, which honour the best portrayals and reporting of mental health in the media, saw Professor Green, ITV and many journalists receive awards for their work. Among the many notable winners were My Baby, Psychosis and Me, which won the documentary award for its portrayal of two women who suffered from postpartum psychosis. Journalists were also honoured for their work in bringing mental health stories to the public eye; Michael Buchanan was presented with the award for journalist of the year for his collection of original stories for BBC News illustrating the significant problems at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. Stephen Manderson, better known as musician Professor Green, was awarded the Making a Difference award for his dedication to campaigning about men’s

mental health through his documentaries, music, autobiography and media work. Professor Green has committed to putting a spotlight on male suicide, his documentary Professor Green: Suicide and Me, also featured leader of the University of Glasgow’s Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab Professor Rory O’Connor. Green said: ‘I realised that the biggest part of the problem with the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, and in particular suicide, is that people don’t admit how they feel, they’re not honest about it so I just thought ‘spit it out’. I think the most important thing is that we raise awareness, and after awareness will come understanding.’ er To read our Editor Jon Sutton’s review of Professor Green’s documentary see: tinyurl.com/glen5ko For a review of My Baby, Psychosis and Me see tinyurl.com/gnoh6zj

‘There are so many ways to share research’

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A psychologist with a passion for spreading the word about research and the effects of ageing on the brain has been awarded the 2016 British Psychological Society Public Engagement and Media Award. Dr Gow (Heriot-Watt University) said he was lucky to be in a subject area that is as appealing to most people as psychology: ‘People are broadly interested in understanding themselves and others. When researching some of the big questions around mental health or wellbeing we really do have an audience ready to hear what we have to share, and discuss those issues too,’ he added. Among his many public and media engagement projects across the years one in particular stands out. Gow and colleague Sinead Rhodes developed the Research the Headlines blog (see tinyurl.com/ jp2dp8v), which both posts on new research but also teaches readers to think critically and be aware of how research can become skewed in mainstream media, or even before it reaches that stage. Later Rhodes and Gow secured funding from the British Academy to run the initiative Rewrite the Headlines. This series of workshops led by colleagues from the Young Academy of Scotland was held in universities for undergraduate students and in more than 90

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primary schools across Scotland. The workshops took students and pupils through examples of media reports of research, each highlighting the need to read beyond the headline. This project is also to be extended for older adults thanks to further British Academy funding. Gow has also held multiple talks speaking about his research area – the ageing brain and how thinking skills change over time, including at the annual BPS Psychology4Students event. In August 2015 he performed ‘The Great British Brain Off’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of Edinburgh Beltane’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, a show exploring the factors that might protect or harm the ageing brain. More recently Gow and colleagues have launched the What Keeps You Sharp? survey, a nationwide survey of people’s beliefs and understanding about how thinking skills might change with age, and whether they think there are lifestyle factors that influence those changes. The survey, Gow says, will reveal what people have understood from science communication around thinking and ageing and what remains unclear, and may help scientists better communicate messages in the future.

Gow encouraged any researcher or academic with an interest in public engagement to get involved. He suggested speaking to public engagement departments within universities for advice on the kinds of events and opportunities that are out there. He said: ‘People shouldn’t feel they have to do it in one form or another, there are so many ways to share one’s own research or talk more broadly about research in general. If people are starting out for the first time in public engagement I’d suggest they get involved with something that’s already established at first, such as a Festival or Fringe event organised by their public engagement colleagues, so they have a safe space to try it out for the first time before becoming more independent.’ Gow said people will find they are pushing against an open door if they start to look into public engagement. He added: ‘Some colleagues, who may not be interested so much in public speaking, might be great on social media so that’s their thing, or some of my colleagues are excellent writers so blogging becomes theirs. It’s about finding the right platform for you, but I really think there’s something for everyone.’ er

02/12/2016 14:12


the psychologist january 2017 news

Are empathic people more altruistic?

A pioneer in the understanding of human memory has been awarded the 2016 John Maddox Prize. Professor Elizabeth Loftus was awarded the prize for courage in promoting science and evidence on a matter of public interest, despite facing difficulty and hostility in doing so. Loftus, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, is recognised for her decades of research looking into false memory and has faced both personal attacks and attempts to undermine her professional status and research. She is perhaps best known for work on the misinformation effect, which demonstrates that the memories of eyewitnesses are altered after being exposed to incorrect information about an event. In addition to her research – Loftus, who also sits on The Psychologist’s International Panel – has appeared as an expert witness in numerous courtrooms, consulting or providing expert witness testimony for hundreds of cases. Her findings have altered the course of legal history, in showing that memory is not only unreliable, but also mutable. The John Maddox Prize, now in its fifth year, is a joint initiative of journal Nature, the Kohn Foundation, and the charity Sense about Science, and is awarded to one or two people a year. The late Sir John Maddox, was editor of Nature for 22 years and a founding trustee of Sense about Science. Previous winners of the award include Professor of Psychiatry Simon Wessely (2012) for his work in the field of ME (chronic fatigue syndrome); Professor David Nutt (2013); and, in 2014 Emily Willingham, a US writer who brought discussion about evidence, from school shootings to home birth, to large audiences through her writing. er To read our 2012 interview with Professor Loftus see tinyurl.com/znbptju

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There’s been surprisingly little research to test whether measuring someone’s empathy levels in a questionnaire actually predicts the likelihood they will show real-life altruism. That’s what Richard Bethlehem and his colleagues have done for a new study in Social Neuroscience, in which they staged a bicycle accident along a university footpath. The results provide some of the first evidence that empathy is correlated with altruism ‘in the wild’. Like secret agents on a surveillance mission, the researchers placed observers in two discreet positions opposite and after the staged bike accident scene (in which the cyclist was sitting on the ground, wincing and rubbing his ankle). The first observer took notes on all passersby approaching the crash, and signalled to the second observer, positioned in a concealed location after the crash, whether the next person to pass the scene was physically unimpaired and on their own, making them eligible for the study. The second observer then noted if an eligible passerby helped the cyclist or not (if approached, the cyclist said he was fine and just resting) and, either way, she approached and asked this person to take part in a memory study – this was to conceal the true aims of the research. If they agreed, they became a study participant, and the observer then asked this person questions about memorable features of

their journey, and took an email address for sending questionnaires to tap empathy levels and more. Of the 1067 eligible people, 55 subsequently agreed to talk to the second observer and take part in the study. Of these, 29 per cent had stopped to help the cyclist (compared with just 7 per cent of the entire sample of 1067). Analysis of the participants’ later questionnaire scores showed that empathy scores were correlated with real-life altruism – that is, the good Samaritans scored much higher on empathy than the nonhelpers (average score 56/80, versus 20/80). This study stands out because it was conducted outside of the psych lab. ‘These types of real-life settings have become extremely scarce,’ the researchers said. The findings suggest that most people do not stop to help a stranger, and that among the factors affecting our willingness to help – including the culture we are raised in, and how rushed we feel – our empathy levels remain an important influence. Christian Jarrett for the Research Digest www.bps.org.uk/digest

02/12/2016 14:12


Liminality, love and the stuff of life

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Jon Sutton reports from the British Psychological Society’s Psychology4Students event in Sheffield. Liminality, said Dr Vincent Deary in the first talk of the day, can be described as a state of ‘no longer/ not yet’. It’s a space in our lives where the old self-narrative does not fit any longer, and the new narrative has not yet emerged. Liminality may arise from life transitions, challenging our sense of who we are. Such transitions bring people into therapy. They can also provide conditions for transformation and growth. I was struck by how Deary’s descriptions could be applied to the patients in his NHS Fatigue Clinic, to the assembled audience of sixth-formers, and – as the day unfolded – perhaps even to the discipline of psychology itself. Before Deary, BPS President Professor Peter Kinderman had drawn on his excellent blog [tinyurl. com/jtebdmf] to argue that ‘the separation of falsehood from truth is very important for our society’, perhaps more now than ever. ‘We have our own distinctive responsibilities in helping analyse and understand these collective social hiccups.’ This is the stuff of life, he said: psychology is quintessentially a subject about us. Back to Deary, who showed what happens when our own ‘hiccups’ really take hold. The people he sees have been bounced from pillar to post, in a system not too kind to those experiencing profound physical and emotional exhaustion: ‘the kind of tiredness which is just your body saying “enough”’. Deary draws on elements of ‘story’ to make sense of what has happened to such people – narratives of restitution, quest, chaos. Borrowing an analogy from sound engineering, Deary spoke of ‘corner cases’ and ‘edge cases’: ‘A meltdown isn’t when one thing goes wrong, it’s

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when 12 things go wrong.’ What helped Anne, Deary’s 20-year-old case study? Reevaluation, seeking closeness/help from those she had until now devoted her life to helping, allowing herself some pleasure/comfort. Anne’s employers hadn’t helped: ‘She was just a broken fuse in the company system, they wanted to know when they could replace it.’ Interestingly, Deary had described Anne as a ‘stoic coper’, but now said her anger was useful: ‘I think we underrate anger.’ And such anger is certainly understandable. We live, argued Deary, in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Resilience training is everywhere, but, as Deary pointed out, this idea that you need armour for modern life is basically an admission that it’s war. We need to understand the lives of the ‘Precariat’, and Deary clearly feels that ‘as psychologists we can be too quick to place the locus of the issue in the individual’. Case studies and stories also featured in the next talk, from Caroline Vermes, a counselling psychologist in training who also manages a not-for-profit psychology enterprise. Vermes is an art history graduate, and says that the subject has enriched her life, work and thinking enormously. Volunteering at an eating disorders charity in the US (a seed perhaps sown by a childhood friend with bulimia) paved the way for her own quest, to help people who want to make changes in their life. Vermes told different versions of a ‘riches to rags’ moral tale, to illustrate the circumstances that surround a person’s ability to make change, or not. A lump of gold became creative potential, and the quest turned towards self-acceptance in work and relationships. To the client Vermes described, her value lay in her ability to control – appearance, weight, diet. She was able to tell Vermes that her relationship with her dad was marked by angry standoffs… through four sessions with the pair of them, the dad came to express admiration and

respect, and this had a huge impact on Vermes’ client’s self-acceptance. Make the most of your lump of gold, Vermes advised, and cherish the ways you do not fit. If you have an idea where you’re going, you will find a way. Solutions Professor Rebecca Lawthom, a community psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, had a slightly different take on this. Yes, people often have the solution to their own problems, but often they just haven’t got the resources to enact those solutions. The community might be their lump of gold. ‘The time is right’ for community psychology, Lawthom argued: ‘Inequality hurts.’ This isn’t going to be easy, Lawthom cautioned the aspiring psychologists. ‘Working with humans is like trying to do chemistry with dirty test tubes. We’ve all got grime… let the messiness begin!’ Psychologists should be ‘nailing their flag to the mast’, she said, ‘saying we believe in justice, that it should be more fairly distributed’. This requires a focus on the micro, meso and macro systems we take for granted in order to understand and transform them. Central concepts are justice, stewardship, empowerment. Personally, I am totally on board with this, and we have featured a lot of community psychology in The Psychologist over the years (see https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/ festival-community-psychology). But here’s what I think is interesting. Has the discipline truly embraced such approaches? Are we in a liminal state, ‘no longer/not yet’? So much of course depends on the next generation of psychologists, and the signs are not encouraging. Throughout the day I mingled, and more than once heard comments along the lines of ‘There was, like, loads of words and that… it’s not really psychology though is it, it’s just talking and stuff.’ If such thoughts are at all representative, then that’s a great

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the psychologist january 2017 news

Dr Vincent Deary: We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world shame. Because as more than one speaker emphasised, the need for an approach to psychology that takes a practical approach to root causes of injustice, in natural settings, is obvious. ‘The work is doing,’ Lawthom said; ‘and then we reflect on that activity.’ Her projects with forced labour in the Chinese community, and disabled older people, were powerful examples. ‘The funder wanted us to look at work,’ she admitted. ‘The people wanted to talk about relationships. Family, connectedness.’ Uncertainty and imperfection I’m sure the next speaker, Dr Julian Boon (University of Leicester), won’t mind me describing him as rather more old school. Sure, relationships and the context are central to his thinking on offender profiling – ‘I tried like hell with the Blair government to make kindergarten education compulsory,’ he said, ‘an oasis where children from chaotic backgrounds can learn consistency.’ But really his environment is behind the eyes: ‘Welcome to my world,’ he warned, ‘the dark side of the personality.’ For more than 30 years, Boon’s approach to helping the police with their enquiries has been a mix of all the stereotypes: Sherlock Holmes/ Miss Marple/Father Brown/Poirot/ Cracker/Silence of the Lambs. Given how ‘hopelessly overwhelmed’ the police are, anything from a non-police side is ‘gold dust’ – but equally, ‘if

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someone is talking bullshit it’s not just useless, it’s worse than useless’. And to ensure you’re not talking bullshit, Boon says you must have a framework, and one that leads to testable hypotheses. Boon’s framework is one of psychological growth, and how it can be thwarted. Caringness, open lovingness, empathy, balance in relationships, respect, consistency, goal setting: all are determinants of growth, the building blocks of trust in relationships, and without them people build a protective wall. Also key is uncertainty: ‘Don’t seek it out, that’s psychopathic; don’t try to live without it, that’s sadism. Just learn to live with it.’ Also encouraging us to live with life’s grime and perfect imperfection was Dr Mark Coulson (Middlesex University), the day’s final speaker. Fresh from his work on TV’s Married at First Sight (yes, just how it sounds), he drew on decades of experimental evidence to show how to find the perfect partner (and keep them). Despite the abundance of red hearts on his PowerPoint, I wouldn’t say Coulson’s approach is the most romantic. Treat pair bonding like choosing a jam, he suggests. More choice is not always good – if you’re holding out for that ‘Tinderbolt’ (neat) from the blue, that ‘soulmate’, you’re likely to have a long wait. Don’t expect perfection; try out a few varieties to get a feel for things; work out

what you like; identify criteria that matter; and then settle for whoever best satisfies all your criteria. If you’re not that attracted to them, don’t sweat it; the ‘mere exposure effect’ will kick in. Although talking of sweat, have a good sniff… the major histocompatibility complex, a collection of proteins created by genes that play an important role in immunity, may be key to attraction and long-term compatibility. ‘You cannot escape the fact that biology has a profound effect on everything we do,’ Coulson concluded. If that seems quite a contrast to some of the earlier talks, Coulson did leave the door open for wider influences. Forget opposites attract, similarity – pretty much however you measure it – is way more important. That can include values and interests, socio-economic group, approaches to everyday life. And once you’ve decided that ‘this is my jam’, testosterone and oestrogen may see you through ‘lust’; dopamine and serotonin through ‘romance’; oxytocin might help with the ‘commitment’. But if you’re not wary of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Communication Apocalypse’ – ignoring, contempt, criticism, defensiveness – then all the biology in the world won’t help you. In bigging up the biology, Coulson had said that psychology is ‘not just about people and cuddly ideas’. As the next generation of psychologists filtered out of the Mercure Hotel, I wondered what they thought psychology is about. I often wonder whether our discipline remains in a liminal state, in a space searching for a narrative that fits, at a time when transformation and growth are needed more than ever. Or perhaps it has always been so. As Professor Kinderman had said in his introduction, quoting Martin Luther King Jr’s 1967 address to the American Psychological Association – ‘There comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right.’

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We have an unfortunate tendency to assume we’re morally superior to others ‘How did our politics get so poisonous? We drank too much of the poison. There’s a gentle high to the condemnation. And you know you’re right, right? You know you’re right.’ – Stephen Colbert Wrapping up his coverage of the US election, CBS TV host Colbert touched on something that may hold true even beyond partisan politics: most of us seem to think we’re more moral than other people. Now a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science has provided fresh evidence supporting Colbert’s observation. Our tendency to see ourselves as better than average – already well-established in psychology in relation to things like driving ability and attractiveness – applies to our sense of our own morality, more strongly than it does to other aspects of ourselves. And the new research shows just how irrational this really is. There are some contexts where it makes sense to view your own qualities as unusual. The most obvious is when you can make a clear comparison, such as knowing your IQ is 140 and that the average is 100. The second, raised by study authors Ben Tappin and Ryan McKay, is when you know you are strong on a trait, with no reason to think that should be typical of others. If it strikes me one day that I have a peculiar strength – say that I’m far better at observing canine hunger than any other doggy state – it wouldn’t make sense to assume that everyone else has this peculiar skill too. But in other contexts, it’s irrational to assume that our own skills are unusual. Imagine I’m very kind and nurturing to kittens, much more so than I am to cockroaches. Without a Kitten-Kindness psych-test score proving I’m objectively superior, and knowing full well that most people have a fondness for softer, non-vermin animals, then to presume I’m special in this area would be irrational. It would make more sense to either drop my own self-rating, or award high ratings on this trait to everyone. This balancing-out is called social projection – if I do it, similar people probably do it as well. The question Tappin and McKay set out to test is whether we view our morality, as compared with other traits, more like kitten cuddling or dog perception; that is, whether we see our own moral virtues as special or if instead we socially project and assume others are like us. The researchers recruited 270 participants from an online portal and asked them to rate themselves and the average person on 30 traits, and to rate the desirability of each one. A third of the traits related to the domain of morality (e.g. honest, principled), a third sociability (warm, family oriented) and a third agency (hard-working, competent), and Tappin and McKay computed how similar each participant was to the rest of the sample on each of these domains. The more similar the participants rated

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New online: ‘Rats stop laughing when they are in dangerous situations. We humans should allow ourselves to stop laughing sometimes, too.’ – Professor Sophie Scott (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London) on President-Elect Trump and more, in ‘That joke isn’t funny anymore’. Also see ‘A time for much thought and new action?’ www.thepsychologist.org.uk

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themselves on these different domains then, if they were being logical about it, the more they should have socially projected and assumed that when they were high on a trait, the average person would be too. As a rule, the participants engaged in social projection, which helped them to rate others accurately. But in the morality domain, the participants should have socially projected much more than they did. Instead, their ratings were influenced by the desirability of the moral traits, meaning that participants rated particularly prized traits like trustworthiness as 6.1 for themselves, but only 4.3 for others. Traits like competence and warmth in the other domains were also highly prized, but people didn’t inflate their scores here in the same way. In short, we seem especially prone to seeing ourselves as morally superior. Sometimes mismatches between ratings of self and others have a rational basis, but not when it comes to our moral superiority, where we are led away from accuracy by our desire to be a certain way. The researchers point out that it’s particularly easy to make this kind of error when it comes to morality because we aren’t privy to other people’s motivations, yet routinely rationalise our own actions and lapses. Since the discovery of these kinds of ‘positivity illusions’, scholars have argued that they prop up our wellbeing, but in this dataset, these irrational enhancements of moral superiority were not associated with greater wellbeing or self-esteem. Perhaps we expect that feeling morally superior will give us peace of mind… but ultimately, it doesn’t deliver. Something to remind ourselves of in these trying political times. Alex Fradera, Research Digest: www.bps.org.uk/digest

CREST funding opportunity After successfully funding 10 projects last year, the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), led by Lancaster University, is seeking to fund innovative, forward-looking, economic, behavioural and social science research. Individual researchers and research teams are eligible to apply. Successful applicants will become part of CREST’s larger research programme, benefiting from resources for translating and

communicating evidence for impact. Applicants should propose work that addresses one of 15 topics, including behaviour change, information disclosure in online or virtual environments, and enhancing long-term memory for complex events. The funding is either for short projects, (up to six months), and long projects (no more than 12 months). er For more information see tinyurl.com/hg67bcm; deadline 31 January 2017

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the psychologist january 2017 news

A Professor of Child Mental Health has visited six continents in six weeks as part of a project to establish a model of helping children who have suffered trauma and adversity. Panos Vostanis (University of Leicester) has worked with NGOs, orphanages and other specialist centres developing a standardised approach that can be used with children who may have limited, or no, access to specialist trauma services. This new model has six levels: safety and child protection; nurturing environments; building resilience through schools and communities; applying principles of therapeutic approaches in schools and other group settings; traumafocused interventions adapted for children; and the use of limited mental health resources. During his tour of Greece, Turkey, Indonesia, Australia, the USA, Brazil, Kenya and Tanzania, Vostanis explained the model to NGOs and others who work with children who have experienced adversity and trauma It is only in relatively recent times, Vostanis said, that research has revealed that children can recall traumatic events. He added: ‘The differences between children and adults in processing trauma are developmental; the main difference is to work with children you have to work through adults, which includes the parents and other caregivers and professionals and communities.’ Vostanis, who has spent the majority of his career working as a child psychiatrist, said in every centre he visited psychologists were the largest group represented. He added: ‘It's not easy to contribute to these kinds of situations, but psychologists have a role in applying their interventions to more difficult environments and contexts.’ er

Influential neuroscientists Two UK psychologists, both members of the British Psychological Society, have appeared in a list of the top 10 most influential neuroscientists. We spoke to Professors Trevor Robbins (University of Cambridge) and Chris Frith (University College London). The citation analysis called Semantic Scholar (see www. semanticscholar.org) is an online tool built at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle, Washington. Oren Etzioni, CEO of AI2, claims that Semantic Scholar sees much more than the typical academic search engine. ‘We are using machine learning, natural language processing, and [machine] vision to begin to delve into the semantics,’ he told ScienceInsider (see tinyurl.com/ semschol). Professor Robbins ranked fourth; Professor Chris Frith was at number seven. Professors Karl Friston and Raymond Dolan, also University College London, have a more psychiatric background. Also in the top 10 were US-based professors of psychology Randy Buckner and Jonathan Cohen. Professor Frith (see also p.54) told us: ‘I would see this as recognition for me as a psychologist. The high

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citations all involve brain imaging, but they concern psychological topics, such as social cognition, empathy and working memory.’ Frith has said he ‘got into human functional brain imaging very early’, making it possible to ‘be first to do many of the obvious studies'. ‘One of the attractions of brain imaging for me was the number of disciplines required: physicists, anatomists, statisticians among others,’ he told us. ‘Psychology had a very important role from the start.’ He believes brain imaging has had such a large impact that ‘this is sometimes difficult to see. I remember when clinical neuropsychologists were asked to use their paper-andpencil tests to infer the location of a brain lesion. Meanwhile cognitive neuropsychologists were drawing box and arrow diagrams of the cognitive processes that were revealed by detailed behavioural studies of patients with lesions. We did not expect that within a few years we would be able to measure and localise activity in the brains of healthy volunteers. The paperand-pencil tests became scanning paradigms and the boxes and arrows could be localised. Using model-

based imaging we are now beginning to relate cognitive processes to neural mechanisms.’ Professor Robbins joked: ‘There must be a bug in their computer program!’ He then told us: ‘I was proud to be the highest ranked (i) Experimental Psychologist (ii) Behavioural Neuroscientist (the only one of the 10 working with animals) and (iii) a non cardcarrying Brain Imager (although I do collaborate in using these methods in some projects).’ He added: ‘I was also proud that the UK scored four out of the top 10 in view of our generally lower levels of infra-structural research funding (despite the great contribution of the Wellcome Trust in supporting my own research). Furthermore, all four of us include behaviour as a crucial variable in our research, showing the robust health of research on psychology in relation to the brain in the UK. Let’s hope it can continue.’ js Read more comments from Professors Robbins and Frith in the online version of this piece, and search our archive for full interviews with both.

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Organised by BPS Conferences BPS conferences are committed to ensuring value for money, careful budgeting and sustainability

Conference

Date

Venue

Website

Division of Occupational Psychology

4–6 Jan

Hilton, Liverpool

www.bps.org.uk/dop2017

Division of Clinical Psychology

18–20 Jan

Hilton Liverpool

www.bps.org.uk/dcp2017

Faculty for People with Intellectual Disabilities

29–31 March

Hilton Sheffield

www.bps.org.uk/fpid2017

Annual Conference

3–5 May

Hilton Brighton Metropole

www.bps.org.uk/ac2017

Division of Forensic Psychology

13–15 June

Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel

www.bps.org.uk/dfp2017

Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section

5–7 July

Aberystwyth University

www.bps.org.uk/qmip2017

Division of Counselling Psychology

7–8 July

Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon

www.bps.org.uk/dcop2017

Psychology of Women Section

12–14 July

Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel

www.bps.org.uk/dhp2017

Division of Health Psychology

6–8 Sept

Cumberland Lodge

www.bps.org.uk/pows2017

Developmental Psychology Section

13–15 Sept

Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon

www.bps.org.uk/dev2017

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02/12/2016 11:00


Call for Nominations President 2018-19

A nomination is sought for the election of a Member of the Society to fulfil the role of: • President 2018-19, who will be President-Elect in 2017-18 and Vice-President in 2019-20 The Presidency is the highest office within the Society. The role includes representing the Society at national and international functions, and acting as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Descriptions of the role and responsibilities, together with requirements and time commitments, are available on request. Procedure A nomination pack, which includes further information and a standard nomination form, is available from the

Chief Executive’s office (e-mail: ceo@bps.org.uk). The Board of Trustees has the responsibility to ensure that there is a candidate for this position. In line with previous practice, a Search Committee has been set up to facilitate this process. Those proposing candidates should, in the first instance, contact the Honorary General Secretary, Dr Carole Allan (e-mail: carole.allan@bps.org.uk) for guidance. Nominations must reach the Chief Executive’s Office at the Society’s Leicester office by 5pm on Friday 27 January 2017. Nominations will only be valid if the standard nomination form, including signatures, is fully completed. If contested, these positions will be decided by membership ballot prior to the Annual General Meeting 2017.

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10/11/2016 10:24

Call for Nominations Members of the Society are invited to submit nominations for the following positions on the Society’s main Boards to serve from the Annual General Meeting 2017 PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE BOARD One Ordinary Member (two-year term); One Ordinary Member (one-year term) EDUCATION & PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT BOARD One Ordinary Member (one-year term) NOMINATIONS To ensure validity of nomination, you should use the standard nomination form, which gives details of the information and signatories required. For nomination forms and further information please contact the Chief Executive’s office: ceo@bps.org.uk. Nominations should reach the Chief Executive’s office by Friday 20 January 2017. VOTING For each vacancy, if more than the appropriate number of nominations are received, a membership ballot will be carried out immediately prior to the Annual General Meeting 2017.

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09/11/2016 16:34

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the psychologist january 2017 rated

The predictive power of attachment Elizabeth Meins with the first in a new series, where psychologists choose the concepts they feel are overrated or underrated

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ow more than ever, the critical importance of parent–child attachment is being emphasised. The Department for Health explicitly aims to promote secure attachment through the health visiting service and its Healthy Child Programme. Andrea Leadsom’s prime ministerial campaign raised the profile of attachment even further, so much so that she was criticised for ‘going on about attachment theory’ in the leadership hustings. The emphasis arises because of a belief that secure attachment predicts ‘successful’ development in the child. Public Health England’s posters launched earlier this year tell us that ‘a loving, secure and reliable relationship with a parent or carer’ is important in areas ranging from ‘emotional wellbeing’ to ‘brain development’. And this optimal development isn’t merely short-term – we’re told that being securely attached as a baby helps ensure that you’ll form secure attachment relationships decades later when you come to have children of your own. In contrast, insecure attachment is believed to put the child on course for no end of trouble: physical ill health, delinquency, mental illness, substance abuse, poor job prospects, criminality. Graham Allen MP’s 2011 reports calling for early intervention even claimed that early insecure attachment was linked to more risky driving behaviours. You would think that these outlandish claims would sound the alarm bells and lead people to look up the research papers

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to check the facts. What possible theoretical grounds would lead you to hypothesise that being insecurely attached as a toddler would lead to all of this bad stuff? But claims about the predictive power of attachment appear to have the ability to short-circuit people’s basic common sense, let alone their desire for critical evaluation. The fact is that there’s no strong evidence for parent–child attachment in infancy predicting anything much about children’s later development. Indeed, Booth-LaForce and Roisman’s definitive 2014 study showed that early attachment doesn’t even predict attachment later in development, let alone all of these other things. There is good evidence that how a parent feels as an adult about their childhood attachment experiences relates to the security of the attachment relationship they have with their own child, but this is very different from the kind of attachment you yourself had as a toddler predicting the kind of attachment you’ll have with your future child. So the belief that making all toddlers securely attached will have knock-on positive effects for future generations is patently incorrect. The highly complicated and potentially confusing nature of attachment research is one likely reason for this misplaced conviction that early parent–child attachment is critical for children’s later development. In the 1960s and 1970s, Mary Ainsworth and colleagues devised the strange situation procedure for classifying toddlers into different attachment categories on the basis of how they respond to reunion with the parent after short periods of separation. Toddlers’ attachment to the parent is classified as either secure or insecure, with insecure

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predicted fewer externalising behaviours. Promoting attachment being divided into three different types: secure attachment in order to ensure children’s insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant, and insecure‘emotional wellbeing’ therefore appears to be based on disorganised. oversimplification and misinterpretation of the evidence. Unfortunately, people still seem to confuse insecure It’s important to point out that attachment is a quality attachment with lack of attachment. Clearly, having of close relationships rather than an individual trait. no attachment to anyone is likely to have a negative We talk about securely attached children, but what we impact on children’s development. But we’ve known for mean is that the child was classified as securely attached decades that children fail to form any attachment only when observed responding to that particular parent under the most extreme conditions of social isolation or caregiver. The fact that attachment is a quality of and deprivation. The landmark meta-analysis by van relationships is illustrated by the finding that the same IJzendoorn and colleagues reported the percentages of toddler may be given different attachment classifications children in the four attachment categories for multiple in relation to each parent. Surprisingly, we know nothing circumstances – maltreatment, maternal mental illness, about how the various different maternal substance abuse – and attachment relationships that in none of these categories were “Insecure attachment children form act in concert to children classified as having no shape their development. attachment. is being pathologised Complicating matters yet further, Individual studies often combine and vilified” attachment is measured in many the three insecure classifications different ways. Although people tend into a single insecure group in to associate attachment with parentstatistical analyses to combat child relationships early in the child’s life, attachment problems associated with low numbers in the individual can be assessed throughout the lifespan. Many studies insecure groups, but it is important to underline measure attachment in adolescents or adults, and these how fundamentally different children in the insecure assessments often focus on attachment relationships groups are from one another. Treating ‘insecurely with friends and romantic partners, rather than those attached’ children as a homogeneous group is therefore with parents. Scientific papers have reported concurrent problematic. relations between attachment security in adolescence or This fact is highlighted when you come to evaluate adulthood and things like physical health, delinquency, claims for insecure attachment predicting non-optimal poor job prospects and criminality, which have been development in the future. High-profile meta-analyses misinterpreted as early parent-child attachment in the last few years have investigated how early predicting all of these outcomes later in development. attachment security relates to behaviour problems in Laying so much emphasis on attachment isn’t helping later childhood. The results of these meta-analyses are anyone. Telling parents that secure attachment in the first interpreted as insecure attachment predicting higher two years of life is critically important for their children’s levels of both internalising (social withdrawal, anxious future development is likely to give many parents cause and depressive symptoms) and externalising (conduct for concern. What if you suffered from mental illness problems and hyperactivity) behaviours. after your baby was born or if your baby was severely ill But on closer inspection, the findings are much or in need of special care in the first months and years of less clear cut. Avoidant attachment was the only their life? Parents are unnecessarily being made to worry form of insecure attachment that was associated with that they’ve scuppered their children’s chances before higher levels of internalising behaviours (but the small they’re even out of nappies. effect was only for social withdrawal and not anxiety Insecure attachment is being pathologised and or depression), whereas it was only disorganised vilified. It is not abnormal – at least 39 per cent of us are attachment that predicted higher levels of externalising insecurely attached. Different types of attachment simply behaviours. Looking closer still at this last association, reflect the kind of individual differences you’d expect to there were fascinating gender differences. For girls, see in any aspect of children’s early development. People being classified as insecure-disorganised actually are perfectly happy with variation in toddlers’ height, weight and ability to walk and talk, but don’t want variation in attachment relationships. Secure attachment is wrongly being set up as a benchmark for all toddlers to attain. Why do we need to talk about attachment? The focus should be on equipping parents with evidencebased information on babies’ development and how best to interact and play with their children as they grow and develop. It seems madness only to want to do this if it means that babies will become securely attached. Surely supporting people to be the most effective parents possible is a good enough end in itself.

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the psychologist january 2017 rated

Resilience

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he attachment literature also provides a nice example of the factor I feel is underrated: resilience. In his 1992 Emmanuel Miller Memorial Lecture, Peter Fonagy succinctly defined resilience as ‘normal development under difficult conditions’. A great deal of research has focused on resilience in response to child maltreatment. Van IJzendoorn and colleagues’ meta-analysis reported that 48 per cent of children who were identified as having been maltreated were classified as insecure-disorganised, compared with 15 per cent of children from regular middle-class families. These findings are generally interpreted as abusive parenting causing children to form a disorganised attachment relationship. But while the incidence of disorganisation in children who have been maltreated is clearly elevated, the inescapable fact is that the majority of these children are not classified as disorganised. And what about the 15 per cent of children growing up in seemingly optimal conditions who are classified as insecure-disorganised? Some children are resilient against non-optimal experiences with their parents, whereas others do not form an organised pattern of attachment despite being exposed to no obvious risk. In fact, in regular middleclass families, insecure-disorganised attachment is just

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as common as insecure-avoidant attachment and more common than insecure-resistant attachment. It therefore shouldn’t be treated as abnormal and a marker of parental maltreatment. Cicchetti in 1989 and Rutter in 1990 made theoretical advances in understanding resilience, highlighting its complexity and dynamic nature. Resilience shouldn’t be viewed as an individual trait; rather, it embodies a process involving multiple systems – child attributes, family functioning, social relationships, the broader environmental context – at particular points in time. But perhaps acknowledging this complexity served to put people off. A decade later, Luthar, Cicchetti and Becker wrote a review in which they discussed and attempted to counter major concerns that had been raised about the construct of resilience: little consensus about definitions and terminology, substantial variation in operationalisation and measurement, confusion over whether resilience is a personal trait or a dynamic process and an overreliance on empirically-driven studies rather than theorydriven, hypothesis-based research. These concerns led to proposals that resilience wasn’t useful for understanding development or for informing interventions and should therefore be consigned to the scrapheap.

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It’s interesting to consider these criticisms with reference to attachment. As discussed above, there is confusion between lack of attachment and insecure attachment, and the heterogeneity in insecure attachment is often ignored. This seems to fit with the problems relating to definitions and terminology. There is also substantial variation in the operationalisation and genetic factors influence development in indirect ways. measurement of attachment – there are observation, For example, particular genotypes make individuals interview and self-report methods, assessing attachment better or worse at dealing with environmental stress, to parents and caregivers or to friends and romantic which in turn relates to their mental health. Other partners. The dynamic nature of attachment and the fact that it is assesses the quality of relationships is frequently genotypes act via environmental circumstances such as parenting – the child’s genetically specified characteristics ignored in favour of a tendency to see attachment as an may trigger maltreatment in the individual trait. Finally, many of the parent. Resilience in this case is studies on attachment, particular “The more we learn characterised not as adapting to those involving adults, are not grounded in theory. When relations about genetic markers of difficult circumstances, but as having the predisposition that enables these with attachment are observed, they resilience and vulnerability, circumstances to be avoided in the are therefore difficult to explain – the more it becomes first place. Research in epigenetics why should attachment predict your has emphasised the importance health or job prospects or driving obvious that predicting of the regulation of gene activity ability? What are the developmental children’s development is over the underlying makeup of mechanisms underlying these fantastically difficult” the genotype – if environmental relations? For some reason, people circumstances mean that the gene like to believe the attachment story is never expressed, risks associated and so it has achieved a degree of with particular genotypes will be irrelevant to the immunity to these concerns. individual’s development. Under these conditions, Thankfully, the burgeoning interest in genetic and the environment itself conveys resilience. neurobiological mechanisms shaping development The more we learn about genetic markers of means that the concept of resilience has survived. resilience and vulnerability, the more it becomes obvious Research in this millennium has shed light on that predicting children’s development is fantastically the complex interaction between our genes and difficult. Perhaps this is why resilience has not caught the environment in determining resilience and the public’s imagination in the way that attachment vulnerability. Caspi and colleagues reported the first has. Simple causal relations are attractive because they gene–environment interactions in relation to maltreated are easy to grasp. Understanding the idea that secure children’s psychological development. Variations in the attachment leads to successful development, whereas monoamine oxidase-A (MAOA) insecure attachment leads to unsuccessful development, gene were found to interact with isn’t challenging in any way. Getting your head around maltreatment in determining the complex web of developmental pathways highlighted antisocial behaviour disorders. Elizabeth Having a particular MAOA genotype by the resilience literature is considerably more difficult. Meins But the fact that development is determined by made children at an increased risk is Professor of many different factors acting in concert with one of having antisocial behaviour Psychology at another doesn’t excuse giving parents and practitioners disorders if they were maltreated. the University incorrect information about what’s essential for These findings therefore qualify the of York. children’s development. Surely people need to know that assumption that maltreatment plays development is a dynamic process in which there is a a direct causal role in antisocial Sources in online or app version. great deal of instability and change, only some of which behaviour disorders. relates to how children are parented? This is a much Behavioural genetics research elizabeth.meins@york.ac.uk more optimistic view than seeing future development has also highlighted how certain having its course set by the security of the parent–child attachment relationship in toddlerhood.

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What do you think is overrated/underrated in psychology? If you are interested in writing a piece, or simply suggesting a topic, get in touch with the editor on jon.sutton@bps.org.uk

02/12/2016 11:02


the psychologist january 2017 rated

New and Forthcoming Titles from Guilford Press

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DBT® Principles in Action Acceptance, Change, and Dialectics By Charles R. Swenson 2016 Hardback: 9781462526727 | £30.99

Psychological Interventions for Children with Sensory Dysregulation By Ruth Goldfinger Golomb, Suzanne Mouton-Odum 2016 Hardback: 9781462527021 | £20.99

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2017 Hardback: 9781462528455 | £30.99

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Order Online: www.GuilfordPress.co.uk Guilford Press publishes professional, academic, and trade titles in mental health, education, geography, and the social and behavioral sciences. Guilford Press is distributed in the UK and Europe by Routledge (part of the Taylor & Francis Group) www.guilfordpress.co.uk To order in other countries, visit www.guilford.com. Most Guilford Press titles are available as e-books direct from the publisher at www.guilford.com/ebooks or from major e-book vendors.

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21/11/2016 10:17

02/12/2016 11:02


Psychology in the Pub

Plymouth

Spiritual listening to children and young people Professor Irvine Gersch Thursday 19 January 2017

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For more information or to notify us that you will be attending visit www.bps.org.uk/southwest

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02/12/2016 14:15 02/12/2016 15:29


The British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference

3–5 May, Hilton Brighton Metropole Programme now available online Call for Stewards Free conference attendance for all three days (travel and accommodation not included). For more information on how to apply, email annualconference@bps.org.uk before 9 February. Early bird rates apply until 1 March and postgraduate bursaries are available. Visit our website for key dates, to register and for conference updates.

Credit: Suzanne O’Leary, littlebeachboutique.com

www.bps.org.uk/ac2017

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Ana Louis/destroymodernart.com

Seeing others in distress will make us feel for them – and may even motivate some of us to help reduce their suffering. But recent psychological research suggests this is not always the case.

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the psychologist january 2017 empathy

The limits of empathy Diana Kwon on when walking in another’s shoes is not enough

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napshots of the horrifying aftermath of terrorist attacks, refugees fleeing their war-torn homes, and families mourning a victim of police brutality can be gut-wrenching. Many people consider this ability to understand and feel what others are feeling, or empathy, as a primary source of morality and the glue that holds societies together. President Barack Obama has described empathy as the ‘heart of my moral code’ and has suggested that an empathy deficit is at the heart of many of our society’s problems. Empathy is a key component in our relationships, and in many situations, it does motivate people to help others in need. However, this is not always the case. Recent psychological studies suggest that empathy is not quite the societal cure-all we often believe it to be. While it can help promote cooperation and motivate prosocial behaviour, in some cases, empathy can actually deepen divisions been groups and inspire aggression against others. A force for good? Most people see empathy as a good thing. Thinking about the absence of empathy conjures up an image of a cold-blooded killer or ruthless con-artist with no regard for other’s emotions or wellbeing. And indeed, a long line of studies has shown that empathy can evoke prosocial behaviour. Some of the earliest experiments were conducted in the 90s by the social psychologist C. Daniel Batson, one of the leaders of empathy research, and his colleagues. In one study, they asked participants to imagine how a person from a stigmatised group – such as a person with AIDS, a homeless man, and even a convicted murderer – was feeling, finding that this experimental manipulation could improve attitudes towards such individuals. Other groups have also shown that feeling empathy can help reduce the will to harm others and improve intergroup relations. ‘Considerable evidence supports the idea that empathic concern motivates helping directed toward reducing the empathy-inducing need,’ says Batson. In fact, he points out, many novels were written with the goal of inducing concern for outgroup members

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by putting the reader in their shoes. ‘Often what [the writers] are trying to do is create this caring for, this valuing of the other’s welfare to induce concern,’ says Batson. ‘The reader knows this is a fictitious character, but those feelings can then generalise [to others].’ One notable example he points to is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a widely-read abolitionist novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in 1852. ‘[This book] is probably considered to be the work of fiction written in English that has had more impact in changing public policy than any other,’ Batson told me. Stowe’s highly influential book helped raise awareness about the harms of slavery, and some historians have even argued that it acted as a catalyst for the Civil War that came less than a decade later. In the same way, contemporary artists use various forms of media to cultivate awareness and concern for mistreated groups of people. For example, the popular television show Orange is the New Black allows viewers to delve deeply into the lives of trans, homosexual and minority inmates while shedding light on the real issues facing these groups in the American criminal justice system. While empathy can be a strong motivator for morally good or altruistic behaviour, its influence can also go in the opposite direction. The notion that empathy is not always a force for good was recently popularised by psychologist Paul Bloom at Yale University, with widely discussed pieces in popular media outlets like the New Yorker and the Boston Review as well as a recent book, Against Empathy. Bloom’s central argument is that empathy, which he defines as ‘feeling what other people feel’, is not the best guide for making moral decisions. Bloom is not the first to take this stance on empathy. The philosopher Jesse Prinz made a similar argument in a 2011 essay, where he contends that empathy is not necessary for moral judgements. Even before them, famous thinkers like Immanuel Kant argued more generally that when it comes to making moral decisions, rational considerations trump emotional reactions. Recent evidence supports this notion. In certain conditions, rather than motivating prosocial behaviour, empathy fosters hostility and aggression. In one 2014 study, psychologists at the University of Buffalo led by Anneke Buffone found that when participants felt

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Rethinking disorders of empathy Society often stereotypes people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome as antisocial, unemotional and lacking in empathy. The scientific evidence, however, reveals that while people with autism may have difficulties with cognitive empathy (understanding what another person is feeling), their emotional empathy (the ability to feel what another feels) is intact. A growing body of research suggests that the reduced ability to empathise in some individuals with autism is actually due to alexithymia, a separate condition that impairs emotional processing. Alexithymia is present in around 10 per cent of the general population and approximately half the people with autism. One 2011 study, for example, led by psychologist Geoffrey Bird at King’s College London, revealed that gaze avoidance – the tendency to spend less time scanning parts of the face that display emotion, such as the mouth and eyes – was a feature of alexithymia rather than autism. In another recent study a group of neuroscientists in Italy and Austria found that participants with autism displayed similar empathic responses to moral dilemmas as those without the condition. In fact, those with autism displayed stronger emotional distress when faced with a utilitarian dilemma (sacrificing one to save many) and were less likely to endorse options that that caused direct harm to another person. People with psychopathy are also often defined as being callous and without empathy. Popular depictions of psychopaths include serial killers like Ted Bundy or the fictional Hannibal Lector. In recent years psychologists have started investigating the question of whether individuals with psychopathy lack the ability to understand and feel what others are feeling completely or are just less likely to do so in certain situations. Evidence suggests the latter – recent neuroimaging studies show that while individuals with higher levels of psychopathy are less perturbed by emotional stimuli, when primed to attend to emotional cues, the differences between psychopaths and non-psychopaths largely disappear. In one 2013 Brain study, for example, Christian Keyser’s group at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found significantly less neural activity in participants with psychopathy who passively viewed videos of emotional hand interactions compared to non-psychopathic subjects. However, when the experimenters asked them empathise with the actors in the clips, these differences are significantly reduced. Psychopaths make up a disproportionate amount of the incarcerated population. Understanding the neurobiological origins of psychopaths may help rehabilitate offenders and create early prevention systems. If psychopathy is the result of the reduced propensity rather than the lack of ability to empathise, training these individuals to attend to emotional stimuli may prevent antisocial behaviour later in life. 30

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empathy for someone in distress, they were more willing to inflict pain on that person’s competitor in a math test – a relatively non-threatening environment – even when the competitor posed no direct threat. ‘People are punishing emotionally rather than to restore the victim,’ Mina Cikara, a psychologist investigating intergroup neuroscience at Harvard University, told me. So does empathy make us do good or bad? Some studies suggest neither. One meta-analysis of empathy and aggression studies, led by psychologist David Vachon at the University of Minnesota, revealed that there is virtually no relationship between having low empathy and being malicious across various types of aggression, including verbal, physical and sexual attacks. ‘It turns out that if I want to know how likely you are to help people or give to charity or be a good person, knowing how empathic you are will tell me very little,’ says Bloom. Even stories, which are powerful methods to induce empathy for oppressed or mistreated groups, are not always used for good. This is evident in political rhetoric, where politicians like Donald Trump use empathy to manipulate. Trump harnesses the strong emotional responses evoked by drawing attention to victims of terrorist attacks in Western countries to encourage people to support anti-immigration policies and turn away refugees. ‘Donald Trump talks a lot about people who are assaulted by illegal immigrants, raped or murdered,’ Bloom says. ‘I wish to some extent that the population could become more immunised against that sort of emotional appeal.’ Friends and foes Empathy’s limitations become most apparent in the context of conflict and competition. Empathy is biased – we are more likely to empathise with those who are from similar social, racial and political circles. Engendering a strong empathic response for atrocities towards ingroups is a potent tool to mobilise people to a cause. ‘Empathy has been historically used as a major tool to spur people to war,’ says Bloom. In competitive situations, rather than feeling sadness or distress at the sight of a suffering outgroup member, people tend to feel pleasure at another’s pain, or schadenfreude, and will not feel motivated to aid them. There are even separate neural circuits that determine how we react to another group’s suffering. One 2010 study led by psychologist Grit Hein, who was then at the University of Zurich, found that distinct neural responses in brain areas associated with empathy predicted whether football fans were willing to endure pain to help supporters of the same team or fans of a rival team. According to Cikara, it is not simply the dangers of low empathy towards outgroups, but the risk of extreme empathy for ingroups that can lead people to take extreme measures, such as sacrificing themselves and hurting others in the process. ‘This is interesting because it suggests something counterintuitive, which is that […] maybe one way of attenuating bias between groups is

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Ana Louis/destroymodernart.com

the psychologist january 2017 empathy

actually to get people to be a little bit less responsive to ingroup suffering,’ Cikara told me. Recent investigations by Cikara and her colleagues support the notion that intergroup conflicts could be mitigated by reducing the gap between empathy felt for one’s own group and those they are in conflict with. For example, they found that shifting people’s focus away from their group membership using short descriptions of the individuals in both groups successfully reduced this bias. Regulating empathy, cultivating compassion Empathy is a powerful tool, so how can we harness its power for good? Most of us think of empathy as an automatic, uncontrollable response to the pain and distress of those around us. Experimental evidence from infant and animal studies suggest that empathy is innate: babies will cry when they hear another baby crying and rats will help free a fellow rat trapped in a cage without training or the promise of a reward. Recent evidence, however, suggests that we can regulate how much empathy we feel. Jamil Zaki, a social

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psychologist at Stanford University, and his colleagues have found that when people believe empathy is under their control, they are more likely to empathise even in difficult situations, such as responding to someone with opposing sociological views or listening to emotional stories by someone from a racial outgroup. ‘It turns out that simply believing that empathy is something that you can change seems to get people to put more effort into empathising, especially in cases […] when empathy might not naturally help people do the right thing,’ Zaki told me. According to Zaki, people already regulate empathy all the time. Doctors, he says, may tune down their empathy to avoid burning out from feeling too much of their patients’ pain. Like other emotions, being able to tune our empathic responses in certain situations might help harness its potential benefits. Regulating emotions can help improve political attitudes in conflicts – one group of psychologists found that training Israelis in emotion regulation made them more likely to support conciliatory rather than aggressive strategies in IsraeliPalestinian policies. In a similar way, learning to control our empathic

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reactions may help improve intergroup relations. If you recognise a politician using emotionally manipulative stories, you might want to turn your empathy down. On the other hand, you would want to vamp it up in situations where you are faced with people from different At the very basic level, neuroscientists have found groups or backgrounds. that empathy stimulates shared representations in the Alternatively, psychologists like Bloom and Tania brain – participants activate the same neural areas in Singer, a neuroscientist at the Max Plank Institute for response to feeling pain and observing others in pain. Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, believe Social neuroscientists like Claus Lamm at the University in a different strategy altogether. Rather than working of Vienna have been using a variety of neuroimaging with empathy, they believe that cultivating compassion techniques such as functional MRI to study the – a more distanced form of care and concern for others’ underlying brain mechanisms of empathy. The classical wellbeing – is a more effective approach for studying this, according solution. to Lamm, is the pain paradigm, “if you’re going to get Singer and her colleagues have where researchers place participants been working on compassion in an MRI scanner and record their fairness or justice in the training techniques by drawing on activity as they receive painful society, empathy-induced neural the Buddhist practice of lovingshocks or observe others getting a altruism is not necessarily painful shock. kindness mediation, which involves quietly concentrating on extending In recent studies Lamm and the best way” caring feelings from loved ones to his colleagues have discovered strangers and eventually to all living that these activations can be beings. Studies reveal that compassion, unlike empathy, artificially manipulated. One functional MRI study does not suffer from the same type of limitations. It also revealed that giving participants placebo painkillers activates a completely different network of brains areas decreased activation in brain areas associated with and increases prosocial behaviour while improving pain and empathy for pain. Further, they found that emotional wellbeing. opioid-blockers could block the placebo’s reduction for both one’s own pain responses as well as the empathic response for another’s suffering. Finding empathy in the brain Studies have also shown that cognitive empathy, Psychologists define empathy in myriad ways, and some emotional empathy and compassion all activate unique see compassion as a component of empathy rather than networks in the brain, and that this activation predicts separate from it. ‘You can find almost as many definitions different behavioural outcomes. ‘What the neuroscientific of empathy as you can find people writing about investigation do is that they basically confirm what the empathy,’ says Cikara. social psychologists have suggested for quite some time Empathy is often described as a combination of three already,’ Lamm told me. factors: cognitive empathy (thinking about another’s emotions), emotional empathy (sharing another’s emotions) and motivational empathy (caring about A force for good and evil another’s emotions – or compassion). ‘Empathy is not Perhaps the best way to think about empathy is as an just one thing, but rather it’s an umbrella term that entity separate from morality. Batson himself suggested describes the different ways that people respond to each this in a 2009 article where he wrote: ‘Empathy-induced other’s emotions,’ Zaki explains. altruism is, we suggest, best thought of as neither moral Each of these, though closely connected, are actually nor immoral, but amoral.’ independent psychological and neurological processes. Empathy is a powerful force, capable of doing good In recent years, as researchers have started to probe the and harm. Some psychologists believe that humanity brain to better understand how empathy works at the would best thrive if we avoided it all together and relied neural level, studies are beginning to show how these instead on rational, reasoned thought. Other see a more three components can be teased apart in the brain. delicate balance – that both are necessary to make the world a better place. ‘What Paul’s saying is that if you’re going to get fairness or justice in the society, empathyinduced altruism is not necessarily the best way,’ says Batson. ‘My own bias is that reasoned moral thought Diana Kwon alone isn’t the best way either. The kind of change Paul’s is a science talking about takes the two working together.’ reporter. Full Overall, it is important to know when to empathise sources in online and to assess the motives of people who try to stir our or app version. emotions with a critical light. Learning to numb our reactions to stories some politicians tell may ultimately www.dianakwon.com help make our world a better place.

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the psychologist january 2017 empathy

Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference 2017 ‘The future is now’ Hilton Liverpool 18-20 January 2017 Last chance to book your conference experience Nimisha Patel, University of East London Rachel Calam, University of Manchester Peter Kinderman, University of Liverpool & BPS President Lisa Cameron, Clinical psychologist & forensic psychologist David Pilgrim, University of Liverpool Joe Powell, All Wales People First “ A fantastic high energy conference with up-to-theminute research and information, shared by people leading their field. Excellent networking opportunities, an answer and idea for every question.“ DCP Annual Conference 2015. To keep up with the latest conference information visit www.bps.org.uk/dcp2017 Follow the conference on Twitter #dcpconf

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The real deal Stephen Joseph calls for more research into the psychology of authenticity Has anyone ever given you the advice to ‘just be yourself’? Perhaps you were going for a job interview, or maybe you were about to meet a new date. Did you ponder what it actually means to be yourself?

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t’s a topic that appeals to common sense, but it is only over the past decade that authenticity has become a focus for research. In 2002, Susan Harter, one of the most eminent developmental social psychologists, commented that ‘there is no single, coherent body of literature on authentic self-behavior, no bedrock of knowledge’ (p.382). A decade later Harter described how this situation has begun to change, with new positive psychology research inspired by the early humanistic psychologists. Following a brief historical excursion into that area to set the scene, I will give an overview of some recent research, and finally consider future directions for this new and important area. How does authenticity develop? Authenticity has a long history as one of the core themes of humanistic psychology, but the terminology of these previous writers was somewhat different. Notably, back in 1943 Abraham Maslow described the state of ‘selfactualisation’. Self-actualised people were, for example, thought to be realistic in their perceptions, accepting of themselves and of other people, guided by inner goals and values, able to form deep relationships, not needing to seek other people’s approval, and they are well adjusted to culture but not immersed in it unthinkingly. Similarly, in the sixties Carl Rogers described the state of ‘fully functioning’. This involved movement: away from façades, from oughts, from meeting expectations, from pleasing others, and towards self-direction, openness to experience, acceptance of others and trusting oneself. Roger’s description of the fully functioning person was largely synonymous with Maslow’s description of the self-actualised person, but importantly both were describing states that they believed were the default settings for human beings, a universal urge. We were, in their view, hardwired to be authentic. The ideas find echoes in modern research: studies led by the University of Edinburgh’s Alison Lenton have found that people seem motivated to deliberately seek out experiences in which they feel authentic, and to avoid situations in which they feel inauthentic. Of course, how these self-actualised or fully functioning states are expressed in behaviours will vary from person to person depending on their idiosyncratic preferences, strengths and abilities. Look at Rogers’ list of the qualities of the fully functioning person.

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James Grover/www.jamesgrover.com

the psychologist january 2017 authenticity

For example, the authentic person is self-directing. For one person that could be to engage in scholarly work, another to be a musician, and for another to be a sportsperson. But whatever the route, Rogers posited that authenticity is the natural and normal direction for children’s development. However, the social environment can thwart these developmental tendencies. Richard Ryan and Ed Deci’s self-determination theory echoes the earlier ideas of the humanistic psychologists to also posit how controlling, chaotic, and restrictive social environments thwart the normal and natural developmental process. Research in the self-determination tradition (reviewed by myself and Terrence Patterson in 2007) has provided a wealth of evidence consistent with these earlier humanistic ideas. For example, in a 1993 study led by Deci, children aged 6 or 7 years were observed playing. In the room were children’s magazines, jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, and so on. But what the researchers were interested in

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was how parents interacted with the children. Watching from behind a one-way screen, they categorised controlling statements made by the parent into those that pressure the child to do something, distract the child’s attention from what they are doing, imply conditional worth, use words such as ‘should’ and so on (for example, ‘Good, that’s just what you should do’, ‘Don’t you think you should use smaller building blocks for that?’ or ‘You are a good boy for doing that’). The children had been watched beforehand when they were on their own to establish what they freely liked doing and what interested them the most. When parents were controlling, children spent less time on the things they freely liked doing – the things that they were intrinsically motivated to do. Thinking back to our own childhoods can sometimes give us a clue about own intrinsic motivations and can be a useful tool in counselling. What are your first memories as a child when you remember yourself feeling

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The problems of inauthenticity Humanistic psychologists are sometimes thought of as being somewhat ‘Pollyannaish’ with their talk of people actualising their potential, but it was not their claim. Rather, they recognised that this tendency in people would be thwarted when their basic needs were not met, and that degrees of inauthenticity were the norm. To illustrate, Rogers wrote in 1963 about a potato bin in the basement of the family farm where he grew up. It was here that the family stored their winter supply of potatoes. The bin was several feet below a small window. He noticed how, unlike the healthy green shoots that potatoes sprout when planted in the soil, the potatoes stored in the basement produced pale, white and unhealthy looking sprouts: ‘…these sad, spindly Key sources sprouts would grow 2 or 3 feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. The sprouts were, in their bizarre, Harter, S. (2002). Authenticity. In C.R. futile growth, a sort of desperate Snyder & S.J. Lopez (Eds.) Handbook of expression of the directional positive psychology (pp.382–394). New tendency … They would never York: Oxford University Press become plants, never mature, never Kernis, M.H. & Goldman, B.M. (2006). fulfil their real potential.’ A multicomponent conceptualisation Famously, Rogers wrote of how of authenticity. In M.P. Zanna (Ed.) he thought of these potatoes when Advances in experimental social he encountered people in the back psychology, Vol. 38. (pp.283–357). San wards of state hospitals in his job as Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press. a psychologist. His analogy focuses Lenton, A., Slabu, L. & Sedikides, C. our minds on what happens when (2016). State authenticity in everyday the sun doesn’t shine: does that life. European Journal of Personality, lead to wide individual differences 30(1), 64–82. in authenticity, and how would we Murphy, D., Joseph, S., Demetriou, know?. E. & Karimi Mofrad, P. (in press). As new interest in authenticity Unconditional positive self-regard, emerged in the mid 2000s, intrinsic aspirations and authenticity. researchers recognised that work Journal of Humanistic Psychology. in this area was hampered by a lack Pinto, D.G., Maltby, J., Wood, A.M. & of psychometric tools. Two such Day, L. (2012). A behavioural test of scales were introduced following Horney’s linkage between authenticity extensive factor analytic work to and aggression. Personality and investigate the earlier conceptions of Individual Differences, 52(1), 41–44. the humanistic psychologists. The Wood, A.M., Linley, P.A., Maltby, J. et 46-item Authenticity Inventory from al. (2008). The authentic personality. Kernis and Goldman (2006) was Journal of Counselling Psychology, 55, based largely on Rogers’ description 385–399. of the characteristics of the fully functioning person, measuring Full list available online four interrelated components:

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James Grover/www.jamesgrover.com

joy? What were you doing? The chances are you were using one of your natural strengths, talents or abilities to its full extent. There would have been sheer pleasure in the doing. Left to our own devices, as children we will do the things that come naturally to us. We will use our strengths, interests and abilities. Looking back on our lives in this way can give us insight into what our natural strengths, interests and abilities are.

(1) awareness (e.g. self-understanding), (2) unbiased processing (e.g. objective self-evaluation), (3) behaviour (e.g. congruence between one’s actions and needs), and (4) relational orientation (e.g. sincerity in relationship functioning with one’s intimates). Our own 12-item The Authenticity Scale (AS: Wood et al., 2008) was based on Rogers’ description of how authenticity involves congruence between the experience of inner emotional and cognitive states, awareness of those states, and the ability to be openly expressive of those states. It consists of three subscales: (1) Accepting external influence, (2) Self-alienation and (3) Authentic living. Since the development of these scales, new research has begun to emerge investigating the correlates of authenticity. For example, in 2014 Boyraz and colleagues collected information from college students on their authenticity, life satisfaction and levels of distress at two points in time separated by almost two months. They found that those who showed greater authenticity as measured by the AS at the first time point were more satisfied with life and less distressed at the second time point. In other studies, authenticity has also been found to be associated with grit (Vainio & Daukantaité, 2015), mindfulness (Lakey et al., 2008), decisiveness (White & Tracey, 2011), social engagement (Lenton et al., 2016), unconditional positive self-regard (Murphy et al., in press), perceptions of the balance of power in relationships (Kristin Neff & Marie-Anne Suizzo, 2006), and eudaimonic states of wellbeing (Smallenbroek et al., 2016). Other research has investigated the interaction of authenticity with other variables. In a 2015 paper, Bryan and colleagues showed that those who felt lonely were also more depressed and anxious, had more physical symptoms and more drink problems; but for those who felt lonely and who also scored highly on authenticity, their feelings of depression and anxiety, physical

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the psychologist january 2017 authenticity

symptoms and drink problems were not as intense. I got In a 2012 experimental interested in manipulation led by Diana Pinto using more sophisticated prospective authenticity at the University of Leicester, a and experimental designs. I hope during my study tested how people high that this article will inspire a new education in authenticity behave in social generation of psychologists to to become situations compared to people low pursue research in this challenging a personin authenticity. Participants were but important area of human centred therapist. Here was asked to engage in a computer task experience. We need developmental an approach that valued in the laboratory. All they had to do research into the antecedents of people for who they are rather was press a button in relation to a authenticity. What are the factors in than for what others thought message that appeared on the screen. a young person’s life that thwart the they should be. This was If they pressed a certain button development of their authenticity? different from everything I in the time allocated, they earned What problems in living does a lack had experienced in my own points that they could exchange for of authenticity lead to? How can life up to that point. For me, money. The twist was that they were we nurture authenticity anew and authenticity is ultimately about told that they were playing against maintain it in adult life? How stable self-knowledge and that is another person in an adjoining is authenticity over time and right always a work in progress. laboratory who could steal points across the lifespan? Is change gradual There is no once and for all from them. The task was designed or abrupt? pass mark. I strive to live to mirror real-life situations where We also need strong evidence according to the principles of people might sometimes take credit that authenticity is associated with the person-centred approach, for others’ hard work. However, the best of human experience, doing my best to be open participants were not actually not the worst - one of the major to learning and respectful playing against another person – criticisms of authenticity is that it of people’s right to selfthe idea being that by thinking that will lead to selfish behaviours, as one determination. someone else was stealing points would predict from a Freudian point from them, the participants would of view. For Sigmund Freud, humans feel cheated and be provoked to were lustful murderous savages if Stephen Joseph play the game aggressively. To test they followed their natural instincts, is a Professor of Psychology at for aggression, they were told that and it was only through civilisation the University of Nottingham, they could steal points from their that we learned to keep checks and a registered coaching opponent next door if they wished. balances on our destructive nature. psychologist, and author of the It was found that players who scored For humanistic psychologists, book Authentic: How to Be high on authenticity were actually however, human nature is seen as Yourself and Why It Matters. less likely to respond aggressively. essentially social and constructive, London. Piatkus Little Brown. They continued to do their best to with the recognition that authenticity Take his authenticity quiz at earn points for themselves rather involves a difficult process of always www.authenticityformula.com than turning their attention to striving for balance in the process getting their own back – they were of realising one’s own needs while less punitive towards others. It was people who scored living together with others in such a way that meets the low on authenticity who were more likely to behave needs of those relationships. We need hard data on this aggressively despite this being at some personal cost – by balance, for example are authentic people more altruistic, behaving aggressively, participants lost even more of their caring, emotionally intelligent and expressive? own points. I hope to have convinced you that authenticity is Turning to the practical implications, Yona Kifer’s the real deal: a topic with a rich theoretical history, now team at Tel Aviv University have used an experimental attracting the attention of contemporary psychologists. method in which a group was instructed to simply There is now a need for more rigorous research into recall and write about a situation in which they were the development of authenticity and what difference it authentic, while another group recalled an experience makes, and that research could come from across the of inauthenticity. The ‘authentic’ group were happier, discipline. For practitioners in clinical and counselling raising the tantalising prospect that it may be possible to psychology it may be that the promotion of authenticity induce happiness through authenticity. may have benefits for improved mental health and increased wellbeing. For educational and school psychologists there may be wider applications as we Invitation to research change the way we look at parenting, and the role of So results to date are promising. However, research into schools and universities. For business and coaching authenticity is in its infancy. Most studies have been psychologists, there may be new ideas about how to correlational and require replication and further scrutiny develop people at work.

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02/12/2016 11:07


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02/12/2016 11:09


Michael Warner/Warners (Midlands) PLC

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the psychologist january 2017 magazines

Why magazines matter As we relaunch, our journalist Ella Rhodes considers style and impact in the printed form

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e love magazines at The Psychologist. Although our roots and appearance may have been that of a strange hybrid of journal and magazine, at heart we are clear about our identity. Every now and then, our reader surveys will throw up a comment such as ‘Seems to be more of a magazine than anything’. We believe that’s a good thing, and that it’s time to remove any doubt. With this relaunch, we hope to become unapologetically ‘magazine’. We believe that magazines matter. But is this just a sentimental attachment to a dead format? We’ve put a lot of time and effort into our presence online and in other forms of media lately… is that (increasingly) where the real action is? Is print irrelevant to the first generation of ‘native’ digital readers? Or does the research, by psychologists and others, suggest that magazines retain concrete benefits – and even intangible, mysterious advantages? Left to our own devices Let’s get this out of the way: there are undoubted benefits to our various digital offerings. With our free apps (both The Psychologist and Research Digest), you can have dozens of issues and hundreds of the latest studies in your pocket, offline; you can search, share, jump off to other sources. With our Research Digest podcast you can catch up while you go for a run, or do

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the gardening. So why, whenever we ask the question of whether you would be happy to receive The Psychologist in digital form only, do we get a resounding ‘no’? Dr Nicola Yuill (University of Sussex) has recently completed research looking at the differences in child and parent interactions when reading a book or a tablet. She said reading, and the switch to digital reading we’re seeing, encompasses many psychological questions about attention, comprehension and memory. But interestingly, the way we physically act while reading print is radically different to reading on screen. Yuill and her team filmed interactions between children aged between seven and nine, being read to by their mothers and vice versa either using a hard copy of a book or reading on a tablet. She told us there was little difference between retention for the information read, but what was interesting was the posture adopted for reading the hard copy. ‘There were some interesting differences in warmth and engagement. When they’re reading the e-book children tend to be in a “vulture posture”, crouched down and hunched over the tablet, but reading a paper book they tend to be in more of a curled up posture. From a relationship and embodied point of view they’re quite distinct.’ Yuill thinks that screen reading should be seen as distinct from, rather than as an alternative to, print reading; especially while the former is still ‘finding its feet’ in terms of how the material is presented. She said: ‘I don’t think it’s an “either or”. What I’d like to see is more work on the design of electronic print. We’re at a difficult stage where there are lots of different platforms to read online – the technology is always changing. It’s a very plastic kind of technology. But the cultural meaning of the object is important: when developers try to make a digital offering the same as a paper one, they’re approaching it from the wrong direction. It’ll never be the same, because the device you’re using affects your approach to it.’ Matt Hayler (University of Birmingham) is an English Scholar who has worked closely with cognitive scientists, and a member of E-READ (Evolution of Reading in the Age of Digitisation), an interdisciplinary network that connects psychologists, philosophers, social scientists and humanities scholars to develop a model of what it means to read and what electronic reading might change. His work has looked into the ‘grammars’ or unconscious rules we all have when approaching objects. Hayler told me that e-reading just doesn’t feel ‘right’ to some because we are yet to develop a set of ‘grammars’ of how to approach it. ‘When we’re left without a standard way of approaching something we feel incredibly lost. For anyone who’s learnt how to drive a car that feeling is very

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familiar: the first time I sat in a car it didn’t feel like this piece of technology that would enable me to go places, it just felt like this terrifying thing. I had no standard model for how to interact with it, but you develop these standard models over time and they become the most natural thing in the world.’ I ask Hayler about Nicola Yuill’s view, that print and screen reading are very different experiences. Is it only a matter of time before new generations see the two as equivalent? He suggests that as a society we view print reading as a totemic experience of what it means to be intellectual. ‘We’re not trained how to digitally read in schools, we’re just trained how to read as if that’s the same thing. And by not being sensitive to both of the experiences we always think of electronic reading as an impoverished version of paper reading, rather than thinking electronic reading and paper reading are important and are totally different skills.’ Jenny Thomson, Reader in Language and Literacy at the University of Sheffield, whose work explores the neuroscience of learning difficulties in children and developmental dyslexia, thinks that adults often struggle to have a ‘flow’ experience while reading on screen, perhaps because our brains are just so used to reading in print. She does feel the ‘next generations’ will handle this better: ‘A lot of what children read is going to have lots of things trying to entice them to click here and click there, but I do think they will probably have a better time reading on screen and e-readers than we do.’ When living in Boston, Thomson worked with an astrophysicist at Harvard who had severe dyslexia. He told Thomson his reading ability was much better when reading on an iPhone screen. She carried out a study on high school students with dyslexia and found they could also comprehend quite extended texts, both fiction and non-fiction, when they presented them on a smartphone, compared to paper or even an iPad. ‘That small window

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the psychologist january 2017 magazines

More than information Others I speak to keep coming back to this physicality of magazines. Journalist Ferris Jabr, author of the excellent Scientific American Mind article ‘The reading brain in the digital age’ (tinyurl.com/kvdaqfp), thinks that magazines matter. He describes them as ‘chimeras’: ‘As physical objects, magazines are larger than the average paperback book, offering a generous canvas for words and images, which means more opportunities for visual of text really helped them, but for people who have landmarks that help people establish a sense of progress learned to read traditionally the idea of reading a novel in a text and remember where in the publication they on a smartphone induces pain!’ read something. Because they prioritise visual aesthetics Thomson does point to disadvantages of reading throughout their pages, not just on the covers, magazines online. ‘We’ve got these massively powerful companies create a highly sensory reading experience, which doing research essentially on how to get us to be improves memory. And because they are generally not distracted which results in commercial gain for them. regarded as permanent fixtures for Websites are designed to be the bookshelf – because we bend, multimedia and appealing but the fold, rip, clip them without much big online players in this world are “Because they prioritise concern – they encourage sharing working on how we can get you visual aesthetics and social reading.’ to move from thing to thing – our throughout their pages, Matt Hayler returns to that idea brains don’t stand a chance!’ of a set of ‘grammars’ – in the case of However, this constant not just on the covers, magazines, developed over decades. bombardment of ads and hyperlinks magazines create a ‘A magazine is something you can doesn’t seem to be a problem for highly sensory reading cut things out from, a magazine is everyone. Research has shown something you’re happy to leave on that those with a smaller memory experience, which a train or doctor’s office, you’ll use it capacity have a huge dip in their improves memory” as a coaster or fly swatter… there’s comprehension when reading a something very functional about a text packed full of hyperlinks, magazine’. But Hayler also points to but those with stronger memories another advantage, suggesting that magazines are both seem to have improved comprehension. Thomson said: playful and a serious arena in which to curate content ‘It almost makes them fight harder to create a kind of – something that is becoming increasingly important comprehension schema, and so they retain more. This in our information-heavy world. He added: ‘Magazines has massive implications for textbooks and the digital like Wired still have their print edition but when the design of these.’ entire internet is full of technology news there’s editorial So with benefits of digital reading – some obvious, principles, design principles, and you know you’re some less so – why are we so attached to print? getting the good stuff. This is so relieving and important According to Thomson, ‘it’s partly how we’re wired and in the face of a glut of information. It kind of gives people partly a generational thing. Whether this will change permission to say “if you only read this once a month over the generations I just don’t know… we associate that would be okay”.’ that physicality and even smell with really positive According to Professor Bruce Hood (University experiences and I think it can be hard to let that go. I wonder whether children will have the same nostalgia for of Bristol), what’s in a magazine is more than just information. The printed word has an ability to become digital… presumably they might, it just seems less of a a sentimental object as well as an owned object. Hood pleasurable physical experience.’

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the printed page is aided by what Ferris Jabr calls ‘more obvious topography than onscreen text. An open magazine presents a reader with two clearly defined domains – the left and right pages – and a total of eight corners with which to orient oneself. A reader can focus on a single page without losing sight of the whole text: one can see where the magazine begins and ends and where one page is in relation to those borders. One can even feel the thickness of the pages read in one hand and pages to be read in the other. Turning the pages of a magazine is like leaving one footprint after another on the trail – there’s a rhythm to it and a visible record of how far one has travelled. All these features not only make text in a magazine easily navigable, they also make it easier to form a coherent mental map of the text. In contrast, most screens, e-readers, smartphones and explains: ‘To become sentimental, an object must be tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text and authentic – a uniqueness that is increasingly important to many of us in this digital age of reproduction… Take a inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds.’ Jabr refers to the importance of ‘serendipity and a book… the closer it is to the author in reprint, the more sense of control’ in navigating the authentic and valued it is. The smell printed word, and points to research and touch of the printed word is not something that digital formats “Screen and print reading which suggests many readers skim through online text before printing can copy. When reading in print the are perhaps best viewed it out for more in-depth reading reader is required to engage with it as complementary, rather later. All of this brings us back to in a physical way that technology cannot easily emulate.’ than competing, entities. that depth of understanding, and research led by psychologist Kate But as you sit with the Garland suggests that print is the latest incarnation of winner here. Speaking to Maia Beneath and beyond Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist So, a magazine can be a ‘sentimental The Psychologist in your for TIME.com, Garland explained object’… can we do better than that, hands, we hope that you that when you recall something, and find more tangible benefits of will value it and engage in you either ‘know’ it and it just the printed word? ‘comes to you’ – without necessarily Psychologists Maryanne Wolf a way that you might not recalling the context and Mirit Barzillai have written with our digital offerings” consciously in which you learned it – or you that an immersion in reading that ‘remember’ it by cuing yourself is largely online ‘tends to reward about that context and then arriving certain cognitive skills, such as at the answer. ‘Knowing’ is better – you can recall the multitasking, and habituate the learner to immediate important facts quicker and with less effort. ‘What we information gathering and quick attention shifts, rather found was that people on paper started to “know” the than to deep reflection and original thought. The immediacy and volume of available information may well material more quickly over the passage of time. It took longer and [required] more repeated testing to get into delude new learners into thinking they have what they that knowing state [with the computer reading, but] need to know.’ When information seems so complete, eventually the people who did it on the computer caught they write, what motivation is there to go beneath and up with the people who [were reading] on paper.’ beyond it? ‘From a cognitive neuroscience perspective, the digital culture’s reinforcement of rapid attentional shifts and multiple sources of distraction can shortBest of both worlds circuit the development of the slower, more cognitively Perhaps the destination is the same, and the bottom line demanding comprehension processes that go into the is your preference for how you get there. Screen and formation of deep reading and deep thinking.’ print reading are perhaps best viewed as complementary, Perhaps, then, magazines reward that greater rather than competing, entities – clearly there are cognitive effort. Ergonomics research on this benefits to both. But as you sit with the latest incarnation appears increasingly conflicted and outdated – for of The Psychologist in your hands, we hope that you will example, this 2008 review (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ value it and engage in a way that you might not with our pubmed/18802819) – but psychological studies led by digital offerings. We encourage you to take a look at our Rakefet Ackerman at least suggest that readers approach other channels, but we stand by our view that magazines the printed word with more of a learning mindset than matter. Let us know what you think… you are our they might on a screen version. guides on this journey! This perhaps more arduous, linear journey through

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the psychologist january 2017 magazines

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02/12/2016 11:10


With its relaunch, The Psychologist aims to reflect and encourage the trend for clear science communication. Here, regular contributors give their views on the benefits of engaging a wide audience. First up, Steve Reicher and Alex Haslam

Writing for

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here are doubtless many skills involved in writing for impact. But we will never learn those skills unless we are motivated to do so. For that to happen, attitudes – or rather social norms – in our discipline have to change. There are many entrenched views that stand in the way of taking our work to a wider audience such that, even if we individually want to do so, we fear the reactions of others and the impact on our careers. We want to deal with just three of these views. The first is the growing predominance of the journal article over all other forms of writing. Near the start of our careers, our PhD supervisor, John Turner, used to argue that articles provide the building blocks that allow you to make a broader and more comprehensive statement, typically in books. A discipline of books is a discipline of substantial arguments that are accessible to those in other disciplines and outside the academic world. But since the advent of the RAE (and now the REF) the mania for measurement inevitably means that we prioritise what is easy to measure, not necessarily what

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the psychologist january 2017 impact

is most important. And journal articles, surrounded by a host of metrics (journal impact factors, citations) are easier to judge. Books (which have no impact factor and whose impact is not necessarily reflected in citations) are harder to assess. They might be good. They might not. We have no figures to bolster us. And so local panels, which choose what is entered into the process and which are notoriously risk-averse, overwhelmingly stick to papers. We thereby become an atomised discipline of small points and limited reach. As Naomi Ellemers has observed, psychology has become a sea of dots that are rarely joined up. The result is that we often fail to see the big picture. Sometimes we see no picture at all. Where, then, is the vision that could inspire a wider audience? A second, and related, view, is that books, especially the popular or ‘trade’ book, is a form of dumbing down. And not only books. Anything aimed at a more general audience must necessarily involve simplification. A ‘media academic’ is a term of abuse to denote the failed researcher turned populariser: ‘He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.’ In our experience, however, precisely the opposite is true. Indeed, when George Bernard Shaw first made this observation, note that he was praising teachers (who he saw as central to the

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process of intellectual and social revolution) not putting them down. If we write for a ‘high-impact’ journal, we can presuppose that others share foundational assumptions (and hence take them for granted), we can presuppose that others share an interest in our topic, we can presuppose that relatively narrow shifts within a paradigm will be of broad interest. However, the more general the audience we write for, the more we have to spell out or even question foundational assumptions, the more we have to demonstrate the significance of our arguments and the broader our arguments have to be. In many ways we both most enjoy talking to lay audiences or writing for popular magazines. Certainly both of us think that they are among of our most significant work. Yet we could only write them as the culmination of a programme of research, after years of reflection, when we could be limpidly clear about foundational issues and when we were trying to propose new ways of seeing. The popular demands that we achieve simplicity, but that is the opposite of being simplistic. The third view derives, we think, from our threatened identity as scientists. Do we really belong in such a category with all the kudos and (more

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importantly) the funding that derives from it? Our sense of insecurity leads us to cling on to the surface signs of belonging – and one of these concerns our forms of expression. We must appear as objective, dispassionate and technical as possible. We differentiate ourselves from the ‘soft side’ to which some would consign us. We thus become the living embodiment of C.P. Snow’s ‘two cultures’ of Science vs. Arts. As a consequence, anything that smacks of the literary is suspect. We relate our research clunkily and mechanically. Dullness becomes a badge of honour, an asset not a liability. And yet we are storytellers. Of course we tell stories based on evidence, but we are storytellers nonetheless. And we need to tell stories in a way that engage people, that induce suspense, that provide a frisson of excitement when the outcome is revealed. We must learn different narrative forms and move beyond the military

dogma of ‘tell them of what you are going to tell them, tell it to them, tell them what you have told them’ – an approach with all the excitement of a forced route march. We would do well to have storytellers come to teach technique to our students – and to ourselves. In sum, then, writing for impact forces us to address many fundamental aspects of our contemporary discipline. It is more than a matter of glossing the surface of what we do. It is a matter of rethinking our very identity (some of you might have wondered how long it would be before we mentioned ‘identity’). To change our ways won’t be easy, then. But it could be more satisfying than we realise. Professor Steve Reicher, University of St Andrews Professor Alex Haslam, University of Queensland

When I submitted my first piece for The Psychologist – a conference review, I think – I was quite nervous. Like most of us, I had been trained to write in a very specific formal style, with the primary aim of convincing my small audience that I had done a solid piece of research. And although I have always been passionate about spreading my love of science, I wasn’t at all sure how to write something that people might actually want to read! As it turned out, the editor Jon Sutton seemed content to include my effort in the next month’s magazine, albeit after he’d made a few helpful editorial changes. I learned a lot from Jon’s suggestions and my follow-up pieces needed increasingly fewer changes. I confess to getting the bug – people were e-mailing or tweeting me about what I’d written and I started to feel the buzz that I get from doing a really good lecture. A year or so down the line I was asked to write a piece for The Conversation website, which got picked up by The Guardian and attracted way more readership and response than anything else I’d ever written. Directly off the back of that, I was approached by a publisher who was looking for someone to write a book about neuroscience for the general public. Despite some reservations I said yes, and I’m very pleased to say that my book goes on sale in September this year. I can honestly say that writing that first piece for The Psychologist was one of the best decisions I ever made. Without that experience and nurturing, I would never have had the confidence to write for The Conversation and I might well have never discovered how much I love writing. The Psychologist can help you along the ‘path to impact’ – just take that first step of wanting to reach a new audience! Dr Catherine Loveday, University of Westminster, and Chair of the Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee 48

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the psychologist january 2017 impact

The pervasiveness of PowerPoint in public presentations proves that psychologists are putting a lot of emphasis on graphics and pictures compared to straight text. Traditionally, written prose is beautifully suited to convey what you want to say. Pictures were seen only as an aid to the story. But there is a hybrid form, the comic strip. It’s not just a combination of text and pictures, it’s a form that demands the reader understand both. The text is deliberately made up of few words, and the pictures are equally simple. Surprisingly, few have exploited this form, even though it gets closer to the way that psychologists are actually talking to each other. You can easily present the set-up of an experiment and show a cartoon image of the experimenter. Results of many experiments are most striking when presented in graphic form. Comic strips tend to be very short, illustrating just one idea. This is often not good enough as the idea needs to be seen in context. Presenting a psychology paper in this form will inevitably put the gimmick first. In this example, the page is just part of a much wider story that provides the context. Nonetheless, even in this one page, it is remarkable to see that it is possible to reduce complex designs and thought processes into manageable packages of information. Readers can quickly pick up the information, and if their curiosity is caught, they are ready to invest effort in finding out more. They can even go back to the original (text only) article. It is possible to alternate pictures and text, but the hybrid idea is a great challenge. Telling a story in pictures requires knowing precisely what you want to convey. It can be easy to hide a vague idea behind competent prose, whereas comics only work at all if the Draft page from a forthcoming graphic novel about social cognition. idea is easy to understand. Harder Text and artwork copyright Alex Frith and Daniel Locke. work, perhaps, but a stronger end result. to the finished comic page only certain information will The hardest part is finding an artistic collaborator. survive. It can’t contain as much as a traditional prose But working with another person, especially someone article, but you can be sure that what does remain is who is unlikely to have a background in psychology, (a) the gist of what you want to say, and (b) the parts forms another crucial step. It means that you, the author, with the most impact – and this might please even the have to work out how to explain your experiment to an picky reader. outsider – and explain it well enough that he or she can then turn it into a series of pictures, a true team effort. In the process from discussion to script to rough art Professor Uta Frith, University College London

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“We all use language differently and this is also true of writing”

As academic psychologists, we never think of ourselves as professional writers, yet it’s the case that no matter how clever our experiments, observations, or analyses, if we don’t write about them the no one will know what we’ve been up to. To this end, I’ve been running classes on writing for MSc students at UCL and we talk to a variety of different people about writing and storytelling and voices. If you look at the top-cited papers in, for example, cognitive neuroscience, it is striking how well written they are (e.g. Martin Conway and Kit Pleydell-Pearce’s

2000 article on autobiographical memories). Clear, easy-to-follow papers take you on a clear narrative journey and rarely leave a reader going ‘Wait – what?’. Most importantly they usually make their point – their hook – clear at the start. It’s also worth remembering of course that scientific papers are written for an audience of peers – we are generally writing for other researchers, who may or may not be completely au fait with every detail of theory or methodology but for whom we won’t need to go back to first principles. But peers are just one kind of audience: writing for impact means aiming to engage with a wider range of audiences. This normally only really means thinking carefully about how you set out and describe your work – other factors are just as important, if not more, when writing for non-peer audiences. Below, I have listed a few of these factors that I have found it very useful to keep in mind when writing. What is your ‘hook’? This roughly means, what is the message you’d like people to take away from this? To be blunt, why should anyone care? Don’t be afraid to let go of jargon – as the novelist Will Eaves has pointed out when speaking to my students at UCL, not only can using jargon hide your

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that writing for those outside your area is somehow cheapening. Learning to do this is upskilling, not dumbing down”

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When you write, imagine the smartest possible reader you could have, but the least informed. This reader will get whatever you have to say, as long as you explain it well without relying on knowledge that they don’t have. The most common error we make when trying to write outside of our specialist area is to overestimate the reader’s knowledge and underestimate their intelligence. Overestimating their knowledge leads us into using abbreviations, jargon and references that the reader doesn’t understand. Underestimating their intelligence

can result us in trying to compensate by patronising or boring them with repetition. Thinking this way can free up even technical writing, making it easier to understand for everyone, not just non-specialists. Good writing is so hard because it requires relentless attention to the state of knowledge of your readers – what they start out knowing, what you want them to move towards understanding, and what the correct order of steps along the way is. Every sentence needs to be interrogated for what it assumes the reader knows: Is that word commonly used, or peculiar

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the psychologist january 2017 impact

meaning from the audiences, but it can also hide your meaning from yourself. You may be fooling yourself into thinking you know what you mean [Editor’s note: see also tinyurl.com/wordssorcery]. And don’t forget that audiences are not divided up into your peers and everyone else – writing for audiences can be very specific and it’s worth taking this seriously enough to find out what your audience might want. If I’m writing for The Guardian, I find I will take a different tone than if I’m writing for the BBC website. Don’t be afraid of taking this seriously. Who are you writing for? Why are you writing this? Don’t be afraid of trying to write well. As Stephen King says, writing should be mind reading. The words should disappear and the readers will just get straight to what you mean. Don’t be afraid to use your own voice. We all use language differently and this is also true of writing. Ask other people to read your work – and listen to what they tell you. If they tell you something is not clear, then don’t ignore them.

to my field? Is it clear why this fact is important? Can the reader see that this next claim is one I’m reporting, not one I believe? And so on. Don’t be fooled into thinking that writing for those outside your area is somehow cheapening. Learning to do this is upskilling, not dumbing down. Everybody outside of a limited circle of about 30 scholars is naive about aspects of your specialist topic which you take for granted. In this age of collaboration and increasing specialisation, outside of this circle of your specialist knowledge means most other psychologists, not to mention other scientists and scholars from different disciplines as well as the people who might be impacted by your work, as well as the curious public. This means that most of the readers of your papers, your collaborators, the people who review your grants, cases for promotion or impact statements are non-specialists. The better able we are to write for non-specialists the wider the impact of our work and further we can take our research.

As a conversation analyst, writing about ‘talk’ presents an immediate opportunity as well as an immediate challenge. On the one hand, as my colleague Derek Edwards often observed, ‘talk’, as a phenomenon of social life, is there to be understood. We need it to live our lives. Talk is not like a black hole, which, although something that scientists strive to understand, does not exist in the first place to be understood by humans. So, writing for impact on the topic of talk should be a fairly straightforward task: the conceptual gap between audience and phenomenon is small. On the other hand, it can be a challenge to convince audiences that we need a scientific or empirical approach to the study of talk at all – surely talk is something thing that we ‘just do’? But in contrast to much of the psychological or popular literature, conversation analysts study real talk. They don’t simulate it, construct theoretical or idealised examples of it, or ask people about their communicative lives on a questionnaire or interview. They collect corpora of tens to thousands of audio or video recordings of talk in the wild, from first dates to medical consultations and from family mealtimes to cockpit interaction. The upshot of this work is that we understand how talk works in ways that often upend what we think we know, either from self-help or academic literatures. There’s little evidence that, say, ‘silence’ is about processing time; that women and men build social actions differently, or that our bodies leak the ‘real meaning’ behind our words. This can be uncomfortable to talk and write about too – but it is important to try. My work has impacted on service providers of all kinds, and I’ve managed to write about conversation analysis with impact, via public engagement activities at TEDx, the Royal Institution, Latitude Festival [pictured above backstage, with our editor Dr Jon Sutton], and more. Communicating in this way about ‘everyday’ phenomena can feel like it should be easy, but end up hard. Yet the reward is when people begin to understand why academics do what they do, and see the importance of findings about something as simple as talk.

Dr Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe, Loughborough University

Professor Sophie Scott, University College London

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02/12/2016 11:13


‘J.M. Barrie was a close observer of human and animal behaviour’ Rosalind Ridley In the University of Cambridge psychologist Rosalind Ridley’s 2016 book Peter Pan and the Mind of J.M. Barrie: An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), we learn that there is more to the story than pirates and children who can fly. Barrie was very aware of the scientific developments of his day, and the original Peter Pan stories are infused with ideas about humanity’s place in the natural world and the mental lives of children and animals. In many places Barrie seems to have anticipated ideas in psychology that only emerged after his death. Here, UCL psychologist Chris Frith asks his friend and erstwhile colleague why Barrie’s ideas are important for contemporary psychology.

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How did a respected neuroscientist come to write a book about Peter Pan? I came across an early edition of Barrie’s first Peter Pan book, 1906’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, by accident. In the text I found descriptions of many aspects of cognitive psychology that have only been studied scientifically since the middle of the 20th century… I think of Ulric Neisser’s 1967 Cognitive Psychology. The more I read, the more I found. I was hooked. Most people are unaware that Barrie wrote two novels about Peter Pan in addition to the pantomime. Do these give us a different view of the nature of Peter Pan and the intentions of Barrie? In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Peter is about a week old while in 1911’s Peter and Wendy, which is based on the pantomime, he is about six or seven years old (although he supposedly still has his baby teeth, which indicates his immaturity). Although Peter is ‘the boy who wouldn’t grow up’ he undergoes several changes of age, out of synchrony with other people in the stories. One explanation for this is that Peter is Barrie’s memory of himself as a child achieved through ‘mental time travel’, and that Barrie is both exploring the nature of childhood and re-living his own childhood. What was Barrie like? Barrie was a lonely man who had had a difficult childhood and a childless marriage that ended in divorce. He found adults difficult and sought refuge in a fantasy world, outside the normal stream of consciousness of our mundane existence. And yet, he was also one of the most successful authors of his time and knew everyone from Thomas Hardy to A.A. Milne. But Barrie certainly had problems. I believe that, like Lewis Carroll, he suffered from insomnia but that he attempted to control this by taking heroin. He must often have experienced the strange states of consciousness that occur at the borders of sleeping and waking. Did these experiences inspire aspects of the Pan story? Yes, Barrie complained of terrible sleep and gave accurate descriptions of almost all the clinical parasomnias in his

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the psychologist january 2017 books

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stories. It is more than likely that he experienced these sleep disturbances and that this taught him that what he experienced and what was happening ‘out there’ are not the same thing. When Barrie was six years old his older brother drowned. Their mother became very depressed and Barrie felt that his dead brother was more real in his mother’s mind than he was. This may have encouraged Barrie to think in terms of internal mental states rather than the outside world. Barrie seems to have been seeking a special state of heightened consciousness, which he believed people experienced in some historical or childish Golden Age. You call this state ‘sublime consciousness’. What is this? Although he didn’t use these terms, Barrie clearly understood Josef Perner’s modern distinction between primary mental representation (mainly perception) and secondary representation (mainly episodic memory, anticipation of future, and the imagination of alternatives). His stories were based on the notion that these were different, mutually exclusive, types of consciousness and that only adult humans had what we would now call ‘secondary representation’. He longed for pure primary consciousness (which I have called sublime consciousness), which he believed was available to animals, children and only occasionally to adults. Barrie argued that animals and very young children were not burdened with the ‘sense of time’ or ‘sense of agency’ that comes with the development of secondary representations and so were free to enjoy a heightened experience of the present. This reminds me of that research by Jonathan Schooler, Dan Ariely and George Lowenstein, showing that, if you think about being happy, you will feel less happy. But isn’t there one animal in the stories who does have secondary representation? Yes, Solomon the crow. In the picture by Arthur Rackham we see him with the sock he is using to save for his pension. Crows have always had a reputation for being clever and my colleague, Nicky Clayton, has published work suggesting that they can plan for the future.

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And research led by Seweryn Olkowicz in Prague finds that crows’ brains contain more neurons than the brains of some primates of comparable size. I remember the rather sentimental episode in the pantomime where children are told that every time they say, ‘I don’t believe in fairies’, then a fairy will die. But, in your book, you suggest that Barrie is making a comparison between the type of thing that fairies are and the type of thing that money is. Well, yes, Barrie liked to play tricks with words and ideas. He made ethereal objects behave like solid objects; a shadow, for example, is folded up and put in a drawer. Like Lewis Carroll, Barrie saw that words and the objects they represented were separable but, whereas Carroll (in Through the Looking Glass…) adopted a semantic view

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that ‘a word… means just what I choose it to mean’, Barrie took a more pragmatic approach in making Wendy describe a ‘kiss’ as a ‘thimble’ when she could see that Peter was using the two words the wrong way round. Barrie then goes on to distinguish between solid objects and socially constructed objects, just as John Searle did in 1995’s The Construction of Social Reality. In a rather complex scene, Peter has forgotten how to fly and is marooned on the island in the Long Water in Kensington Gardens. A boat made out of a five pound note washes up on the island, but, rather than using the boat to make his escape, Peter cuts the bank note up into smaller pieces and uses these to pay the thrushes (who have been told that these ‘coins’ are valuable) to build him a bird’s nest boat. Here Barrie recognised that money is not only a piece of paper, but is also a socially constructed object that only exists as currency so long as everyone believes in it.

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the psychologist january 2017 books

Similarly, fairies are socially constructed objects, who only exist if you and your friends believe in them. We once did an imaging study, led by Cristina Becchio, where people watched bank notes being torn up. The higher the value, the more brain activity we saw. You suggest that a major theme of the Peter Pan stories concerns the cognitive differences between animals, children and adults. After Darwin published his theory of evolution, people had to reconsider these differences, since he had shown that we are all animals. Peter Pan is described as a ‘betwixt-and-between’, part child, part bird (he can fly) and part instinctive, slightly dangerous creature, like the god Pan. This allowed Barrie to compare the mental world of adults, children and animals and to consider the extent to which human behaviour is instinctive rather than rational and enculturated. These are very post-Darwinian themes, and Barrie clearly believed that children start life with animal instincts and develop additional, specifically human cognitive skills as they mature. This reflects the view put forward by the 19th-century embryologist Ernst Haeckel that ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’. It would not have occurred to anyone before Darwin to compare the behaviour, especially the moral behaviour, of humans and animals… the view was that humans were made in the image of God and animals were just dumb beasts. Barrie also refers to paths in Kensington Gardens that have been made by men and adjacent ‘vagrant paths that have made themselves’, suggesting that he understood that evolution could apply to anything that was based on bottom-up processes, not just plants and animals. One of the more exciting research programmes to emerge toward the end of the 20th century was about theory of mind or mentalising, for example Premack and Woodruff’s work. This is the ability that enables us to realise that other people may have different beliefs from us and that it is these beliefs, rather than reality that will determine their behaviour. Children don’t seem to acquire a full version of this ability until they are about six or seven years old. Although Barrie does not specifically discuss the nature of Peter’s cognitive limitations, his various descriptions of Peter’s behaviour certainly indicate failures of mentalising. Peter cannot remember events of the past and cannot understand what ‘afraid’ means because it is about the future. Peter also appears not to have a fully developed theory of mind and the social cognition that develops from it. He has great difficulty dealing with the beliefs and desires of others. “What are your exact feelings for me?” “Those of a devoted son, Wendy.” “I thought so,” She said, and went and sat by herself at the extreme end of the room “You are so queer,” he said, frankly puzzled, “and Tiger Lily is just the same. There is something

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she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.” “No, indeed it is not,” Wendy replied with frightful emphasis. Here Peter is clearly described as not knowing what it is that Tiger Lily wants to be to him, rather than not knowing how he should respond to her amorous advances. Later Peter gives a puzzled, nervous laugh and skips off merrily when he thinks that Wendy has been shot dead. Well, it’s certainly amazing that Barrie was so much ahead of his time in presenting these various ideas, which we associate with contemporary cognitive psychology, but is this enough? What does your foray into the humanities contribute to contemporary neuropsychology? Barrie was a close observer of human and animal behaviour as well as being extremely well read. I suspect that many of his astute observations were entirely his own but the implications of scientific discovery was a very pressing issue amongst the intelligentsia of the time and Barrie knew a great deal about science. For example, his story of the fairy duke who does not know that he is in love charmingly demonstrates the James/Lange theory of emotion, which was proposed at the end of the 19th century. At first I was surprised by the cognitive approach he adopted but I now realise that much early psychology, especially that proposed by William James (whom Barrie had met), was very cognitive in approach. But it was then overshadowed by the subsequent schools of Psychoanalysis and Behaviourism. We should pay much more attention to the psychological insights of the 19th and early 20th century. Barrie’s literature makes science accessible, but Barrie also showed that a good grounding in science and the scientific approach can contribute to literature when he said in his 1922 Rectorial Address at St Andrew’s University ‘science is the surest means of teaching you how to know what you mean’.

Our coverage of books is changing. We’ll be having more in-depth interviews, articles based on books and exclusive online extracts. There will still be a place for reviews, alongside several new regular features: we expect these to return next month. If you are a book publisher who has yet to get involved in our discussions over the new approach, get in touch with the editor on jon.sutton@bps.org.uk.

02/12/2016 11:15


True colours of the Middle Ages Charles Fernyhough (University of Durham) attends an exhibition at Fitzwilliam Museum

exhibition Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge until 2 January – Free

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W

e think of the Middle Ages as a drab time. The Monty Python image of the filthy peasant, dressed in brown homespun, fits with a preconception of ravaged bodies and benighted, superstitious minds. But a stereotype that would have been practical reality for many belies the period’s deep attraction to all that was bright and vivid. When funds allowed it, medieval houses were painted, clothes dyed and colour used as a language to encode spiritual and worldly meanings. Over hundreds of years, the colours have mostly faded. They blaze on in the stained-glass windows of Gothic churches, but such fragile works of art were vulnerable to the depredations of the Dissolution and other upheavals. Densely valuable, portable and discreet, books could be hurried out of sight when trouble came. The medieval codex has proved remarkably resilient: perhaps a million such manuscripts survive, many of them illuminated. You could argue that only on their pages do the true colours of the Middle Ages shine through. Manuscript illumination was traditionally considered a secondary art. Paintings in books served very practical purposes, bringing the stories of the Bible alive to the illiterate masses. The early missionaries to England would literally walk into a crowd with vast paintings held aloft; it proved the most effective way to disseminate the word of God. It was in wall and panel painting, supposedly, where the true technical breakthroughs were made, eventually culminating in the aesthetic revolution of the Renaissance.

The exhibition at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam challenges presuppositions about the inferiority of manuscript illumination in delightful and, well… colourful ways. There is much here of interest to the psychologist. In disciplines as diverse as physics and neuroscience, scientists are recognising that medieval scholarship was more sophisticated than previously believed. Medieval thinking on the mind and brain was no exception (see The Psychologist, November 2016). The manuscripts collected in the exhibition evidence an understanding of modelling – two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional forms – that pre-dates the frescoes of Cavallini and Giotto by a good few decades. Medieval illustrators pioneered techniques such as pointillism and grisaille (the expert use of shades of grey), and showed a grasp of aerial perspective that is usually understood as a triumph of the Quattrocento. The artistic achievements of masterpieces like the Dover Bible and Macclesfield Psalter (both displayed here) were in some ways founded on scientific understandings. In the body of theoretical knowledge known as perspectiva – an eclectic mix of classical, Christian and Arabic ideas on colour and vision – medieval illumination demonstrated an invigorated understanding of optics that underpinned the advances in perception science made later by Newton and others. The visionary colour theory of Robert Grosseteste, the early 13th-century scholar and bishop, is still being puzzled over by academics. The shadowy

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the psychologist january 2017 culture textures of grisaille may not have been conceivable without the revisions to Aristotle’s colour scale made by Theodoric of Freiberg in the early 14th century – particularly the separation of black and white to a separate scale that moderated, but did not constitute, colour. X-ray and infrared analyses show that the illuminators of that time (who included women as well as men) had access to a far greater palette of pigments – from plenteous ochres to the legendary ultramarine – than was once assumed. In one display case of many-hued rocks, the pragmatics of taking colours from the earth are beautifully described. This riot of colour also gives us insight into the ordinary workings of the medieval mind. Colour was seen a feature of an object rather than a trick of the light, and it could therefore bear meaning in ways that it can’t today. In alchemy (so important for laying the foundations of modern chemistry), colour represented elements of a cosmology. It also linked the microcosm of the human organism to the macrocosm of God’s creation. Mental imbalances like melancholy, with its excess of black bile, were literally painted on the body (as in the affecting early 15th-century ‘Melancholic Man’). Colour served a practical purpose in organising knowledge, with those gorgeous initial capitals and acrostics serving useful purposes in guiding the mind through a text. Many of the books displayed here had educational functions, providing an insight into contemporary theories about the developing mind. Depictions of angels, demons and other supernatural beings help us to understand the unfamiliar logic of a thoughtworld in which the divine and the demonic were fully entangled with human affairs. The illuminated manuscript arguably reached its apotheosis in the remarkable cultural success of the Book of Hours, a fixture in a literate person’s life as necessary and addictive as a modern smartphone. The era’s technological innovations changed many things, but they did not dim the desire for colour, evidenced by the fact that some of the most brilliant works on display here were made long after the spread of moveable type printing. Light destroys colour as well as revealing it, and the Fitzwilliam’s display cases are necessarily kept quite dark. Combined with small and unfamiliar scripts, the challenge to the eyes makes the museum’s borrowable magnifying glasses very handy. There is a useful catalogue book with copies chained, in a nice medieval touch, to benches for the public’s benefit. If you can’t get there in person, an excellent online resource, Illuminated, tells much of the story from afar. The variety on display is exhilarating. From vast bibles to minuscule books of hours, from early musical sourcebooks to handbooks for combining pigments, the predominantly European exhibits range in date from early insular (Anglo-Saxon) manuscripts to the sumptuous trophy texts of early-modern princes. There are some very significant manuscripts on display, but it may be the more mundane ones – the medical textbook showing a gruesome operation for haemorrhoids, the comic marginal touches like the energetic game of ‘kickboots’ – that will resonate in the mind. www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/colour

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The drugs education that my school skipped hosts. You feel like you are listening Say Why to Drugs (SWTD) is a in on a conversation between fortnightly, fact-based, educational podcast discussing legal and illegal friends. Dr Gage’s academic stance is complemented by Scroobius recreational drugs, dealing with Pip’s relentless interest; the myths and realities he asks the questions surrounding one drug that the layperson would, in each episode. It is podcast which makes the content created and presented Say Why accessible to a wide by Dr Suzi Gage, a to Drugs audience. Scroobius Pip’s postdoctoral researcher Suzi Gage past drug use is discussed in the School of on the podcast, but he no Experimental Psychology longer takes any substance; he only at the University of Bristol, who is drinks alcohol once or twice a month joined by podcaster, musician and (primarily for his drunk podcast: actor Scroobius Pip. DrunkCast). The mix of these two The SWTD podcast was the perspectives gives the podcast’s product of Dr Gage winning I’m message more credibility. a Scientist Get Me Outta Here, a My favourite episode is the one competition run by the Wellcome on alcohol. Dr Gage describes how Trust. The online competition involves students putting questions alcohol receives special treatment in the UK by not often being referred to scientists and judging what the to as a drug: even in academia scientists propose to do with the the field is referred to as ‘Drugs £500 prize money: Suzi pitched and Alcohol’. After discussing the this idea, won the competition appeal, they then talked about how and the podcast was started. ingrained alcohol use is in society, to Dr Gage was then interviewed the extent that it can be a surprise on Scroobius Pip’s own podcast to people if someone abstains. This ‘Distraction Pieces’, leading him is a really important point to raise to join SWTD. It was also here in a podcast aimed at young people, that it got its name, Say Why to as it highlights the value of choosing Drugs: a fantastic play on the antito drink (or not drink), regardless of drugs campaign ‘Say No to Drugs’ peer or social pressure. It led me that was funded by the Church of to think about my own drinking and Scientology. whether I make an active decision. The format of the podcast is In the ‘myth-busting section, simple: the drug is introduced Dr Gage explains how a myth can and its appeal is discussed, Dr be built from a body of research and Gage then works through straight explains how to critically analyse facts about what is known about results. She describes what to look the drug and its effects, before out for in research, to be sceptical, exploring myths. Watersheds do and not to take research at facenot exist with podcast, so there’s value. It’s a theme she returns to in freedom that other forms of media most of the episodes. This is brilliant: don’t allow. With this controversial she doesn’t just bust a myth by topic, that’s a necessity. Some telling listeners that it is wrong, but podcasts are edited so that you she explains why, and that provides listen to a rehearsed show, but listeners with the tools to repeat SWTD retains its conversational the analysis to other papers and authenticity. This works well: with articles. Making young people think drugs education, the last thing you and critique information that is given want to hear is something that to them is not only great for future feels forced, or adults telling kids researchers, it’s a valuable life skill. what to do. It is laid-back, raw and Add to this the fact that links are unedited. attached to the audio file so that you Say Why to Drugs has an can explore the research: the podcast instant appeal; it has a relaxed then serves as a gateway to the world atmosphere with two dynamic

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of drug research that isn’t printed on the front of tabloids. The podcast has won Skeptic magazine’s Ockham Award, and had over 200,000 downloads. There is clearly an audience for this refreshing outlook on drugs education. I personally would have loved this resource in drugs education at school; it is a stark contrast to the police turning up with a briefcase of drugs advocating that drugs are

music Let Them Eat Chaos Kate Tempest

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evil. My experience was neither informative nor frightening. Both Dr Gage and Scroobius Pip have had feedback from parents and teachers who have introduced the podcast to their children or students, and there are potential plans to create a learning resource for schools. The podcast may not be for everyone: it does not delve too deeply into each drug so perhaps the level of content is too low for some. But

SWTD is both unique and necessary, an unbiased, fact-based drugs podcast. I hope it inspires more podcasts and learning resources promoting the same ethos. Listen via www.acast.com/saywhytodrugs Reviewed by Elle Wadsworth, a Research Assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience

Seven broken hearts, seven racing minds It’s 4.18am, and where are you? Are you one of the lucky oblivious, or are your crowding thoughts keeping you awake? In Let Them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest drops you from distant space into teeming humanity, guiding you ghost-like through the minds of seven people. They may well be seven people you know. This is an album of spoken-word poems set to atmospheric music, a series of individual narratives threaded together. If hearing the word ‘poem’ takes you back to stanzas in the schoolroom, or you picture a beret-wearing beat artist clicking his fingers, it’s time to experience how poetry has evolved. Spokenword has undergone a modern resurgence, with artists vibrantly exploring the individual and society in ways that are deeply relevant to psychologists (see https:// thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/new-voices-slam-science). When performing live Kate Tempest is one of the best (https://youtu.be/E8Jus1QbMso), and much of that energy translates to this album. A critically acclaimed poet, she fills each track with details that create rich images. Her style is torrential, by turns urgent, desperate, arch and joyous, with a delivery that sweeps you along on the journey. The album has the beat of rap, the flow of poetry, and the characterisation of a novel. Forget wand’ring clouds, thees and thous; this is poetry for the present, using our own words to tilt the world we know to a new angle. ‘His thoughts are like a pack of starving dogs, fighting over the last bone.’ Kate Tempest’s characters are awake, vulnerable and charged with cortisol, her poetry creating inner monologues that feel authentic. The minds we’re introduced to are failing to outrun their past, attempting to process their present, questioning their existence, dealing with loss or spiralling with intoxicants. This is a gift for anyone interested or working in psychology, and the focus and detail of the poetry revitalises concepts commonly encountered. Thoughts that flash past reveal the daily anxieties of those who are coping-not-coping. Drug and alcohol use is the norm, causing problems but, as in life, channelling fun and creativity, staving off boredom. The poems are at their best when they confront the contradictions inherent in behaviour, and a recurring

topic is the continuation of action that the characters feel they can’t control. A theme of Kate Tempest’s previous work has been the representation of working class voices, and that continues in this album. Graffiti tags, a blight whitewashed over by gentrification, represented safe territory to Zoe. Esther is a shift-working care assistant struggling with the crises humans cause, and Pete’s living back at his parents with nothing to save for. Part of Kate Tempest’s power is in her voice, and her delivery and intonation subtly alter to convey the mood and heart of her characters. For many, this album will bring humanity to statistics seen in the news. ‘The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost and pitiful.’ Is there a psychologist out there who hasn’t speculated about the effects our changing world has had on the psyche? The mind at 4.18am acts as a lens through which the fallout of modern life can be considered. Our consumerist society is analysed throughout, and to say it’s found wanting is an understatement. Many of the characters are hitting the limits of what consumerism

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the psychologist january 2017 culture

radio In Therapy BBC Radio 4

Listening in Now in its second series, In Therapy on BBC Radio 4 offers the opportunity to eavesdrop on the world of psychotherapy. The therapist is real-life Susie Orbach, probably the bestknown psychoanalyst in the UK. The clients are actors, who have been given a profile that

explains their character’s life, background and reasons for seeking therapy. Each episode is an improvised scene recorded on concealed microphones at Susie’s surgery. The sessions have a verisimilitude that has not quite been achieved by similar attempts to portray what happens between therapist and

can provide, and struggling to process their need for something more. The story of the album is set in London, but the themes resonate across people and places. At a time when changes to the benefits system are brought to the big screen in I, Daniel Blake, Let Them Eat Chaos presents the repercussions of low wages, gentrification and globalisation on people’s minds and actions. If this sounds bleak – it is, but I had to laugh at the line ‘I don’t speak the lingo/Since when was this a winery, it used to be the bingo’. ‘You’re more than the three or four you’d go to war for.’ The poems focus on the plight of individuals, but in the background bigger issues can be glimpsed. The album stresses the need to recognise our connection with wider humanity, beyond those immediately around us. The dissonance that the characters experience in distracting themselves from global crises contributes to their isolation and anxiety. The album ends with Kate Tempest exhorting the listener to love more, to see the similarity with those we think of as ‘other’, and to take responsibility for our society. Listening to this at the end of 2016, a time when many of us are suffering news burnout and trying to turn off the world, this resonated deeply. For psychology as a discipline and a profession, these poems raise questions about whether we’re equipped to help individuals deal with the far-reaching tragedies humans have created. Listened to as a whole, Let Them Eat Chaos convincingly weaves a world in which you eavesdrop on the internal monologue of people you may speak to every day, portraying the effects of the modern world on the mind. But when did you last sit and listen to an album for 45 minutes? Kate Tempest critiques our society for its constant distraction and disengagement. If you can overcome those traits for long enough, you won’t find this album easy listening, but you’ll find an absorbing, thought-provoking and energising experience. Reviewed by Lindsey Hines, a Postdoctoral Researcher and Teaching Fellow at King’s College London

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client – notably the TV drama series In Treatment, where the psychotherapist was Gabriel Byrne, and the clients all photogenic (see www.imdb.com/title/ tt0835434). As in the first series, each 15-minute programme features a different client, enabling Susie to demonstrate a range of issues that can be brought to the consulting room. There’s John, a retired railway worker who in Series 1 declares he has fallen in love with Susie, but by Series 2 has transferred his affections to a sex worker. Another is Helen, a lawyer who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Then there’s Amelia, who’s

worried about her teenage daughter Grace. Susie also sees Grace separately, and the series ends with Susie’s suggested joint session between Amelia and Grace. This includes a visceral argument between mother and daughter that offers Susie an unmissable opportunity to help them address their miscommunications. Although it can never get too deep, the format works well in illustrating what psychotherapy can do: a recommended listen. In Therapy is available to listen again at tinyurl.com/jh6w8e7 Reviewed by Kate Johnstone who is Associate Editor for Culture

What I seek… when I want a busman’s holiday I love television. It allows me to suspend what I think is my real self for a while, and explore thoughts and feelings that Freud might have argued are repressed. I want to see new ways of looking at the pain and misery I come across in my work in addictions, and to understand more about being pushed to extremes and losing control. There’s not much that fits the bill on mainstream TV at the moment however: Shameless completed 10 glorious years in 2013, and Irvine Welsh is not yet writing for Hollyoaks. Fortunately there’s Netflix and box sets, and here addictions lead the way. The seminal series on drugs in modern-day America, The Wire, showed the failings of the ‘War on Drugs’. As I watched four, five, six episodes in a row late into the night in a farmhouse in France, I realised I was hooked. Then along came Breaking Bad: 62 episodes of breathtaking moral ambivalence capturing the highs and lows of drug taking, drug dealing, crime and desperation. And indecently funny. Now Narcos opens up the world of Pablo Escobar, the ultimate big man of drugs, with fabulous seventies clothes and facial hair. These, then, are my Grimms’ fairytales, where violence and gore are commonplace; and good and evil aren’t always the right way round. Do they make me see my work differently? Perhaps. But perhaps more importantly they reinforce the human need for stories and humour, however disturbing the topic. When I do manage to drag myself away from the sofa and the small screen, I look for insight and escape in the music of Massive Attack. More drugs. By Dr Sally Marlow, National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, and Associate Editor for Culture

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play Tomorrow I Was Always a Lion Belarus Free Theatre

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Fierce and hopeful This play, staged by the Belarus Free Theatre company, was a powerfully insightful and highly emotionally charged portrayal of Arnhild Lauveng’s personal account of developing schizophrenia, her encounters with mental health professionals, and her long road to recovery. It provided a relentless insult on the senses, not dissimilar from the overwhelming experiences of those in the acute stages of psychosis, punctuated by moments of humour and tenderness which provided welcome relief to the audience (and no doubt were crucial to Arnhild’s survival of often brutal internal and external attacks). Despite the fierceness of the play, the main message was one of hope. Through the support of her family and the staff that had faith in her ability to succeed and have a future outside of the mental health system, Arnhild found the strength to finish her schooling and is now practising clinical psychologist despite 10 years of being ‘lost in the forest’ of psychosis. This story of recovery reflects the more optimistic perspective adopted over the past two decades by the Early Intervention movement, which strongly focuses on getting young people back into education or employment rather than writing off their lives when

schizophrenia is mentioned. Arnhild’s transition between ‘patient’ and ‘clinician’ identities was perfectly captured by the actors constantly interchanging between these roles during the play. This also served as an important reminder that none of us are immune to the potentially devastating effects of mental ill health and that the perspectives of patients and professionals are equally valid. The inclusion of full nudity in one scene of the play was rather unexpected, and potentially (or indeed intentionally) uncomfortable for the audience, but it highlighted how vulnerable and powerless individuals can feel while on a psychiatric ward. Ironically, Arnhild had just been granted her request of a bath by a doctor who had listened to her plea of wanting to be treated like a ‘normal’ woman, but then had her dignity quickly swept aside as two members of staff (and the entire audience) watched her undress and bathe. Such close observation is undoubtedly essential when an individual is considered to be at high risk of taking their own life, but the scene provided an important insight into how degrading the experience of mental health ‘care’ can be for those on inpatient wards. The issue of using physical restraint in mental health settings was also tackled in the play – initially

facetiously through a farcical staff training session followed by the brutal reality of experiencing it firsthand. The theatre company ran a campaign alongside the play to end face-down restraint; a highly dangerous practice that unfortunately still sometimes occurs on psychiatric wards in the UK. The depiction of physical restraint was suitably balanced in the play though, with Arnhild acknowledging that she wouldn’t be alive without such intervention, but stressed the importance of using words first and explaining to the person what is happening before and during the process. Indeed the whole play challenges mental health professionals to take a long hard look at the way they interact with individuals under their care and screamed (sometimes literally) for the adoption of a more compassionate approach that respects the individual’s right to be treated as a human being and equal. This need not be complicated; small acts of kindness (such as a smile, taking a few moments to listen to the person’s needs, and respecting their opinion) clearly made a huge difference to Arnhild’s experience of psychiatric care and her ability to hold on to an ounce or two of selfworth. This sentiment was echoed during the post-show discussion I did with Jonny Benjamin, a prominent mental health campaigner who has schizoaffective disorder, who emphasised the importance of small gestures from staff in making his stays on psychiatric wards bearable. I found participating in these post-show discussions rewarding and very humbling. It was a fantastic way to directly and creatively engage the public in thinking about mental health and to begin to breakdown the stigma that is still associated with schizophrenia. Indeed we were privileged to have this discussion space, given that in Belarus we could all have been arrested for simply watching the play let alone discussing its subject matter! Reviewed by Dr Helen L. Fisher, a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London

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the psychologist january 2017 culture

No justice, no peace 13th is a raw and powerful new documentary directed by Ava DuVernay, a Golden Globe and Oscar nominee for Selma. The Netflix feature-length documentary opens with shocking statistics, grippingly spoken by outgoing President Obama, that ‘America is home to 5 per cent of the world’s population, but 25 per cent of the world’s prisoners’. In the land of the free, what is even more concerning is that one in three African-American men will be imprisoned in their lifetime. Against the backdrop of the current political climate in the USA (which includes movements such as Black Lives Matter), 13th offers an unflinching look at racial inequality within the criminal justice system, the American politics, the concept of ‘black criminality’ and the USA correctional service. The documentary takes its title from the 13th Amendment, which made it unconstitutional for any American to be held as a slave. A clause exempts criminals from this Bill of Rights. The film argues that this loophole, which allowed servitude as a punishment for crime, has been exploited and actually serves to maintain African-Americans in servitude within the context of the criminal justice system. 13th takes a significant step forward in identifying and naming the mechanisms by which black people are incarcerated at a higher rate than their white counterparts (1 in 17): legislation, lower socioeconomic status, illegal drugs, relationships with law enforcement and politics all play a part, along with more psychological and psychodynamic mechanisms such as fear of the Other, splitting, projective identification and internalisation. 13th confronts issues of racial inequality within the USA by embedding them in a historical framework. The first half sets the scene and provides a stark review of the context of the country’s relationship with slavery, racism, politics, legislation and criminality. The second half focuses on the US correctional system, racial biases in the criminal justice system, black mental health, and issues associated with mandatory sentencing and plea bargaining. It also explores the financial implications associated with the interlinked web of companies that profit and contribute to growing prison populations. One example is Kalief Browder who was imprisoned without a trial for three years on false charges of robbery (stealing a backpack) at 16. He was unable to post bail set at $10,000. He maintained his innocence by refusing a plea bargain which resulted in his incarceration. Two years following dismissal of the case and his release, Kalief committed suicide by hanging himself. Activists attributed his mental health decline to the beatings he received by

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other prisoners and guards as well being held in solitary confinement for two of the three years in prison. 13th presents the vicious cycle of the psychological impact narratives of racial difference (i.e. presumption of dangerousness and guilt) continue to have upon African-Americans. This includes their sense of self, their family structure (loss of sons and brothers, and absent fathers), the intergenerational transmission of negative racial experience, their sense of community and their uncertainty about their place in the 21st century (e.g. the loss of the right to vote). The documentary invites a diverse range of highly respected individuals to comment, and the narratives are arrestingly illustrated through archive video footage and interviews with those directly affected by this phenomenon. The film is set to a powerful soundtrack from lyrical wordsmiths who further connect the viewer to the raw emotions evoked through the narratives and visual images. 13th provokes strong feelings of upset, anger and shame. However, it also leaves the viewer with a sense of hope. The film, along with modern-day advances (such as instant video recording and the internet), and increased awareness and courage, may allow conversations to occur that effect meaningful change and address the longstanding/chronic issue of the disenfranchisement of an entire race based upon skin colour. Although the documentary is American, it has implications for the UK. It invites us to think meaningfully and critically about the UK’s experience of race, racism, the criminal justice system and the prison service.

film 13th Ava DuVernay (Director) Netflix

Reviewed by Dr Roberta Babb, Chartered Psychologist, Registered Clinical Psychologist and Honorary Forensic Psychodynamic Psychotherapist

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James Pennebaker ‘Real things are just endlessly fascinating’ Our editor Jon Sutton poses the questions, on expressive writing, humour in teaching and more

I was hugely impressed in your talk just now with the walk through science that you took, and how multidisciplinary and multi-method your approach has been. What are the roots of that approach, in terms of the psychologists and theories that inspired you when you began that journey? I started the way that I’ve approached life, from the very beginning, from right out in the backyard, growing up and trying to figure out what’s the best way to kill ants! Trying to understand how to catch fish, or doing chemistry experiments. This mixture of just playing and then trying to understand, and then coming up with a model of how it must be working, and then testing that out. So it’s not something that was unique to me in terms of psychology, it was something that I’ve just always done. A very practical focus on life, that has led you to the advice that you gave to a student – ‘Go and study real things’. That’s exactly right. Because, you know, real things are just endlessly fascinating. In much of my early career, any time there was a big disaster, I was at the door to study it. A large group of people all dealing with something new – just watching how people do it tells you about the event, it tells you about people, it tells you about the context. I guess I’ve been saying the same thing over and over again, going back and forth between trying to understand, and also just discover. Looking at disasters, that led you to study 9/11, and the aftermath. When 9/11 occurred, because I’d studied so many others – I’d studied an earthquake and I’d studied shootings, and all sorts of things – when that happened, I knew exactly what to do, because I’d done so many of these things that I could jump right in.

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James Pennebaker will be a keynote speaker at the Society’s 2017 Annual Conference To book for Brighton, 3-5 May, see www.bps.org.uk/ac2017

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By way of giving a bit of an intro to people who don’t know about you, say you were to analyse a corpus of my written words, what would you expect to be able to determine? By the way, I used your Twitter tool, apparently my feed is that of a ‘worried, spacey Valley Girl’… Then I’d be a little concerned about the way you’re writing! Many people are… In terms of your general writing, if I analysed your email, I could do a pretty good job of telling how socially connected you are, how smart you are, how analytic you are, how self-aware you are, how personal, how depression-prone, how honest… With all of these, I would do better than chance, and I’d do better probably than someone who read your emails. It wouldn’t be perfect, and that’s the important issue, this gets to trying to understand the real world. Would you do better than people who talk to me, for example, or is it just that with the written word you can do it so quickly? That’s it, I can do it so quickly. And it’s kind of like if you ask all your friends about you, they’re going to come away with slight variations in terms of who you are, because you behave differently around each one. The beauty of the emails is that they can pick up each one. What information do you change when you’re talking from one person to the next? Has technology in that way been a godsend to you? The work of course could not have been done 30 years ago, it’s just so costly… to go through and count words on that page and find out which dimension each word is, would take somebody half a day, and would take me 1/100th of a second. At the same time, in terms of interventions, does it in some ways make the opportunities for expressive writing interventions more narrow, because people are so emotionally expressive in a variety of online forums?

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the psychologist january 2017 interview

Jon Sutton

“I don’t think people need to do expressive writing very often. I view it as a kind of life course correction… I will do expressive writing myself now maybe once or twice a year”

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02/12/2016 14:25


That’s a very interesting question. I do think there’s been a cultural shift, that people are more open nowadays than they were when I started this research.

this in our Introductory Psychology class, I’ll say, ‘There are 1500 people in this class, I will not read what you’ve written’.

Maybe too open? It gets annoying on social media. Other languages have a word for people who, when you ask them how you are, they tell you. People don’t necessarily like the emotionally expressive. That’s exactly right. I think there has been a cultural shift. I used to think that people being expressive online would not be as healthy as writing for yourself; there’s a study done by a group in Israel that shows that expressive writing through social media is as healthy as writing for yourself that surprised me.

Because it’s just fed into the computer. Yes. So if you’re trying to get some kind of support, or cry for help, do it directly.

How much do you need to write, to experience the benefits of emotionally expressive writing? I don’t think people need to do expressive writing very often. I view it as kind of a life course correction. I look at myself; I will do expressive writing myself now maybe once or twice a year, and I’ll do it and will sit down and write, I’ll get up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning about my current job, and I can’t sleep, and I’ll get up and write for about 20 or 30 minutes and that’s that. So maybe when you’re younger, a little more, things are more chaotic. Is it important to write when things are going well? I’d say no. My attitude is: Why? Because if things are going well, you should enjoy them. Don’t analyse them; just enjoy them. That’s interesting. That might be why a lot of people stop writing diaries after the teenage years, because they’re dealing with all of that complexity and uncertainty, and I did this myself through to my teenage years, and realised that the entries were getting – ‘everything’s kind of all right, no point doing this’. That’s exactly right. When people do write about traumatic events, in the course of your research, how do you deal with that ethically? If things are revealed that maybe haven’t been revealed in other ways? I’ve dealt with this in all sorts of ways. What I do is I tell people beforehand that if you talk about anything that could signal to me that you’re a danger to yourself or others, I have to act on that. And hardly ever does that happen, but if it does, I contact them first and then afterwards I’ll contact authorities if necessary. I can’t remember when that’s been necessary. In other studies I’ll say, some studies we won’t link to names with their writing so I can’t identify them. In others, I tell people, ‘I will not read what you’re writing’, so I’ll do

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What about the ethics in terms of the use of your methods? Clearly there’s applications that we’re talking about, working for Microsoft, so you’re clearly comfortable with the more commercial applications of your methods. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, is that something you feel aware of? So here’s the issue: I’ve created a computer program that any dope can do on their own, so if other people are going to do it, so be it. In terms of my own computer program, and I have a commercial wing of my life, so there’s a company that uses it. It’s not as though this is an intervention, it’s more, just, it’s a thermometer, it’s like selling a thermometer, if you make meth with a thermometer, that’s just life in the fast lane. So it’s a tool that’s used to pick up things that are already out there. That’s right. I should say – the kind of stuff I’m doing is creepy. I mean – it is creepy, how much we can learn about people from their word use. But we can say the same thing with body language, or cameras, or whatever. You’re an HBO series waiting to happen, a kind of Lie to Me! Do you think that’s only not happened because words don’t lend themselves to the visual? You’d have to have words flying around on the screen… I’d like to just move now to your approach to teaching, because that’s something that’s come more to the fore recently. It has. Explain to me how your approach to teaching differs from what’s out there. Well, it’s become much more technology-heavy. We’re doing a big online class, and Sam Gosling and I have been teaching that now for ten years together, and about four years ago we began to switch to online. The Intro Psych class TV show, we broadcast it out to 1500–2000 people. It’s a live broadcast TV show. We have a quiz at the beginning of every class. At every class, we break the class into small groups so they can work together, we have surveys and give people immediate feedback, so there’s constant feedback, constant connection between the students and us. There’s kind of an irony – students feel more connected to us in a class of 1500, than if we taught a class to a 100. Why is that? Because we’re immediate. Our faces are this big, when you’re watching this, and it’s the immediacy that you get from watching a late-night talk show, you get to know that person actually pretty well. This happened

02/12/2016 14:25


the psychologist january 2017 interview

with my wife, she was at a play in New York, and the person who sat down next to her was Stephen Colbert, and this issue the entire time is that my wife feels like she knows him. They ended up talking, and he has this all the time, that people feel that they’re really connected. And that’s how my students are with Sam and me. It’s parasocial attachment, isn’t it? Yeah, it is. It’s really quite striking. When we walk around campus and students go, ‘Oh my God, Dr Pennebaker!’ You know, you see them and they’re all flushed and getting really excited and they want to take pictures with me. You seem very approachable. But here’s the point – I used to teach the class live to 500 and never did that ever happen.

We might have to do that. It’s linking in with your research, your approach to teaching, it’s all about that narrative. Have you applied that approach and those findings in your own life? Do you keep diaries? I write occasionally. I don’t write very often. And you’re married to a writer. Exactly. In terms of self-reflective writing, I do it sometimes, but not very often. I do it when it’s needed; when there’s stress or conflict in my life. All the data show that the younger you are, the more stress and conflict you have, and the older you get, you’ve been through it all, or more and more of it. When you’re young and horny, it leads you to really stupid things, you just can’t control yourself. That’s the definition of youth. And when that happens, that’s when writing is really beneficial.

Tell me about the importance of the ‘function words’. I think it’s fascinating that you’ve picked up on something that comprised 70 per cent of everyday speech, but until you went into that, it was mostly ignored as unimportant. You’re a funny guy, as well… Do you think it’s That’s right. It’s the difference between content and style. important to use wit when you’re teaching? It’s a little bit like watching two people, like those three You know, teaching is a mixture of entertainment and people there, you could ask ‘Where information. Anybody who denies are they going? Are they going that is not a good teacher. If you can’t a particular route?’. But you can hold a person’s attention; you’re not “teaching is a mixture also watch how they’re walking, successful. of entertainment and you can get a sense of what their information. Anybody relationship is, their social class, all How does that work in practice? these other things, all these stylistic Is it jokes, or more a general who denies that is not variables that are telling us about approach to the material, the a good teacher” their psychological state, their social examples you use? relationships, and that’s kind of what This gets at the nature of the narrative function words are doing. So they’re of stories. Look at you, you’re not telling us what they’re talking about, but they’re telling professional, you write, if you write dry text, no one will us how you’re thinking, and how you’re connecting. get past the third sentence. And you know that. And so what you do is the same thing as I do, you personalise it, you humanise the person, you use every sleazy trick in the From what I’ve seen of your own language use, the Pennebaker Inventory of Limbic Languidness, book to keep people on the page. take the PILL online, you’re using language to form acronyms that are a little bit witty. At the moment we’re doing a redesign of the I should tell you that I used to get shit because I’d invent magazine, due to launch in January, which may well clever names like that, and that’s why I call my computer end up containing this interview now, because part program that – I wanted to sound so obscure and of that is around changing in a way that makes in complex. Linguistic Inquiry Word Count – what could be particular our articles more engaging. As part of that more boring and academically appropriate? we’re thinking about what the writing style is; what I’m known for being a little bit cute and flip. So I is it that we’re looking for from our mainly academic wanted this to be scientifically respectable. contributors? It feels to me that the time is right to capitalise, there’s changing climate with academics Choose your moments to be cute and flip. understanding the need to write in a more engaging Exactly. and personalised way, not just a big long list of academic references. Your wife Ruth has published a book called Pucker You also have to start using more YouTube videos. Up – The Subversive Woman’s Guide to Aging with Wit, Wine, Drama, Humour, Perspective and the Occasional If we had the resources! Good Cry. Do you see yourself as a subversive man, You don’t need many resources. You can have a ageing alongside her in the same fashion? two-minute snippet of a person telling a story, or who Of course. That’s one reason I think we’ve always been knows. But there are so many ways, if you don’t do it, attracted to each other, because we’re both subversive. you’re going to get screwed. Maybe that’s partly the selfie generation. I think it’s the online, it’s just so different.

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02/12/2016 14:25


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02/12/2016 11:19


What has The Psychologist ever done for us? Ian Florance follows up some of his ‘Careers’ interviewees The Psychologist, like the Roman Empire, seems to have been around for a very long time. As this issue shows, our long life reflects constant refreshment and reinvention. But as Monty Python’s Life of Brian asked of the Roman Empire, what has The Psychologist ever done for us? To focus on one element in the magazine, more than 200 psychologists have answered questions about what it’s like to be a psychologist in our ‘Careers’ interviews. What happened to them? By taking an hour or two out of their working days, did they find unexpected outcomes and benefits?

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Some psychologists are slightly defensive (or ‘nervous’ as Elizabeth Stokoe commented) when approached by the media, even The Psychologist. Yet many interviewees found the process valuable in itself. Catriona Morrison told me: ‘It is always an indulgence to talk about yourself, but reflecting on my career path set off some thoughts: how did I get here? Is this where I want to be? In fact, I’d say it was more useful than most of the staff development reviews I’ve had in the various universities I’ve worked in!’ Jackie Sykes also suggested that it ‘gave time to reflect’ and this can sometimes lead to firm resolutions. Almuth McDowall discovered that she missed teaching occupational psychology, and speaking to me made her determined to get back to it. Kim Stephenson backed up these views: ‘It was interesting to be able to look at myself.’ For Elizabeth Stokoe, the interview ‘provided a “taking stock” moment, in terms of what I’d achieved so far in my career – and even think that words like achieve and career might apply to me. It made me think a lot about how best to communicate what I do – which is fairly opaque to lots of psychologists – in the most effective way.’ Reactions to the interview Of course, people can be equally nervous about the reactions to their interviews once they’re printed. Some of the interviewees (Funke Baffour and Elizabeth Stokoe, for instance) commented that very few of their friends are psychologists or read The Psychologist. But others had different stories. Catriona Morrison told me that she ‘got universally positive feedback. Indeed, I think some of my friends/colleagues weren’t aware of what I had been doing, and were surprisingly complementary.’ ‘I got lots of e-mails and feedback – all positive’, said Jackie Sykes. Roy Childs raised an issue a lot of us face. ‘My friends and family always ask what I do and don’t really get it… so it was nice to give them something which explained my work and thinking.’ In other cases, the reaction has been varied. ‘I got my leg pulled about being in the media – very goodnaturedly. People at conferences come up to me having read the interview, which was really nice’ (Almuth McDowall). Kim Stephenson argued passionately for the relationship between psychology and finance in his

02/12/2016 11:21


the psychologist january 2017 careers

interview. He was perhaps surprised by the lack of reaction from psychologists themselves. ‘I made a couple of interesting contacts with other people who were in that edition, one of whom was an educational psychologist who gave me some useful ideas for communicating ideas with under-16s. And I had one contact from somebody who’d studied psychology, who I’m now working with on various education and charity projects… Any (other) comment I’ve had – and it’s all been favourable, along the lines of “that’s really interesting, I don’t see why more people don’t do it, I must get your book” – has been from business people, charity workers, et cetera. Not a single psychologist.’ Did the interview open any doors? Elizabeth Stokoe’s experiences are worth recounting in full. ‘This was the unexpected and amazing thing about the interview… It led to real career-changing things. I was approached by BBC Radio 4 The Life Scientific, who found me via The Psychologist… As a massive Radio 4 fan, I was absolutely thrilled, but also again to be given the opportunity to talk on a serious science programme. So my research and biography got a 30-minute dedicated programme, alongside the likes of Brian Cox, Peter Higgs and Richard Dawkins. After that, academic life changed quite a bit! I had huge interest from professionals of all kinds – from salespeople to medics and other academics, and so on, which generated lots of research partnerships and the interest kind of snowballed. From there I did a TEDx talk in Bermuda, was invited (three times now!) to talk at the Royal Institution, I won a WIRED Innovation Fellowship, had loads of invites to give guest speaker lectures (from Tatler magazine to the Gas Board!). Just recently I was back with The Psychologist as part of the Wellcome Trust Hub at Latitude Festival. So that interview really changed my academic life, and gave conversation analysis a public platform it would never have had otherwise.’ Stephanie Davies also was invited to give talks internationally and, if you read her initial interview, Catriona Morrison you can see why she’d be a real success as a public speaker. said that being Other outcomes related to interviewed careers. According to Catriona ‘set off some Morrison, ‘it helped to recognise my thoughts’ standing – at least as I put it across in the interview! I’m sure it was helpful in me getting a more senior university job, as Professor and Head of Department, having been a Senior Lecturer.’ Susan Golombok felt it got ‘the work of the Centre for Family Research in front of psychologists with different backgrounds’, and Almuth McDowall mentions ‘opportunities for outreach work, usually more than I can meet’. As for Jackie Sykes, although she couldn’t identify direct outcomes she said there may well be ‘an indirect link to book sales’.

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What else happened? A number of people I speak to link to the interviewees on their websites or in proposals tenders. Stephanie Davis explains. ‘Coverage in The Psychologist strengthens positioning… It has more weight than many publications, particularly given that I’m in an unusual area of work.’ For Cordelia Galgut, whose interview appeared fairly recently, ‘It’s too early to evaluate if it’s had an effect, but it was important professionally and personally. It is interesting to see my life and professional journey to date down in black and white.’ Catriona Morrison raised interesting points. ‘What I particularly liked about the article is that it was quite personal too, and presented me as a rounded human being, with more to it than it just being a job. I am sure this will help aspiring psychologists to feel like they don’t have to be super-human in order to achieve a career in psychology… what I think was additionally really helpful was the occasional tweeting by @psychmag to keep it visible and in the public domain. Articles in a monthly publication will be read once and forgotten – I think what the magazine is doing with keeping articles live is a really good idea.’ Funke Baffour reports that her interview ‘resulted in a number of young, black women contacting me to suggest I’d inspired them to try to pursue a career in psychology’. Kim Stephenson makes a very practical point: that getting the view of a neutral on his work ‘helped with setting out brief biographies, pen portraits for articles and other communications’.

Funke Baffour inspired a number of readers to pursue a career in psychology

Roy Childs said it was nice to give friends and family something that explained his work and thinking

A summary Of course this is only a snapshot of 15 years of ‘Careers’ interviews. We have not yet looked at the effect of the articles on readers: for instance, have they helped undergraduate and in-training psychologists in their decision-making? The application of psychology has never been more important in national and international policy, even in entertainment and the private lives of many people. In addition to models, theories and robust research, the stories and biographies of psychologists and the psychologically trained could help to increase this influence. But for now, it at least seems that being interviewed offers benefits to the interviewees, not least increased opportunities to communicate their ideas and work to a diverse readership. To read these and other careers interviews, see www.thepsychologist.org.uk/meets

Might you have an interesting story to tell about your career path, the highs and lows of your current role or the professional challenges you are facing? If you would like to be considered for a ‘Careers’ interview in The Psychologist, get in touch with the editor Dr Jon Sutton (jon.sutton@bps.org.uk). Of course there are many other ways to contribute to The Psychologist, but this is one that many find to be particularly quick, easy and enjoyable.

02/12/2016 11:21


Advertising opportunities in 2017 CPL has been appointed by the British Psychological Society and we are very excited to be your point of contact for all advertising. CPL is an award-winning full service agency that was established in 1996. The new appointments website has recently launched, and is still the number one site for psychology jobs. Now fully accessible on mobile and desktops, the site features increased search functionality, greater ease of use and navigation. For recruiters, there are many more targeting options for you to promote your vacancies to members and visitors.   www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk.

To discuss the opportunities for advertising and promotion in The Psychologist,  www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk and Research Digest, please contact Kai Theriault on 01223 378051 or email kai.theriault@cpl.co.uk. Upcoming Display issues advert deadline

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We offer excellent working conditions and a range of benefits, including support from our psychology department, excellent training opportunities, a contributory pension scheme, competitive salary and career development and support. For an informal discussion please contact Lynn McGhee on 07773 043049 or email lynn.mcghee@sept.nhs.uk To apply for the post please visit www.jobs.nhs.uk quoting job reference 364-6006JO

02/12/2016 11:22


Migration and mental illness Marjory Harper delves into archives for tales of alien environments and unfulfilled expectations

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02/12/2016 11:23


the psychologist january 2017 looking back

The images of traumatised refugees that dominate the media remind us of the psychological dislocation that can accompany the physical displacement of migration. But such dislocation is not only the fate of enforced exiles.

are also relevant, for both his initial breakdown and his subsequent disappearance may have been provoked partly by his failure to strike it lucky in either the American or Australian goldfields. This illustration therefore highlights the central question of whether problems were attributable to an inherent restlessness that had spawned the decision to migrate in the first place, or were triggered by the traumatic repercussions of relocation. Such questions lie at the heart of an ongoing multidisciplinary evaluation of migrant alienation and rootlessness which seeks to integrate historical islocation has been a recurring studies and psychiatric research with the scholarship thread in the testimony of those of a variety of other specialisms. That objective was whose quest for adventure or initially pursued through two symposia, held in Canada advancement in new locations and Scotland. The second event has given rise to the has unravelled, when positive imminent publication of a collection I have edited expectations of settlement which explores migration and mental health in historical have turned into negative and contemporary contexts, and evaluates triggers nightmares of unsettlement. It is and treatments through a variety of complementary also a phenomenon that has been pathologised within disciplinary lenses. a variety of psychiatric categories in hospital admission My own interest – which developed from a wider registers and case books. study of migration within the British Empire (Harper & Some of the key issues are exemplified in the case Constantine, 2010) – is in the causes and consequences of M., who was admitted to Gartnavel Royal Asylum of insanity among 19th-century in Glasgow in 1859. Aged 31, M’s immigrants in Canada. The reports previous occupations were listed “Migrant diaries, letters of immigration officials in the host as ‘seaman, gold-digger, merchant, lands, and the gatekeeping policies and clerk’. He was declared to be and memoirs are dotted they adopted, tended to emphasise ‘of unsound mind, and suffering with recollections of the former, while the case notes of under a severe attack of brain traumatic transitions asylums incorporated pre-migration disorder’ which manifested itself background factors within a much in incoherence and delusions. He from old to new worlds: wider analysis of environment and was also ‘very dangerous’. Eight the dilemmas of experiences in the new country. months later, however, he was decision-making, the Sub-themes to ponder in addressing discharged, ‘recovered’, and left causation include the relevance of almost immediately for Australia, pain of parting, and gender, occupation and religion, ‘with the intent of advancing himself the discomforts as well as ethnicity. How did the in life, but without any settled plan’ of the journey” proportions of different ethnicities (NRS, CS46, 1883). It was not his in Canadian asylums relate to their first experience overseas, as it was presence in the population as a during an earlier sojourn in America whole? Did the proportions of English, Welsh, Scottish that he had first received private psychiatric treatment, and Irish patients reflect their distribution across the before returning to Glasgow to the care of his family and British Isles? How did perceptions of mental illness subsequently to hospital custody. Shortly after arriving among migrants to Canada compare with diagnoses and in Melbourne in 1860, M. corresponded briefly with his aetiologies in other parts of the British world? (McCarthy brother, and the two arranged to meet. That rendezvous & Coleborne, 2012). did not take place, and M. was never heard of again. Migrant diaries, letters and memoirs are dotted with M’s incomplete history demonstrates the difficulty recollections of traumatic transitions from old to new of determining causation. Heredity possibly played a worlds: the dilemmas of decision-making, the pain of part, since three close relatives were detained in the parting, and the discomforts of the journey. In most Royal Edinburgh Asylum. Yet disappointed expectations

D

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cases the difficulties were short-lived or manageable, but institutional records occasionally indicate that they were catalysts for mental breakdown. Mrs C. from Edinburgh, who was admitted to the British Columbia Asylum for the Insane in 1890, fell ill, according to her case notes, because of ‘indisposition and the long trip from Scotland to BC’, during which she had taken opium and attempted suicide (PABC no. 371). Disappointed expectations feature particularly prominently in migrant testimony and asylum records alike. While these setbacks were often related to work, wages or living standards, they sometimes Key sources involved more inflated notions. Some of the most disillusioned migrants on earth in the 19th Harper, M. (Ed.) (2016). Migration and mental health: Past and present. century must have been the restless London: Palgrave Macmillan. prospectors who – like M. – Harper, M. & Constantine, S. (2010), crossed continents in a vain quest Migration and Empire. Oxford: Oxford for gold. Many were attracted to University Press. the Cariboo in the 1860s or the McCarthy, A.H. (2010). A difficult Klondike stampede three decades voyage. History Scotland, 10(4), 26–31. McCarthy, A.H. & Coleborne, C. (Eds.) later. Just over 6 per cent of the (2012). Migration, ethnicity and mental 1110 patients admitted to the BC health: International perspectives, Provincial Asylum between 1872 1840–2010. New York and London: and 1900 were described as ‘miners’ Routledge. or ‘prospectors’, many of whom Roberts, B. (1988). Whence they came: had delusions about being robbed Deportation from Canada 1900–1935. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. of their claims. One Scottish miner Rølvaag, O. (1929). Giants in the earth: claimed to have made over $40,000 A saga of the prairie (translated from from prospecting in the Cariboo, the Norwegian by Lincoln Colcord and and a Welsh patient was described the author). New York and London: as a ‘monomaniac on the subject of Harper & Brothers. gold’ (PABC, nos 525, 838). Full list available online Disappointed expectations were exacerbated by the isolation and

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extreme climate of the Klondike, but environmental disillusionment was not the preserve of prospectors who moiled in the extractive industries of the BC frontier. Many prairie settlers bewailed the featureless monotony of their surroundings, and when the Countess of Aberdeen visited the infant Hebridean settlement at Killarney in Manitoba in 1890, she was repelled by the ‘inexpressible dreariness of these everlasting prairies’ where ‘the struggle to live has swallowed up all the energy’ (unpublished journal, 1890). Across the border, the Norwegian novelist Ole Rølvaag charted the descent into insanity of a pioneer settler’s wife as the family’s wagon train moved westwards ‘beyond the outposts of civilization’ across the infinite, formless prairie which ‘had no heart that beat, no waves that sang, no soul that could be touched – or cared’ (Rølvaag, 1929, p.37). Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, ‘secluded life on a station’ was blamed for the illness of a Scottish shepherd who became a long-term patient at the Sunnyside Asylum in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1851 (ANZ Christchurch 1872–81). Of course, none of these factors operated unilaterally. Unfulfilled expectations, loneliness, and an alien environment could trigger or exacerbate homesickness, which, in extreme cases, could lead to mental illness. Although admission registers did not articulate the problem in those terms, it was clearly evident in correspondence, which highlights another theme and provides a bridge to the second part of the research agenda – for relatives, doctors and politicians did not speak with one voice about either the causes or the treatment of mental illness. Heredity was the main bone of contention, and was cited in over 6 per cent of admissions to the BC Asylum. Britain was accused of exporting migrants who were already of unsound mind, and doctors and

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‘I’ve spent much of my career studying aspects of emigration and diaspora in the 19th and 20th centuries. Source material tends to be slanted towards adventure and success, but that’s only one side of the coin. I have always been aware of a more negative dimension, demonstrated in the personal testimony or external observation of disappointed migrants who failed to adapt, integrate or assimilate. A sharp-eyed archivist friend at the National Records of Scotland introduced me to petitions and correspondence filed under the Presumption of Life Limitation (Scotland) Acts of 1881 and 1891 – the dry label masks heart-breaking stories of blighted hopes before the letter-writers fell silent. And some of the most extreme cases of misfortune were articulated in the case notes of patients who were detained in hospitals and asylums across the empire of settlement. I have consulted the records of asylums in Scotland, Canada and New Zealand. My focus has been the British Columbia Provincial Hospital, whose General Register of Admissions and case notes form the basis for the article. Colleagues and I are now framing comparative, multi-disciplinary research into migration and health in both historical and contemporary contexts.’

the psychologist january 2017 looking back

policy-makers across the dominions The second part of the research collected evidence of previous agenda shifts the focus to policyhospitalisation or hereditary insanity. making and involves an exploration But some families hotly disputed of the ways in which the Canadian such stigmatisation, as we see in authorities – federal and provincial the case of R., who was sent from – responded to the problem of the Klondike to the BC Provincial insanity in the half-century after Hospital in 1900. A diagnosis of Confederation. Reports, investigative paranoia elicited an indignant letter commissions and legislation reflect from his father in Hertfordshire, contemporary debates about care, who challenged the Medical custody and treatment, as well as Superintendent: ‘What were the policies and practices of denial, circumstances that caused the detention and removal. Deportation authorities to charge him with was the favoured sanction against all insanity? … I may say for your types of unacceptable immigrants, guidance there has never been and Canada’s record in deporting any insanity in our family … I am them was allegedly ‘by far the worst much inclined to judge he has been in the entire British Commonwealth’ the victim of an outrage’ (PABC, (Roberts 1988, p.ix). Immigrants no. 1052). deemed to be mentally or physically In 1894 J., a nursemaid, was defective were always at the top of admitted to the same hospital, the list, and as well as investigating suffering – according to the the emphasis on deportation of the accompanying medical certificates – ‘insane’ and ‘feeble-minded’ per se, from ‘religious mania’. She was upset we need to consider whether such about a recent schism in the Free definitions may sometimes have Church of Scotland and maintained been deployed disingenuously, to that ‘until one of her own people justify decisions that were made on from her own country comes to talk the grounds of immigrants’ political to her in Gaelic to her nothing will or social unacceptability. be right’ (PABC no. 569). When K. These questions are rendered was admitted to the same institution particularly challenging, however, 13 years later, one of the medical because of the destruction of a key certificates reported that he ‘talks source that would have allowed us and shrieks in Gaelic continuously. to trace the experiences of specific Will not answer any questions, migrants from hospitalisation to nor talk in English, merely yells in deportation. Some years ago Library Gaelic’ (PABC no. 2003). With these and Archives Canada disposed of exceptions, the BC asylum records virtually all nominal deportation examined to date did not discuss records that predated the 1940s. It patients’ maladies with reference is therefore impossible to conduct to their ethnicity. This is notably rigorous quantitative analysis different from documentation in or to correlate references to the New Zealand, where there was a very deportation of patients found in clear thread of ethnic stereotyping provincial asylum case files with Marjory Harper in both medical reports and federal deportation orders for those is Chair in History at the official returns from the same era same individuals. University of Aberdeen. (McCarthy, 2010). The absence of Any scrutiny of responses, This piece is adapted from an ethnic labelling in the BC records however, must also consider the article that originally appeared is surprising, particularly in the attitudes of patients and families, in Wellcome History. eugenics-dominated decade before who – as already hinted – often m.harper@abdn.ac.uk 1914, when Canadian commentators had a different perspective from frequently asserted that weakthe gatekeeping and fire-fighting minded immigrants from Britain priorities of administrators and were polluting their society and draining their economy: doctors. Correspondence in case files can offer significant an article in the University Monthly, for instance, insights, and these sources, alongside a variety of official asserted that a preponderance of ‘English defectives’ paper trails, provide us with sufficient evidence for a in the admission registers of Toronto’s asylums was a meaningful exploration of the causes and consequences consequence of ‘the wholesale cleaning out of the slums of insanity among Canada’s immigrant population of English cities’ (Clarke, 1907–8, pp.273–278). between Confederation and the First World War.

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AZ the

psychologist to

Suggested by Martin Milton, Professor of Counselling Psychology at Regent’s University London (Twitter: @swlondonpsych) ‘Our egocentrism has made us one of the most successful species on the planet, but it is central in the challenges we are facing: those such as a massively growing population, stress on water and food, and terrorism. We need an understanding of altruism – towards those we deem friends, the Other and those that share our planetary home – more than ever if we are going to foster relationships and enhance quality of life in all our human and bio diversity.’

Among people who feel they have low status, increased neural markers of empathy are actually related to reduced altruism. A team led by Yina Ma at Peking University surmised that any feelings of empathy are quashed by a grudging sense of low status.

80

Subtle exposure to the sight of two apparently companionable dolls, stood side by side, is enough to increase the likelihood that an 18-month-old will

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Karla Novak

A ...is for Altruism

coming soon… The downsides of positivity; building spatial skills in preschool; the pain of youth; and much more...

help an adult pick up some dropped sticks. That’s according to research led by Harriet Over. Psychologist Barbara Oakley has put forward the concept of ‘pathological altruism’: ‘in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in unanticipated harm’. Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller argues that ‘We have the capacity for moral behaviour and moral judgments today because our ancestors favoured sexual partners who were kind, generous, helpful and fair’. Is that still the case in modern society?

A to Z Tweet your thoughts on this topic, and suggestions for any letter, to @psychmag using the hashtag #PsychAtoZ or email the editor on jon.sutton@ bps.org.uk

contribute... reach 50,000 colleagues, with something to suit all. See www.thepsychologist.org.uk/ contribute or talk to the editor, Dr Jon Sutton jon.sutton@bps.org.uk +44 116 252 9573 comment... email the editor, write to us or call at the Leicester office, or tweet us @psychmag to advertise... Reach a large and professional audience at bargain rates: see details on inside front cover

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Find out more online at www.bps.org.uk

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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

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Profile for The British Psychological Society

The Psychologist January 2017  

This is the relaunch issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. To receive your copy as a member or affiliat...

The Psychologist January 2017  

This is the relaunch issue of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. To receive your copy as a member or affiliat...