psychologist june 2018
Can psychologists shift public policy? Carl Walker, Ewen Speed and Danny Taggart pick their ‘Overrated/Underrated’
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psychologist june 2018
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Can psychologists shift public policy? Carl Walker, Ewen Speed and Danny Taggart pick their ‘Overrated/Underrated’
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’
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psychologist june 2018
92 Looking back Riya Yadav on Freud and penis envy
96 A to Z R is for…
Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor @psychmag
In my current extra role as the British Psychological Society’s Acting Director of Communications, I’ve repeatedly heard the refrain ‘Won’t the BPS say something?’ There are (at least) three points to make. First, in working more closely with Lisa MorrisonCoulthard and her Policy Team, I’ve seen that often, and increasingly, the Society is saying something (at least as much as it can, not being a trade union). Second, the Society is its membership: if psychologists are saying something, and getting in touch, more often than not we can channel and amplify those voices. But shifting policy is hard. On p.40, Carl Walker and colleagues give some reasons why. The process is ‘a dauntingly complex and ideologically riven mess of relations’; within this, psychologists often fundamentally disagree about whether and how we should strive for impact. Of course, as the authors conclude, this doesn’t mean we should give up. But we need many psychologists working together to shift the elephant of policy.
02 Letters Worboys case; and more 10 Sections We hear from those seeking support for four new Society Sections
16 News Eating disorders; awards; conference; and more
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32 Synchrony and the art of signalling Jorina von Zimmermann and Daniel Richardson take us from fireflies to military parades
40 Overrated/underrated Carl Walker, Ewen Speed and Danny Taggart on our capacity to impact policy, and the psychological expertise in informal settings
46 Public involvement in research – just good science Emma Palmer-Cooper
50 What should we do about trauma? Dan Johnson explores adversity in childhood
56 ‘I’ve built a good mousetrap and people come to use it’ Bec Sanderson meets Shalom Schwartz
62 Careers Joanna Wilde presents her ‘other CV’; and we meet Alan MacPherson
68 Jobs in psychology Prison and Probation Service
74 Books Including Q+As with Vicki Culpin and Ross White 84 Culture
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Dating and attraction Breaking bad habits How to win an argument The psychology of gift giving How to learn a new language How to be sarcastic Use psychology to compete like an Olympian
Can we trust psychological studies? 9 How to get the best from your team 10 How to stop procrastinating 11 How to get a good nightâ€™s sleep
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Meeting the challenge of eating disorders
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ew figures analysed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists have revealed a ‘postcode lottery’ in how quickly those aged under 19 receive urgent care for eating disorders across England. Figures show an improvement in the number of young people being seen within one week, but while in London more than 84 per cent of people are seen within this time, in the north of England the figure is just below 68 per cent. Although the NHS in England has seen overall improvements in waiting times for appointments, Dr Emily David, Lead Clinical Psychologist, Specialist Eating Disorder Service, Hampshire CAMHS, said: ‘At the moment there’s quite a disparity between what eatingdisorder service provision looks like up and down the country. There is a vision there will be a certain standard of care where a young person can present, wherever they are, and expect a certain quality and level of service within set time frames.’ The Guardian also recently reported NHS Digital figures that showed hospital admissions of those with an eating disorder as a primary or secondary diagnosis reached 13,885 in the year up to April 2017, compared with 7260 in 2010/2011. David said at her service she has seen an increase in young people coming for help when they are more acutely unwell. ‘The trend is that young people are presenting later and coming through more acutely unwell right from the outset. They’re not always able to be held safely in the community and require not just a psychiatric admission, but also admission to paediatric wards for medical stabilisation prior to a community package of care
being put in place or then transferred to the paediatric psychiatric ward.’ The government is funding eating-disorder community teams in England over the course of the mental health five-year forward view plan, which ends in 2021. These groups, funded by £30 million per year, were set up in 2017 with an aim to provide community eatingdisorder services across the whole of the country. David hopes new community teams will mean fewer hospital admissions and more-timely specialist treatment. ‘Community teams can’t hold all risk… they’re not emergency services. Some of these new services are really embryonic in terms of being set up and resourced and being able to deliver the NICErecommended treatment package for young people. While the intention is there, the rollout of these services, their reach, accessibility and functioning still needs a lot of development.’ David pointed to research by the eating-disorder charity Beat that showed 34 per cent of people were unable to name a single symptom of an eating disorder. This lack of awareness, she said, could be contributing to young people seeking help far later, and a general misunderstanding of the severity and dangers associated with eating disorders. ‘I think that eating disorders can be more difficult to identify in young people as it’s often a secretive illness. I think young people aren’t necessarily willing to identify that they’re experiencing a difficulty, so asking for help as a young person is incredibly difficult. There are questions around being taken seriously… I hear people saying all the time that it’s just a phase or a growth
the psychologist june 2018 news
For more information on the Everybody Campaign and to access its resources see https://hampshirecamhs. nhs.uk/campaigns/everybody-campaign
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Fashioning a distinguished contribution A psychologist who has worked with computer scientists, audio engineers and later turned her attention to fashion has won the British Psychological Society’s 2017 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology Education. Professor Carolyn Mair who created master’s courses in psychology and fashion at the London College of Fashion said she was over the moon to receive the award. The courses – an MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion and MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals – are the only two master’s courses that marry both topics anywhere in the world. Mair said she was proud to have combined the disciplines in an innovative way at one of the top fashion colleges in the world, and a BSc course in the psychology of fashion began recruiting last year. After coming to psychology in her thirties, Mair has had a varied, fascinating career path; she has worked with computer scientists studying decision-making in software cost prediction, in AI and machine learning, as well as in the creative industries, including early work as a portrait artist, graphic designer and dressmaker. She has since moved into consultancy work and has written a book The Psychology of
spurt or stress. It’s really easy to not pick up on the severity of something that’s really critical and acute.’ In response to these challenges David and her colleagues have launched a county-wide campaign in Hampshire– the Everybody Campaign – to raise awareness of eating-disorder symptoms and open up conversations among young people about body image. Children in the county’s primary and secondary schools will be offered free body-image workshops, and GPs surgeries and school nurses have been provided with information on eating-disorder risk indicators. In October two day-long events are being held for children and young people to learn more about eating disorders, as well as a professional conference providing practical information and strategies for frontline professionals to feel more confident in identifying and supporting young people with eating difficulties. David explained: ‘The Everybody Campaign is targeting eating disorders, body image and self-esteem in young people. We’re doing huge projects around prevention and early identification aiming it at young people, parents, carers, schools and GPs. I think some services are trying to be really proactive in recognising that these young people are coming through too late and we need to be aiming for early identification.’ Early identification plays a key role in eating disorders, with earlier diagnosis and specialist treatment leading to much better outcomes. ‘We need better links with GPs and schools who are so well placed to do that early identification and getting people help early on. One of the things I see is just how late people are presenting, and often GPs or nurses have been monitoring and waiting for six months to a year but that allows an eating disorder to become very entrenched. But if they had referred straight away, which NICE and Beat recommends, the prognosis is much, much better.’ This area of clinical work also presents many other challenges – David pointed to transitions between CAMHS and adult services as an area of concern. She said moving from child services after the age of 18 presents young people with a real culture shock at times. While NICE guidelines suggest family therapy as the therapeutic approach in helping young people with eating disorders, adult services focus more on the individual. ‘We are working with our adult colleagues to see if we can help to bridge that gap. One of the things we’re trying to do in CAMHS services is try to model, a little bit more, how adult services work in the run-up to transition. It’s a really big shift for families too – they’re used to having a family-based model where they’re in every therapy session and are fully involved with that person’s care plan. Then suddenly when someone moves to adult services, if the young person doesn’t consent, they have no information being shared with them whatsoever.’ er
Fashion, published in the Routledge series ‘The Psychology of Everything’. Mair said: ‘I have two main aims for the future. These are to continue to engage a broad audience in understanding the value of psychology as an applied science for the betterment of everyone and to promote the need for a more socially aware and socially responsible fashion industry.’ To find out more about Mair’s consultancy work see psychology. fashion and to read our collection of articles featuring her work see tinyurl.com/ycldqthd
Assessing children’s mental health concerns A new tool that captures children’s perspectives on their own mental health is now available to download free online. Researchers at King’s College London have developed PSYCHLOPS Kids in the wake of their work on Psychological Outcome Profiles (PSYCHLOPS) for adults, which was adopted by the World Health Organization in its Problem Management Plus programme in post-conflict communities. Dr Emma Godfrey, a Senior
Lecturer in health psychology (King’s College London) was part of the original multi-disciplinary team which developed adult PSYCHLOPS in the early 2000s with Mark Ashworth. She said the new measure for children showed higher responsiveness to change than a standardised measure and had demonstrated good validity and reliability. ‘PSYCHLOPS Kids was based on the original adult version and was
developed with Roundabout, a UK charity which provides drama therapy for children within a psychological and educational context. We adapted adult PSYCHLOPS so that it was suitable for use with children aged 7 to 13 years. We formed an expert group to modify the measure, consisting of qualified drama therapists, clinical psychologists and primary healthcare professionals, and conducted several pilots using the new measure to make sure it was user-friendly.’
As a result of this work some modifications were made, including the addition of emoticon faces instead of Likert scales and giving the young people more space to express themselves using writing or art. It can be used in many different contexts including schools, in specialist mental health provision or by therapists in private practice. It is also being translated for an evaluation of phone interventions with Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon.
‘We believe PSYCHLOPS Kids has the potential to broaden the evaluative framework for mental health outcome measurement by focusing assessment more directly on the issues of concern to children, which can include areas not captured by expert-generated measures, such as bullying and school and family problems.’ To download PSYCHLOPS Kids, and the version for adults, see www.psychlops.org.uk
Building rich theory piece by piece
Dr Aidan Horner
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The winners of this year’s British Psychological Society Doctoral Research Award and Spearman Medal have been delving in to some of the essential processes of human experience. Dr Aidan Horner (University of York) is the winner of the 2018 Spearman Medal, which is awarded by the Society each year to someone who has produced outstanding work within eight years of completing a PhD. Horner’s research has revealed the psychological and neural mechanisms behind our ability to look back in time and re-experience previous life events. When Horner joined Neil Burgess’s lab at UCL as a postdoctoral researcher he wanted to explore some of the basic computational mechanisms that underlie episodic memory using a mixture of brain imaging, statistical modelling and behavioural testing. Specifically he wanted to find out more about all-or-none retrieval – how we can recall a full, complex event from a single cue (such as revisiting the location of a first date), or recall none of that event. There have been hypotheses based on computational models that attempt to explain what the hippocampus does during this type of retrieval – it is suggested different elements of a memory, for example the subject, object and location, are stored in disparate areas across the neocortex and are combined within the hippocampus. Similarly when we experience one of the ‘cues’ that make up part of a whole memory of a complex event, the hippocampus aids in the retrieval of all the other parts of the memory – the music that played in the background or the person we were with, for example. Horner’s behavioural experiments and fMRI studies confirmed these neural processes when participants recalled previously learned groups of stimuli comprising a location, person and object. Horner has also investigated grid cells, which sit in the medial temporal lobe and fire in a spatially dependent way – playing an important role in representing space. These are established in the literature to be involved in navigation, both in humans and rodents, but Horner found
that grid cells fire not only during actual navigation but during imagined navigation as well. ‘I come from a psychology background, but I’m also interested in neuroscience and what individual neurons are doing in the medial temporal lobe, and trying to link between those things can be extremely hard. It’s very rewarding when you can go from some high-level behaviour and subjective experience all the way down to individual neurons in the brain and how they’re potentially wired up – but it’s certainly challenging trying to do that.’ Over the coming years Horner is hoping to find out more about what happens to a memory once it’s encoded and the ways in which memories degrade over time. He said he currently had two hypotheses as to how complex memories are forgotten: ‘We know if we learn the location, person and object then that’s stored in a relatively coherent representation that allows for this holistic retrieval. The question is what happens as we forget? Do these memories fall out as a whole – do we lose all the information associated with location, person and object at one time? Or do they start to fragment over time? Perhaps we forget the person or the object first. We’ve been trying to tease apart those two potential ways in which we might forget these episodic memories and have been using the statistical modelling approaches I’ve developed to tackle those questions.’ Dr Neil Bramley’s PhD research, completed at University College London, has examined how humans make sense of the causal structure of the world. His work has been awarded the British Psychological Society’s Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology. Bramley, now a Moore-Sloan postdoctoral associate in the Centre for Data Science at New York University, has introduced new ideas and approaches to the study of causal cognition in both theory and methodology – his work combines careful experimentation with sophisticated mathematical and computational modelling. Originally a philosopher, Bramley later became fascinated by human consciousness and embodied cognition and set out to explore how people both pick
the psychologist june 2018 news up basic concepts about how the world works and learn about new, unknown concepts. He has drawn on the scientific process itself as an analogy for the ways people intuitively interact with their surroundings to discover more about causality: ‘It turns out people are quite good at systematically manipulating things while controlling for confounding variables that they don’t understand yet, targeting and isolating something they wonder about and doing something that’s like a mini experiment. I try to use information theory to describe what’s going on when they act on the world and are trying to learn something and whether it’s got the properties of a good experiment.’ While many models within psychology attempt to explain how people learn based on lab experiments they often ignore the true complexity of real-world human experience – that we are often faced with hundreds of potential variables when we are attempting to make sense of the world. Bramley’s PhD work tackled this complexity and his models suggest we build up complex beliefs in an incremental way. ‘How do you end up with a big, rich theory about how lots of things relate to each other? I think we build it up piece by piece where we focus on one little sub problem at a time but when we do so we lean on our surrounding beliefs for support. If we gradually Dr Neil Bramley solve little sub problems, always assuming that our assumptions are kind of correct, for long enough we can gradually change the whole thing and gradually find a better overall theory.’ More recently, Bramley has become interested in grammars within thinking and planning, or the suggestion that higher-level cognition may have a compositional structure rather like a language. ‘There seems to be something compositional there in the sense that you can construct really interesting ideas from putting together simpler ideas in an unusual way. There’s this new idea that’s big at MIT and NYU which is rethinking learning as a kind of self-programming where what you’re trying to do is program yourself to have a good recipe for solving a problem, or building concepts out of parts in the same way you might write a small bit of code if you were a programmer.’ er
News online: Find more news at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reports including ‘A clear message needs to be sent’: an update from Unite the Union about their ‘Applied Psychology Lobby of Parliament’. For much more of the latest peer-reviewed research, digested, see www.bps.org.uk/digest. Here you can also find our 15-year archive, special features, the PsychCrunch podcast and more. Do you have a potential news story? Email us on email@example.com
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A child’s strategy that counts Finger counting by young children has traditionally been frowned upon because it’s seen as babyish and a deterrent to using mental calculations. However, a new Swiss study in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology has found that six-year-olds who finger counted performed better at simple addition, especially if they used an efficient fingercounting strategy. What’s more, it was the children with higher working-memory ability – who you would expect to have less need for using their fingers – who were more inclined to finger count, and to do so in an efficient way. ‘Our study advocates for the promotion of finger use in arithmetic tasks during the first years of schooling,’ said researchers Justine Dupont-Boime and Catherine Thevenot at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne. The 84 child volunteers were recruited from schools where the policy is not to teach finger counting explicitly, but not to discourage it either (except for very simple additions where the sum is less than 10). The researchers tested working memory using the backward digit span task, which involves hearing a string of numbers and repeating them in reverse order. Children with higher working memory can handle longer strings. The researchers also videoed the children discreetly while they performed, one child at a time, simple singledigit additions, some a bit trickier than others because they involved sums larger than 10. The researchers later coded the videos to see which of them counted on their fingers during the task, and which strategy they used. Fifty-two of the children finger counted, and there was a significant correlation between finger counting and better performance (for the easier and harder sums), and also between finger counting and higher workingmemory ability. The researchers think children with poorer working memory struggle to discover finger counting for themselves. A problem for those with lower working-memory ability who did finger count is that they tended to use a more laborious strategy that involves counting out both numbers to be added, whereas the children with higher working-memory ability only used fingers to count on from the first addend – for example, for 8+3, the child would only use three fingers to count on from eight. When the youngsters with lower working memory used the laborious finger strategy, they actually performed worse than if they used no fingers, especially for the harder sums. However, if they used the superior strategy, they did better at addition than those who didn’t use their fingers. ‘…teaching lower achievers to use the [more efficient finger counting] strategy could be very beneficial,’ the researchers said, adding that ‘repeatedly using fingers …should allow children to progressively abandon this strategy for more mental procedures’. Dr Christian Jarrett for www.bps.org.uk/digest Read the article: tinyurl.com/ycphskju
Research digest We appear to have an automatic and rapid tendency to process opinions we agree with in a similar way to how we process facts. Researchers showed this using a variation of the ‘epistemic Stroop Effect’ – for instance, participants were quicker to discern the grammaticality of agreed-with statements than disagreed-with statements. Social Psychological and Personality Science A study involving anatomy students represents another ‘nail in the coffin’ for the theory of ‘learning styles’ – the idea that we learn better when taught via our preferred modality, such as visual or auditory. The students who studied outside of class in a way consistent with their supposed dominant learning style did not perform any better in their final grades. Anatomical Sciences Education
A new study of client–therapist similarity hints at a ‘youth effect’ and an ‘affluence effect’ – that is, the therapeutic alliance benefited when the therapist was younger and/or from a more affluent social class. Journal of Clinical Psychology By Dr Christian Jarrett. These studies were covered by him, Dr Alex Fradera and Emma Young at www.bps.org.uk/digest 20
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Professor Malcolm ‘Mac’ MacLachlan has become the first psychologist to be awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Irish Academy. A Professor of Psychology and Social Inclusion at Ireland’s Maynooth University, he is also Research and Innovation Lead for the World Health Organization’s Global Collaboration on Assistive Technology programme. The Royal Irish Academy is an all-Ireland institution and awards two of its gold medals each year to internationally leading scholars in varied fields. MacLachlan has worked as an academic, clinician, organisational consultant and policy adviser in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, with national governments, civil society, United Nation agencies, and the private sector. His previous appointments include being Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Malawi and holding a Personal Chair in Global Health at Trinity College Dublin, where he was also Director of the Centre for Global Health. Last year Professor MacLachlan became the founding Director of the Assisting Living & Learning Institute at Maynooth University. His work on
the WHO’s Global Collaboration on Assistive Technology has involved working to promote equitable access to assistive technology particularly in poorly resourced regions. He also works as Knowledge Management Lead for the United Nations’ Partnership for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the largest disability project in the world working across 38 countries to promote structural change that will facilitate the realisation of rights for people with disabilities. ‘Receiving the Gold Medal from the Royal Irish Academy is an honour, and it means a lot to have our research recognised in this way. We will continue to build on this research, in collaboration with partners from government, civil society, corporates and United Nations agencies, in Ireland and internationally, with the intention of making clear and tangible differences to people’s lives.’ MacLachlan is a Fellow of the Psychological Society of Ireland and the British Psychological Society. He was awarded the American Psychological Association’s International Humanitarian Award in 2014. er
Inside the meditating brain It is possible to pay attention effortlessly, your mind ‘pulled by the inherent nature of the object of experience’. In fact, with practice, doing so can ‘lead you to experience inner silence, tranquility, peace and transcendence’. That’s according to a research team led by Michelle Mahone at the California School of Professional Psychology, who have published in Brain and Cognition what they describe as the first neuroimaging study of people in the midst of transcendental meditation (TM). The 16 women volunteers (average age 60) had practised TM for Getty Images
In casual relationships, research suggests that men tend to overestimate women’s sexual interest, but a new investigation of heterosexual couples in longer-term relationships has found the reverse pattern – men tended to, if anything, underestimate their partner’s (self-reported) number of advances, while women overestimated their partner’s advances. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
Royal Irish Academy award
an average of 34 years, meaning they had amassed around 36,000 hours of meditation practice. The researchers scanned the meditators’ brains while they lay resting with their eyes closed and then while they meditated for 10 minutes. The volunteers’ extensive mastery at meditation allowed them to achieve ‘bliss’, ‘deep restfulness’ and ‘clear transcending’ despite the noise and discomfort of the brain scanner. Compared with rest, the scans showed that while meditating the volunteers exhibited increased activity at the front of their brains (in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate gyrus), alongside reduced activity in the
the psychologist june 2018 news
‘Online platforms give trolls a visibility and an instant hit’ Ahead of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology’s session on internet trolling, we spoke to Professor Catriona Morrison and Dr Shazia Akhtar at the University of Bradford.
Don’t MPs sometimes deserve a hard time online? Isn’t this just the modern version of accountability and the
cerebellum and the pons – structures at the back of the brain and in the brain stem. These latter activity reductions have not been observed in brain scan studies of other forms of meditation that involve focused attention (e.g. on one’s breathing) or open monitoring (paying mindful non-judgmental attention to one’s thoughts and sensations). The researchers said their findings were consistent with the idea that transcendental meditation involves a unique form of effortless attention, in which ‘the attention is guided by the inherent pleasure of inner transcendence, rather than through cognitive evaluation and control’. The increase in frontal brain
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activity reflects the engagement with a specific experience, they said, while the minimal control required was reflected in reduced activity in the cerebellum and pons. Sceptical readers may feel that the researchers are guilty of ‘reverse inference’ – making assumptions about the meaning of the brain activity patterns that they observed. Mahone’s team said further research is needed to directly compare brain activity during different meditation practices. Dr Christian Jarrett for the Research Digest www.bps.org.uk/digest Read the article: tinyurl.com/ y9474cr4
What’s the aim of the APPG meeting on internet trolling? Our purpose is to understand the extent and effect of trolling on MPs, who are very visible targets. We have almost 200 respondents so far but they are, by the nature of psychology research, a self-selecting sample. Very few academic studies have been done on online abuse. A small amount of research has gone into the nature of someone who engages in trolling – not surprisingly ‘loners’, with sociopathic tendencies. Online platforms give trolls a visibility and an instant hit – you put it out on the internet and it is immediately visible, so it is a different concept to a poison pen letter, and if at all incendiary is likely to get reactions, if aimed at a highprofile person. What we are interested in is the way that people choose to deal with it. J.K. Rowling said in a tweet the other day that to ignore them was effectively to let them win, but some people will still choose that strategy.
‘voice of the people’? There is growing evidence that public figures share a greater risk of being threatened and stalked, relative to ordinary citizens. Consider the murder of the MP Jo Cox. Politicians, in common with other people in the public eye, attract more inappropriate, intrusive or aggressive attention on social media than the population at large. This is a consequence of their public profile (local or national), their responsibilities to their constituents and their being seen as being in a possession of power. MPs have told us about death threats, people tweeting that they should be hung… and one said that it was the ‘lower level attacks that make social media a horrible place to be’. Does what you find with MPs generalise to the rest of the population? We’re in the process of surveying the general population too. And with the MPs data we’re still looking at it, but the extent of trolling on female MPs does seem to be much greater than male MPs. Also the psychological impact on female MPs is more profound than male MPs What’s the answer? Better online policing, teaching people how to deal with it, or a mixture? Definitely a mixture! Teaching people to deal with it would be a good starting point, but policing online platforms, although a mammoth task, is equally important. Should psychologists be working with/within the internet and social media giants, to better understand, identify and tackle trolling? Certainly the involvement of psychologists would benefit in the policing, but it is a balance with free speech and direct abusive insults. In my experience, trolls draw a surprising amount of personal identity and energy from their trolling behaviour. In terms of behaviour change, this has surely got to be one of the hardest challenges? We haven’t asked the question of whether trolls should be banned or advised of the error of their ways. But their perceived cloak of anonymity is likely one of the reasons they think they can get away with making comments and threats that they would not make face to face. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Psychology meeting on internet trolling, organised by the British Psychological Society, takes place on 13 June
Penalty shootouts – it’s not a lottery! As the England men’s football team prepares for the World Cup finals in Russia, Tim Callen offers five pieces of evidence-based advice
The national men’s football team of England has failed to win a major senior tournament since 1966 (we’re now on more than ‘50 years of hurt’!). A particular shortcoming is the failure to win penalty shootouts – a series of dead-ball kicks from 12 yards in the event of a tie. During shootouts there is an assumed advantage for the shooter over the goalkeeper, with 74.6 per cent of penalties being scored in international shootouts since 1997. England’s conversion rate during the same period is 65 per cent, and they have lost 7 out of 8 of their shootouts. England must improve their penalty performance to achieve at tournament level. Luckily, there is now a wealth of research on the many variables that can influence spot kick success, from sports psychologists such as Geir Jordet and others. The player’s position, fatigue levels or match performance seem to have no influence. Nor does the style of kick, or even if you shoot high or low. The research all points to psychological aspects and how the player copes with the stress. Here are five ways England can take control and turn around their shootout woes.
Take your time
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Players, unsurprisingly, report anxiety as the predominant emotion experienced before taking a penalty. In practical terms, scoring from 12 yards with no defenders should be simple for a professional footballer, who practises kicking a ball in far more complex situations every day. However the exposing nature and general importance can lead to players choking – performing below expectation in a highpressure situation. Roy Baumeister’s explicit monitoring hypothesis states pressure causes a conscious monitoring of simple, normally automatic movements,
resulting in choking. Research from Sian Beilock, amongst others, has shown the detrimental effect this has on skill execution. The theory suggests this causes self-regulatory breakdown, where thoughts, emotions and behaviours are self-altered, causing the inability to control impulses and direct behaviour to achieve goals. This leads to an escape response, whereby one chooses an immediate unpleasant experience over waiting for a negative stimulus. Data from shootouts indicate shorter times from the whistle to kick are related to more misses. Geir Jordet’s analysis also shows that of Europe’s eight most decorated international teams, England miss the most penalties and also have the shortest whistle to kick time; suggesting England players have poor self-regulation. Taking a couple of extra seconds before striking the ball could significantly improve the conversion rate.
Anxiety can cause physiological symptoms of the flight or fight system and like pressure can lead to poor selfregulation. Players need to control these symptoms to improve penalty performance. This can be achieved by understanding their body and deep breathing exercises, perhaps through the use of biofeedback training to provide physiological feedback when they practise penalties. The training is designed to produce visual feedback on physiological responses, such as heart rate and breathing, enabling the learning of regulation. During this practice the players would be taught breathing exercises to slow down their rate of breaths. Olympic athletes’ self-regulation skills have improved using
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has shown that when football players focused their QE on the corners of the goal, their penalty conversion rate was significantly higher than an uninstructed team. This training has also increased the level of perceived control athletes have over performance.
Forget the past (Priming)
No matter how well we have played… when it comes down to penalties, you think: ‘Oh shit, here we go again’ – former England footballer Frank Lampard
this technique, and these skills have been translated at competition level, in Margaret Dupee’s work around the Canadian team for the 2012 event. Training has also shown improved performance in accuracy-based sports such as golf, in studies from Shih-Chun Kao and colleagues. Perhaps biofeedback could improve selfregulation and accuracy in footballers, leading to a greater chance of scoring.
Pick a spot (Take control)
Players report having a perceived lack of control during a shootout. This is reinforced by the media often referring to shootouts as a ‘lottery’, suggesting luck over skill. Self-control is based on one’s perception of the ability to cope in a stressful situation. In shootouts a perceived lack of control has been linked to higher anxiety and more goalkeeper-related focus, where the penalty taker’s eye gaze is directed towards to the keeper, in research led by Exeter psychologist Mark Wilson. When this is occurs, the rate of conversion significantly decreases (Van Der Kamp, 2011). Analysis, again from Jordet’s team, has shown that of Europe’s eight most decorated teams, England had the highest goalkeeper-based focus. Focusing gaze on the intended target improves accuracy of shot. Quiet-Eye training could help players gain control of their strikes. QE is the final gaze fixation before a motor response is initiated and is proposed to be the period when task-relevant cues are processed and planning for successful execution occurs. QE training – Joan Vickers is a leading proponent – has been shown to improve performance and accuracy in other sports, such as archery. A small study by Greg Wood and Mark Wilson
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The story of England is that they miss penalties, and this is consistently reinforced through the media. England need to change their story. Through subtle cues such as priming, this could be possible. Priming is a method that has been shown to activate certain characteristics that can affect our behaviour and performance. Famously (although somewhat controversially, in terms of replication), John Bargh and colleagues asked students to form sentences with words such as ‘wrinkle’, ‘grey’ and ‘bingo’. They found that these students walked slower than their peers who weren’t exposed to words stereotypically linked with the elderly. This has been adapted to a sporting context by Kelly Ashford and Robin Jackson, with hockey players performing better in dribbling tasks after being primed to words such as ‘balanced’ and ‘immersed’. If football players performed priming tasks, where they had to rearrange words to form sentences that included words such as ‘goal’, ‘score’ and ‘win’, perhaps this would increase their chances.
With the previous tips implemented, theory says the ball should go in the back of the net. However, the work doesn’t stop there, as psychology suggests the importance of celebrating that success. In a 2010 study, Tjerk Moll’s team analysed every penalty taken in international shootouts and found that post-strike behaviour could have an influence on the final result. They found that when players celebrated, particularly with two hands raised above the head, their team were 82 per cent more likely to go on to win the shootout than those who did not celebrate scoring. This can be explained by emotional contagion; where emotions expressed are transferred to others. The expression of pride and celebration can impact how athletes perceive their opponent’s levels of confidence and ability. Players were less likely to convert their penalty if the opposing player before them scored and celebrated. So expressing positive emotion can help two-fold, by enhancing the performance of your own team mates and reducing the ability of the opponents. By taking a little longer, controlling physiological responses by deep breathing, focusing on the goal, exposing themselves to positive words and celebrating, England could turn around their penalty shootout woes this summer!
Twitter – just noise, or worth a listen?
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Johannes Eichstaedt was sitting in a coffee shop by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala when he received a Slack message about a tweet about a preprint. In 2015 the University of Pennsylvania psychologist and his colleagues published a headline-grabbing article linking heart disease to the language used on Twitter. They’d found that tweets emanating from US counties with high rates of heart disease mortality tended to exhibit high levels of negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, disengagement, aggression and hate. The study, published in Psychological Science, has proven influential, already accruing over 170 citations. But three years later, the preprint authors Nick Brown and James Coyne from the University of Groningen claimed to have identified ‘numerous conceptual and methodological limitations’. Within the month, Eichstaedt and his colleagues issued a riposte, publishing their own preprint that claims further evidence to support their original conclusions. As recent revelations surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have highlighted, corporations and political organisations attach a high value to social media data. But, Eichstaedt argues, that same data also offers rich insights into psychological health and wellbeing. With appropriate ethical oversight, social media analytics could promote population health and perhaps even save lives. That at least is its promise. But with big data come new challenges – as Eichstaedt’s ‘debate’ with Brown and Coyne illustrates. In early 2015 Nick Brown was discharged from hospital. Getting his teeth into Eichstaedt’s paper was, as he put it, ‘my way of picking myself up’. In recent years Brown has developed a reputation for uncovering irregularities in published research. His investigations into the work of Cornell food scientist Brian Wansink have contributed (at the time of writing) to eight retractions and 15 corrections. But, as Brown stresses, the discussion of
Eichstaedt’s paper is very different. His concern is simply that the study has been oversold. ‘People who might be thinking of using social media for public health need to be aware of the counter arguments,’ Brown says. The central claim in Eichstaedt’s 2015 paper is that Twitter data can provide new information about heart disease that is not available from other measures. The analysis began with 148 million tweets, written between 2009 and 2010 and geo-tagged to US counties based on the tweeter’s user profile. Each tweet was scored according to multiple emotion ‘variables’ by comparing its constituent words against specified lists of words related to that emotion. Information from a subset of counties was then fed into a machine-learning algorithm – a computer program that worked out the combination of Twitter variables providing the closest fit to the heart disease data. When tested on the remaining counties, the Twitter model predicted heart disease rates more accurately than did similar models based on conventional measures such as a county’s racial demographics, the income and education levels of its residents, and rates of smoking and obesity. This, according to the accompanying press release, shows that ‘tweets are aggregating information about people that can’t be readily accessed in other ways’. Twitter analysis ‘could be used to marshal evidence of the effectiveness of public-health interventions on the community’. Brown, however, is sceptical. His preprint lists numerous sources of bias and noise that would make it hard to find a genuine heart disease signal in the Twitter noise. Words can have multiple meanings depending on the context. Twitter data are unrepresentative of the population – and users who tag their locations may not represent the wider Twitter user base. In counties with small populations, the data may be dominated by a small number of prolific users. And tweets with certain
the psychologist june 2018 news racial terms – often used in a hostile fashion – appear to have been censored by Twitter prior to their release to researchers. There is noise too in the health records – autopsies are rarely carried out to establish cause of death and so variation in reported heart disease rates partly reflect variation in reporting practices. For his part, Eichstaedt acknowledges that the data are noisy and in some ways biased. But, he says, the salient point is that they still found a signal. And their preprint responding to Brown and Coyne includes a new analysis of a larger and more recent sample of Twitter data, which again outperforms a model based on traditional demographic measures. ‘Perhaps there is a signal,’ Brown acknowledges. ‘But there’s an awful lot of wrongness.’ And, he adds, the fact that Twitter predicts heart disease better than other measures is ‘in some way irrelevant’ because the best predictor of a community’s future heart disease rate is its current heart disease rate. This, Eichstaedt says, is ‘trivially true’ for most outcomes with complex underlying causes. But prediction in itself was not the goal. ‘We are trying to use Twitter as a source of epidemiological insight,’ he says. The first step is to show that there is a signal. The next step is to work out what it means. When his paper was published in 2015, Eichstaedt’s findings made headlines around the world. ‘Angry Tweeting could increase your risk of heart disease’ said the UK’s Telegraph. CBS News led with ‘Cheerful tweets may mean a healthier heart’. The association between Twitter language and heart disease has an intuitive appeal. As Brown notes, it speaks to the notion of a ‘Type A’ personality – permanently uptight, angry at the world and (according to controversial research) more prone to heart disease. But in their paper, Eichstaedt and colleagues were clear. ‘Obviously the people tweeting are not the people dying,’ they wrote. Instead, they suggested, the sentiments expressed in tweets may reflect characteristics of the communities to which tweeters and heart disease sufferers belong – their ‘shared economic, physical, and psychological environment’. Brown describes this as ‘pure speculation’. But it’s a testable idea. If Twitter language really does measure the psychological profile of a community then it should predict mental health even better than it predicts physical health. Adapting Eichstaedt’s methods, Brown and Coyne used Twitter language to try and predict deaths from suicide instead of heart disease. They found significant correlations but in the ‘wrong’ direction. Counties with higher rates of suicide had relatively fewer tweets containing anger, negative emotions and negative relationships and more tweets about nature, romantic love and positive social relationships. Eichstaedt, however, is unperturbed by this finding. ‘Suicide is a weird variable,’ he says. It’s much rarer than heart disease or cancer, for example, and rates are typically much higher in rural communities, perhaps due to social isolation and higher rates of gun ownership. In their response to Brown and Coyne, Eichstaedt and his team report that a county’s suicide rate correlates with its altitude above sea level and the percentage of people
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living in rural areas. When they controlled for these two measures, the correlations between suicide and Twitter language disappeared. A better direct measure of community mental health, Eichstaedt argues, is a survey report of ‘mentally unhealthy days’, which he and his colleagues have found to correlate with Twitter language in the expected direction. In fact, Eichstaedt notes, the pattern is very similar to that for heart disease. The question then is whether Twitter data can distinguish between heart disease and other conditions. Or does it reflect some underlying factor that relates to most diseases? ‘The jury is still out on this,’ Eichstaedt admits. ‘We haven’t cracked that nut.’ For psychology researchers, often criticised for their small sample sizes and the questionable relevance of their studies to everyday life, the appeal of social media data is obvious. But the price of big data is a loss of experimental control and the ability to tease apart cause and effect. There’s also a loss of transparency. The complex analytic procedures represent a serious challenge for psychologists attempting to understand and evaluate a study. ‘It becomes’, says Brown, ‘a question of do I trust your software?’ Eichstaedt, a physicist by training, is sympathetic to this view. ‘When you get super fancy and the reviewers can’t follow you any more and have to take you on faith, that’s problematic,’ he says. ‘It’s hacking science.’ The solution, Brown argues, may be to move away from traditional journals and peer review. ‘It has to become some sort of ongoing process,’ he says. In a ‘better world’ Eichstaedt’s paper would itself have been posted as a preprint and Brown’s critique could have been part of the post-publication review process. This scenario is similar to the approach adopted in physics where preprints and responses have long been the mainstay of scientific communication. Yet it’s clear that a similar culture shift in psychology will come with its own teething troubles and questions of etiquette. In Brown’s view, the original Eichstaedt paper was badged as ‘open science’ so there should have been no need to seek further information from the authors. He decided not to contact them as a matter of principle. Eichstaedt, however, notes that a more collaborative approach would have allowed him to quickly address some misconceptions about the research and direct Brown and Coyne to analysis code that wasn’t available at the time of publication. ‘I think that would have been a much less painful way of getting to the same point.’ Still, the exchange has provided an opportunity for his team to clarify some issues and make it easier for anyone in the field to replicate and adapt their analyses. ‘Probably an older wiser version of me will only see that positive side,’ he says. Dr Jon Brock (@drbrocktagon on Twitter) for the Research Digest blog www.bps.org.uk/digest Jon Brock is a Sydney-based science writer specialising in psychology and neuroscience.
‘It’s not a crisis, it’s a reformation’ Ella Rhodes reports from two keynotes at the Society’s Annual Conference in Nottingham
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ne of the founding fathers of the replication crisisturned-reformation, Professor Brian Nosek (pictured above), opened the 2018 British Psychological Society Annual Conference with a startling picture of how our science has changed in a few short years. Co-founder and Director of the Centre for Open Science, Nosek was named in Nature’s 2015 list of the 10 most influential scientists. Nosek permeated the broader consciousness of the scientific community after his 2015 paper in Science, which outlined attempts to replicate 100 psychology studies – many of which failed. But, he said, psychology isn’t in crisis: in fact it is leading the way for better and more robust research throughout science as a whole. He pointed to a survey in Nature that asked individuals from chemistry, biology, physics and many other sciences whether there was a problem with reproducing experiments in their field. More than half said there was, and that it was a significant crisis. Yet these are social and cultural issues, Nosek said, and psychology is in a particularly strong position to inform the ways science and scientists can change. We have turned our own knowledge to face the ways we do science and the biases inherent in the system. Psychology can tell us how our practices can be shaped and nudged, so the values that should inform research are embedded in our everyday practice. Nosek pointed to the norms of science, or the values scientists should have in the motivations behind their research. These are: communality, or a willingness for open sharing of work and data; universalism, in terms of
evaluating research on its own merit; disinterestedness, in terms of a motivation to learn and discover; organised scepticism, in terms of considering all new evidence, even that which is against one’s own findings; and quality. While surveys show researchers endorse all of these norms, they admit their own practice doesn’t necessarily reflect them. When asked about the culture around them, however, most say they see the complete opposite in many of their colleagues’ motivation. ‘Counternorms’ are at play, in terms of secrecy, particularlism, selfinterestedness, dogmatism, and quantity over quality. This, Nosek said, is an important gap. Why is there a gap between our perception of scientific norms and the practices we see? And how can that culture, and incentive structure behind it, change to make scientific practices more in line with the values behind being a scientist? Nosek said the incentive structure in science has made publishing the main reward – we focus on getting it published over getting it right. That leads to all kinds of questionable behaviours, such as ‘p-hacking’, and telling a ‘tidy, beautiful narrative’ over a robust one. But this can change, he added, with two simple practices, both of which we learn in our earliest scholastic experiences – show your work, and share. With this approach science will be self-correcting. If your claims and data are openly out in the literature, and are truly credible, they can be properly validated and critiqued. This does present the need for change across all kinds of domains – within publishing, learned societies
the psychologist june 2018 news such as the BPS, universities and funders. We need technology and infrastructure to make open science practices possible and easy to do, so that they become the norm, and are incentivised. We could even add policy where necessary to make these practices mandatory (a particularly useful strategy for the ‘laggards’ in any attempted change of a research culture). Indeed, much of this large-scale change has been happening for several years. Nosek’s Centre for Open Science also started the OSF – a framework for scientists to pre-register their study protocols and share data. Around 8000 journals have also signed up to the guidelines to better promote transparency. Some journals have also added incentives for open science, including the use of badges on published articles that have shared data or materials and/or pre-registered their study. While Nosek said the badges are ‘silly’ in and of themselves, the practices they represent are far from it. And they work. Before introducing them around 3 per cent of studies in Psychological Science shared their data; by early 2015 this number had soared to 39 per cent. Pre-registration, whereby researchers publish their study design, methods and intended statistical analyses online, has also become popular. Thanks to incentives such as the pre-registration challenge, which offered cash rewards to researchers who published results after preregistering, standard practice may be shifting. There is evidence that more and more researchers are adopting these practices. The OSF has more than 90,000 users, and now stores almost 11,000 pre-prints of journal articles. In 2012 the OSF recorded just 38 pre-registered studies… by 2017 this had reached 12,090. More than 100 journals now accept registered reports. Nosek said most of his presentations these days are to non-psychology audiences, and the change in culture within our field is beginning to have influence in other disciplines. ‘This isn’t a crisis – there’s been recognition of Jon Sutton
Professor Cathy Creswell
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these behaviours since the 1960s and 70s… but now we’re stepping up as a community to try to shift our norms and practices. It’s not lost on the scientific community that we’ve identified ways to be self-critical in productive ways… and some of these methods can be exported elsewhere.’
Nipping anxiety in the bud
It tugs at the heartstrings of any parent: children who are living with a level of fear or worry that interferes with everyday life. Anxiety disorders affect 6.5 per cent of children yet only a tiny proportion of families manage to access evidence-based treatment. Professor Cathy Creswell, a developmental clinical psychologist, has been working to improve that picture. Creswell, also Joint Director of the University of Reading Anxiety and Depression in Young People clinical research unit (AnDY), opened her keynote with some startling figures. More than a quarter of people will meet the diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders at some point in their lives, and the cost to society is higher than for any other mental health disorder: billions lost due to absence from work or unemployment. Anxiety disorders also have a particularly early onset, with half of people’s problems emerging before the age of 12. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in around 60 per cent of children affected by anxiety. However, Creswell pointed to research with Tessa Reardon and Kate Harvey that found only 38 per cent of families had accessed support of any kind, while just 2 per cent of these had received CBT. Why hadn’t parents managed to access support? Creswell’s team pointed out that anxiety problems come and go in phases; parents are often not sure if it is ‘normal’; they may fear their child being labelled; they may feel a sense of blame or failure. Parents may also simply not know whom to ask for help, or get pushed from pillar to post without finding an appropriate service. ‘It’s a leaky pipeline,’ Creswell concluded. So parents need help at an early stage, to nip problems in the bud. Creswell and her colleagues have set about thinking of ways to increase access to evidence-based treatments. She pointed to services such as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), which use a step care model whereby service users first have lower-intensity treatment which requires fewer resources. If children do not respond to this they are stepped up onto a higher-intensity therapy programme. Creswell began looking at pathways into anxiety in children and which areas could be targeted with the lower-intensity approach. She
them to feel they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. This work led to the development of a CBT self-help book – Overcoming Your Child’s Fears and Worries – which parents would read and, after help from a therapist to practise some of the techniques, would then go on to help their children. After parents had just five hours of therapist-supported training, this approach was found to help children recover from their anxiety. In a randomised controlled trial this parent-delivered CBT approach was compared with a therapy that directly involved children – solution-focused brief therapy. Both of these involve five hours of therapy for children or training for parents. Creswell found similar reductions in child anxiety for both therapy approaches, and had similar levels of recovery compared with more intensive treatments. Parent-delivered CBT is also cheaper than the solution-focused approach as it allows parents to have some sessions at home, at their convenience, requiring less time to be taken off work to take children to sessions. Creswell’s colleague Rachel Evans collected NHS data during parent-guided CBT and found significant improvements in outcomes. Around three quarters of families who used it were able to be discharged following the intervention. More recently she and her team have turned their attention to those families who don’t benefit from this lower-intensity approach to therapy. Many studies have shown children’s outcomes in traditional CBT are worse if a parent has an anxiety problem. In one study, parents were trained to better tolerate their children showing stress or fear and help children face their own fears (using a ‘What’s in the box?’ method… ‘Since I’m a Celebrity has been on, people assume we have much worse things in the box than we really do’). Parents who had this intervention were compared with those who had standard treatment, and their children’s outcomes were the same – more than 70 per cent of children improved in both groups. This shows, Creswell said, that children whose parents are anxious can show marked improvement. ‘We need to help parents to tolerate their children’s negative emotions – to manage them while helping children to face their fears.’ But she is continuing to look for approaches that can better help those who may not benefit from lower-intensity therapies, including making the approach more accessible through Much more coverage from the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference will appear via the use of online and audio versions. https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/reports and in the July edition found that children of anxious parents are more likely to develop anxiety themselves – but anxiety, of course, can occur in the absence of this, thanks to other social, environmental and biological factors. Creswell’s research with Lynne Murray and Peter Cooper has found that parents who have anxious children express more fear and threat-related information than parents of nonanxious children, and are less likely to promote autonomy in their children. However, Creswell pointed out that these studies are correlational and this behaviour around anxious children may not be a cause of their child’s anxiety, but rather a natural response to their child’s fear and worries. Also, children who are anxious are more likely to pick up signals. For children with low temperamental fear, it made ‘absolutely no difference what their parents did’. Creswell concluded that ‘parenting an anxious child is really hard… when you have a laidback child you can get away with all sorts, it’s water off a duck’s back’. Working with parents themselves, Creswell said, and giving them skills in CBT, combats many of the problems parents experience when trying to access therapy. Keeping treatment within the family and empowering parents to be part of their child’s treatment can allow
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Professional development Autism awareness We have refreshed our popular Autism Awareness e-learning courses. The three relaunched courses have improved functionality, accurate and up-to-date content and a design that mirrors the look of the new BPS website. Designed for people who want to learn more about autism or professionals who will be working with adults who have autism, these three interactive courses cater for learners who may have no prior knowledge and those who are looking to build on their existing experience. Module 1: ‘Building awareness of adult autism’, offers an introductory explanation of autism and details on what it is like to have autism, as well as information on how you can support someone with autism. It is appropriate for anyone who is seeking to learn more about autism and build an awareness of how to support someone with it. Module two: ‘Supporting adults with autism’, takes a deeper look at how best to support someone with autism and allows a learner to discover what it is like to have autism and how different people with autism see the world. These two modules cost £15 members and £20 for non-members, with discounts available for organisations who wish to enrol a number of learners. The final module: ‘Working with adults with autism’, has been designed to support psychological work with adults with autism. This includes psychological assessment, formulation, and treatment, but also covers areas such as training and consultation. It is targeted at practitioner psychologists and mental health professionals, who already have some understanding of autism, to build on their knowledge and skills for working with adults with autism who are experiencing psychological and mental health problems. This module costs £20 for members and £50 for non-members, with cut price rates available for organisations registering a number of learners. More than 16,000 learners had taken our Autism Awareness modules prior to this update. (Please note that all prices exclude VAT). You can access our Autism Awareness and all our e-learning courses at www.bps.org.uk/e-learning.
Follow us on Twitter: @BPSLearning #BPScpd
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Synchrony and the art of signalling Jorina von Zimmermann and Daniel C. Richardson take us from fireflies to military parades
As soon as we are in the presence of other human beings, we align our behaviours with them. Though often unintentional, powerful social signals are produced when we synchronise our actions with each other.
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he 105th â€˜Day of the Sunâ€™ was marked by a military parade in North Korea in 2017. Thousands of soldiers, accompanied by several missiles, moved together in perfect synchrony to celebrate the birth of the state founder, Kim Il-sung. On that day North Koreans sent a message to the world, leaving no doubt that they are one and should be perceived as an inseparable entity representing their nation. Elsewhere on the continent, in the mangrove trees along the riverbanks in Southeast Asia, similar displays of synchrony can be observed. When fireflies flash in perfect unison at a rate of about three times in two seconds, it looks as if stars in a pitch-dark sky appear and disappear in concert with each other. When Hugh M. Smith, an American biologist, first reported the firefliesâ€™ synchronous flashing in
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the 1930s, many scientists believed that it was an illusion, or mere coincidence. Today, scientists think that the synchronous flashing is a signal related to mating behaviour. Male fireflies blink in unison to enhance their chances of attracting female fireflies. The emergent synchrony between the insects can be explained with the help of mathematics. No leader or conductor is needed to coordinate the synchronous flashing, but fireflies organise themselves in synchrony like many other biological oscillating systems, such as cells that fire together to control our heartbeat, or crickets all chirping in perfect harmony. The disco-light fireflies, blinking to attract a mate, seem to be a world apart from the North Korean soldiers, marching to inspire and intimidate. Yet, recent studies show that these two types of behaviour are not just similar in their timing and coordination, they may each serve a very similar function, too.
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From fireflies to human beings We humans do not glow and usually do not chirp, but we do coordinate our behaviour in many other ways. Automatically and often unintentionally, we coordinate our postural sway, walk in lockstep, align our speech patterns and eye gaze, imitate each other’s facial expressions and mimic each other’s movements. As a psychological consequence, we form strong social bonds, we feel closer and more similar to each other, we even remember more information about each other. This happens not only when we coordinate without meaning to, but also after we have engaged in effortful and intentional synchronous activities. Doing something – anything – together at the same time has important prosocial consequences. How are such far-reaching social impacts produced through synchronous behaviour? One way to explain the underlying mechanisms of interpersonal synchrony
and how it affects us relates to our human ability to form shared representations of our social and physical environment, and to the neural processes that correlate with this. Joint action, as any form of social interaction during which two or more individuals coordinate their action in space and time, depends on the ability of interaction partners to share representations, predict actions, and integrate the predicted effects of one’s own, and the other’s, actions. In order to do this successfully, self- and other-related behaviours need to be effectively integrated. This happens at the neural level through the coupling of perception and action. In those cases in which the joint action is characterised by temporal coordination – by synchrony – an individual’s brain is required to simultaneously represent self- and other-generated actions and to integrate them in real time. With increasing coordination Key sources during social interaction, shared representations of a joint action are Fairhurst, M.T., Janata, P. & Keller, formed, which improve the ability P.E. (2013). Being and feeling in sync to predict, anticipate and adapt with an adaptive virtual partner: Brain to another’s movements. Thereby mechanisms underlying dynamic coordination can be realised with cooperativity. Cerebral Cortex, 23(11), greater ease, and Fairhurst and 2592–2600. Fessler, D.M.T. & Holbrook, C. (2016). colleagues (2013) have observed Synchronized behavior increases a reduction in brain activity in assessments of the formidability and areas related to cognitive control cohesion of coalitions. Evolution and in the process. This reduction Human Behavior, 37(6), 502–509. of activity in cognitive control Hagen, E.H. & Bryant, G.A. (2003). areas coincided with an increase Music and dance as a coalition signaling system. Human Nature, 14(1), 21–51. in brain activity in brain regions Launay, J., Tarr, B. & Dunbar, R.I.M. associated with socio-emotional (2016). Synchrony as an adaptive processes, which may explain why mechanism for large-scale human synchronisation promotes prosocial social bonding. Ethology, 122(10), thoughts and behaviour. Synchrony 779–789. seems to be characterised by a state Lickel, B., Hamilton, D.L. & Sherman, S.J. (2001). Elements of a lay theory of processing fluency, implying of groups: Types of groups, relational successful social interaction. styles, and the perception of group For a long time researchers entitativity. Personality and Social almost exclusively studied Psychology Review, 5(2), 129–140. synchrony between pairs of people. McNeill, W.H. (1995). Keeping together In recent years, however, studies in time: Dance and drill in human history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University have also demonstrated that Press. behavioural coordination between Tarr, B., Launay, J. & Dunbar, R.I.M. groups of people increases cohesion (2016). Silent disco: Dancing in between them (Jackson et al., 2018), synchrony leads to elevated pain boosts liking and perceived social thresholds and social closeness. closeness (Tarr et al., 2014, 2015) Evolution and Human Behavior, 37(5), 343–349. and enhances cooperation (Reddish von Zimmermann, J. & Richardson, et al., 2013). D.C. (2016). Verbal synchrony and action In our lab, we also found dynamics in large groups. Frontiers in that when a group experienced Psychology, 7, 2034. synchrony they were better at a Wiltermuth, S.S. (2012). Synchrony and joint task. In a 2016 study we asked destructive obedience. Social Influence, 7(2), 78–89. groups of around 20 students to chant in synchrony or to speak out Full list available in online/app version. of time with each other, and then asked them to play a video game
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together. They each had a handset that delivered a tiny nudge to a tightrope walker on screen. Collectively, they had to keep him balanced. We found that individuals not only reported higher levels of affiliation for their group when they had chanted together, but those groups were also better coordinated in the tightrope game. As well as our objective measures of game performance, the experiment also gave us a peculiar subjective experience. It is rare that a psychology experiment has a spiritual vibe, yet that was our experience of being in a room with chanting participants. The evidence shows that synchronous behaviour not only affects how we feel about one person, but also how we relate to a whole group. This is perhaps why large-scale coordination can be observed in many aspects of social life, such as sports, dance or music, and why it has been an essential and enduring part of human ritual. The costs and benefits of synchrony We feel attached to the people we know – those in our immediate social communities with whom we live, work and socialise. But we also often feel a strong connection with larger numbers of people, more than we could possibly engage with in meaningful interaction. Human beings are prone to quickly develop shared social identities: research in the field of Henri Tajfel and John Turner’s social identity theory has shown that we often form and feel attached to groups in a heartbeat even when those are based on fairly arbitrary criteria, such as the preference for one painting over another. Researchers have recently argued that synchrony could be an adaptive mechanism to maintain larger social networks, to feel connected to whole communities rather than just individuals, and to increase group cohesion (Launay et al., 2016). From a cognitive perspective, it has been claimed that the amount of social contacts we can realistically sustain is limited to about 150 (the so-called Dunbar number). This is about the size of villages and human groups through much of human history, and today approximately corresponds to the median number of Facebook friends. Other primates, in comparison, can only pick fleas off one person at a time, which means that creating social bonds is time-consuming and restricted in scope. But human beings do feel a sense of connection with groups much larger in numbers than they could sustain through grooming. Launay and colleagues argue that through dance and music, rituals and sports, bonding can take place between multiple individuals simultaneously, and studies from Bronwyn Tarr and Robin Dunbar’s group and others have shown that moving together in unison releases endorphins and activates the brain’s reward system. These physiological processes potentially help to reinforce large-scale, rhythmical human movement. Instead of only ever grooming individuals directly
the psychologist june 2018 synchrony and signalling
and establishing close social contacts, we may have developed mechanisms that allow us to bond with high numbers of people and to maintain these bonds over time. Mass coordination becomes the ‘social glue’ through which social communities were and still are sustained and strengthened. If this is so, one important question about human rituals can be answered. All human societies that we know about have always danced and made music together, and human rituals often involve complicated coordinated movement and speech. The latter are difficult to achieve and require a lot of energy and training. This could therefore be regarded as costly behaviour. The time and energy needed to dance and make music together could even be considered a luxury. However, if joint activities that involve coordinated behaviour really have the important function of establishing and maintaining meaningful social bonds between people, as Launay and colleagues suggest, then, all of a sudden, the benefits of coordinated behaviour possibly outweigh its costs. Marching together and feeling together Military parades are some of the most dramatic and fascinating displays of human synchrony. When thousands of soldiers march together in unison, indistinguishable from each other, we pause in awe and admiration. To this day, drill is part of a rigorous training regime for soldiers the world over. And yet, since the invention of the cannon and the machine gun, lining up in ordered rows and walking slowly towards the enemy is recognised as a poor stratagem. Why are soldiers still required to march together today, when – to quote the historian William H. McNeill – ‘a more useless exercise would be hard to imagine’? One possible explanation is that marching together creates obedience to a relevant authority, a behavioural mode that is certainly considered critical in the military. One of Wiltermuth’s experiments from 2012 supports this assumption. He asked participants to walk around campus a few steps behind an experimenter. In one condition, they were told just to follow him, while in another they were told Getty Images
Drill is part of a rigorous training regime for soldiers the world over
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to match his footsteps, walking in time with him. Then the experimenter requested that they help out with a different experiment that involved placing as many sow bugs (woodlice) into an ‘extermination machine’ as they could in 30 seconds. Of course, no sow bugs were ever killed during these experiments, but the participants themselves did not know this. The researchers found that those participants who had previously marched in synchrony with the experimenter sent approximately 54 per cent more bugs to their death than the participants who had walked at their own rate. In his 1995 book Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History, McNeill offers a less chilling answer to his own question. Similarly to Launay and colleagues, he proposes that synchronous activities have an important social function and that rhythmically moving together in unison leads to ‘muscular bonding’ and alters human feelings to create enhanced group solidarity and cohesion. However, especially when it comes to drill, the creation of strong bonds between group members is probably not the sole purpose and effect of movement in unison. Displaying synchronous behaviour does not only have prosocial consequences for actors, but synchronicity also functions as a signal to observers. During the military parade in North Korea in 2017, the soldiers who marched in perfect unison signalled to outsiders that they are highly disciplined and committed to a lager goal. The display of highly skilled synchronisation awes the viewer, because it is apparent that only through mentally and physically costly, timeconsuming training and devotion could the group have achieved such accuracy in unified collective behaviour. To watching friends and foes alike, this signals dedication and within-group cohesion, but also strength and potency. Coalition signalling Hagen and Bryant (2003) claim that music and dance have, at least in part, always served as a ‘coalition signalling system’. If a group wants to attract new members and form new alliances, or deter an enemy, the quality of the group or coalition needs to be assessable. While the size of the group may be an important attribute that hints at its level of appeal, there are two other important features that can provide information about the quality of a coalition. The first one is the motivation of the group to act collectively to achieve a common goal, which can be derived from the internal stability or the levels of cohesion among the group members. The second feature of coalition quality is the ability of group members to act together. All parties have an interest that information on coalition quality is communicated quickly, and groups need to adopt strategies to signal and detect it at the same time. According to Hagen and Bryant, music and dance may be particularly useful signals because they have two important universal features – synchrony and
variation – which both require time and practice if they are to be carried out in a complex and sophisticated manner. This means that only long-established and wellfunctioning coalitions are able to perform complex music and dance pieces, signalling high levels of cohesion and capability to other groups. Displays of coordination skills can be used to demonstrate strength, frighten another group and discourage them from attack, but they can also be used to demonstrate collective interest and the intent to form an alliance and to cooperate. The ritualistic Maori dance, the haka, is a perfect example of this dual function. While the haka is traditionally referred to as a war dance, it is also frequently practised to greet important visitors and to honour exceptional individuals or groups of people. The dual function of synchrony In order to preserve themselves, social groups always have to engage in two social processes at the same time. They need to maintain ingroup cohesion, and they need to translate their internal cohesion into an external signal that, depending on the social context, either attracts new members (and even whole groups) or deters enemies. Research has shown that perceivers have intuitive theories about the type of group they are confronted with and the relational properties of the group. The entitativity, essentialism or ‘groupness’ of a group, referring to the extent to which a group is perceived as a coherent and an agentic unit, has been identified as a particularly prevalent concept, which human beings use to form intuitive judgements about social groups (Lickel et al., 2001). From the synchrony literature we Getty Images
Displays of coordination skills can be used to demonstrate strength
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know that observers, when asked to rate interacting individuals in terms of their social closeness, report that they perceive those who are in synchrony with each other as one entity and as having stronger social bonds than those who are not synchronised. One Daniel C. Richardson 2016 study by Fessler and is in the Department Holbrook even showed of Experimental that human beings draw Psychology at UCL inferences about the firstname.lastname@example.org cohesion and strength of coalitions from synchronous behaviour. In their study the researchers tested how participants would estimate the fighting capacity of either soldiers or terrorists in relation to the observed synchronicity of their footsteps. They found that participants rated synchronised targets as more muscular and larger. Synchrony as a social signal Synchronous behavior, then, seems to have a dual function. It not only creates and maintains cohesion within groups, it also sends a compelling social signal to those who observe it: ‘We are a functional and potent social entity characterised by high levels of cohesion. We have internalised a shared social identity. We are close and strong.’ Many questions remain unanswered, however, about the role of observers and the signalling power of group synchrony, especially in relation to politics. Does a display of large-scale synchronous activities primarily cause feelings of awe and admiration or does it signal potency, intimidation and animosity? The political topicality is hard to miss. Donald Trump has announced his intentions this year in July to hold the first military parade since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, with costs estimated at up to $50 million dollars. His parade to display military power seems like a dangerous idea to critics, who draw attention to threats of war and oppose any attempts to demonstrate and reinforce America’s waning global hegemony. Trump, on the other hand, believes that a military parade would be great for his country’s spirit. It seems likely that both sides are right. While a military parade would send a message of dominance to adversaries, it may simultaneously inspire the nation, boost its self-esteem and increase feelings of solidarity, connectedness and national identity. One thing is certain: we shouldn’t underestimate the effects that the synchronous behaviour can have, for actors and observers alike. Our bodies are powerful instruments in any social context and we sometimes – intentionally or unintentionally – align our behaviours with those around us. This affects us as individuals while at the same time we are affecting others. Synchrony is a powerful social signal. Jorina von Zimmermann is a PhD student at UCL jorina. zimmermann.11@ ucl.ac.uk
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3. Accredited training programmes are of an 4. Being part of the Society 4. Our name and our increasingly high standard and a network creates messages are heard and meet the needs of a greater feeling of more regularly in the our members, employers, belonging to the discipline. ‘corridors of power’ 5. More people regularly read service users and wider and people come to us quality media coverage 5. Members have more Society. for our expertise. We opportunities to learn on the contribution of 4. We communicate our are respected for our from each other and psychology to social issues. evidence based vision of knowledge and credibility. develop the skills they 6. More people are able to education and training need. (E&T) 5. Our messages are hear about the latest at all levels and influence amplified by our partners psychological evidenced or 6. Members have the more decision makers to and are more likely acted discovery in an engaging opportunities to access shape the curriculum and upon by stakeholders. way. the funding their need to provide increased funding. further their work. 7. Psychologists are able to 5. More service users, reach more people with 7. Members have better students, employers and the findings of their work. access to publications other stakeholders know where they can find and that BPS accreditation is share the evidence they the gold standard and seek need. to complete accredited education and training. 6. More people complete Society qualifications and have a high standard of skills and knowledge that meet the needs of employers and wider Society.
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the psychologist june 2018 rated Michelle Kondrich www.michellekondrich.com
Our capacity to impact policy Carl Walker, Ewen Speed and Danny Taggart believe that the nature of public policy means we can never be as influential as we’d like to be. They follow this with an article reminding us of the value of informal psychological caregiving.
• have some form of policy control in a top-down n a May 2016 piece ‘Are we punching our fashion; weight?’, The Psychologist journalist Ella • are able to, and have responsibility to, bring Rhodes noted that ‘an evidence-based these forms of evidence into this system that they approach to human behaviour is central control; and to mental health, education, healthcare, • autonomously pick up on and appropriate employment, crime and justice’. The psychological research in an ethical, evidence-based British Psychological Society President and rigorous way. Peter Kinderman went further in a 2017 blog, saying: ‘Pretty much all the In this imaginary world, subject matter of politics is the subject matter of psychology… “ Far from being objective psychology is itself bolstered by a sustained optimism not only in Policymakers working on and scientific, policy in the ability of scientific experts to manifesto pledges would do this characterisation is find technological solutions for well incorporate psychological societal ills (Learmonth & Harding, evidence.’ There seems to be a shown to be a vested 2006), but also that psychologists collective appreciation that, despite and motivated form of themselves to have sufficient being a relatively young science, politics, rather than an prestige that their work merits such psychology has much to say about the mind and the brain and should objective science based on inclusion. Needless to say, this does necessarily bear any relation to have a role in shaping public policy. empirical measurement” not the actual process of policy making Policy is frequently mentioned (Petticrew et al., 2004). in psychological research, usually In his 2015 book The Politics of right up there in the abstract and Evidence-based Policy Making Paul Cairney suggested at the end of the discussion. The authors will note that that academics very often engage with the policy key findings of the work have one or a range of policy process that they wish existed, rather than the process implications. Exactly what policies should be changed that actually exists. We believe psychologists are prone or designed is often not addressed in depth or detail. to this wishful thinking. Sometimes, the authors speak not only about policy The policy process that does exist is a dauntingly as a ‘thing’ but invoke a group of people whom they complex and ideologically riven mess of relations, name as ‘policy makers’. They specifically note the where the evidence of psychologists exists as one, not responsibilities of these ‘policy makers’ to carry out or especially compelling, presence in a range of actors, to consider carrying out certain acts as a result of their agents, networks and pressure groups. Politicians will findings, almost as if policy is something that happens often pay little attention to evidence unless a wellelsewhere, and always in the abstract. Such a model is framed by an idea of rational policy worked through solution is available. Opportunity cost and political feasibility all play into the process, not makers (to use Sandra Nutley’s terms) who: least the consideration of what other problems could • are in touch with the evidence;
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be addressed by putting the same money elsewhere. It’s a classic utilitarian logic. There is also the further tendency of policy makers to decide what they want to do and then seek enough evidence to support it (thus producing policy-based evidence rather than evidence-based policy). There may even be the distortion or selective acquisition of forms of evidence that support a given inclination on an issue. Far from being objective and scientific, policy in this characterisation is shown to be a vested and motivated form of politics, rather than an objective science based on empirical measurement. Add in the work that lobbyists, special advisers and think tanks do, and it becomes apparent that the policy context is a multi-layered, multi-level hybrid structure that is not immediately amenable to the (well-intentioned) interventions of psychologists telling people (1) what they are missing and (2) what they should be doing. Complexity is not the only barrier facing the psychologist eager for their research work to filter through to national or local policy. There is compelling evidence that outlines the way that policies are often driven by ideology and biases rather than evidence (e.g. see Bela Fishbeyn’s ‘When ideology trumps evidence: A case for evidence based health policies’). If the work of psychologists chimes with the ideologies of these policy subsystems and they ‘play publicly’ (in Cairney’s phrase) then they may be incorporated into evidence/policy programmes that tend to be normatively driven by informed guesswork, expert hunches, political Key sources and other imperatives. If we were in the unlikely position of being able to put aside Cairney, P. (2015). The politics of the above challenges with the policy evidence-based policy making. London: Palgrave. process, we still have real problems Dillon, J., Johnstone, L. & Longden, E. with policy contexts. Let us take (2012). Trauma, dissociation, attachment the example of gambling. Several and neuroscience: A new paradigm for recent papers have concluded understanding severe mental distress. with altogether laudable policy Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling recommendations, such as stating and Psychotherapy, 12(3), 145–155. Harper, D. (2016). Beyond individual that problem gambling is a health therapy. The Psychologist, 29(6), 440–444. issue and there is a need for the Jones, R., Pykett, J. & Whitehead, M. development of early intervention (2013). Changing behaviours: On the rise programmes, effective regulation of the psychological state. Cheltenham: and socially responsible policies Edward Elgar. (see Mulkeen et al., 2017, and Learmonth, M. & Harding, N. (2006). Evidence-based management: the Wardle et al., 2012, as examples). very idea. Public Administration, 84(2), One thing that unites these and 245–266. many other psychologists in the Speed, E., Moncrieff, J. & Rapley, M. field of gambling is their conviction (Eds.) (2014). De-medicalizing misery that the work that they carry II: Society, politics and the mental out has implications for policy health industry. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. and should be treated as such. Walker, C., Hanna, P. & Hart, A. (2017). We would not necessarily argue Building a new community psychology of with this conviction. However, it mental health. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Full list available in online/app version.
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is instructive to think through the gambling policy context and regulation environment to which such recommendations are being pointed. For instance, in their 2013 Changing Behaviours: On the Rise of the Psychological State, Rhys Jones and co-authors chart the development of what they call ‘debtogenic’ urban landscapes, where the gambling industry has exploited loopholes in the law since 2005 to turn whole areas into spaces where gambling is socially and spatially normalised and ambient. This has been enabled by planning law and regulations (or lack of them) that have meant that post offices, shops, banks and cafés can all be converted into betting shops without permission. Tottenham High Road in London most famously has 15 betting shops along its short span. Pawn shops, ATMs and other sources of easy credit have then sprung up around them. There is evidence that the gambling industry is targeting precisely those social groups that are more vulnerable to gambling in the first place. The challenges mounted by communities and councils have failed, suggesting a seemingly intractable political context. To make policy suggestions in academic papers in such circumstances, where concerted localised political action has failed and where the national policy context has moved and is moving toward a laissez-faire, political hyperliberalism, could be read as a profoundly naive reading of the UK gambling policy context. We also need to consider issues of consensus and validity. Psychologists often disagree about what they are doing, how they should do it, how they should (or should not) contribute to policy, how they should measure, what they should measure and the fundamental findings from their work. Issues with the psychological evidence base, publication bias, plus the so-called ‘replication crisis’, have all left Tom Farsides and Paul Sparks concluding in their 2016 article that ‘psychology is liberally sprayed with bullshit’. It is tempting to suggest we need to focus on getting our own house in order. To be clear, we are not suggesting the psychologists should not seek to impact policy. But we must accept that our capacity to do so is vastly overrated, and is based on a naive and unrealistic understanding of what policy is and how the policy context works.
the psychologist june 2018 rated
The psychological expertise in informal settings
almost impossible for non-professional people ecent times have seen a steady increase in the provision of primarily to be officially understood as having expertise in psychological care. However, there is growing evidence individually focused mental that non-psychologically trained people in informal health interventions: psychiatric settings can play a key role in helping to alleviate medication and psychological distress in ways that professional disciplines simply therapy. In 2007 the Healthcare can’t manage (Walker et al., 2017). Commission noted that 92 per cent We therefore argue for a rethink in our approaches of their service-user sample had to mental health. Wellbeing is inherently social, taken medication: it’s still the default intervention in contextual and relational and, mental health (as Dave Harper has rather than understand it as a written in these pages). Despite set of entities to be acquired or significant increases in spending “Subjective feelings internalised qualities of individuals, in this area, demand still outstrips of wellbeing result it can be useful to think of it as supply. sets of effects produced in specific During the same period, Frank from complex and times, places and circumstances Furedi suggests that in the West embodied arrays of (see Sarah Atkinson’s 2013 ‘Beyond there has been a ‘therapeutic turn’ social experiences that components of wellbeing’). that has encouraged victims of Subjective feelings of wellbeing past wrongs to frame their claims are embedded within within the language of psychology. specific historical, cultural, result from complex and embodied arrays of social experiences that This has facilitated a corrosion of political and economic are embedded within specific the dignity of ‘lay’ human selfhood historical, cultural, political (in Mark Rapley’s terms), where settings” and economic settings. These people in the West no longer have sometimes enable people to any sense of public agency in the experience their lives positively, understanding and amelioration sometimes negatively, and sometimes both positively of their distress. The exclusion of non-professionals and negatively. from the care of the hurt or sick has resulted in new All manner of large-scale social forces and discrete demands for medical services, and some psychologists local social experiences can come to be translated such as Craig Newnes have argued it has become
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into poor wellbeing. We would suggest that life choices, ways of knowing the world and wellbeing are structured through experiences of social class, abuse, gender, race, sexuality, disability, exclusion and, for some, grinding poverty (to name but a few). To explain poor wellbeing, it is important to embed individual biographies in the larger matrix of culture, history and political economy. And what have been discussed as ‘symptoms’ that need treatment, can often be usefully understood as the attempts of everyday people to control, deflect or ignore the pain that accompanies these. There is strong and growing evidence, in the work of Jacqui Dillon, Jane Ussher and others, that the longterm impact of racism, bullying, poverty, inequality and the corrosive effects of dysfunctional families, social worlds and political regimes are reasons why people become distressed. Preventative, community-led approaches to mental health and emotional wellbeing can be crucial and often far more impactful than contemporary psychological approaches. Many disparate community settings, spaces and projects can offer alternative social worlds where people can feel that they belong to a group and where different criteria of worth may be applied, making possible feelings of positive identities and status (Hall et al., 2002). Within these settings – either formally or informally – loss, guilt, isolation, social marginalisation and stigmatisation can be ameliorated by the psychological sense of community, emotional support, role models, practical information, opportunity to help others and mutually supportive relationships (Walker et al., 2017). People can experiment with social roles, imagine alternative futures, develop agency and active citizenship. Discourses of disability, victimhood, powerlessness and dependence can, for some, become recognition, belonging and a sense of control (Solomon et al., 2001). Many of these informal spaces and settings can also offer conditions of possibility that give greater promise than more formal contexts. Such informal community activities include, but are not limited to, adult community learning (Lewis, 2012), developing cohesive social networks (Pearce et al, 2016), neighbourhood quality-of-life improvement interventions (Biglan & Hinds, 2009), mutual support groups (Solomon et al., 2001), holiday groups (Pols & Kroon, 2007), group singing (Pearce et al., 2016), co-production with excluded groups and ‘enabling
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Dr Carl Walker is in the School of Applied Social Science, University of Brighton C.J.Walker@ brighton.ac.uk Dr Ewen Speed is in the School of Health and Social Care, University of Essex esspeed@ essex.ac.uk
places’ for social inclusion and increasing connections between people (Duff, 2012; Mezzina et al., 2006; Parsfield, 2015). Such spaces and settings can help foster networks for groups of people in a way that local statutory services find difficult (Cigno, 1988). In these informal settings and spaces it is possible for distress Dr Danny and suffering to be understood as Taggart is in the everyday artefacts of modern life School of Health that do not require institutions and Social Care, of expertise to legitimate certain University of states of being at the expense Essex of others. They often require dtaggart@ no central reliance on a system essex.ac.uk of pharmaceutical treatments or therapeutic techniques to radically alter the way that distressed people feel and think about the world. Such settings do not share with the dominant discourses of the ‘Psy-sciences’, the requirement for people feeling distressed to be categorised and subject to the symbolic and material practices of othering that mental health service users often find themselves party to. Could a focus on practices – rather than on experts, immutable clinical categories, technologies and fixed knowledges – allow us to appreciate the ways that knowledge, status, relief, atmosphere and solidarity come together effectively in informal practices? If we want to recognise the fluid and innovative nature of the many informal care practices then a future course for a psychology of distress could be to develop and celebrate methods that are sensitive to this. It is difficult to recognise fluidity using the static snapshots enabled by all quantitative and many qualitative methods. Care practices can be done, rather than known or told, and they may be silent and implicit, as well as explicit and recognisable (Singleton, 2010). We would argue for a social relational approach that embraces the complexity of misery. Within the dominant paradigm of distress, there are clearly constituted care-givers and care-receivers. Certain forms of care are recognised, practised and legitimised. But we need a rethink. If care can only be understood as ‘care’ if practised by the correct people (e.g. psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist), then the practices that happen in informal settings will continue to be underrated.
what to seek out on
psychologist website this month
Exclusive content Men’s mental healthcare – striving for better reach Zac Seidler (University of Sydney) calls on professionals and society more broadly to see beyond ‘boys will be boys’. The power to provoke thought, reflection and pleasure Dr Sally Marlow speaks to Ruth Garde, Creative Director of King’s College London’s ‘Arts in Mind’ festival. Further reading A round-up of some recent book extracts we’ve published here, with thanks to the publishers. What we are looking for An occasionally updated account of the types of contributions we’re seeking, plus some specific topics. Find all this and so much more via
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Shalom Schwartz ‘I’ve built a good mousetrap and people come to use it’ Bec Sanderson talks to social psychologist Shalom Schwartz about his life’s work on values
I meet Shalom Schwartz in his new home in New Paltz, New York. There’s a lot of ‘new’ in this address, which becomes more apparent when we sit down for coffee. ‘In our old home in Israel’, his wife Penina says, looking out of the window, ‘we could see all the way out to Jordan.’ She says this again, after our interview, so I know it is a significant move for the family. Schwartz is in his eighties and bright as a button. It’s a warm June afternoon and he is relaxed. We sit on a covered balcony, looking over at the Shawangunk Range, or The Gunks as he calls them – ‘they’re full of ticks, swarming!’ (Schwartz was recently treated for Lyme disease) – and I ask him my first question, the question I have asked hundreds of activists and campaigners at the start of workshops, and the thing
I am burning to know about Shalom Schwartz: What do you value in life? He smiles. ‘Freedom to think what I want to think, and develop my own ideas. Warm social relationships. Those are the two biggies. Me, like the vast majority of people in the world...’ Schwartz has spent much of his career emphasising the shared, universal nature of values and in one paper with Anat Bardi, he demonstrates that Benevolence, Universalism and Self-direction values are consistently rated most important to most people across different cultures. The answers he has just given map pretty neatly onto Self-direction and Benevolence (see Figure 1). The Schwartz model shows that values have neighbours and opposites, that values close together (e.g. Humble, Honest) tend to have similar importance to people, that values far away (e.g. Equality, Social Power) act more like a seesaw – as one rises in importance, the other falls. When you add to this that values connect to behaviour (that Universalism and Benevolence are associated with cooperation, sustainable behaviour, civic engagement and acceptance of diversity – that Achievement and Power are most emphatically not), and that values can be engaged, you have more than a model: you have an imperative for all the activists and campaigners scrabbling around for the messages and tactics that are going to change the world. At least, that’s how I feel about it. So I want to know what it felt like to develop the model in the first place. It’s clear that Schwartz sees his theory as being heavily influenced by Milton Rokeach: ‘Most of the items he had, I used. And then I added to them, trying to Figure 1: Value structure across 68 countries – Public Interest Research Centre (2011) based on expand to fill in what was missing. Schwartz (1992)
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The whole Tradition area he had left out, like a good American in the 1970s… When I went to college, who believed that tradition was going to be important? We were sure religion was dying. But it became very clear later that we were dead wrong!’ Schwartz had a hunch that there was some coherence, some continuum, between the different sorts of values motivations, and this was confirmed when he looked at the multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis he had run on Rokeach data. ‘Oh, it
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was a phenomenal moment. It was a Saturday night and I don’t work on the Jewish Sabbath, but I had brought home the computer output – you know, big fat paper outputs that we got in those days – and it was sitting on my desk waiting for me, and I hadn’t looked at the results. When the sun went down and it got dark, I went into my room, sat at the table, opened it up and started looking. Then I ran into the kitchen saying “Eureka! It really works! It’s there!”’ It was a ‘total shock’, he says. ‘Things like that
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happen once in a lifetime. I mean, I’ve been living But? There’s clearly a ‘but’. For one, he says: values off that ever since.’ And he has. The 1992 chapter in do not mean the same thing to everyone. People can Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, where associate different behaviours with the same value. So he first laid out his theory for the universal structure even if two people can agree that justice is important, of values, has been cited over 12,000 times to date. they might not apply this value to behaviour in the Schwartz has since published prolifically, in the region same way. They might not have the same ‘instantiation’ of 300 academic articles and book chapters, and his of justice. Instantiations can also vary across culture. value questionnaires have been translated into 54 Greg Maio, Head of Psychology at Bath University, languages. gives the example of family security, which is But it took several years for that success to be felt. universally valued but will give rise to different ‘I remember saying to Penina in ’87, when we first behaviours for people in Brazil compared with people presented the idea of the circle, either this is going in the UK. Schwartz seems hopeful about this avenue to fall flat on its face, or it may be a breakthrough.’ of research. ‘Greg Maio has a very important argument It partly hung on Louis Guttman’s new MDS method, when he says the instantiations are critical, and when a method of visualising similarities and differences you change people’s instantiations you can anchor in data, which was treated with some suspicion by change in values.’ the peer review panel. As a young Another question he raises academic somewhat out of his is about priming studies, which depth, Schwartz responded by “The attempts to change demonstrate that behaviour can asking Guttman directly for help. manipulated through exposure values are fine, but people be Messages went back and forth to messages or symbols. Few should understand between Guttman, Schwartz, the psychologists need reminding Advances editor and the reviewer. about the replication crisis. what you are doing, they ‘I was in the middle, I didn’t know During this crisis, a number of should be free to resist enough about the statistics and the famous, now notorious, priming and it should be method. Eventually the reviewer studies have failed to replicate wrote back and said “He’s right” and Schwartz is understandably in directions that they and let it go. And that was how the sceptical about the method: ‘I think really want to go.” first study got published and that they’re very nice for demonstrating was how I fell into it, basically.’ causality, but whether that priming Schwartz talks about ‘falling really continues, whether it has any into it’ several times over our conversation – ‘I often lasting effect…’ He gives a long shrug. ask myself, did I just fall into it or was there some Schwartz then cites an argument from Rokeach long-term trend that brought me there?’ – and he that gets to the heart of the matter: You can’t get people resists portraying himself as deliberately pursuing this to change, except in the direction that they want to path. He seems most comfortable talking about himself change. This is partly an argument about what is as a scientist driven by curiosity – ‘I always have more possible, given the nature of values. In Schwartz’s own questions, there is always something else to ask’, and words, values are ‘conceptions of the desirable that he is happy to remain agnostic about why he got influence the way people select action and evaluate hooked on values in particular. When he thinks back events’ (Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987). So for a person to to first coming across Rokeach he remembers feeling change their values and behaviour, they need to think doubt about his methods of changing behaviours the change is desirable: they must want to change. through values: ‘I was very sceptical about it, but it But surely this is manipulated all the time? I think stayed with me.’ He shakes his head, laughing, and about all the money spent on advertising, vying for this addresses himself in the second person: ‘Really, why prime real estate of the human mind. And that’s where are you so interested in this?!’ it becomes an ethical maxim. Schwartz is uneasy about I suggest that part of the draw is that values matter: values being used in social engineering, or ‘nudging’, they matter in the sense that they help us understand to deceive and manipulate. ‘The attempts to change and change behaviour. But Schwartz seems curiously values are fine, but people should understand what you on the fence about this. ‘I still tend to be sceptical are doing, they should be free to resist and it should be about relations between values and behaviour. I think in directions that they really want to go.’ they exist, and I’ve built a lot of my work on that I get the sense that the application of his theory assumption. In fact, I never would have gone into to the real world seems, at the same time, the subject the field if I didn’t think there was a relationship to that matters to him the most and the subject he is most behaviour.’ uncomfortable talking about. It is clear that Schwartz is concerned about the ends as well as the means. While the ‘don’t manipulate’ argument should hold across the board, he is very supportive of campaigners using his work to build concern for issues like human rights and climate change: ‘Let me put it this way. I am constantly
the psychologist june 2018 interview Getty Images
Instantiations can also vary across culture… family security may be universally valued, but will give rise to different behaviours in Brazil compared with the UK
delighted when I see people applying it in ways that matter, because I don’t feel very good about my ability to do that. So if people can do that I just think that’s terrific.’ I’ve spent years trying to apply this theory, helping campaigners examine the values they stand for. Quite often, campaigners are completely unaware of the values they promote. Greenpeace will run climate change campaigns on the platform of conspicuous consumption: ‘Save the world while you shop!’ and happily promote the very values that suppress concern for the environment. I’ve come to a similar conclusion to Schwartz, that instantiation is the key. We know that most people hold Universalism and Benevolence to be very important. We know these values are associated with more sustainable, progressive behaviours. The job of campaigners is to help people see their values as being relevant to climate change, poverty, human rights. Was Schwartz ever tempted to step outside academia, to get more engaged with the ways his theory is applied? ‘No, pure science is much more my orientation, and I’ve never been very much of an applied person.’ He talks of having a charmed life as an academic and seems to have never entertained the possibility of doing anything else. When I ask him what he is most proud of, he doesn’t hesitate for a second: ‘My students.’ He is animated in his descriptions of the mentoring system he developed in Israel. ‘The most gratification I get is from just watching what my students can do, and seeing how they have continued a similar kind of atmosphere with their own students, and are producing first-rate scientists themselves. I would say that’s what I’m most proud of.’ How about the strangest things other people have
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done with the theory? His eyes shine with mirth. ‘Oh there have been some strange ones! Somebody was trying to develop a way to use values in dance and they had dancers with lights on different parts of their bodies. You would look at the dancers and they would be exemplifying a value through the way they moved their bodies. I scratched my head and thought: What are they doing?’ I am sheepish when I tell him that we have done something similar as an exercise, to help people understand the theory. ‘Oh yeah? Great! I’ll give you one that you can’t have done in workshops that is also strange. An archaeologist contacted me. He was doing an archaeology of ancient cities in Italy and he was trying to infer the value priorities of the people from the architecture.’ Schwartz catches the look on my face and laughs. ‘Yes… In particular he was interested in power and hierarchy, how close things were to the road, how tall they were, how small or large things were around them. Again, I don’t know what happened with it. People contact me with all kinds of ideas and they ask me “Do you think it’s relevant?”. My reaction is “I don’t know! If it interests you, go ahead. Let me know what you find!”.’ He opens his hands, palms to the sky. ‘Penina always says that I’ve built a good mousetrap and people come to use it, that’s all. Let them use it any way they want. My sense is that it’s out there, and if anybody can get something out of it, fine. The Arabic word tfaldl captures my feeling about it: Please, be my guest, do whatever you want!’ As we make our way down to his apartment, we bump into an elderly Jewish lady with a neat perm and red lipstick. ‘Marge!’ smiles Schwartz. ‘It’s Mary’ she fires back in no-nonsense New York drawl, then brushes it off to launch straight into her news. He cringes as we get into the lift, but reflects: ‘Here, it’s almost more suspicious if you get it right’. Back in his home, I am given drinks and sweets, and he talks me through a photograph album of his 80th birthday. ‘You know, in our old home in Israel…’, Penina says again, gazing out of the window. But I think they will be happy here. They are closer to their children and surrounded by friends. They have ‘freedom to think’ and ‘warm social relationships’: two of the values that matter most. Shalom Schwartz and Bec Sanderson have both authored chapters in Values and Behavior: Taking a Cross-Cultural Perspective, Roccas, S. & Sagiv, L. (Eds.), available from Springer.
Dr Joanna Wilde is a Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist, and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She has had a 25-year senior executive career in organisational change and wellbeing in organisations such as Rio Tinto, Hewlett Packard and British Airways. She has, in parallel, provided a private pro bono psycho-legal practice for victims of disadvantage and discrimination. She has been an active contributor to the Societyâ€™s social justice policy influencing strategy.
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the psychologist june 2018 careers
‘This early experience of being the outsider has shaped my perspective’ Joanna Wilde presents her ‘other CV’ – the personal events and motivations behind her career
In the photographs I’m two-years-old, holding a constrained and me living between their two houses. watering can, with muddy hands and a beaming My dad, with Irish working-class ‘made good’ roots, smile. These portraits were taken by Oscar Mellor lived at the posh end of town, taking in lots of lodgers as thanks to my mum for introducing him to Henri to cope financially. My mum, from a middle-class Tajfel, and to my dad for recruiting the photographic academic background, lived at the impoverished end of subjects for Tajfel’s experiments on discrimination town. I regularly experienced comments like ‘stuck-up and social categorisation. So perhaps my very early bitch’ walking to and from Mum’s house in Grammar life determined my interest in social psychology. School uniform, and ‘filthy pikey’ walking near Dad’s I was born in the early 1960s in Oxford when house. I also experienced the embarrassed pity from my parents were university students. Having an teachers at school when I had to explain the reality of ‘unexpected’ child largely kept my parents’ financial constraints. them from going out to experience I lived with the daily reminder “…this was effective the 60s, so instead they invited that I did not fit anywhere, always it into our melting-pot terrace in being on the ‘wrong side’ of the preparation for being Osney Island. Our home was the intersection of class, gender, a woman and out as go-to place for those exploring ethnicity, education and poverty. a ‘psychologist’ in the social change in 1960s Oxford. This early experience of being These faces, now catalogued as part the outsider has shaped my construction industry in of psychological history, were my perspective. While I clearly have the late 1980s early 1990s” the advantages of being white, early family. When I left school in 1980, educated and with a middle-class my first job was working in a voice, I am tuned in to the realities designer wedding dress company: hand stitching, of disadvantage, the process of ‘othering’ and the embellishment and headdress design. I already had hurt that this causes; realities that those with easier a place to study psychology at Brunel University, backgrounds often ignore. I could also argue that this but needed to do something practical after years of was effective preparation for being a woman and out as schooling. My experience of textile design has been a ‘psychologist’ in the construction industry in the late an ongoing influence in my approach to organisational 1980s early 1990s. psychology. I have focused on using what we know to Another appeal of Brunel was that the Dean, design different psychological environments – working Liam Hudson, had written a book called Contrary with creative uncertainty – rather than using research Imaginations. I loved the title as I knew I had one – methods in organisations. an orientation that comprised a designer’s imagination I chose to study at Brunel University as it offered with an activist’s determination. I was an activist from a a thin sandwich course, with six months each year young age. One important memory for me is travelling on placement. This was important because I was to Birmingham aged 16 to protest against the National raised in relative poverty (in the grammar school Front. Following in my grandmother’s footsteps, I attended I was the only child in my class on free protesting in 1930s against Mosely, I tumbled off the school meals). Earning was a necessity given my family bus into what I believe is called the battle of Digbeth! circumstances. With today’s price of study, I suspect While Brunel did not deliver on the contrariness I would never have done a degree. I was hoping for, the structure of the psychology My parents divorced just before I moved from programme did allow me to study sociology, economics primary school. This left them both financially and anthropology and offered entry-level legal training.
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This breadth, combined with prison placements, primed my interest in the organisational justice literature as it developed in the 1990s, and provided the basis for becoming qualified in employment law. I made a fairly unusual employment choice after graduating. I set up as self-employed, which in the mid-1980s was not that common. The reason was my chronic ill health, which I needed to conceal to earn a living. I gained confidence from listening to Joanna Foster describing female careers as ‘patchwork quilts’. She had been invited (as head of the Equal Opportunities Commission) by Celia Kitzinger to talk to the new British Psychological Society Psychology of Women Section.
Secrets and the system My grandpa died when I was six. He had been a key source of stability for me in what was an increasingly stressed home, and we slowly disintegrated after this. Born in 1895 into an Irish community in a Manchester slum (his words), he left school through necessity at age 13. Through his traveller heritage he helped shape the structure of transport in the transition from horse to machine, serving on the UK parliamentary committee for transport in the 1930s. In doing this he pulled himself out of poverty. I remember the feeling of satisfaction of following in his footsteps when I was appointed to the Civil Government and Transport operational board in Hewlett Packard in 2007, and later to a senior executive role in British Airways. He died at the time a child begins to notice the outer world and claim a place in it. About a year after he died, I was alone with my two younger sisters on the night our home burned. Both my parents were out, attending after-hours events required by the institution my dad worked for. There were no family-friendly policies then. I had been instructed by my mum to ensure we all stayed in bed and didn’t answer the door. They left in a rush and forgot to turn off the gas under the chip pan. The inevitable happened. I woke up to the noise of something falling, the taste of smoke… I heard a neighbour’s voice calling through the front door to open it. I disobeyed my mum’s explicit instructions and we were swept out before the emergency services came. What followed was silence – a cover up. Everyone in the block of flats colluded with a fake story that my mother had been at home and had got us out in time. As a family, we did not speak of it for another 40 years. Even at this young age I saw and felt the ‘system’ at work. I couldn’t articulate it, but came to know its power. I am convinced that this formative experience is why I notice the systemic processes around organisational dysfunction, social compliance and whistleblowing. I have used my training in psychology informed by this early experience to develop an approach to organisational psychosocial audit and remedy (that I outline in my recent textbook published with Routledge).
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Shortly after the fire, I started getting the symptoms of what was later diagnosed as coeliac disease – chest infections, shaky legs, joint pain, fatigue, vomiting and intestinal pain. Recent developments in our understanding of trauma suggest that this fire was probably the trigger that activated a genetic predisposition. I know that I stopped feeling safe at that point, and as an adult psychologist I now understand the impact that this untended trauma will have had on my vigilance levels. I recently heard a Grenfell Tower victim describing her experience, saying ‘the fire lives in me, it is part of me now’. My experience was nowhere near as devastating as hers – the safety mechanisms did their job and no one died. But I know exactly what she means. I still suffer with flashbacks, memories that are visceral and not visual. Unsurprisingly, I am fascinated by the research exploring the physiological consequences of psychological trauma, the role of the micro-biome on psychological health and the challenge to the claim that false memories of trauma can be implanted visually. Turning points The symptoms of undiagnosed coeliac disease plagued my years in education, but managing them became even more complex as I entered the workplace. I graduated 10 years before the disability discrimination legislation and the only viable option was to mask my symptoms. I managed to get parttime contracts with the Tavistock Institute, the Construction Study Unit at Brunel University and a drug treatment project in London. The option for Chartered Psychologist was introduced shortly after I graduated, and I worked to ensure that my ‘gigs’ developed into a suitable occupational psychology portfolio. My reputation as an applied psychologist grew and, in 1987, I was given a contract as the psychologist on the London property development scheme called the Broadgate Project. This contract provided me with the data I needed for my doctorate. In parallel with training as a practitioner psychologist I undertook a PhD in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge supervised by Professor Steve Woolgar, researching networks and knowledge translation across the academia–business boundary (now described as ‘impact’!) This approach, using my sociological research into science and credibility, has been integral in successfully holding senior roles in large businesses, while being the first psychologist in each position. Shortly after I completed my PhD, I was offered a six-month senior lecturer role in Australia by
the psychologist june 2018 careers
Employment Tribunal there was nothing they could Professor Stephen Linstead. This was based on my do. After much soul-searching I decided to take out an integration of arts, design, sociology and psychology, equal pay claim in the Employment Tribunal, as I felt to teach innovation to business students. My move my silence would make me complicit. The parties are to Australia led to Rio Tinto commissioning me to obligated to attempt resolution and after 18 months audit organisational change processes across large in the Tribunal I accepted settlement. I experienced construction sites in Australia and New Zealand. how psychologically debilitating being a claimant is, It was also a significant turning point for my and learned both the human cost health. I was getting increasingly and the limitations on impact irritated with the failure of the UK “I experienced how when a regulatory system requires medical system to engage with my problems. I was, in effect, living psychologically debilitating individuals to lead on matters of social change. with confirmatory bias in action. being a claimant is…” I got through this experience I would describe my symptoms with emotional support from my to each new doctor I met in the sisters, an excellent, equality-savvy UK, but as they read the medical notes about me they ignored the physical. Instead each union representative, the knowledge and funds to commission barrister Nick Smith, now of Guildhall would tell me I had a ‘mental health’ problem. I was Chambers, and the health insurance to pay for variously told I was a malingerer, depressed, anorexic psychological support. It is clear to me that ‘resilience’ or anxiety-disordered, but was never offered any help. is a feature of such social resources, not of individual By virtue of being on the other side of the world, character. I am offended by the current rhetoric that my Australian GP listened without being framed by fails to recognise this and subsequently blames victims. what other doctors had written. I was referred to a This lived experience deeply informed my later specialist within two months and diagnosed by biopsy practice. Increasing fairness at work through redressing with coeliac disease within six months of arriving. On social causes of distress to enhance individual adopting the required gluten-free diet, I found that wellbeing and organisational productivity became the majority of my most debilitating symptoms and my priority in my executive roles and has been the associated issues became more manageable. This diagnosis also coincided with the introduction basis of my contribution as Director for the Council for Work and Health. I volunteered with the British of the Disability Discrimination Act, which provided Psychological Society, as founding chair for the work for reasonable adjustments and protection on and health policy group and representing the Society disclosure. This change culminated for me when on the DoH review of whistleblowing in the NHS, to British Airways appointed me through their ‘Positive ensure that this evidence would be more widely shared. about Disability’ programme, as Senior Leader, It has since been embedded in NICE guidelines and is Organisation Development and Change and as the informing the HSE review of managerial standards and Senior Psychologist on their Leadership Forum. the UN Human Rights Committee. I have also been The DDA is clearly important, but the reality in advocating for equality and pay transparency, including our workplaces is that managers constantly change, leading the BPS consultation responses to questions of and each time this happens it requires a new act equal pay. of disclosure of sensitive information. Managing When I look at the photographs of me at two they the unpredictability of the response is a significant showed I loved to garden. I still do: my childhood demand. I have found that only in 30 per cent of cases attention to nurturing the natural environment has of disclosure is this response kind and helpful; 30 per stayed with me into adulthood. In parallel with the cent may express pity but no practical understanding assaults on the planet for which we are all responsible, of how to respond; 30 per cent are uncivil; 10 per cent we have seen the proliferation of psychological downright abusive. environments that are damaging to the human spirit. I am committed to using what we know to design better psychosocial environments. These are Holding the line environments that work with our humanity and that My lived experience as a disabled person has regularly celebrate our dependence on each other. They must been co-opted by organisations, with requirements to also try to inhibit that deadly demagoguery lurking in add ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ responsibility to my day job. From relatively early in my career this meant I had all our psyches. It has been a life’s work and work that I am proud to continue for as long as I am able. access to pay data, which clearly demonstrated how serious the disparity in women’s pay is (to say nothing of the inequity linked to race and disability). In one Might you have an interesting story to tell about your career path, the highs case there was such a large discrepancy in pay between and lows of your current role or the professional challenges you are facing? my salary and the salary paid to a non-disabled man If you would like to be considered for a ‘Careers’ interview in The Psychologist, doing the same job with the same performance ratings, get in touch with the editor Dr Jon Sutton (email@example.com). Of course that I contacted the Equal Opportunities Commission. there are many other ways to contribute to The Psychologist, but this is one They told me that unless a case was won in an that many find to be particularly quick, easy and enjoyable.
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Clutching at straws in the wind Guy Claxton finds that ‘intelligence’ remains hard to pin down
The Nature of Human Intelligence Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.) Cambridge University Press; Pb £26.99
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nother day, another compilation from the doyen of intelligence researchers Robert Sternberg. This time he has rounded up the 19 most cited researchers in a selection of the most successful textbooks on intelligence (it was 20, but Earl Hunt was sadly too ill to contribute), and asked them to reflect on the field, and their own particular contribution to it. These selection criteria make for sometimes rather stodgy reading: we get résumés of their own work by familiar names such as Ian Deary, Linda Gottfredson, Anders Ericsson, James Flynn, Howard Gardner and Sternberg himself, most of which add little new. We also get multiple revisitings of hoary old debates about nature and nurture,
what intelligence tests ‘really’ measure, the centrality (or otherwise) of conscious, deliberate, abstract rationality, and whether ‘intelligence’ is a separate general purpose faculty, distinct from say personality or memory, or not. These will be useful for readers who are not already familiar with the many places where they have already been discussed, sometimes ad nauseam. Because ‘textbook knowledge’ tends to be conservative, to evolve slowly, and to attempt to offer fair summaries of the field, this is not a ‘state of the art’ book, nor does it attempt to offer any overview of how the field has been recently developing. Arguments are rehearsed, but they do not cohere into any sense of deepening
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understanding, let alone an emerging consensus, about what intelligence is, and how it arises (or doesn’t) in the course of meaningful engagement with the real world. There are lots of pet theories, and a jumble of different people’s favourite nomenclature, but they feel shallow now, lacking any real grounding in cutting-edge cognitive science. For example, the ability to intervene intelligently in the flow of events in order to progress one’s own interests clearly depends on an astute, informed capacity for prediction and anticipation. Yet detailed, intricate work on how prediction is central to the whole nature of cognition – see, for example, Andy Clark’s Surfing Uncertainty – has not yet penetrated the bubble of the intelligence research community. And recent work that challenges the core assumptions on which the study of intelligence has been traditionally based, some of which is now widely available in accessible form, is largely missing. For this you could read Todd Rose’s The End of Average, Richard Nisbett’s Intelligence and How to Get It or – my personal favourite at the moment – Ken Richardson’s Genes, Brains and Human Potential: The Science and Ideology of Intelligence. There are straws in the wind in Sternberg’s anthology, but you have to catch them yourself and weave them into your own basket. Sternberg and others insist that intelligence isn’t exclusively an intellectual faculty. Diane Halpern reminds us of the importance of beliefs, biases and strategies. (Keith Stanovich has shown that people with high IQs are as liable to confirmation bias as the rest of us. Carol Dweck’s work shows that believing that intelligence is a fixed commodity subverts people’s intelligent engagement with novel challenges.) Scott Barry Kaufman, in a refreshingly personal account of his own journey towards a richer understanding of intelligence, quotes David Wechsler – he of the WAIS and the WISC – saying ‘general intelligence cannot be equated with intellectual ability, but must be regarded as a manifestation of the personality as a whole’. Kaufman also reminds us of the role of motivation, for instance of research that shows that IQ scores can be significantly improved by paying people to do them. And Zach Shipstead and Randall Engle have a good go at combining work on fluid intelligence and working memory into a model that holds out some promise for understanding real-world smarts. A core part of the problem is that intelligence is not a scientific concept. It reflects a value judgement, made by someone, or some culture or society, that some behaviours are ‘better’ than others. Intelligence is ‘mind at its best’ – and we won’t be able to make much progress until we have both a decent overview of ‘mind’ and an anthropological awareness of what ‘best’ means to different people. For both of these we are still waiting. Guy Claxton is Visiting Professor of Education at King’s College London
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A paradoxical opportunity – or just a brutal reality? At first glance, Ziyad Marar’s Judged seems timely and apposite. Written by a man committed to making social science more relevant, it discusses the risks and advantages of exposing ourselves to negative judgements in the troll-infested ‘digital age’. The psychological principles involved in judgement are already well researched, and are outlined clearly. Our judgements are always influenced by cognitive and perceptual biases – sometimes positively (the halo effect) and sometimes negatively. Our reactions to judgements made about us are similarly influenced by biases, commonly leading to outright denial or self-justifications. This is all uncontentious stuff, and Marar’s first departure from psychological orthodoxy comes in chapter 4, ‘Breaking Free’. Marar posits a universal (but hopeless) human yearning to escape from judgement. Rejecting experimental psychology as too quantitative, Marar supports his argument with qualitative insights – using Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain as an extended example of doomed escape. Developing this theme, Marar’s second and bolder proposition is that since we cannot avoid being judged, why not embrace judgement? Only by risking criticism, can we expose ourselves enough to receive good judgement. Marar’s positive spin on criticism (‘the value of being misunderstood’) probably has validity in the politely adversarial world of academic debate. From criticism we can learn, and do better next time. But this is a narrow and genteel view of negative judgement. For billions of ordinary people (barely mentioned in Judged) ‘being misunderstood’ means remorseless persecution – not one star on TripAdvisor. Judged reviews the well-established psychological truths clearly. It draws entertainingly from poetry, philosophy, psychoanalysis, popular culture and sociology. But its narrow take on judgement diminishes its realworld relevance; meanwhile, Marar’s overwhelming preference for discussing imaginary characters from literary fiction over real people (say, Christopher Jefferies) often makes Judged into ‘difficult jazz’ – a virtuoso performance, but one that neatly illustrates the irrelevance and inaccessibility in social science that Marar, quite rightly, wants to change.
Judged: The Value of Being Misunderstood Ziyad Marar Bloomsbury Academic; Hb £20.00
Reviewed by Dr Chris Timms, who is an independent writer
The Emotional Learner: Understanding Emotions, Learning and Achievement Marc Smith Routledge; Pb £22.99
One for the reading list Marc Smith provides a thoughtful and methodical summary of the research evidence relating to how we define emotions and how they impact on learning. He makes the case that the ‘cognitive and emotional brain networks are intricately linked’, based on both physiological and psychological theory and evidence. The Emotional Learner is also part practical guide; it provides a powerful argument that educators should develop their understanding of these links and concludes by offering practical suggestions about what can be done to support learning more effectively. The book will resonate with educators (including parents) everywhere. I recognised the challenges Smith identifies as he refers to anecdotal evidence from his life as a teacher alongside the research evidence. Written in a conversational, easy-to-access style, the book reflects on and draws together a comprehensive body of research.
Smith develops and evidences a message that encourages educators to move away from the simplistic view that learning is all about development of cognitive processes, to one where they understand that learning is also about development of emotional and social processes – and that these three strands are inextricably interdependent. Smith challenges the concept of negative and positive emotions, categorising them instead as ‘activating’ or ‘de-activating’, and considers context as a critical factor. He draws on education theories that will be familiar to most teachers, including Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory. He considers the emotional impact of the current education system and discusses issues such as boredom and challenge, learned helplessness vs. mastery, anxiety, personality and motivation, self-determination,
interest and curiosity, self-esteem and educational self-concept. There’s room for a special chapter on teenagers, arguing that their brains are uniquely emotional and that they therefore deserve particular consideration. The book is clearly structured with each chapter considering perspectives on different emotional strands. There are handy end-ofchapter summaries, drawing together the main points that have been discussed and evidenced, and offering information about further reading, which makes it easy to pursue any specific interests. Smith asserts that ‘most school teachers aren’t researchers and have to rely on others to guide them towards what works and what doesn’t’. They could do a lot worse than be guided by this interesting and thought-provoking book; it should be high on the reading list of every teacher training course. Reviewed by Mary Prest, who is Head Teacher at Nottingham Nursery School & Training Centre
EXCLUSIVE ONLINE BOOK EXTRACTS The Happy Brain by Dean Burnett Here’s a fact about me: I used to have a job embalming and dissecting dead bodies for a local medical school. They were used to teach students about surgery and anatomy. Since then, I always ‘win’ any debate about who’s had the worst job. But it’s a pyrrhic victory, admittedly… Read on at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/work-not-its-own-reward Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl ‘Sorry, just quickly’, the businessman says to the business-woman. They’re in a beige, bland conference room, and he’s in the middle of conducting an interview; she, meanwhile, has just arrived from headquarters and is there to observe and take notes. The man is of average height; the woman is a little person. This becomes important. ‘How should I refer to you?’ he asks her. ‘Do I ...’ He trails off. ‘Ah—Fran,’ she supplies. ‘AFRAN?’ the interviewer repeats. ‘Is that an acronym, or ...?’ Read on at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/awkwardness-vortex The Lost Boys by Gina Perry On a high shelf in a vast back room at the Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron is a wooden trunk. A label dangles from it addressed to Muzafer Sherif, 728 Chatacqua Street, Oklahoma. The wood looks battered, and it’s likely the same trunk that Sherif first brought with him from Turkey, containing a few changes of clothes, some photographs, and his precious psychology books… Read on at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/behind-mask-science-art-narrative
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‘Being a sleep researcher makes you very, very boring…’ …but Vicki Culpin is far from it, as we discovered when we spoke to her about her recently published book, The Business of Sleep (Bloomsbury) How did you get into studying sleep? Like most psychologists, I suspect I’ve ended up where I am slightly accidentally. I did my PhD in short-term memory and was working in academia when I was approached by someone working in a sleep lab in a hospital looking at sleep apnoea. One of the symptoms of sleep apnoea is poor memory. I started to work with her from the memory angle, to devise tests, and as I did this I started to think this sleep stuff is really quite cool – forget the memory stuff, this sleep stuff is really quite interesting. At the same time, I was teaching forensic psychology in the university and a colleague suggested we looked at this in a forensic environment – the environment within the various secure units that people are in is often not conducive to good sleep. And you have a group of people who are very vulnerable, and often quite aggressive and hostile; and these are things that we also know change with poor sleep. So, the first piece of academic research was looking at the quality and quantity of sleep and how it related to hostility and anger and aggression. Then I moved into a business environment about 11 years ago and I thought, there’s really something here around this. If sleep affects mood in the way that we’ve found that it does, then this must have implications for business. Why are we waking up to the importance of sleep now? There’s a perfect storm. Firstly, the huge advent of accessible technology. This has made it easier to get better data about sleep for research, and also for individuals to have easy access to their personal sleep data. Secondly, the increased focus on wellbeing – organisations are focused on how they can attract, retain and engage talent, and a focus on wellbeing has recently really become part of that. So, they are starting to think more creatively about what support they can give employees and sleep is creeping up the agenda. Thirdly, the advent of cheaper MRI scanning that comes into research. Sleep researchers are doing amazing stuff about really seeing the effect on the brain of poor sleep, when you’re making decisions in a scanner and you can see what’s happening in the brain. Fourthly, there are some really
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good sleep researchers who have managed to bridge the divide between the research and the lay person. Have you changed your behaviour around sleep since researching the area? Yes – I’ve got much more aware of how important it is and the impact that it has for me – physically and cognitively. I know that I need to look after myself, and I’m lucky as I notice very quickly when I haven’t had enough sleep – I tend to get a really bad headache. This is a real benefit, as if you notice the impact then it’s a lot easier to prioritise sleep. I also take it seriously because I don’t want to be hypocritical. If I stand in front of people extolling the virtues of sleep, and I know I’ve only had four hours the night before, it doesn’t feel good. So, sleep feels like an individual issue, why should organisations get involved and what should they do? I draw the analogy to drinking. If someone turns up drunk for work you’d have a conversation with them about it – even though they might be drinking in their own time. The impact of poor sleep can show up at work, can really affect someone’s behaviour, and therefore organisations have a responsibility – and should have an interest – in how to support them. I think there needs to be some really strong evidence and really good practice within organisations to make it demonstrable. At the moment there are a lot of organisations doing good stuff but there are no consistent metrics to show that it works – there is a timing issue – the time is coming. We need to link changes in policy to bottom line results. We need research to show what works and why and then we can have very clear guidance. How else can we help people to change their sleep behaviour? On an individual level, its firstly about working out the focus – is it about quantity of sleep or the quality. Then I’d suggest looking at seven or eight things that could be affecting their sleep (e.g. technology, mealtimes, caffeine). Address one at a time for a couple of weeks and notice whether they feel better or worse. There will often be multiple causes, and my advice would be to find the smallest change that will make the biggest difference.
Ross White ‘There are key “nutrients” that can support people experiencing mental health difficulties the world over’ Ross White is a Reader in Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool, and an editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health. Our editor Jon Sutton wanted to hear more about the book.
Is the book an attempt to reverse the trend for exporting Western (and increasingly US) ideas about mental health to the rest of the world? Emotional and psychological distress varies with cultural context. This book is about raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities that exist in sharing knowledge about that; and reflecting on the role that social sciences and humanities can play in understanding and addressing these difficulties.
In the West, the ‘biopsychosocial model’ has tended to dominate the development and delivery of mental health services. Yet in other parts of the world its relevance for understanding emotional and psychological distress may be less clear or meaningful to people. This has been recognised for many years: Ethan Watters’ 2010 book Crazy Like Us presents a range of interesting case studies from diverse contexts (including Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Japan) that Getty Images
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highlight the potential tensions that can arise when different ways of understanding mental health are juxtaposed.
and benefit from. There are key ‘nutrients’ that can support people experiencing mental health difficulties the world over; such as working within people’s frames of reference, respecting their human rights, addressing social determinants of difficulties, helping people to find meaning in their experiences, supporting individuals to connect with what matters to them and minimising stigma associated with people seeking support. Our Handbook gives the reader insights into these nutrients.
So tell me about the Global Mental Health approach. It’s concerned with inequities in mental health provision across the globe, and it provides opportunities to work collaboratively with local stakeholders to generate innovative, pragmatic and culturally appropriate approaches to mental health and wellbeing. GMH-related activities This does seem to go beyond the have to date predominantly focused idea of ‘culture-bound syndromes’, on building capacity in low- and which has perhaps been a bit of an middle-income countries (LMIC) ‘old curiosity shop’-type approach to where financial resources for mental health? supporting mental health tend to be Let’s talk instead of ‘cultural concepts very limited. With over 80 per cent THE PALGRAVE HANDBOOK OF of distress’, which incorporate the of the global population living in SOCIOCULTURAL PERSPECTIVES cultural/linguistic ways in which LMIC, this is clearly a crucial area of ON GLOBAL MENTAL HEALTH distress is communicated, and the activity. But GMH also has much to Edited by Ross G. White, Sumeet Jain, David M.R. Orr, Ursula M. Read explanations people use to understand offer mental health services in highits cause. And let’s also acknowledge income countries. In particular, there that many psychiatric diagnoses is a need to build capacity and tailor are themselves ‘cultural bound interventions to meet the needs of syndromes’ of the West! underserved populations such as Such an approach serves to acknowledge the minority ethnic groups, those living in deprived areas, significance and value of local forms of understanding and homeless people. of emotional and psychological difficulties. Making comparisons across different cultural contexts can I guess this is a bit of a minefield, in terms of power pose particular challenges. Edward Said, the founder dynamics and the potential for accusations of of postcolonial studies, coined the term ‘orientalism’ ‘neo-colonialism’. to capture the patronising attitude that people in Of course. A chapter in the book by Charles Watters the West can adopt to beliefs and practices in the (no relation to Ethan!) discusses the risk of ‘epistemic East (i.e. Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East violence’ occurring when knowledge about emotional Asian cultures). Equally, however, we need to be and psychological difficulties is shared across different wary of a ‘preservationist’ approach where ways of cultural contexts. Preconceived notions of what is understanding and responding to distress in unfamiliar credible or legitimate can lead to the emergence of power dynamics that unduly subjugate particular ways cultural contexts are considered to be sacrosanct and beyond critical interrogation. There’s also a risk of of understanding and addressing distress. Similarly, ‘ethnocultural acquiescence’, where because people are Miranda Fricker has talked about the concept of not from a particular cultural group, and lack sufficient ‘epistemic injustice’, where people are wronged in understanding about the nuances of how distress may terms of their capacity to be knowledgeable about manifest in this group, they then assume they are not topics, or they are denied access to social resources in a position to help. People can make an important that would help them make sense of their experience. contribution irrespective of where they come from – It’s essential we recognise the biases and dominant the attitude that people bring to this work will be key. paradigms in our training, research and practice. For me, a metaphor that captures the principal Richard Horton has suggested that the field of global concerns of GMH is one I refer to as ‘flows of health has ‘built an echo chamber for debate that is knowledge’. GMH provides crucially important hermetically sealed from the political reality that opportunities to explore factors that facilitate, or faces billions of people worldwide’. Do you agree? block, the flow of particular forms of knowledge Horton was highlighting that armed conflict, forced about emotional and psychological difficulties. The migration and fragile economies bring social chaos meeting of particular confluences of knowledge may to multitudes of people’s daily experience, and that help create opportunities for fertile ground on which too often this reality was not being acknowledged in impactful work can grow; equally, however, there’s a efforts to build health service capacity across the globe. risk that particular flows of knowledge may not be And many of us share the concern that efforts to build sufficient to sustain the growth of forms of support capacity for physical and mental health problems that people in a particular context can engage with
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were out of step with the dire social and political circumstances in which people across the globe live their lives on a daily basis. But in recent years there’s been a growing recognition of the important role that social circumstances play in the emergence of both physical and mental health problems. For example, in 2014 the World Health Organization published a report entitled Social Determinants of Mental Health, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published by the United Nations in 2015 make specific mention of physical, mental and social wellbeing. Just this year, one of our authors, Crick Lund, published a ‘systematic review of reviews’ in The Lancet Psychiatry which highlights how hugely relevant the SDGs are for addressing the social determinants of mental disorders, and how these goals can be honed to support prevention. All of this emphasises the important contribution that psychosocial interventions can make. The Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Network have a great online platform highlighting examples of this work.
examples of initiatives that aim to promote mental health and wellbeing, as well as those that aim to prevent emotional and psychological difficulties emerging in the first instance. It is an interesting time for psychology as a discipline. Frameworks such as ‘Power Threat Meaning’, and formulation-based approaches more broadly, offer great utility for understanding the relevance of contextual factors on the difficulties that people are experiencing. And as a discipline we have expertise in a range of research methodologies that are highly relevant to GMH. We have expertise in a range of inter-sectoral contexts (including educational, criminal justice, occupational settings) that are crucially important for promoting mental health, as well as preventing and treating mental health difficulties. There is some great work being undertaken by psychologists in the context of GMH and we hope that the book helps to highlight this. But there are also rich opportunities for diverse disciplines – such as psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology – to engage constructively with each “We have expertise in a other. In particular, I think that range of inter-sectoral there are potentially productive contexts…that are crucially collaborations to be forged with anthropologists. important for promoting
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Yet the ‘treatment gap’ – between mental health needs and what is available on the ground – remains, and it’s greater in lowincome countries. What’s the answer? More treatment, or more mental health, as well as I loved that section of case studies prevention and a focus on natural resilience and recovery? of innovative practice and policy. preventing and treating It’s important to critically reflect on mental health difficulties” If you had to pick a favourite, the possibility that the concept of which would it be? the ‘treatment gap’ rests on a rather The chapter by Chris Underhill restricted view of what constitutes and colleagues, reflecting on the ‘treatment’. Perhaps what we are actually referring to work of the NGO BasicNeeds, demonstrates how is a ‘mental health service delivery gap’? Rather than adopting a ‘development model’ focused on improving accessing medical treatments which may be unavailable the socio-economic standing of communities in LMIC or deemed not to be relevant, people living in LMIC can have marked impacts on the mental health and routinely seek support from practitioners such as wellbeing of people living in these communities. Lucy traditional healers, faith healers, community elders Gamble’s chapter about her work with Transcultural that tend not to be recognised as ‘treatments’. Psychosocial Organization Cambodia reflects on Yet a systematic review by Gareth Nortje and the challenges that clinical psychologists who have colleagues concluded that traditional healers might be been trained in high-income countries can face helpful for relieving distress and improving symptoms when working in LMIC. And Corinna Stewart and associated with common mental disorders such as colleagues’ chapter detailing the work of the NGO depression and anxiety. So, rather than rushing to ‘commit and act’ in Sierra Leone is personally salient to create new systems that people may not engage well me. I’ve visited the country on three separate occasions with, it will also be important to work in collaboration to support the charity’s efforts to build capacity for with practitioners that people routinely access and supporting the mental health needs of the Leonean potentially derive benefit from. populations whose lives have been affected by civil war and Ebola virus disease. So often these issues come back to cost and capacity. Agreed, so a key strategy in GMH relates to ‘taskYou mentioned earlier that high-income countries sharing’ roles to non-specialists. This is a pragmatic can learn a lot from Global Mental Health. Can you approach to the lack of highly trained professionals. provide some examples of this? Section 3 of the Handbook includes a range of case Too often ‘community approaches’ in high-income studies that provide examples of innovative and countries are actually a bit of a misnomer. Rather pragmatic initiatives to build capacity in a range of than bringing community members together, these diverse LMIC in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Australasia initiatives tend to focus on finding ways to access and Latin America. Some of the case studies provide individuals in more efficient and cost-effective ways.
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I have been fortunate to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Rwanda, Kigali, and to learn about approaches that have been used in the country to engage with local communities. Rwanda is a small but densely populated country of around 12 million people in East Africa. Mental health services in the country are underresourced and tend to be focused in urban areas. Many readers will be are aware of the traumatic recent history that Rwanda has endured – approximately one million people were killed in a 100-day period during the genocide that occurred in 1994. As you can imagine, the conflict that ensued between the Hutu and Tutsi people created considerable schisms in the social fabric of the country. Over the last 15 years a group-based intervention called ‘community based sociotherapy’ (CBS) has been disseminated throughout the country to help facilitate reconciliation and conflict transformation. During the 15-session intervention, group members are facilitated to focus on phases of safety, trust, care, respect, new life orientations and memory. The social space of the group is governed by principles including democracy, equality and
confidentiality, aiming for group members to regain their capacity to relate and connect to others, so that they can experience again the vitality of humanity and feel mentally healthy. Evidence indicates that CBS has been effective for reducing distress in post-genocide Rwanda. Of course there are unique circumstances around the Rwandan context, but I think there are aspects of the CBS approach that could be relevant to highincome countries… particularly further exploration of how community members can work collaboratively to enhance their mental health and wellbeing.
How can we get word out? Is training the key? Yes, and it’s unfortunate that the training resources available to applied psychologists in LMIC are often at odds with the cultural contexts in which they undertake their work. Key textbooks tend to have been written by authors from Europe and North America, influenced by paradigms and assumptions that are less familiar and/or less relevant to work in LMIC. We must tailor training resources to fit with local beliefs, practices and linguistic expression; work with government agencies to raise awareness of the valuable contribution that psychology can make; and explore ways of tasksharing psychological skills to non-specialists.
Jaqueline Mukamana weaves a thread and grass basket in her home in a genocide ‘reconciliation village’
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There must have been all sorts of challenges in putting a book of this scope together. In putting the Handbook together, I – along with my fellow editors – wanted to ensure a range of diverse disciplinary perspectives were represented. Understanding of distress has evolved according to time, place, societal influences and epistemic perspectives – so the humanities (e.g. history, geography, philosophy and anthropology) are central to GMH, yet these disciplines have not been well represented in GMH texts. We also made a concerted effort to involve people from LMIC and people with a lived experience of mental health problems. Thankfully, the majority of the people we asked were able to commit to making a contribution, although inevitably there were exceptions. We’ve ended up with a book that is over 800 pages long, with 36 chapters, so we’re grateful to all those who give their time and effort so generously to complete such a mammoth project!
The Psychologist VIP Programme We are trialling a new scheme to identify and nurture new ‘voices in psychology’. Tell us why we need psychology, and what psychology needs, and you could be part of it.
We’re always listening out for ‘Voices in Psychology’. People who can take often complex ideas and communicate them in a way that will engage and inform our large and diverse audience. Writers with real impact. They’re the future of our science, of our Society, of our magazine. But perhaps you need help to find that voice. Perhaps you’ve got that certain something but you need practice, nurturing. We think we’ve made a real effort with this in recent years, providing opportunities and guidance to many first-time authors. Now we would like to begin to a develop a more formal structure to this process. For 2018 we’ll set a question which will run until the end of the year. It’s simply this: Why do we need psychology? And what does psychology need? Address either one or both parts of this question, in any way you see fit. You may find it helpful to focus on one example for each aspect. We recognise it’s a real challenge: the total word limit is just 1000, and it’s absolutely vital you write with our publication and audience in mind. Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org and include a bit about yourself – your aspirations, and how you’re looking to engage with the communication of psychology. While we are not exclusively aiming this at students, we are mostly interested in identifying high potential amongst those starting out in their journey in psychology.
One submission per person please, and unfortunately we cannot respond to everyone. Around the end of 2018 we will publish a selection of the best entries online and perhaps in print too. Then the fun begins… we will identify up to five respondents we feel might have real potential, and contact them about playing some kind of role in developing their ‘Voice in Psychology’, through the provision of advice and opportunities to write more in various contexts. As this is a trial, we can’t be more specific at this stage. This will be about co-creating a Programme for the future. But, at the end of it, those selected should be able to add to their CV that they were a part of The Psychologist VIP Programme! Get writing – and don’t be shy! If you’ve got a head bubbling with questions, original ideas about psychology beyond the lecture theatre, and a desire to make a difference, then that’s a good place to start. You don’t have to be the finished article to be Very Important to us! Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor Madeleine Pownall Third-year undergraduate at the University of Lincoln, Chair of the British Psychological Society Student Committee and Associate Editor for the VIP Programme
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Art and science illuminating each other Harry Farmer visits ‘Self-Impressions with the Institute of Philosophy, University of London’ at the Tate Modern
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rt and science have often been presented as opposing forces, most notably in C.P. Snow’s famous ‘Two Cultures’ lecture. The cognitive sciences have been particularly affected by this perception, sitting as they do on the divide between viewing ourselves as biological organisms in a physical world and as mental beings with a rich inner life. Indeed, the scientific study of the mind has often been accused of seeking to annex the fundamentals of what it means to be human under a reductionist and scientistic worldview and, in doing so, devaluing the insights into the human condition that great art communicates. In the past few decades, however, the idea of an unbridgeable divide between art and science has begun
to dissolve as increased dissemination of scientific findings into mainstream culture have led artists to examine how the images and concepts produced by cognitive science can inform their work. At the same time many psychologists have come to recognise the value in understanding and taking seriously the power of art, both as a topic of scientific study and as a means of communicating the wonder that our growing understanding of the mind and brain inspire. This rapprochement was clearly on show in the Self-Impressions event at London’s Tate Modern, which gave researchers a chance to show gallery visitors how cognitive science can shed light on the underlying processes by which art impacts upon us. The project was
the psychologist june 2018 culture themed around the boundary between our self and the world with studies examining both how information from our senses can shape our inner life (World to Self) and the means by we project that inner life outwards towards others (Self to World). While I didn’t have a chance to try every study, there were a number of highlights. The World to Self section contained perhaps the most visually exciting exhibits in the form of a set of ‘meta-perceptual’ helmets devised by the School of Looking. These sleek silver creations, inspired by George Stratton’s famous prism goggles that flipped his subjects viewpoint upside down, are designed to alter your viewpoint in a series of different ways based on the visual abilities of other animals. Perhaps the most interesting was the Chameleon, which allows one eye to view what’s behind you while the other views what’s in front. Wearing this gave me a form of binocular rivalry with my perception constantly shifting between the view in front of me and the view behind and occasionally a superposition of the two. In contrast the Hammerhead Shark helmet, which placed an 80cm gap between each of my eyes, produced a double vision effect for objects in the distance while objects close to me were rendered invisible. It’s unclear whether one’s vision could ever adapt to seeing the world in such a way as Stratton’s subjects are supposed to but it would be interesting to see someone try. In the Self to World section, one particularly engaging project focused on one of our senses that has traditionally been neglected by both art and science. The aptly named ‘Message Scent’ required one or more people to smell two different perfumes and record descriptions of them, which were then sent to another person to decode and identify which description matched which scent. I tried this out with my fiancée as the coder and myself as the decoder and was relieved to discover that, thanks more to her descriptive skills than to my powers of olfaction, we had managed to successfully transmit the perfumes. While these two areas give an idea of some of the flavour of the work on show, there were many more interesting experiments and displays. These included research using eye tracking to see how people discriminated between looking at portraits and selfportraits, a study examining how changes in selfperception made possible by social media affected our tendency to conform to the opinions of others, and research looking at how mothers shared experiences with their own vs. another child. Having spent several hours participating in different demos and still not getting round to all of them I left the event feeling that Self-Impressions had done a great job at highlighting the ways that art and cognitive science can come together to illuminate each other. Plus they handed out free chocolate, which is always a winning idea at any public engagement event. Reviewed by Dr Harry Farmer, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London
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Meeting the neighbours If you remember the 1970s and 80s, you probably also remember Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He preached an alluring mix of Eastern mysticism, Western individualism, free love and personal enlightenment. An anti-establishment, anti-religious figure, Rajneesh developed a devoted following of orangeclad sannyasins who flocked to his Pune ashram. But relations between Rajneesh and the Indian authorities were difficult, and relocation was on the cards. This is the starting point for the six-part documentary Wild Wild Country. In 1981 the Rajneeshees chose Oregon as their new home, bought a massive ranch, and moved in. It’s a smart choice by the documentary makers to enter the story here. We are in the same position as the white conservative population of tiny Antelope, the nearest town – the Rajneeshees were largely an unknown quantity. The townsfolk baulked at the enormous influx of mainly foreign people with a very different set of beliefs, and behaviour. At the same time, we see the incredible time, energy and feeling that went into creating the vibrant town of ‘Rajneeshpuram’ on this previously uninhabited land. Lines were rapidly drawn. The viewer wants to bang heads together – the Rajneeshees were arrogant and convinced of their rightness, the townsfolk rigid and judgemental. Rarely were ingroups and outgroups so quickly established. The documentary uses contemporary footage, intercut with interviews with the key players, including Bhagwan’s personal secretary, the charismatic Ma Anand Sheela. It’s Sheela around whom the narrative concentrates, as her influence expanded. It’s fascinating to see who changes their position from 30-odd years ago, and who keeps – or embellishes – their narrative. Everyone has had plenty of time to decide what story they want to tell. And what a story it is. Neighbourly discord is only the starting point, and things escalate, quickly and dramatically. Each episode brings a new revelation in the increasingly contentious relationship between the Rajneeshees and Americans. At the same time we are gradually exposed to details of life in Rajneeshpuram. As the energy and purpose of the early days fade, cultism comes to the fore: one daily ritual involves Bhagwan being driven slowly past the sannyasins in one of his 93 Rolls Royces. His inner circle jockey for power, and enlightenment and love fade to self-interest and hate. There’s plenty of psychology that can be applied to Wild Wild Country, but there’s more enjoyment to be had in simply sitting back and marvelling at the behaviour on display. Put your feet up… and binge.
documentary Wild Wild Country Netflix
Reviewed by Kate Johnstone, Associate Editor for Culture
game 13utcher Escapologic
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No logic in Escapologic Have you ever been so scared that your body froze despite your state of intense panic? Even when you knew that the experience wasn’t real, and nothing could harm you? I have, on a gloomy Saturday morning in March, at the UK’s only ‘escape room’ with an age 18 limit. Escape rooms are a fairly new craze, revolving around the idea of physical adventure. Dozens have popped up around the UK in recent years, each with its own unique theme. The common characteristic of an escape room is that you are locked in a room with a group of people, usually friends. The aim is to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit. A room I visited in the past had the aim of escaping from a science lab with an important substance; this one had the aim of escaping from a serial killer’s lair before ‘the butcher’ found us. I drove to Nottingham with my husband and two friends. The half-hour car journey took us all through various stages of anticipation. By the time we arrived we were all feeling a little anxious but confident we would be fine… after all, we knew it wasn’t real. Surely you can’t get that scared of something that you know can’t hurt you? Foolish thinking, coming from someone who runs a mile at the sight of a slug. By the time the escape room started we were already one woman down. Frances, a trainee clinical psychologist (perhaps she used some prior knowledge to decide to remove herself from the situation) made the decision to watch the rest of us on the cameras outside. This turned out to give us a useful insight that most people don’t get. Interestingly, she was shocked at how calm and collected we all appeared throughout. Evidently we managed to hide our feelings of fear and anxiety pretty well. With my neuroscientist hat on, I went into the butcher’s lair interested to see how the three of us would cope with trying to solve puzzles and make decisions when put under pressure and fear. Research shows
that being placed under acute stress has an impact on decision making, and increased stress is known to be related to increased risk taking. Similarly, psychosocial stress is known to impact other high-order executive functions. Fear is understood to influence our decisionmaking processes. When in a fearful state, we often overestimate the negative impact that the outcome of a particular decision will have on us. It is thought that experiencing anxiety interrupts prefrontal cortex circuitry via altering cortisol activity in the HPA axis, thus impacting high-order cognitive processes like decision making. With all this in mind, I was expecting us to find making decisions and solving puzzles very difficult within the butcher escape room. Having done an escape room with the same group of people before, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see how we worked differently in a more intense situation. Little did I know that as soon as the door shut behind us, I would be unable to even begin to think about the neurophysiological and cognitive processes taking place. All I could think about was surviving and getting out. I am not exaggerating when I refer to survival; it genuinely felt like I was in a life or death situation. Logically, obviously, we all understood that we wouldn’t die if the butcher got hold of us… what fascinates me is that the feeling of survival and immense fear was unshakeable. Our team of three managed to solve most of the puzzles and almost made it out. With only one more problem to solve, two of us made it until the end of our allotted time. One team member, Kane, was forced to be separated by the structure of the game. It was the isolation that got the better of him and resulted in his using our safe word, birthday, to get out. Of course, increased fear in such a situation is no surprise when we consider the psychology of groups and human attachment. We are a social species and generally feel a sense of security and safety when we are with other people. Not long after this, with seconds left in the game and the butcher coming across the dark room, chains dragging on the floor, it was ‘time up’ for the remaining two. It was at this point that I cowered behind my husband in a corner. I have never held on to his hand so tightly. It amazes me that I could feel such fear when I had voluntarily put myself in that situation and I was fully aware of my safety. I went into the 13utcher escape room wanting to see how we managed with solving complex problems and making decisions under pressure and heightened emotion. What I came out questioning was how a group of fully aware adults could be so afraid in a completely fictional environment. It would have been interesting to see if I would have managed to stay until the end had I not been with my husband, but with a friend or even a stranger. Reviewed by Dr Stacey Bedwell, Lecturer in Psychology, Birmingham City University
the psychologist june 2018 culture
Well-told creepy yarns Have you ever noticed how sceptical characters in horror movies usually come to a sticky end within the first half hour or so? They are usually portrayed as arrogant know-it-alls, scoffing at fears of the supernatural in others; and most viewers probably feel they fully deserve the grisly fate which is meted out to them as a consequence. They really should have heeded the many warnings they were given, shouldn’t they? In Ghost Stories, the portrayal of psychologist Professor Phillip Goodman by Andy Nyman (who also co-wrote and co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) is somewhat less of a caricature than is often served up in such movies. It is rumoured that Goodman’s character is based loosely upon celebrity sceptic Professor Richard Wiseman and perhaps the similarity in surnames is a nod in that direction. Goodman is, however, a flawed character (unlike Richard Wiseman), but at least he lasts beyond the opening minutes of the film (don’t worry, that’s the closest I’ll get to a spoiler). The film
itself is essentially a well-told creepy yarn in the format of the once-popular portmanteau movie. To be more precise, it is four well-told creepy yarns. Goodman is challenged by a former celebrity sceptic – who has seen the error of his ways and is now a confirmed believer – to investigate the three ‘inexplicable’ cases that led him to realise that the supernatural is indeed real. The fourth story is the one that provides insight into Goodman’s own demons. The film lovingly and effectively makes use of many of the standard tricks of horror movies to build up the tension and occasionally make viewers jump out of their seats. With a great cast, including Martin Freeman and Paul Whitehouse, it is not surprising that the characters are
convincingly portrayed, but for me the standout performance came from relative newcomer Alex Lawther. His portrayal of the psychologically disturbed schoolboy Simon Rifkind raises creepiness to new heights. Anyone who, like me, had previously seen the successful play that this film is based upon will enjoy the subtle hints throughout the film pointing to the dark episode in Goodman’s past that still haunts him. Unusually for a horror movie, this one ultimately leaves unanswered the question of whether or not the supernatural is real so the film may appeal to sceptics more than most of this genre. However, in my experience, most sceptics do not have a problem with the supernatural in fiction. After all, if it was good enough for Shakespeare and Dickens, it’s good enough for us – just as long as people remember that it’s all made up. None of it is real. Or is it? Reviewed by Professor Chris French, Goldsmiths, University of London
Traumatic times The much-anticipated exhibition by Mark Neville, Battle Against Stigma, aims to show the effects of PTSD in combat-stricken countries through the medium of photography. It includes photographs, films, emails and a book that recounts Neville’s own experience as the official British war artist in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011. On his return to the UK, the artist suffered adjustment disorder and PTSD. As someone with a passion for both photography and psychology, I wasn’t disappointed. The images are thought-provoking, and many successfully convey PTSD through the people and settings captured in very traumatic times. Also included was the UK premiere of Displaced Ukrainians, with images of children at a psychological rehabilitation camp in Ukraine. Visitors are told that this vulnerable group ‘echoes Neville’s photographs of Afghani youth, often emerging like phantoms from the landscape, mirroring the age of the young UK troops they are engaging with in Helmand’. One of the short films showed a busy market selling fruits, with many happy faces. You could hardly imagine these people had been through such traumatic times hours earlier: only the silhouette of a gun, visible in every shot, served as a reminder. Many of Neville’s films
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ﬁlm Ghost Stories Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson (Directors)
exhibition Battle Against Stigma QUAD, Derby
Alexsandr Konokov and Sasha on their Goat Farm in Decyatny, Zhytomyr Oblast, following torture by separatists, 2017 are silent, allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the sounds and conversations people may have been having through shocking times. Reviewed by Leanne Haywood, a psychology undergraduate at Nottingham Trent University The exhibition runs until 24 June at the QUAD in Derby: www.derbyquad.co.uk
ﬁlm The Square Ruben Östlund (Director)
Makes you think Are you awake? This is the first of many questions asked in Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning film The Square. Finding decent answers is tricky though. That’s kind of the point. The Square has evoked diverse ‘hot takes’ in the media and online. Given how explicit the film is about the relationship between marketing and art, it is perhaps slightly depressing that so few have recognised their conformity to both the director’s provocation and the film’s depicted worldview. That said, it is easy to miss and misunderstand things in such a long film that cuts frequently between seemingly disjointed narratives and tableaux. Comprehensively appreciating the multiple themes and strands would take much more time, effort and attention than most viewers will be able or willing to invest. (I watched it twice, made extensive notes and use of the rewind button, and I bet I die one of the few people who ever knew what was under the couch in the opening scene…) It would be a fabulous choice to discuss on a media studies course or in a film club. Opinions are predictably divided on whether the film is really as clever as it may seem. I say ‘yes’. I suspect that absolutely nothing about the film is accidental or irrelevant, no matter what some critics might think. (The chimpanzee was drawing for goodness sake! And those simian whoops come from within, my friend!) What any or all of it means, though, that is definitely up for debate. Some aspects of the film are easily interpreted. Those interpretations are almost certainly facile. Yes, modern art galleries are satirised but the film is very poorly described as a satire on the art world. The film invites close examination of presumptions, prejudices, and posturing – including those in or invited by the film. My suspicion is that the best-educated and most knowledgeable art critics have made themselves the butt of the joke when they have oh-so-eruditely lambasted Östlund’s easily alleged targets. Getting people to think is best done by giving them something to think about. Östlund attempts this by
More online, including Sally Marlow meeting Ruth Garde, creative director of the King’s College Arts in Mind festival, which runs from 4 to 10 June; Nadia Craddock on Britain’s Fat Fight and The Truth About Obesity; and Catherine Loveday on ‘Mood music’ at the Old Vic.
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including in his film a vast array of scenes and sequences that make and leave vivid impressions. Highlights include a decapitation; rows and rows of identical, featureless, foreboding doors; someone mimicking a disability; a condom tug-of-war; several unwelcome sexual advances; a savage beating; and both the contents and some of the reactions to a viral video. All of these are instantly striking, insistent in the memory, and provide feastfuls of food for thought. Another way to encourage thought is to ask questions and, as noted, the film asks many. Despite appearances, nearly all of them are directed at the viewer: Do you want to save a human life? How much inhumanity does it take before you access your humanity? Other questions are no less insistent for being less direct. Thinking can also be encouraged by inviting interpretation. I don’t want to give spoilers or impose my own views so here are some things to think about that won’t make much sense now but might after you’ve watched the film. Whose explanation of their goals is better: the curator’s or the artist’s? Who does the ‘you’ in the neon exhibit refer to? Why does a mobile phone ring during a key speech? What is signified by the relative stillness or movement of the people portrayed in the film? What are the rights and wrongs of the amount of noise that various people make in the film? What shared functions are played by the baby, the young boy, the audience member with Tourette’s, and the female lead? What are the portrayed causes and consequences of unbridled passion? Finally, a couple of extra questions for those willing to do a little background research: who is Lola Arias and what are the key differences between The Square and Peter Singer’s circle? Too many questions? I removed many more from earlier drafts. It can be difficult to stop when there are so many circles within circles and squares within squares; so many connections and ways of failing to connect. I recommend The Square to anyone who has made it to the end of this review. I think you’ll enjoy it very much. It certainly raises a number of issues of huge importance to psychologists and to humans generally. I warn you not to be too trusting, though. Part of what makes the film so beguiling is its commitment issues. And don’t necessarily expect the hero to ride off into the sunset. Reviewed by Tom Farsides, University of Sussex
the psychologist june 2018 culture
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Freud and penis envy – a failure of courage? Riya Yadav with a critical take on one of the psychoanalyst’s most controversial theories
egarded as the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential doctors of the 20th century. He introduced new theories, changed the way people thought and left an impact on the field of psychology seen even in the 21st century. But along with his theories of the unconscious, and the development of therapeutic techniques, he was also notorious for controversial concepts… Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex was based on the belief that young children experienced an
unconscious desire for their opposite-sex parent. It was considered a necessary part of the phallic stage of psychosexual development (between three to five years of age), and Freud believed it could lead to paedophilia if not resolved in time. The Oedipus complex was taken as the ‘physical reproduction of patriarchy’, and as leading to the different sexual roles in our society today. Freud also had controversial views on women, believing that their lives were dominated by sexual reproductive functions. He even wrote, in 1925’s ‘The Psychical Consequences of the Anatomic Distinction Between the Sexes’ that ‘women oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own’. To Freud,
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the psychologist june 2018 looking back
Benjamin released A Desire of women were simply men without One’s Own (1986), where she penises (Cohler & Galatzer-Levy, wrote of how the Oedipus complex 2008), so naturally he introduced only encouraged the patriarchal a stage of ‘penis envy’ – where a hierarchy. She further wrote on how woman realises she does not possess penis envy was not because of the a penis, and experiences an envy lack of phallus as Freud described, of the male, which accounted for but because of socio-cultural much of female behaviour. Freud reasons – making it an irrelevant claimed that the only way they Riya Yadav is a Year 12 student part of female sexuality. could overcome this penis envy in Delhi studying for her AS-levels Horney and Benjamin’s take was to have a child of their own – and with an ambition to become on penis envy perhaps makes a lot even going as far as to suggest they a psychologist more sense than Freud’s ideas in the wanted a male child, in their efforts email@example.com 21st century. As proposed by Clara to gain a penis. Thompson in a 1943 paper, social His theory was unfairly based on a model where there was no place for femininity unless envy – ‘a sociological response to female subordination under patriarchy’ is more suitable. It’s understandable directly related to masculinity. Women were viewed as how women might feel envious of the power and forever feeling morally inferior to men, who were said prestige men have in most societies around the world. to have more developed superegos than women. This, From sexualised comments on the street to a 10 per according to Freud, was a problem that could never be cent wage gap, men still tend to be in positions of resolved. dominance. Helene Deutsch was first woman to join Freud’s A large number of psychologists spoke out against Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1918, having Freud, but the concept of penis envy had been published the first psychoanalytic book on women’s created and the damage done. But beyond a slightly sexuality. She was one of his pupils, and built upon silly theory with some symbolic use if not taken too his theories in her study of woman’s psychological literally, was there a more insidious impact? Was penis development, believing that women had a ‘passiveenvy an escape route for abusers that affects us even masochistic sexuality’, and were born only for today? reproduction. According to her, a young girl’s lack of penis meant she stopped identifying with her father and went on to develop fantasies of being raped. Salvaging his career? Deutsch believed that the ‘rape fantasy’ was an integral Hysteria, defined as ungovernable emotional excess, part of female sexuality, and with this the idea of a originated from the Greek word for uterus, hystera. woman’s personality being determined by her lack of It was a disease attributed only to women. Symptoms penis was strongly reinforced in society. included nervousness, hallucinations and most of all, In his own time, Freud’s concept of penis envy emotional outbursts. Freud treated hysterical women was criticised by psychoanalyst Karen Horney. Her by talking to them, and concluded that psychological critiques actually led to the formation of feminist trauma and hereditary predisposition caused hysteria. psychology, and she introduced the idea that men During his 1900 study of a patient, Dora, she alleged were affected by their inability to bear children, calling that she had been molested as a child by a family it ‘womb envy’. She explained that men felt envious friend, only to have Freud dismiss her claims and of the ‘biological functions of the female sex’ (like suggest she imagined the advances. breastfeeding, pregnancy), calling it ‘males striving for Freud had actually started off as a supporter of the achievement as overcompensation’ (Linda Brannon, in oppressed, initially working on the effects of trauma her book Gender: Psychological Perspectives). Horney and bringing to light the sexual abuse that went on in reasoned that Freud’s theory of penis envy made more sense when it was taken as a metaphor; penis envy was families. He believed that sexual abuse in childhood was responsible for many of his patients’ neuroses a symbolic longing for the social prestige and position and other mental health problems, and Freud was the that men experience. Thus, women felt inferior first psychiatrist to believe his patients were telling because of the freedom and social status they lacked because of their gender, not because of their literal lack the truth. His early papers in the 1890s embraced the mechanism of dissociation, and he gave a speech called of the phallus. ‘The Etiology of Hysteria’, in April of 1896. Freud Freud responded to her, writing: ‘We shall not be strongly believed his ‘Seduction theory’, and wrote in very greatly surprised if a woman analyst who has not letters to close friends about the autopsies where he’d been sufficiently convinced of the intensity of her own seen something ‘of which medical science preferred wish for a penis also fails to attach proper importance to take no notice’ – bodies of children that had been to that factor in her patients.’ According to Freud, raped and murdered. Horney’s development of concept of womb envy was Unfortunately, his colleagues maintained that rooted in the penis envy she herself experienced. a child’s report of sexual abuse was a symptom of Fifty years after Freud, feminist theorist Jessica
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pseudologica phantastica – a pathological fiction or fantasy. They were appalled at Freud’s ideas, and choosing to save his career and reputation, Freud In her book, Rush wrote ‘the world listened to chose to follow suit in dismissing the victims’ claims. Freud and paid little heed to the sexual abuse of the This was what prompted him to introduce the young’ (p.96). Masson backed her up, arguing in ‘Oedipus complex’ and penis envy as an explanation 1985’s Assault on Truth that ‘Freud knew about child for patients ‘fantasising’ their rape. abuse and its destructive consequences but suppressed There are several theories as to why Freud the information and attributed memories of rape to abandoned his initial claims, ranging from denial fantasy’. of his own personal experiences, attempts to salvage In his desperate attempts to salvage his career and his career after the speech in 1896 or the knowledge gain popularity, Freud had normalised the despicable that in a society where so many influential people practice of adults ‘initiating’ were abusers, his claims would children into sex, and paved the go unheard. His decision was “The idea was unthinkable, way for not only a major setback to later called a ‘failure of courage the feminist movement of that time, rather than a clinical or theoretical and it is speculated but also the field of psychology insight’ by psychoanalyst Jeffrey M. that Freud declared for years to come. His dismissal Masson. his patients’ stories as of females and their ‘hysteria’ (a cover-up for the PTSD they fantasies to protect his suffered) led to gaps in research of Close to home own family.” PTSD and other traumas, which In 1897 Sigmund Freud had carried would go on to affect the soldiers out a self-analysis, making himself of WW1. As a book reviewer in his 19th patient. He reached the New Scientist said, ‘[Freud] excommunicated anyone conclusion that he and his siblings all showed the who…wanted to criticise parents… He set back our same symptoms of hysteria – which implied that they understanding of child abuse by a hundred years’ too, had experienced sexual abuse as a child. The (27 April 1996, p.49). idea was unthinkable, and it is speculated that Freud Others joined the criticism of what they called ‘the declared his patients’ stories as fantasies to protect his Freudian cover-up’. Florence Rush, a social worker own family. in the 1970s, exposed Freud’s reluctance to reveal the Florence Rush, in her 1980 book The Best Kept offenders, as they were not only seen as respectable Secret, wrote that Freud clearly avoided blaming fathers at all costs. In his cases the abusers were sisters, men in society but also his own friends. Victorian men were thus able to hide their illegal and immoral sex brothers, aunts, uncles and even practices. Freud, she believed, only demanded that governesses, but never fathers, even going as far as to incorrectly publish the sex be practised with utmost discretion to ensure Key sources that the ‘surface of Victorian respectability’ was in no an article blaming a 14-year-old’s way disturbed. Any attempt to expose the violator uncle as the one who molested her, Benjamin, J. (1986). A desire of one’s only exposed the victim’s own alleged sexual motives, but revealing decades later that it own: Psychoanalytic feminism and stigmatising them further; ‘concealment was their only was in fact her father. Masson also intersubjective space. In T. de Lauretis recourse’. believed that Freud’s decision was (Ed.) Feminist studies/critical studies: Language, discourse, society. London: In 1971 Rush presented a paper on child sexual influenced by abusers he knew Palgrave Macmillan. abuse at the New York Radical Feminist Conference. personally. One of his closest Brannon, L. (1996). Gender: She argued that child sexual abuse was a symptom of friends, Fliess, was suspected of Psychological perspectives. Boston, MA: institutionalised patriarchy, of female powerlessness, having molested his own son. Allyn & Bacon. and of mainstream family structures which we are Freud would often confide in Fliess, Freud, S. (1925). Some psychical ‘encouraged to uphold no matter how often we witness sending him letters discussing consequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes. SE 19, the devastatingly harmful effects of this arrangement how he believed that hysteria, or 243–258. on women and children’ (Satter, 2003, p.454). Rush psychological disturbances were Masson, J.M. (1984). The assault inspired a number of feminists like Susan Brownmiller a result of sexual abuse. Upon on truth: Freud’s suppression of the (1975) and Louise Armstrong (1978). They tried to realising that Fliess himself was seduction theory. London: Faber & make the public realise how the silence and stigma guilty of such abuse, Freud felt Faber. around child sexual abuse was a defence of gender forced to give up his theories and Olafson, E., Corwin, D.L. & Summit, R.C. (1993). Modern history of child privilege and hierarchy (Olafson et al., 1993). evidence. sexual abuse awareness: Cycles of Even today, stigma still surrounds the traumatised, discovery and suppression. Child Abuse with victims often believing that they deserved, wanted and Neglect, 17(1), 7–24. or imagined their abuse. The dismissal and blatant lack Rush, F. (1981). The best kept secret: of acknowledgement of traumatic violence remains, Sexual abuse of children. New York: and may do so as long as it is supported by Freud’s McGraw-Hill. legacy.
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the psychologist june 2018 looking back
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R ...is for Reaction time Suggested by Kelli Vaughn-Johnson, PhD student at York University, Toronto @KVaughnJohnson ‘Reaction time is a historic and continuous part of psychological science. How long does it take the bystander to help? What is the distance between a child’s cry and a father’s reach? From G.E. Müller’s foundational studies at Göttingen and modern neurological analyses to everyday threat predictions in the workplace or street, predicting human behaviour requires the ability to properly assess the space of time between thought and action.’
Reaction time largely accounts for the link between intelligence and mortality. In their January 2013 article, Ian Deary and John Maltby concluded that intelligence is an indicator of bodily system integrity, and not social class. A 2016 study from the group, led by Catharine Gale, suggested that slower processing speed may be a risk factor for the development of psychological distress.
Many ‘brain training’ games seek to improve
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coming soon… a special feature on psychologists and their art; plus all our usual news, views, reviews, interviews, and much more...
reaction times. But a 2016 review led by Daniel Simons and covered by our Research Digest found that brain training exercises only make you better at brain training exercises. Talking to us in 2012, John Wearden explained that reaction times are faster if they’re preceded by a train of clicks: ‘there is some deep connection between psychological time and information processing’.
A to Z Tweet your suggestions for any letter to @psychmag using the hashtag #PsychAtoZ or email the editor on jon.sutton@ bps.org.uk Entries so far are collated at https:// thepsychologist. bps.org.uk/ psychology-z
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Reaction times have obvious import in sport, and George Hanshaw and Marlon Sukal have shown how they can be improved via self-talk and imagery. On our Digest blog, find reaction time studies on aggression, loneliness, self-control in ADHD, the brain’s ‘default mode network’….
Search for more on this topic and any other via www.bps.org.uk/thepsychologist and www.bps.org.uk/digest
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President Nicola Gale President Elect Professor Kate Bullen Honorary General Secretary Dr Carole Allan Honorary Treasurer Professor Ray Miller Chair, Membership and Standards Board Dr Mark Forshaw Chair, Education and Public Engagement Board Professor Carol McGuinness Chair, Research Board Professor Daryl O’Connor Chair, Professional Practice Board Alison Clarke Chief Executive Sarb Bajwa Director of Policy and Communications Kathryn Scott Director of Corporate Services Mike Laffan Director of Standards and Qualiﬁcations Andrea Finkel-Gates Director of Member Services Annjanette Wells (Acting)
society notices Psychotherapy & Mindfulness Workshops and Reading Group Meetings (Psychotherapy Section) London, 5 July, 4 October 2018, 3 January 2019 See p.15 Autism Awareness e-learning course See p.31 Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference Gateshead, 5–7 September 2018 See p.37 BPS conferences and events See p.45 BPS/POST Postgraduate Award See p.48 Psychology in the Pub (South West of England Branch) Exeter, 27 June 2018 See p.48
Director of Finance Russell Hobbs The Society has offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and London, as well as the main office in Leicester. All enquiries should be addressed to the Leicester office (see inside front cover for address).
The British Psychological Society was founded in 1901, and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1965. Its object is ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied and especially to promote the efficiency and usefulness of Members of the Society by setting up a high standard of professional education and knowledge’. Extract from The Charter
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This is a preview of the June edition of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. Sign up at http://www.bps.org.uk/...
Published on May 22, 2018
This is a preview of the June edition of The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society. Sign up at http://www.bps.org.uk/...