psychologist september 2017
A broad experience Dinsa Sachan considers the evidence on how foreign living shapes us
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psychologist september 2017
contact The British Psychological Society 48 Princess Road East Leicester LE1 7DR 0116 254 9568 firstname.lastname@example.org www.bps.org.uk the psychologist and research digest www.thepsychologist.org.uk www.bps.org.uk/digest www.jobsinpsychology.co.uk email@example.com Twitter: @psychmag Download our iOS/Android apps for The Psychologist and the Research Digest advertising Reach 50,000+ psychologists at very reasonable rates. CPL, 1 Cambridge Technopark Newmarket Road Cambridge CB5 8PB recruitment Kai Theriault 01223 378051 firstname.lastname@example.org display Michael Niskin 01223 378 045 email@example.com august 2017 51,630 dispatched design concept Darren Westlake www.TUink.co.uk printed by Warners Midlands plc on 100 per cent recycled paper Please re-use or recycle issn 0952-8229 (print) 2398-1598 (online) © Copyright for all published material is held by the British Psychological Society unless speciﬁcally stated otherwise. As the Society is a party to the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) agreement, articles in The Psychologist may be copied by libraries and other organisations under the terms of their own CLA licences (www.cla.co.uk). Permission must be obtained for any other use beyond fair dealing authorised by copyright legislation. For further information about copyright and obtaining permissions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A broad experience Dinsa Sachan considers the evidence on how foreign living shapes us
The Psychologist is the magazine of The British Psychological Society It provides a forum for communication, discussion and controversy among all members of the Society, and aims to fulﬁl the main object of the Royal Charter, ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’
The Psychologist needs you! We rely on your submissions throughout the publication, and in return we help you to get your message across to a large and diverse audience. For details of all the available options, plus our policies and what to do if you feel these have not been followed, see www.thepsychologist.org.uk/contribute The main message, though, is simply to engage with us. Contact the editor Dr Jon Sutton on email@example.com, tweet us on @psychmag or call / write to us at the Society’s Leicester ofﬁce.
Managing Editor Jon Sutton Assistant Editor Peter Dillon-Hooper Production Mike Thompson Journalist Ella Rhodes Editorial Assistant Debbie Gordon Research Digest Christian Jarrett (editor), Alex Fradera, Emma Young
Associate Editors Articles Michael Burnett, Paul Curran, Harriet Gross, Rebecca Knibb, Adrian Needs, Paul Redford, Sophie Scott, Mark Wetherell, Jill Wilkinson Conferences Alana James History of Psychology Alison Torn Interviews Gail Kinman Culture Kate Johnstone, Sally Marlow Books Emily Hutchinson, Rebecca Stack International panel Vaughan Bell, Uta Frith, Alex Haslam, Elizabeth Loftus, Asifa Majid The Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee Catherine Loveday (Chair), Emma Beard, Phil Banyard, Harriet Gross, Kimberley Hill, Rowena Hill, Peter Olusoga, Richard Stephens, Miles Thomas
psychologist september 2017
02 Letters Sexual Offences Act; and more 10 News Disclosure; awards; research; and more 20 European Congress Reports
28 The parent connection Talia Berkowitz and colleagues consider parental support and schoolwork
36 How sentient is this mouse? Helen Cassaday poses an ethical dilemma, provides her view and seeks responses
44 A broad experience Dinsa Sachan on how foreign living shapes us
52 Folk illusions – more than child’s play Clai Rice and Brandon Barker 58 ‘They could take off the uniform when they got home, but couldn’t remove the armour’ Gail Kinman and Kevin Teoh meet Christina Maslach
66 Careers We meet Paul Dawson, Head of Research in the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
70 Jobs in psychology Featured job, latest vacancies
76 One on one… …with Rumina Taylor
80 Books With ‘off piste’ student reading
86 Culture Fatherland, Queer monologues
92 Looking back Transactional analysis 96 A to Z
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The American author Henry Miller wrote of travel: ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ Not everyone has their eyes opened: the footballer Ian Rush, on returning from a stint with Juventus, supposedly complained that ‘it was like living in a foreign country’. So what does the research evidence say? Does time spent immersed in a foreign culture fundamentally change us? Turn to Dinsa Sachan’s review to find out. Elsewhere, I would point you to Michelle Ryan’s ‘shelfie’ in our Books section; a ‘One on one’ with Rumina Taylor; and an ethical discussion on p.36. There’s also folk illusions, parents and schoolwork, and interviews on work–life balance and on a fascinating role in the Mayor’s Office. With issues this packed, and plenty of online exclusives, we’re always looking for contributors. In particular if you’re an established psychologist who has never featured in our pages, do get in touch! And for all the latest updates, follow us on Twitter @psychmag. Dr Jon Sutton Managing Editor @psychmag
A kinder society for all
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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Readers may be aware of this due to the array of artistic and cultural events that have been commissioned and performed to commemorate and celebrate this milestone. There have been important exhibitions and productions at the Tate, the British Museum, the Old Vic [see review on p.89] and a range of television offerings, both drama and documentary. It is important that this anniversary is recognised, because the Act was good, it created momentum and meant that a generation of young gay men grew up without being criminalised. But it is also important to note that it was lacking in some ways, making inroads but leaving some problems behind. In some ways a bit like the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that returned the cowardly vote of an unequal age of consent for gay men, it brought us closer to equality, without getting us there. Maybe it’s a bit like the TV fare too, while on TV there hasn’t been much on the main BBC One. It seems we can be celebrated… but quietly so. I raise this in the pages of The Psychologist as… it should be here. We are a part of that complicated history, at times complicit with those wanting to ferret out the deviants, wanting to know ‘what makes someone different’, at times brutalising through our involvement in (pointless and unethical) therapies to redirect sexual orientation. Thankfully, we have also done better, more recently moving towards a more socially aware and ethical approach that prioritises social justice and the understanding of people within the context of their own lives. We have also started to challenge discrimination overtly, as when we made statements about equal marriage, about the reporting on the Orlando atrocity and most recently on the Trump administration’s scientifically and ethically nonsensical intent to ban trans people from serving in the military [links in online version]. This is another reason for noting the anniversary: it reminds us that we still have a long way to go. Rights have been hard won, but as we are seeing, they are under threat and they can be lost. We see it all around us… the US has launched an attack on LGBT rights, making us invisible in government websites, becoming preoccupied with the right to use a bathroom, and they have a VP who has long supported unethical and barbaric conversion therapy. In Chechnya, just a stone’s throw from Europe and the civilised EU, we have gay men being murdered en masse. And what about closer to home? Like others, I am nervous here too. Anti-LGBT hate crime rose alongside xenophobic violence in the first few months after the Brexit referendum; we may have a memo of understanding that pours scorn on the notion of
conversion therapy, but we haven’t banned it as Malta has, and a Memo of Understanding is not the same as having it on the stature books. And our government has now made an arrangement with a party notorious for being an obstacle to equal rights. As psychologists, practitioners and researchers alike, we have to be mindful of the impact of social injustice and inequality, and of the damage done by silencing and invisibilising policies and practices. We have to remember that while change happens, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are persistent. They are like racism, sexism and ableism, they have a way of emerging again and again, often in new and subtle forms. There is still a lot to do before we have a society that is comfortable with diversity, of any kind, and especially around gender and sexuality. And this is where I think we come in. Psychology could be at the forefront of challenging problems and creating positive ways forward, both in the consulting room and in the culture at large. It seems to me that it not enough to simply try not to go along with some of the excesses of our culture. We need to do more. We need to be at the forefront of accepting and celebrating diversity, of all kinds, rather than simply (to use that awful term so favoured by politicians) ‘tolerating’ diversity. We need to develop our services so that the understanding of privilege and othering is part and parcel of each assessment we do. We need to have more research that not only notes the damage done by oppressive socio-cultural contexts but that sheds light on innovative and contextually sensitive practice that overcomes it. Our policies need to be clear on the advantages of diversity and the ways in which allies across demographic groups all benefit. The anniversary of this Act is a time to take stock and remember that a kinder society for one group can be a kinder society for all. Professor Martin Milton Regent’s University London
the psychologist september 2017 letters
Beyond bubble bursting deliberate exposure to diverse views. My recent online piece for this magazine (tinyurl.com/ybhp5f5h) discussed some cognitive issues that people face in evaluating and reconciling multiple sources. In addition, a recent paper by Pennycook et al. (tinyurl.com/ m32l3zq) indicates that ‘prior exposure increases perceived accuracy of fake news’ – i.e. they find novel support for the concern that exposure to falsehoods increases the likelihood that those falsehoods are believed. This ‘mere exposure’ strategy has been effectively used by climate change deniers and tobacco lobbyists Raqeebul Ketan/Getty Images
It was good to see both Christian Jarrett’s recent Research Digest coverage of confirmation bias in political discourse and Poppy Noor’s excellent piece with Michal Kosinski on information bubbles (June 2017). In the Research Digest, Jarrett draws attention to the personal choices we make (avoiding a focus on algorithmically instigated filter bubbles), flagging that (1) many of us live in information bubbles, and (2) actively avoid exposure to views that we do not agree with. The two pieces are somewhat at odds though, as Michal flags, and I argue in a recent Australasian Science op-ed, the evidence on both of these claims is not particularly strong in naturalistic contexts (social media use and media consumption). Evidence supports the claim that we have a preference for information that affirms our prior beliefs. However, most people are pretty centrist in their media consumption, with social media potentially exposing us to – rather than insulating us from – a diversity of perspectives. Moreover, there are concerning implications of emphasising
amongst others to manufacture false equivalence leading to lasting damage. I wondered, then, if instead of exposure to ideological diversity, we should be more concerned
with demographic diversity. In the former case, we risk encouraging exposure to the small group of deniers who repeat information from single sources, manufacturing a false equivalence and maintaining uncertainty where little exists. In the latter, we would instead focus on the ways in which lack of diversity in media sources silences and marginalises groups and the implications of that. We should be prepared to engage with other’s ideas, but this must be with an eye on the evidence. A recent US report found that, regardless of political affiliation and demographic factors, those who placed value on evidence were less partisan on contentious issues like climate change. Other work from researchers, including Dan Kahan, has recently indicated the importance of curiosity in not only reading (mere exposure), but being critically receptive to others’ perspectives. Rather than a focus on ‘bursting our bubble’ generally, we need strategies that encourage engagement with evidence. Simon Knight University of Technology Sydney
A call to divest from fossil fuels
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Members are calling on the British Psychological Society to end its investments in companies in the fossil fuel industry. We have written an open letter to the Trustees of the Society (see the online version of the letter) following similar calls in the pages of The Psychologist in August and October 2015. We are aware that the Trustees are considering this matter. The BPS has very significant investments, but requests for information on the proportion in fossil fuels and details of its deliberations have not been forthcoming. We are told that the Society has a responsible investment policy, but no copy has been produced when requested. This is important for a Society concerned with health and wellbeing: we know climate change is a major threat to humanity and in particular that extreme weather events are associated with psychological trauma and distress. Members can join us in asking the BPS Trustees to show leadership by first freezing fossil fuel investment and then, over a period of up to five years, mounting a managed programme of divestment from fossil fuels?
The link is at http://bit.ly/2rR8knE. At the time of writing, 88 further members had signed up to endorse the letter. Some transparency to members by the Trustees of our Society would be welcome in respect of this matter. Mark H. Burton AFBPS, Carolyn Kagan HonFBPS Editor’s note: See the online version of this letter for Honorary Treasurer Ray Miller’s reply.
Don’t dismiss learning styles I’ve followed with interest the discussion about learning styles in the The Psychologist (Letters, May–July 2017). The signatories of the original Guardian letter that sparked the discussion claim that the term learning style ‘usually’ refers to the popular visual/ auditory/kinaesthetic preferences model, and that the evidence supporting its ‘meshing’ hypothesis is weak. They conclude there’s no justification for teachers to use learning styles, and that they are a ‘neuromyth’. Professor Jordan (May) takes issue with the signatories’ position on the grounds that teachers and therapists have to work with individuals rather than populations. Professor Hood (June) responds that ‘it is simply not practical to provide tailored education for every child’. Much of the contention appears to originate with conceptualisation. First, there’s what we mean by learning styles. Learning style is an umbrella term that encompasses many different models and a wide range of variables – from preferring a particular sensory modality, to approaches used in decision-making. The lack of robust methodology (and the absence of any evidence at all in some cases) certainly justifies advising teachers not to waste resources on learning styles (see e.g. tinyurl. com/h7hve2d). But learning styles are a mixed bag. In a review published in 2004 by the Learning and Skills Research Centre, Coffield et al. found that 13 of the 71 models they evaluated met at least one criterion for validity or reliability; one model met all the criteria. This suggests that lumping all learning styles models together and dismissing them en masse as ‘neuromyths’ isn’t warranted.
Second, there’s what we mean by preferences, a characteristic of many learning styles models. Preference implies that individuals simply make a choice about what sensory modality they like best, how they make decisions, etc. However, many children have a preferred sensory modality, not because they’ve made a free choice, but because it might be the only reliable sensory modality they have. Children with autism, specific language impairment or Down’s syndrome, for example, often present with impaired auditory functioning, so rely heavily on the visual modality for communication and learning. Also, sensory anomalies that tend to resolve spontaneously over time (e.g. glue ear, strabismus, amblyopia, astigmatism) are not uncommon in young children – although they often go undetected. Teachers could easily interpret a child’s difficulty with one sensory domain as a preference for another. This might be one reason why teachers seem so reluctant to give up the idea of learning styles. Parents in the UK have a legal duty to ensure their children receive an education suitable to them as individuals, and teachers are obliged to teach each and every child in their class. Caution against wasting resources on poorly evidenced interventions is justified. But lumping together a wide range of models of varying validity and reliability and dismissing them all as ‘neuromyths’ doesn’t appear to be warranted by the evidence and could be misleading. Sue Gerrard Shropshire
Scary school, but don’t get me out
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In June, I took part in the ‘widening participation’ event ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’, in the ‘Mental Health’ section. Sponsored by the British Psychological Society, the event involved some 3400 school pupils across the UK who used an online platform to ask questions of the researchers taking part; this included live forum participation. The pupils voted for the researcher whose proposed research project they wanted to see become a reality, generating a small sum to help get it funded. Accordingly, the pupils were given power over which psychological research would ultimately go ahead. I really enjoyed it, despite being the first researcher to get ‘evicted’.
I particularly liked the diversity of questions asked – one that posed whether someone who weighs 99kg would become 1 per cent burrito if they ate 1kg of burrito should have received some sort of reward. For the most part, the questions were very serious, and that is what I want to talk about. What I learned from the experience is that the world is a much scarier place than it was for me when I was a school pupil. The bulk of questions concerned politics, including global politics; I was not particularly concerned with who the President of the United States of America was when I was a school pupil, nor would have been with the potential impact of Brexit, or any number of things along those
lines. The event helped me realise how different the world is from when I was in school, and the pressure on children to excel in school if they have any hopes of making it out there in this increasingly volatile, unpredictable world. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone with an interest in knowledge exchange considers giving this a go. For one thing, it really was knowledge exchange; I learned as much or perhaps more from the school pupils. Making the most of an online platform, it was also convenient to take part, working around existing commitments. I am grateful for the experience. Dr Steven Caldwell Brown University of Strathclyde
the psychologist september 2017 letters
Psychology, poverty and corporate greed I was intrigued by the ending to Charles Mercer’s ‘Politics and psychology’ letter (July 2017). Yes, politics and psychology are different, but so are sport and psychology and it is established that we have a positive impact in sporting arenas. In a time when organisations such as Economy for the Common Good are providing seminars about root causes of poverty, I believe it is a key moment for psychologists to join radical economists like Christian Felber and Ross Ashcroft to look at the components of wealth accumulation away from the majority. Personally, I read ‘Psychology is action, not thinking of oneself’ (Presidential Address, June 2017) with a sense of hopefulness – that we could make inroads into the social construction of inequality. This may well involve novelty and bravery in learning and action. According to Michael Hudson of the University of Missouri, the economics often taught does not necessarily go to the heart of debt creation. As Professor Kinderman said, ‘we need a sound economy’, and I would argue that this needs to rest less on the shoulders of an unrestrained financial sector. Our knowledge of how austerity and debt affects mental health should inform policy but, in addition to this, we could look at the structures maintaining the status quo. These might include commissions-based lending and why politicians are not asking banks to have a set amount of capital before lending money that does not exist before asking for it back with interest. Underpinning discussions regarding these concepts could be a psychological
look at why it is deemed acceptable to accumulate wealth. Financial speculation was a capital offence in the sixteen-hundreds, and now it is a laudable effort in the city. I realise I risk looking naive, but, for all our knowledge, we still have multinationals wielding excessive power in terms of political lobbying and making workers redundant while CEOs claim pay increases that take their salaries into the millions. We need to be brave and, through greater dialogue with government, encourage restraint. What a tedious word that is, and yet the debt bubble that grew out of easy credit ended up with bailouts and austerity measures that hit hardest those with the least. Julia Noakes, a psychologist in the City, talks of many financiers (I realise that there are banking philanthropists) being driven by a need to excel, adopting a warrior-like desire to be above others that stems from perhaps boarding school, colonialism or broken maternal relationships (see tinyurl.com/y858qn8h). She talks of splitting, where the corporate identity adopted is not truly who they feel they are, but the effects, often of institutionalisation, are such that they feel the need to be good employees. Throw the need to maintain shareholder profit into the mix and the courage to dissent is reduced. Some tell themselves that they will swap entrepreneurialism for beneficence when they have made all the money they deem necessary, but, according to Noakes, this is often not the case (see tinyurl.com/y9dankyj). Neia Glynn Berrylands, Surrey
Letters online: Find more letters at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/debates, including Professor Adrian Furnham’s reflections on coping and loss. Deadline for letters for the October print edition is Friday 1 September 2017. Letters received after this date will be considered for the following month and/or for publication online. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Letter to the editor’.
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president’s letter The General Assembly of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations took place in Amsterdam in July at the conclusion of the 15th European Congress of Psychology [see p.20]. All 36 member associations, representing some 300,000 psychologists, met to discuss education, training, scientific developments and policy influencing. The Congress had been opened by the EU Commissioner for Health and Food, who spoke about the challenge of mental wellbeing, with depression affecting almost 7 per cent of EU adults and spend on mental health services amounting to some €600 billion a year. He focused on joint action within the European Framework for Action on Mental Health and Wellbeing, with streams addressing depression suicide and e-health, community based approaches, and mental health in workplaces, schools, and in all policies. The EFPA President Telmo Mourinho Baptista had spoken about EFPA’s framework of UN sustainable development goals, and the need for alignment of commitment, policies, resources and activity to achieve the ambition represented by the goals. Highlighted at the Assembly was the Joint Letter endorsing the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, which had been signed by our Society together with Mental Health Europe: other European Nations were urged to endorse it. There was much discussion on education, and we will be engaging with developments of the portable EuroPsy qualification (which all UK Chartered Psychologists are entitled to free with their BPS membership). We are looking at how this can be made more easily available, and adding extra value for our members (especially in these Brexit times). The reach of the work of the various EFPA groups – across ethics, rights, health, education, communities, diversity, to name but a few – was impressive. The Society is an active and respected contributor, directly helping us achieve our impact statement: ‘People are equipped with the everyday psychological skills and knowledge to navigate a complex world, knowing themselves and others better. Everyone can access evidence-based psychology to enhance their lives, communities and wider society.’ We’ll be working closely with EFPA leading up to the European Semester, which the UK is hosting from January to June 2018 [see p.25]. How will you use the Semester to showcase your work? Contact Nicola Gale via PresidentsOffice@bps.org.uk
Calling the political tune
‘That every boy and every gal/ That’s born into the world alive/ Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative!’ The lines from Gilbert and Sullivan highlight a fundamental issue for psychologists in exploring psychological processes underpinning our political values, beliefs, and attitudes, and, indeed, our political institutions: we bring our own political values and beliefs to that table. Indeed, in his brilliant analysis of the way psychological processes interact with, and distort, economic thinking, Daniel Kahneman introduced the principle of ‘confirmation bias’, searching for, and finding, information that supports or reinforces our pre-existing beliefs. The same psychological processes operate, I’m sure, in relation to political thinking. I suspect that the pre-existing beliefs of your correspondent, E. Angell (July 2017) veer towards
the right side of the political spectrum, given their reference to Jeremy Corbyn’s ideology as ‘linked to long-standing anti-Western and pro-terrorism sympathies’, etc. Nevertheless, the publication of the letter as a rejoinder to the pieces in the June ‘Democracy in danger’ articles illustrates two processes central to the growth and development of democracy and the institutions that support it: firstly, a willingness to air and give psychological space to counterargument; and, secondly, to critically analyse, both empirically and, from the perspective of psychological processes, any biases which may distort the argument and its conclusions. I am in no way qualified to comment on the work of Thomas Piketty, whose work Angell complains was presented uncritically. However, in the spirit of open inquiry and countering my own psychological biases, I did a short web search for
critiques of his book Capitalism in the Twenty First Century. The most prominent critique was by Mark J. Warshawsky of the Mercator Center at George Mason University, which reported several significant flaws in Piketty’s methodology. This university was the very same mentioned in a Guardian piece by George Monbiot, published only days before (19 July 2017), as the beneficiary of generous donations by Charles Koch, one of the richest people in the US. The article further describes how Koch and other business tycoons funded, through the academic institutes they sponsored, ‘a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich’. When psychologists explore the threats to democracy they should consider the most striking psychological bias of all: the one in which those who pay the piper call the tune. Barry Greatorex Derby
A central challenge for the 21st century
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I’ve read your interviews with Kelly Wilson, Kirk Strosahl and Steven Hayes – all instrumental in the founding of acceptance and commitment therapy – on your website. That’s all very well, but how come we’re not getting this therapy to the masses? Some have opined that Britain has become a world leader in providing psychological therapies thanks to the work of Professors Richard Layard and David Clark. The NHS ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ programmes and the impact on the wider therapeutic community has generally been positive. But in Britain and worldwide the majority of people who need help still do not receive treatment. This is both unjust and a false economy. Layard and Clark made a compelling case for a massive injection of resources into the treatment and prevention of mental illness. However, although other therapies are recommended by NICE for anxiety and depression, CBT appears to be the only therapy recommended for all types of anxiety and for depression. It may be that there is an urgent need to bring fresh mindsets to the promotion of good mental health and prevent poor mental health – helping people lead better lives as equal citizens. Investing in early intervention services is one of the most effective ways to reduce the socio-economic toll mental illness takes on
individuals, families, communities and the economy. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an effective evidence-based approach. The principles of ACT have been applied successfully since the 1980s through individual and group interventions which have been highly effective in overcoming a wide range of problems including stress, depression and anxiety. There have been 175 ACT randomised controlled trials including for anxiety, depression, stress, obesity, pain and addiction during the period 1986–2017. Despite this body of research evidence NICE do not make any recommendations on the use of ACT in their guidelines. In the preface to their 2014 book Thrive, Clark and Layard write: ‘In the last fifty years there has been massive social progress on many fronts. Yet much misery remains, because we have failed to address the inner psychological resources of distress. That is now a central challenge for the twenty-first century.’ Surely now is the time for psychologists from all disciplines to come together, and with the other social and behavioural sciences, and our European and international colleagues, put maximum time and resources into addressing this central challenge. David Horton BSc (Hons), CPsychol Sheffield
the psychologist september 2017 letters
Strength in tension For over two decades I have had the privilege of working for the British Psychological Society. A privilege because of the many committed members who give their time, energy and passion for their discipline to develop psychology and promote its contribution. But also because I get to see a Society that many of these members never see. I get to see the activities going within all of our member networks, whether that is hearing about the positive impact of the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) psychosis document or the passion with which the Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Section work to disseminate evidence-based information for effective working with people who have experienced trauma. I get to witness the passion with which our academic members share their research, and how hard our staff work to support all of this activity and so much more. And I’m also able to see the benefits of working together across networks to produce work that draws on the range of expertise within psychology. Working across networks to produce rich, evidencebased guidance, position statements and policy papers is a good demonstration of the value which accrues from a Society like the BPS. A glance back through the Society’s annual reports will show a history of working together to influence policy across the four nations of the UK. Recently this approach to joint working has enabled us to develop a range of behaviour change briefings to influence public policy, which you can find via the Society’s website. Our Boards are able to provide evidence-based expertise to policy makers and the public on matters of real importance. There is a lot to feel proud about when you work for the BPS. The Society is healthy and growing, both in membership and the reach of its work. Most recently I’ve been involved in reviewing our structure and member networks and, whilst I can see that having 146 member networks creates many issues for the organisation, I have a grudging admiration for a discipline that has grown to serve so many diverse needs and interests. Growth brings with it challenges. When I became a director in 2014 we had 1100 ‘active’ members in our member networks. Now we have 1700 members giving their time, energy, ideas and commitment to the BPS. We try to support every one of those in achieving their aims. But what do we do when those aims are contradictory, pulling the Society in different directions or advancing only one part of the profession? Recently I have been increasingly saddened by the debate raging in some parts of the DCP. The debate is not new. I’ve watched clinical psychologists talk about setting up their own organisation for over 20 years; it’s been going on for much longer. And this debate has been good for us. It has pushed the organisation to be better and continues to do so. The conflict which sometimes arises creates the space needed for growth and the momentum for change. But psychology also operates within a changing landscape. Pressure on mental health services
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and changes in provision sometimes mean psychologists in health services feel unheard – in the NHS, in their union and in the BPS. Fragmentation is tempting; fighting on one front seems attractive. Talk of the DCP ‘leaving’ the BPS is, of course, inaccurate. The BPS will always have a home for clinical psychologists. Being part of the wider psychology family makes all of the parts stronger. It allows us to draw on the range of expertise needed to provide a sound evidence base to underpin our externally focused work and allows our members to share expertise and learn from each other through our conferences and CPD activities. Widening our membership boundaries to provide standards for the wider psychological workforce increases our influence. Our structural review has been considering the changes we need to make to make all the parts stronger; how we can be more effective at bringing the best from across psychology to bear on achieving real impact for our members and for the public. As I prepare to leave the Society for the next chapter of my career I take with me a sense of immense pride in what we have achieved through members and staff working together across specialisms. Encouraging that collaboration whilst supporting the individuality of each Division, Section, Special Group, Faculty and Branch is a challenge which the BPS will, I know, continue to work tirelessly to meet. And whilst this brings inevitable tensions, it also brings strength. There is more work to do, a need to find new and better ways to celebrate individual areas of psychology as well as drawing on the strength of the whole. We need to become more efficient by finding ways of working that can better cope with our growth. And we need to evolve to meet the changing needs of our discipline and profession into the future. But I am optimistic. I know that our members have the creativity and skill to achieve these changes. I hope that all parts of the discipline and profession will join in working together as the Society moves forward. Helen Clark BPS Director of Membership Services Find this month’s obituaries online www.thepsychologist.org.uk/obituaries
Dr Marion Frances Gibson (née Murray) (1971–2017)
Sylvia Christine Dillon (1943–2017)
George Brander (1948–2017)
Honest, open, proud T
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wo surveys that revealed a high prevalence of significant mental health problems among clinical psychologists and trainees, as well as a fear of disclosing them, have led to a follow-on project conducted by the Unit for Stigma Research at University College London. The new centre is running a trial intervention aimed at supporting psychologists and other mental health professionals in reaching careful decisions about disclosure of any current or past mental health problems. The two surveys, by UCL with support from the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology, showed around two thirds of clinical psychologists in the UK had experienced significant mental health problems. Further research into rates among trainee clinical psychologists revealed similarly high rates, with depression and anxiety the most commonly reported issues but with the full range of problems represented. Around this time, following the introduction of an annual Wellbeing Survey, the BPS and New Savoy Conference developed a Charter for Psychological Staff Wellbeing and Resilience. Its implementation has been led by a Collaborative Learning Network (CLaN), chaired by Amra Rao, Chair of the BPS Leadership and Management Faculty, and Jeremy Clarke, Director of the New Savoy Conference. Several pathfinder sites for the CLaN have been selected, each focused on the wellbeing of mental health professionals – the new UCL project is one of these.
We spoke to Dr Katrina Scior, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, and Chair of the new UCL Unit for Stigma Research. UCLUS brings together two distinct areas of stigma research: tackling the traditional taboo of mental health professionals disclosing their own lived experience of mental health problems, and research on the stigma associated with intellectual disability. As a stigma researcher, Scior said the high incidence of lived experience reported in the two UCL surveys left her feeling uncomfortable about a general reluctance to talk about our own vulnerabilities and tackle mental health stigma within clinical psychology and other mental health professions: ‘We ran those two surveys and came out with findings I think are pretty surprising. Around 11 per cent said they’d never disclosed their experience of mental health problems to anybody, and the vast majority hadn’t talked about them in their workplace because they were worried about what others might think of them.’ She added that with a prominent focus on concepts such as ‘resilience’ and ‘robustness’, mental health professionals and those in training or seeking to enter training are often worried about being seen to lack these attributes. Scior and her colleagues have subsequently adapted an intervention for clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals to try to encourage more open conversations about lived experience among mental health professionals: ‘We want to tackle the fact it’s taboo and that there’s still stigma attached to that within
the psychologist september 2017 news our own profession. We’re hoping to actively support people in thinking about whether they might want to disclose their lived experience, how they might want to go about that, with whom, and in what context.’ The Honest, Open, Proud (HOP) programme was originally designed as a group intervention for people with lived experience who want to think about talking to others about their experience in a safe and empowering way. However, given the taboo of disclosure among psychologists, Scior and her colleagues adapted the programme into a self-help manual and renamed it HOP-MHP (HOP for mental health professionals). This version will be tested in a pilot randomised control trial beginning this month and running till Christmas. Those who take part in the HOP-MHP arm of the trial will receive a self-help guide consisting of three sessions. The first session asks people to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing, using exercises and worksheets; the second helps them consider different contexts and levels of disclosure – from telling a trusted colleague, to giving a talk in a public setting; the final session, gives ideas for how to tell one’s story in a way that is personally meaningful and safe. Those who still decide not to disclose at this point are given space to think about their decision and its implications. Scior said there is a second important aspect to the programme: ‘Changing this intervention to a selfhelp model removed the elements of peer support that are central to the original HOP programme, so we’re setting up a web-based peer support forum. It’s a closed, anonymous forum that anyone who joins the HOP-MHP trial can sign up to and use to discuss their experiences, thoughts and information about other resources with peers.’ Scior said she had been struck by how very interested people had been in their group’s research and the new HOP-MHP project. ‘People feel it’s needed. Kat Alcock and I presented the results of our trainee survey at last year’s Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology conference. When we showed that around 29 per cent of trainees were currently experiencing a significant mental health problem, quite a few chins in the room dropped, including colleagues who have been in the training area for 20 or 25 years.’ Away from psychology, members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, those involved in the IAPT programme, and the Royal College of Nursing have all said these issues are highly relevant in their fields. Once the pilot has been completed, and if it is shown to be of benefit to those using it, Scior said she hopes to run a larger trial involving psychiatrists, nurses and psychological wellbeing practitioners, and eventually make the HOP-MHP freely available to all mental health professionals. er To find out more about UCLUS see www.ucl.ac.uk/pals/ research/cehp/stigma-research For a discussion on disclosure see tinyurl.com/kbgq6tj For more on CLaN see tinyurl.com/ybr4a98q
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Autism report targets Somali community While rates of autism are seemingly disproportionately high among British Somali people, a new study has revealed that more than half of families do not fully understand the condition, and many face huge barriers to receiving treatment. The report by charity Autism Independence, which supports British Somali families in Bristol, and Healthwatch Bristol paints a picture of the difficulties families face in coping with their child’s autism. Founder of Autism Independence Nura Aabe (see tinyurl.com/y9qprq77), and author of this research, has been active in trying to raise awareness of the condition in Bristol, as well as supporting families in the British Somali community to understand and cope with autism. She interviewed 50 of the families she works with and made recommendations to health and social care providers based on her findings. Aabe’s previous research uncovered some initial concerns, with many British Somali parents not fully understanding autism, feeling confused at the lack of physical symptoms, and struggling to find help and support. Aabe also created a one-woman play, Yusuf Can’t Talk, in collaboration with theatre group Acta, to help portray her own experiences of having a child with autism. Through her interviews Aabe found 40 per cent of families said they did not understand what autism was; 8 per cent thought it was an illness or mental illness while 10 per cent thought it was a term for being ‘different’ or having language problems. This lack of understanding, Aabe writes, was the biggest problem for families leading to other barriers in seeking help. Many also spoke of a general mistrust of service providers; half didn’t have a social worker out of fear their child would be taken away. Just
over 75 per cent were not accessing any social care support. A majority of families said they were happy with healthcare services, but many spoke of a need for better communication. Close to 85 per cent of parents said they felt their being Somali significantly affected their access to services, largely due to language and cultural barriers.
Aabe recommends, among other things, that healthcare professionals need a better understanding of the challenges faced by Somali families affected by autism. She also suggests that the community needs a better understanding of the condition, and working alongside mosques should help clarify the role of faith in this. Social care could play a large role too – Aabe suggests giving families who have received a new diagnosis a set of three support sessions. These could help them to understand the condition, signpost them to support in the community, and help with filling in forms. This could also serve to build trust between Somali people and social care professionals. She also suggests that academics should work towards establishing whether higher rates of autism can be seen among Somali people and why this might be the case. er To read Aabe’s report see tinyurl. com/ydcwwma6
New British Academy Fellows
The British Academy has announced its 66 new Fellows for 2017, including three psychologists, seen to represent the best in humanities and social science research. Professor Lynne Murray (University of Reading) has carried out decades of naturalistic and observational work on early parent–child interactions as well as assessments of parental mental health problems and their impact on children and parenting. Murray also founded a charity supporting South African parents in book-sharing with their children. Murray said she hoped her election would be useful in terms of its impact for her work as well as fundraising and recognition for her charity. The Mikhulu Trust, Murray told us, was set up with her colleague Peter Cooper after their joint work looking into the effects of adversity on child development and creating interventions to tackle these issues. Children in South Africa are consistently at the bottom of international league tables. Sharing books with children before school has been shown repeatedly to boost their language and preliteracy skills but there is little culture of this in South Africa. Murray and Cooper ran a trial training parents to effectively share books with their young children and saw amazing results. Professor Lynne Murray ‘Since this time interest in the charity’s work has grown. ‘We have now trained people in Save the Children to deliver the intervention in an urban settlement in Johannesburg, and people have also become interested in using it for children with disabilities and refugee populations.’ As well as writing two popular books on the social development of babies Murray also carried out some of the earliest work on postnatal depression in mothers and its effects on child development. ‘I recruited women on the postnatal wards in Cambridge and followed up to see who became depressed. I’ve kept that study going from the time the children were born, and we last assessed them when they were 22 years old. I am proud of that study because I think it’s helped give a profile of the difficulties that depressed parents have in parenting.’ Murray said the people she has worked with over the years have fired her enthusiasm. ‘More recently I’ve made links with Italian colleagues who are neuroscientists and work with clinical populations on mirror neurons. A lot of what I do on early parent–child interactions is incredibly relevant to what they’re discovering in neuroscience, so that’s been a lovely new line of work for me.’ Professor Michael Burton (University of York), whose research has explored the mechanisms of face perception, including exciting new work on how we recognise familiar faces in a broad range of contexts, Professor Michael Burton said it was ‘absolutely delightful’ to be
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elected. He emphasised that all of his research has been part of a collaborative effort and he was looking forward to chances for interdisciplinary work with others in the academy. Some of his proudest work, Burton said, had been alongside Professor Dame Vicki Bruce exploring the functional aspects of face recognition. ‘More recently I’m very pleased to have worked with Rob Jenkins on understanding within-person variability. Whereas most facial recognition research focuses on one part of the problem – how we tell people apart – it’s going to be absolutely necessary to understand the other side of the problem which is how we tell people together. That is, how can I tell that a set of pictures represent the same person even though they look very different superficially?’ Burton said it is only recently we have come to understand that each person’s face has its own unique ways of varying. ‘That’s critical for people who know us because if you know someone you can recognise them in a huge range of conditions, whereas unfamiliar face recognition is much more specific and is tied to particular pictures. We still don’t know what it is about faces that varies that allows them to be recognised by a familiar viewer.’ While much research aims to influence behaviour in the real world, Burton said he was glad to have worked alongside practitioners such as police and passport officers, work that has in turn informed his theory. ‘As we did more and more work with passport officers and police officers we found their problems with face recognition were genuinely surprising to us. Those applied problems we came across when working with practitioners have led to progress in theory as well as practice.’ Professor of Psychology and Education Charles Hulme (University of Oxford) has carried out important research on the role of phonological skills in learning to read, cognitive development and the mechanisms of various learning disorders in children. Hulme said his election to the British Academy provided recognition for his and his colleagues’ work and hoped it would open new avenues for disseminating this work and engaging with policy-makers. Hulme said his book Developmental Disorders of Language Learning and Cognition, co-authored by Maggie Snowling, had been a particular high point of his career. He added: ‘I am also proud that I have been able to bring together theoretical work concerned with the mechanisms of learning disorders with research that has developed and evaluated effective treatments for these disorders. I have pioneered the use of randomised control trials in education in the UK and the interventions developed have continued to be used in schools, benefiting thousands of children. I am proud that several of my students have gone on to have successful academic careers.’ Hulme said he hopes to continue carrying out the best research he can while maintaining high standards
the psychologist september 2017 news
Briefing lawmakers of theoretical and methodological rigour. ‘In the days of “false news” I sometimes think we also need to stand up and counter the false claims that are sometimes made in relation to psychological science. There are frequent unfounded claims for “miracle cures” in the area of children’s learning Professor Charles Hulme disorders. We need to debunk the claims of the “snake oil” sales people and stress the importance of evidence and replicability.’ Professor Barbara Sahakian (University of Cambridge), whose research explores neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, psychopharmacology, neuroimaging and neuroethics, has also been elected as a Fellow. She told us as well as being excited and honoured at her election she was glad to see the British Academy recognising the work of female academics. While Sahakian said her two proudest achievements were her daughters Jacqueline and Miranda Robbins, she added her work with many PhD students over the years and co-developing the CANTAB battery of neuropsychological tests (www.cambridgecognition.com) had also been highlights. ‘An early article of mine and my colleagues published in The Lancet helped develop the cholinesterase inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. These are the current drugs approved by NICE for treatment of cognitive symptoms in mild and moderate Alzheimer’s disease,’ she added. Recently Sahakian has been exploring how to improve cognition in patients with schizophrenia or depression using the cognitive-enhancing drug modafinil, and improving memory and motivation in people with schizophrenia or amnestic mild cognitive impairment through cognitive training using game apps on iPads. ‘The “Wizard Memory Game” for schizophrenia has been made available for mobile phones by the games company PEAK (www. peak.net). “Game Show” was developed through the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre. We are now developing a cognitive training game app for people with traumatic brain injury through the NIHR Health Technology Co-operative in Brain Injury.’ er Professor Barbara Sahakian
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A forensic psychology PhD student has recently taken time out from her research to work on a briefing note for the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. The document on migrants and housing, written by Claire Tranter (University of Westminster), will be used by MPs and peers. Currently in the final year of her PhD, Tranter secured a Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) Postgraduate Award from the British Psychological Society. Her ‘POSTnote’ covers the impacts of migration on the housing system and different types of tenure, how migration is measured, and an extra section on migrant wellbeing. ‘I’ve tried to cover a broad area. I’ve looked at whether there’s an impact of migrants on the housing system. I’ve also looked at data and how the way migration is measured can be an issue when comparing migration figures. I realised there’s no standard definition for migrants, when people are looking at net migration or migrants and housing they’re looking at completely different things.’ As a psychologist, Tranter also wanted to include a psychological element in her note. Her section on migrant wellbeing covers community cohesion, public perceptions of migrants and how housing problems affect wellbeing. Tranter said after four years of working on her PhD project, which is investigating persuasion in the online and real-world environments, she was ready to try applying research outside of academia. As well as conducting literature reviews, Tranter interviewed scores of experts as part of the research into the note. She said the experience had taught her far more skills than she was expecting: ‘Having to cover so much information in four pages was a real challenge, and as they’re written for the layperson you can’t assume any prior knowledge. One of the main learning curves I had was condensing all that information and making it readable and succinct. I’ll hopefully be able to apply that to my PhD now!’ While her time at POST had been challenging, Tranter said it had been the best thing she’d ever done. ‘I would recommend it to anyone. The skills you learn and the people you meet, the fact you can take a break from your PhD and get to learn something completely different has been great. I’ve loved it.’ er The BPS POST Postgraduate Award is made annually Look out for the next round of applications, which will be advertised in The Psychologist in early summer next year.
News online: Find more news at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reports, including a report from the 4th International Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness. For much more of the latest peer-reviewed research, digested, see www.bps.org.uk/digest Do you have a potential news story? Email us on email@example.com.
The nature of life-changing experiences
We’re all familiar with the idea that nature can be psychologically uplifting. But for some people, a single, brief ‘peak experience’ in a natural setting, lasting mere seconds or minutes, changes their view of themselves or their relationships with others so profoundly that their lives are positively transformed as a result. A new study in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology explores exactly how and why this happens. The researchers LIa Naor and Ofra Mayseless at the University of Haifa, Israel, advertised on the Research digest internet for people who felt they’d had a transformative experience in nature to get in touch for an interview. ‘It was Researchers have for the first not difficult to find participants; in fact time tested children from a many people replied and were eager traditional non-Western culture to share their experience,’ they wrote. on a version of Walter Mischel’s The volunteers – five men and iconic Marshmallow Test. The ten women, aged 28 to 70 – came children from rural Cameroon from a range of lifestyles, from farms, dramatically outperformed their cities and communal settlements, peers from urban Germany, and different countries, including apparently finding it easier to Argentina, America and Israel. resist immediate temptation for Naor asked them to describe their the promise of greater future transformative experience in detail, reward. (Child Development) and to focus on their perceptions and interpretations of what happened. Small acts of kindness at work While all participants said they’d benefit not only the receiver, had a profound experience in nature, but also the giver and the entire for three participants, it was not organisation. That’s according life-changing. Naor and Mayseless to an experiment conducted at contrasted these three with the others a Madrid workplace in which to tease out four factors that seemed researchers recruited 19 to be important for a transformation participants to act as ‘givers’ to happen. who for four weeks were tasked First, the natural setting reflected with doling out favours to their and even embodied a lifelong, colleagues, such as making significant and challenging personal them hot drinks or writing thank issue. Second, it was psychologically you notes. (Emotion) uncomfortable or painful to recognise this issue. Third, the experience shed Hard-core players of violent new light on ways of dealing with first-person shooter video it. And finally, the individual made a games do not have emotionally conscious choice to embed this new blunted brains. The players, who realisation into her identity and life. averaged several hours of game Take the case of Hadar, aged play per day, were found to show 36, who described herself as having just as much neural sensitivity to been a people-pleaser, always putting emotional pictures, positive and others’ needs before her own and not negative, as a control group of really connected to her own needs. non-players. (Brain Imaging and On a hiking trip in the desert, she was Behaviour) resting with her group on a ledge. She’d agreed to continue climbing. By Dr Christian Jarrett. These But ‘I had this inner conflict because studies were covered by him, I really didn’t want to… but I told Dr Alex Fradera and Emma everybody I would. I felt so distraught, Young on our Research Digest at didn’t know what to do.’ www.bps.org.uk/digest This concrete challenge, which
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she had to confront, led her to realise there was a new way of dealing with this kind of issue. Hadar explains: ‘All of a sudden I heard myself say enough! This was so new to me because I always did what was expected of me… I turned my head and saw the view, it was so amazing and I knew I did not have to move… it was that moment of understanding in which I knew that I could change my thinking and understanding of myself and my surroundings.’ And she made a conscious choice to embrace this insight: ‘That moment was one of the most liberating moments in my life… From that moment on, I was concerned and connected to my needs more than to others. I let go of what people were expecting and was filled with such happiness, unbelievable… this wheel started to turn… I guess the divorce was part of that… I left my job….I took control of my life.’ Could this challenge, realisation and transformation have happened in an office instead of a desert? Perhaps it could, but Naor and Mayseless argue that the study reveals the ‘process elicited by nature as embodying, mirroring, confronting and even pushing one to discover as yet unknown aspects of self’. The varied kinds of physical challenges provided in nature call for complete bodily and emotional involvement, so increasing the likelihood of this type of experience, they argue. It’s worth noting that the challenges described in the paper were not necessarily objectively dramatic; Hadar’s story would not make for a Hollywood movie. Neither would the story of Tamar, a 48-year-old mother who said she’d always been unable to ask for help – until she found herself stuck, afraid, on a steep descent on a group hike, and realised: ‘Why do you always think you need to overcome everything on your own… that’s it and it’s a major issue in my life.’ What really mattered was the meaning of the situation to the individual. While there’s plenty of research finding that psychological resilience can be improved by getting people to just-about cope with natural challenges – such as ascending to a mountain peak – the challenges reported in this paper, while triggered by nature, weren’t necessarily extreme – and yet they carried huge significance. If there are general lessons, they’re probably these: try to spend time in varied natural settings, be alert to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling – and hold on to any insights that you gain. Dr Emma Young for www.bps.org.uk/digest Read the article: tinyurl.com/y7csjca7
the psychologist september 2017 news
UN report points to power imbalances ‘For decades, mental health services have been governed by a reductionist biomedical paradigm that has contributed to the exclusion, neglect, coercion and abuse of people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities, persons with autism and those who deviate from prevailing cultural, social and political norms… We have been sold a myth that the best solutions for addressing mental health challenges are medications and other biomedical interventions… Reductive biomedical approaches to treatment that do not adequately address contexts and relationships can no longer be considered compliant with the right to health.’ These strong words are not, as one may assume, from the pen of a radical socialist, but are taken from a recent United Nations report by Special Rapporteur Dainius Pūras, a psychiatrist from Lithuania. The report has been backed, in an open letter, by the British Psychological Society, Mental Health Europe, as well as organisations, psychiatrists and psychologists across the globe. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was issued in 2006, and its implementation is monitored by a body of independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council known as Special Rapporteurs. The UN Special
Rapporteur’s report is the first report of its kind to address what the right to mental health means in the light of this treaty. Its author condemns the neglect of what he calls ‘the preconditions of poor mental health’, including violence, disempowerment, social exclusion, and harmful conditions at work and school. He wrote: ‘There exists an almost universal commitment to pay for hospitals, beds and medications instead of building a society in which everyone can thrive…’ Pūras’s report also contains a stern warning about the global mental health movement and the assumption that Western models of mental health and its treatment should be imposed on other nations. ‘The current “burden of disease” approach firmly roots the global mental health crisis within a biomedical model, too narrow to be proactive and responsive in addressing mental health issues at the national and global level... The scaling-up of care must not involve the scaling-up of inappropriate care.’ The report also has clear messages about what is needed instead. Drawing on a range of examples and resources, including the British Psychological Society’s report Understanding Psychosis, it emphasises the need for a ‘paradigm shift’ towards offering
culturally appropriate psychosocial interventions as the first-line, working in partnership with service users and carers, respecting diversity, and taking steps to eliminate coercive treatment and forced confinement. Among the report’s recommendations is a focus on embedding rights-based mental health innovation within public policy. ‘The crisis in mental health should be managed not as a crisis of individual conditions, but as a crisis of social obstacles which hinders individual rights. Mental health policies should address the “power imbalance” rather than “chemical imbalance”.’ Professor Peter Kinderman (University of Liverpool), said: ‘I am proud that the British Psychological Society has already endorsed and supported Dr Pūras’s report, but we need to go further. Reports like this are of little use if they are received and then left on the shelf. We need to continue to put pressure on governments, worldwide, to implement its recommendations. This is nothing less than a civil rights struggle, and we need to be engaged and active in support. It is up to all of us on the ground, professionals, service users, carers and others, to campaign for the principles of this report to be translated into action. We are grateful for the ambitious, clear and courageous lead set.’ er
Special Rapporteur Dainius Pūras
Trustee appointment Professor Rachel Tribe, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, has been appointed as a trustee for the mental health charity Centre for Applied Research and Evaluation International Foundation (Careif). Careif is an international charity based in London working to enhance and protect mental health. Careif has contributed to a range of research programmes, including the roots of radicalisation and the psychological effects of combat on veterans, engaging with many of the key
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contemporary issues in the field of wellbeing and mental health. Professor Tribe, the 2014 winner of the Society’s Award for Challenging Social Inequalities in Psychology, said of her new trustee role: ‘I have been lucky enough to work with the trustees and volunteers at Careif for several years, and I am delighted and honoured to be joining the trustees of such an important charity. Careif is undertaking ground breaking work within mental health.’ Professor Kam Bhui CBE, Careif Co-Founder, said:
‘I am delighted… Professor Tribe brings a wealth of experience in psychology, including a long standing legacy of research and practice to improve mental health of culturally diverse populations and migrants. She also brings a new energy towards using progressive positive approaches towards better mental health for all.’ js
Professor Rachel Tribe with other Careif trustees
Cigarettes and primates – BPS award winners announced
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The winners of two major British Psychological Society awards have been announced. Marcus Munafò, Professor of Biological Psychology and Editor-in-Chief of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, has been honoured with the Presidents’ Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge. Professor Richard Byrne, an expert in animal cognition at the University of St Andrews, has won the Research Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award. As director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (University of Bristol) Munafò has provided regular consultancy to the World Health Organization and the European Commission on issues of tobacco control. His work has been cited in the recent European Tobacco Products Directive and has been used by the Australian government’s defence against legal challenges to recent plain packaging legislation. Also an outspoken advocate for robust scientific practices and a central figure in the reproducibility debate, Munafò said he was excited to receive the award. ‘I have to thank my fantastic research group, and all the great people who I’ve worked with over the years. I strongly believe science is a team effort.’ Munafò is currently working on identifying causal pathways between health behaviours and a range of physical and mental health outcomes. ‘Promising targets identified using epidemiological methods are taken into human laboratory studies to test possible mechanisms, with a view to developing interventions to target these. It’s an exciting programme of work that places psychology at the heart of a translational pipeline from epidemiology to clinical trials. This is perhaps the most exciting thing about psychology – its relevance to a whole range of disciplines. Team science opens up a host of new possibilities for psychologists.’ Professor Daryl O’Connor, Chair of the Research Board, said: ‘Professor Munafò’s research has advanced our understanding of the genetic determinants of addictive behaviours, and the role of human personality in explaining the association between genetic variation and addictive behaviours. In addition, this award also recognises the outstanding contribution he has made to the replication and reproducibility debate and the open science movement more generally.’ Professor Richard Byrne, who has recently published a book, Evolving Insight, about his decades of work, is one of those few academics who can be said to have laid the conceptual and methodological groundwork for an entirely new approach to studying mind and behaviour. He has brought together cognitive psychology and evolutionary biology, with significant benefits to both. ‘It’s been fascinating to apply the same concepts to animal cognition as have been useful in understanding human abilities. For instance, I worked on people’s mental maps
before ever studying primates, and found it necessary to distinguish (Euclidian) vector-map representation from (topological) network-maps: in everyday navigation, we largely rely on network-maps, so we are sometimes surprised at our own errors of judgement. Thirty years later, working on baboon mental maps with Rahel Noser, we showed that they too navigated with a mental map, rather than responding directly to environmental cues: but our evidence suggested their maps were networkmaps, lacking accurate Euclidian information.’ Byrne said he was honoured to receive the award and pointed to many people who have helped him over the years including his PhD supervisor John Morton, Bill McGrew who gave him the opportunity to become a primatologist, his wife Jen who has helped with much of his field work, and his many PhD students and postdoctoral staff he has worked with. Byrne said he found working in unexplored areas particularly satisfying and has recently been exploring primate gestures, which have been largely neglected. ‘Following pioneering work by Mike Tomasello and Josep Call, my research group has studied gesture in orang-utans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, including field study of the last Richard Byrne three. We’ve found very large repertoires of gestures in each species, used intentionally to direct and adjust others’ behaviour, in ways that take account of the attentional state and current knowledge of the target audience. Intriguingly, in most cases both the gesture form and its function turn out to be the same in different ape species. This led us to predict that humans too must share the innate potential to understand many of these “ape” gestures, in addition to all the conventional gestures we pick up – an idea that we’re currently testing.’ Nicola Gale, President of the British Psychological Society, said: ‘I congratulate Professor Byrne on his welldeserved award. As well as being fascinating in its own right, his study of cognition in animals has the potential to tell us much about the evolution of distinctively human abilities.’ er For more on Dick Byrne’s work see tinyurl.com/ycoh5vv7 For a ‘One on one’ with Marcus Munafò see tinyurl.com/y8yegn6r
the psychologist september 2017 news
‘Do not crush your life energy’ According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are more than 55,000 suicides in the European Union each year, including over 6000 in the UK and Ireland. Research has suggested that suicide rates among Turkish-speaking populations in Europe are higher than the among the general population. Now psychologists have been involved in an international and interdisciplinary effort to launch a free e-health service, Kıyma Canına (www.kiymacanina. org), for those with suicidal thoughts, adapted specifically for Turkish-speaking communities in the UK and the Netherlands. The founder of the project, clinical psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society Özlem Eylem, told us that ‘in the help-seeking process for suicide, feelings of shame and the stigma associated with suicide are identified as major barriers limiting Turkish migrants’ access to their formal and informal networks to seek help’. The course, designed by experts in Vrije
Universiteit Amsterdam and Queen Mary University of London, aims to tackle this via six weekly online sessions focusing on describing, understanding and identifying negative automatic thoughts and replacing them with more adaptive ones. Psychologist Inci Tebiş Picard told us that can stands for life energy and kıymak is a process of producing minced meat or cutting objects into small pieces. ‘This is commonly used among laypeople to talk about suicide. So kıyma canına means “do not crush your life energy”.’ She added: ‘Participants learn to gain control over and reduce their suicidal thoughts. Attention is also given to self-harm, emotion regulation, future perspectives and self-esteem. We’ve had good results so far in our trials, published in PLOS One… although effect sizes weren’t large, the reach of the internet could enable this intervention to help many people reduce their suicidal thoughts.’ js
Diversity blocking further diversity? As the first cohort of women leaders began pushing up against the glass ceiling, many hoped it would shatter… but it only cracked. Today less than 10 per cent of Fortune 500 companies are led by people from ethnic minority groups and women combined, and although the reasons are manifold, blame has been laid at the feet of the early pioneers themselves. The accusation is that successful people from underrepresented groups act as gatekeepers, keeping out others to maintain their special status and to identify with the dominant majority (the most famous example being the queen bee syndrome where a female boss undermines other women). But new research from the Academy of Management Journal suggests a different and understandable reason that minority members are cautious about showing enthusiasm for increasing diversity for fear of it spelling disaster for their own career. The international team headed by David Hekman of the University of Colorado recruited 350 American executives from a range of organisations: one in ten of them were non-white and about 30 per cent were women. The executives’
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bosses and roughly three of their peers rated them in terms of their competence and performance, including readiness to be promoted, and their diversity-valuing behaviour, an example being ‘values working with a diverse group of people’. This last measure of ‘promoting diversity’ is considered important in most major organisations, as it can provide better coverage of customer needs and can facilitate different ways of thinking. Overall, the findings from the current study were consistent with this: participants rated higher for diversity-valuing behaviour were also rated higher for performance and competence. But there was an important exception. For female and non-white executives, the more they valued diversity, the worse they were rated for performance and competence. And the non-white leaders who received very high performance ratings (higher even than the white majority) showed the least interest in diversity. The authors argue this points to an attitudinal bias, where senior staff generally see diversity-promoting behaviour as benign or even worth while… except when it comes from
minorities, in which case, it triggers concerns of nepotism or of opposition to the interests of the majority and a desire to undermine the status quo. In turn, these concerns may reinforce the minority status of the individual, making stereotypic negative judgements more salient. To test this explanation, Hekman’s team conducted an experiment: 300 participants recruited from an online database were asked to review a hiring manager’s decision to take on a new Vice President for their organisation, and rate that manager’s competence accordingly. Participants saw photos of the new VP and the hiring manager and they read a transcript of the conversation about the hire. When a female or non-white hiring manager took on a female or minority VP and mentioned improving diversity as a motive, the participants gave them poor ratings, a cost that was not incurred by white male hiring managers making the same decision. This seems to back up the researchers’ theory that minority managers are perceived negatively when they actively promote diversity. Clearly, there are selfish incentives for successful members
of minority groups to identify with the higher-status in-group, to be included and welcomed and feel like a member of the elite in good standing. This research suggests that there may also be valid reasons for minority leaders to fear making a show of helping other minority individuals. Hekman’s team discuss a few possible ways to tackle this, and suggest an intriguing approach: to reward any organisational member
that hires someone demographically different from them. This rule would apply to everyone, with a sound logic – what might you learn from a second-in-command with a different background to you? – and in practice, its application would increase minority numbers by virtue of the sheer numbers of majority group members seeking out someone different. Whatever the exact approach, one takeaway from this is that it is going to be harder
for minorities to promote diversity in organisations, because their motives are going to be taken as suspect. So white men who care about diversity should step up and make the case for it. They are relatively insulated, whereas for others the case may be simply too costly to make. Alex Fradera for the Research Digest www.bps.org.uk/digest Read the article: tinyurl.com/ y748e7rs
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‘Prisoners’ lives matter. But we often act as if they do not and thus should not be surprised at the high rates of suicide.’ With the numbers of prisoners dying by suicide at a record high, Professor Graham Towl, formerly the Chief Psychologist at the Ministry of Justice, has written for the Howard League for Penal Reform calling for a greater focus on suicide prevention in UK prisons. Writing for the charity’s Early Careers Academics Network Bulletin, Towl (Durham University) argued that a starting point for change is to make the saving of prisoners’ lives an explicit priority within institutions. Once this priority is established among leaders of prisons then resources will follow, he said: ‘I contend that there is insufficient priority given to suicide prevention in prisons and this is likely to make a significant contribution to suicide rates.’ Towl, who has recently published a book on the topic, Suicide in Prisons: Prisoners’ Lives Matter with co-author David Crighton, also said the increasing pressure to move prisoners from institution to institution more often is likely to drive up suicide numbers. Decreasing numbers of prison officers has also been cited as a huge problem, but Towl suggested this could be tackled by balancing resources more effectively and only using imprisonment as a last resort: ‘From my perspective, current levels of imprisonment are utterly out of kilter with the needs of justice or society more widely, in that sense we live through some worrying times in terms of the uses and abuses of state use of imprisonment. Fundamentally there is no need for more prison officers, but rather, fewer prisoners,’ he wrote. While hiring more prison officers is sensible, given the rising number of prisoners in the UK, Towl, also a member of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths
Call for suicide prevention priority in prisons
in Custody [see also tinyurl.com/y9qphbng], suggested health professionals placed within prisons could be useful in helping to prevent suicides. Similarly, those health professionals, including psychological staff, who already work within prisons could be redeployed to help work towards reducing suicide deaths. Towl also summarised the evidence about some of the riskier times for suicide during incarceration – for example risk for dying by suicide is very high in the early stages of imprisonment. Gender, too, is an important issue when considering prevention, with the suicide risk for incarcerated women increasing far more markedly than for men. Another stark gender difference is that men become more likely to die by suicide as they age in prison while the reverse is true for women who seem to be more at risk while younger. Without suicide being given a priority by prisons, Towl wrote, there should be no expectation that rates will decline. ‘What is needed is clear leadership in prioritising suicide prevention with a focus upon both the evidence and compassion. In short, prisoners’ lives matter.’ er To read the full report see tinyurl.com/y9udbaca
Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference 2018
‘Being Bold in Changing Times’ 17-18 January, Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel
Programme Timetable released Keynote speakers: Jacqui Dyer, Dr Susan McDaniel, Dr Susie Orbach New subsidised DCP member and Assistant & Trainee conferences fees! Deadline for Posters is midday on 20 September 2017 For conference news, and registration, see our website.
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From the European Congress A spectacular opening ceremony featuring orange neon clogs, dancing in balloons and foil streamers shot from backpacks kicked off the 15th European Congress of Psychology in Amsterdam – the same location as the first ever such meeting. In her welcoming address Elly Plooij-van Gorsel, President of the Nederlands Instituut van Psychologen (NIP), reminded the gathered audience of the context of the first ECP: ‘The first Congress was held just as the Berlin Wall had fallen. Our East German colleagues came, they couldn’t pay a penny, they were still very welcome.’
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This year’s Congress was set against a rather different political background, but still colleagues from across Europe gathered to discuss work across five main themes including migration, resilience and technology. Our journalist Ella Rhodes was there.
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In search of ‘rat-nav’ One of the few psychologists to win a Nobel Prize, Professor Edvard Moser, a Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, presented his and colleagues’ fascinating research on the brain systems involved in rodent navigation. The human brain’s positioning system, which we may have in common with evolutionary ancestors, particularly involves the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. However, while we are unable to accurately image dynamic processes in the human brain, focusing on other mammals can still reveal much. Almost 50 years ago John O’Keefe (University College London), who shared the Nobel Prize with Moser and his ex-wife May-Britt Moser, recorded single hippocampal neuron activity in free-roaming rats. Moser showed a video of one of these rats, the electrode recording the neuron’s action potential made a small clicking noise when the neuron fired. It was clear to see and hear specific neurons only firing when the rat was in a certain corner of the room – O’Keefe called these place cells. But, Moser asked, where and how is this place signal generated? In trying to functionally dissect the rat hippocampus it emerged that the hippocampus alone probably did not create place signals, but the entorhinal cortex played a key role. The individual cells within the rat entorhinal cortex eventually revealed a fascinating pattern. Certain single cells fire at multiple different parts of a room, and when a visual representation of this firing pattern was laid over the room being studied it emerged they fire in a hexagonal grid pattern. The scale of this pattern varies depending on where in the cortex a so-called grid cell is recorded but the grid pattern itself remains rigid and universal. Moser presented some preliminary data on sleep studies which he and postdoctoral researcher Richard Gardner have carried out on sleeping rats. So far it seems grid cells with similar fields still fire in a correlated pattern during slow-wave sleep, so this grid pattern is maintained even in sleep, including REM. These grid cells function very differently to place cells,
Grid cells, place cells, speed cells…
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Moser said; if a rat visits 11 rooms place cells will change where they fire in the different rooms, while grid cells maintain the same pattern. This suggests place cells may be part of a memory system for storing distinct maps of different places, while grid cell maps are the same pattern used repeatedly, which is useful in measuring position. But how might navigation work in practice? Triangulation may be our first guess but Moser said this system is quite inaccurate. It seems more likely that position is calculated from the distance and direction one moves, like an internal pedometer – a system that can even be observed in ants. Researcher Matthias Wittlinger gave ants a track where they had to walk 10 steps away and 10 steps back to get food, but when these ants had tiny stilts attached to their legs they walked further to get the food. Similarly, if ants are free-roaming and walk towards food along a meandering, non-linear route, on their way back to the original destination they walk in a simpler near-straight line, suggesting they can orient themselves based on the distance and direction travelled. Moser said that much data suggests that grid cells work in a similar way to a GPS system because they rely on rat’s movement to determine its position. And grid cells aren’t alone in the entorhinal cortex: head direction cells, which fire when a rat is walking in a particular direction, have also been found. The cortex also contains cells that fire when a rat is walking along a border or edge of a box or room – specific to east, west, north or south walls. Speed cells have also been discovered in the entorhinal cortex which have no preferred location or direction but fire at the same speed the animal is moving. In another preliminary study PhD student Oyvind Hoydal has discovered when a rat’s environment contains an object, specific cells fire when the rat is at a specific distance from that object. The activity in these cells increases as the animal moves closer to the object. A subpopulation of cells also fires when an object or objects lie at certain orientations from the rat. Thus it seems the entorhinal cortex consists of a map of empty space but with cells that can directly encode a rat’s position in relation to objects in the environment. However, as Moser pointed out, the truly interesting aspect of these cells and systems is how they might work together. As technology becomes more sophisticated, we are reaching a point where it is possible to use minute microscopes to capture the activity within a full section of a mouse’s brain making it a more real possibility to image the entirety of the entorhinal cortex. Watch this ‘space’.
Professor Edvard Moser
Evidence – the fuzzy process Psychology has long grappled with promoting and encouraging evidence-based practice within the field as a whole, and recently the EFPA Board of Scientific Affairs was tasked with assessing the state of EBPP (evidencebased practice in psychology) across its members. In 2015 the board came up with a definition of EBPP: ‘Evidence-based practice in applied psychology is the integration of the best available research with shared professional expertise in the context of client characteristics, culture and preferences’, which was based on the American Psychological Association’s 2006 definition. In a survey the board asked members their thoughts on the definition as well as attempting to get a picture of EBPP in Europe – asking them what other definitions are used, how EBPP can be promoted and whether EBPP was promoted in undergraduate and postgraduate training or CPD. Remo Job (University of Trento), chair of the board, presented the findings from this survey, which 15 out of the 34 members’ associations responded to. While it was a limited sample, around 90 per cent agreed with the definition put forward by the board, but the questions exploring the state of EBPP in the countries sampled revealed a more mixed picture. Around 43.5 per cent of those sampled said EBPP was part of postgraduate training, and 39.1 per cent said it was part of undergraduate training, while around 17 per cent didn’t know. When asked if CPD was mandatory in their country, 56.5 per cent said yes, and 43.5 per cent said no.
Those who said yes were asked whether EBPP was part of that further training, and it emerged that it is often up to an individual to look for opportunities for learning. Job said one respondent referred to EBPP as ‘serendipitous and capricious’, which he said was an opinion seen again and again: people see EBPP as relevant to some areas in psychology but not others. The survey also asked whether the inclusion of EBPP was formally monitored in postgraduate training, undergraduate training and CPD, a majority answered none of those and commented that further formal monitoring would be quite unwelcome. Responses to an open question asking what member associations did to promote EBPP varied too. While there is no formal promotion in many organisations, Norway has it as an obligatory part of CPD, and Sweden has developed a policy programme of EBPP. As Job pointed out there are still many issues with evidence-based practice, particularly within psychology, and the very concept of EBPP is a fuzzy one, with the understanding of values associated with it varying by discipline. Many psychologists believe it isn’t relevant for their particular area of the science, and many misconceptions about it still exist. We need to raise awareness of the concept, Job said, and think of it as a process rather than a state. He said early exposure to EBPP during training and for young practitioners was important, and emphasised a need to share ideas on how best to promote and implement EBPP.
Predicting compassion in adulthood
Around 3500 Finnish people have been assessed periodically since their birth in, or around, 1980 as part of a longitudinal study to determine risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. The Young Finns data set, which also includes reams of psychological measures on the participants, has attracted much research. Just some of this was discussed during a symposium at the Congress. Mirka Hintsanen (University of Oulu) has been looking at the relationship between the early parent–child relationship and that child’s levels of compassion in adulthood. Her sample consisted of 2761 participants, and their parent–child relationship was reported via mothers in an early measure, while participants selfrated their compassion in 1997, 2001 and 2012. Higher emotional
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warmth was associated with higher compassion overall, and higher acceptance from the mother was also related to higher compassion but only in an adjusted model. It seems maternal emotional warmth affects the level of compassion but not trajectory – it increases with age regardless. Her results are in line with previous findings on prosociality and empathy: these traits are also predicted by high emotional warmth in childhood. Hintsanen suggested they might share developmental or environmental roots. There is also the possibility that genes could partly explain the findings. Kia Gluschkoff (University of Helsinki) has also explored compassion in the Young Finns sample. She asked whether being cared for at home, at a centre run by professionals, or by extended family
– both as a toddler and as a six-yearold – would predict later compassion. Care arrangements in the toddlers were not associated with compassion as adults, but those who were cared for in a centre as sixyear-olds showed more compassion in adulthood – a statistically significant finding. Those who were home-cared as toddlers and went into centre-based care in early childhood had above-average levels of compassion in adulthood. Gluschkoff said this raises questions – could early childhood be a more sensitive stage where the environment influences prosocial traits? Perhaps, she suggested, having older children cared for in a centre would give them chance to practise prosocial behaviours, which would not necessarily be the case for younger children.
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It is only in the last decade or so that epidemiological studies have started to reveal the true nature of eating disorders. Dr Pauline Jansen (Erasmus University Rotterdam) has been involved with researching a prospective birth cohort of subjects, called Generation R, to start to identify early indicators of eating disorders and problems. The Generation R cohort was gathered in 2002 to identify any patterns with around 7500 children still participating in the project today. Children, and their parents, periodically visit a local hospital for questionnaires, surveys and many medical tests and measurements. Jansen has been exploring fussy eating among the cohort, an issue where there’s still little agreement over whether it should be accepted as a normal part of childhood or whether it’s a more worrying pattern. It is unclear how many children are fussy eaters, but estimates range from 14 to 50 per cent; with some suggesting it peaks at the age of three, while others say it could be a stable trait throughout childhood. In the Generation R cohort fussy eating was assessed at the ages of two, four and six, using a two-item checklist asking parents whether the child refused to eat or didn’t eat well. Around a quarter of children were fussy eaters at two, rising to 27.7 per cent by age three and dropping to 13.2 per cent at six – suggesting a peak at around three years old followed by a reduction in the behaviour with age. At the age of four the parents of Generation R children were given a more in-depth measure of fussy eating. The fussy children tended to feel full quicker, eat more slowly and not approach food as much as others. Being a boy, non-Western and in a lower socio-economic status family also predicted being classified as a fussy eater. Epidemiological studies also have the benefit of helping us to see symptoms progress over time; indeed, Jansen found children who were fussy at four had a higher risk of being underweight two years later. While there was no overall link between fussy eating and behavioural or emotional problems, those who were persistently fussy throughout the ages assessed were more likely to have pervasive developmental problems. Jansen emphasised that no causal effect could be established in such a study, though it could potentially be an early warning sign of problems developing. While fussy eating seems to be relatively harmless overall, it may be more worrying if a child is persistently fussy. Jansen and her colleagues also wanted to explore the potential intergenerational transmission of eating problems. Many individuals with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have had a mother with eating problems, and, while still pregnant, Generation R mothers were assessed on their history of eating disorders and
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Childhood eating habits – where do they lead?
were later assessed on their child-feeding behaviours. The children of mothers who had had anorexia or bulimia in the past actually had better dietary quality. These mothers also did not pressure their child to eat when they didn’t want to and weren’t restrictive or too controlling over their child’s food intake. However, these children did show more emotional overeating at the age of four, a finding that was confirmed by teacher reports. Jansen said this could suggest problems in emotion regulation in those children – something that is associated with eating disorders. Some feeding practices among parents have been decried in recent years for encouraging unhealthy eating behaviours in children. Jansen looked into the cause-andeffect relationship of two controlling feeding behaviours – restriction, or attempts to regulate or limit certain types of food, and pressure to eat – offering food to children or asking them to finish their food. The former has been linked to overeating and being overweight, while pressure to eat has been linked to fussy eating and being underweight. But Jansen has found that it is not the parental practices that lead to fussy eating or overeating, rather it is these behaviours that lead to parents responding with restriction or encouragement to eat. That is, parents of fussy eaters tend to encourage children to eat, while those with overweight children understandably try to restrict some foods – the child’s behaviour tends to trigger the parental behaviours rather than vice versa. There has also been a link between constipation and fussy eating – with further investigation Jansen found a bidirectional relationship between the two. She said fussy eating may be caused by constipation and painful bowel movements, but similarly fussy eating can cause constipation – probably through a lack of fibre. Work with the Generation R cohort continues and will hopefully go some way to revealing the patterns and associations with developing eating problems and eating disorders in later life.
Psychological interventions online Dr David Daniel Ebert, who was given the Comenius tackle depression, an effect which was maintained at Early Career Psychologist Award during the conference, one-year follow-up. has become well known for his online and mobile-based Another pervasive problem, work-related stress, interventions. With the ability to reach a far wider client also responds to this kind of online treatment. GET. group and to treat those who may otherwise feel unable ON Stressed, another programme developed by Ebert, to seek help, Ebert made a striking case for embracing technology in what we do. One of these interventions, the GET.ON Mood Enhancer, consists of six guided selfhelp lessons, each followed by feedback from a psychologist, or ‘e-coach’. Clients also receive push notifications with reminders for homework and ultra-brief training exercises such as muscle-relaxation techniques. Ebert wanted to assess whether it was possible to halt the development of major depressive disorder in participants whose scores were just below the clinical range. After they used the GET.ON platform he measured the time it took for this disorder to appear in its clinical form in 406 people (with a control group just receiving psychoeducation). Indeed, it was shown it was possible to reduce a person’s risk of developing major depressive disorder using this approach. An adapted version of the platform was also useful in helping people with diabetes Dr David Daniel Ebert
Testing communication styles We’ve all met leaders who can’t help but seem aggressive, or those who brim over with enthusiasm. While much research has been carried out on leadership styles, little has looked into communication styles and how these might affect employees’ productivity. As part of her master’s research Charlotte Malz (University of Zurich) developed, and tried to validate, a scale that would capture and assess different communication styles among leaders. While Malz explained that
While much research has been carried out on leadership styles, little has looked into communication styles
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leadership research has seen communication as a strategy of leaders not much has looked into this on its own. She said there was a need for a short, feasible scale to assess this in leaders, one that could be used in research on the links between leadership and communication styles. She developed a scale that covered six communication styles – expressiveness, preciseness, supportiveness, aggression, determination and inquisitiveness – and tested a Swedish and German version on almost 500 participants. Students were later recruited to help validate the items on the scale. While the scale worked in both Swedish and German the determination and preciseness articles were not fully validated by the student participants. Malz said she hoped to develop this work further, as well as exploring leadership and communication style links in the future.
Award for British psychologist British Psychological Society member Professor Dave Bartram (University of Sussex) was the first ever recipient of the EFPA Robert Roe Award for Outstanding Contribution of Psychology to Society. The award is aimed at those who have brought psychologists from across Europe together, and Bartram has done so throughout his 30year career developing standards of psychological testing across the continent. Bartram, who was nominated jointly by the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology and the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology, said he was particularly honoured to receive the award at the opening ceremony: ‘Robert Roe was a friend, colleague and inspiration, and it is very special to have an award named after him… I was surprised to get the nomination and even more surprised to get the award!’
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which taught problem-solving and emotion regulation helped to reduce perceived stress, which continued at six- and 12-month follow-up, and it also helped reduce depression and emotional exhaustion. As Ebert said, people struggling with stress at work may not be willing to go into a specialised depression treatment programme, but this stress intervention helped depression as well. He and colleagues also saw a reduction in absent days and a lowering of the costs associated with absenteeism. Many of those who suffer with work-related stress, perhaps unsurprisingly, experience insomnia, and only around 1 per cent get treatment for this. A new intervention GET.ON Recovery uses classic CBT for insomnia with feedback from a psychologist, delivered online, and teaches users about sleep hygiene and other methods for better sleep. In a randomised control trial with stressed teachers Ebert found a strong effect size, further backed up by replications. Once you remove the psychologist from the equation, however, the treatment is less effective. These treatments offer hope that one day we might be able to treat massive amounts of people across the world in a number of conditions in a brief, relatively cheap way. But would they work for everyone? Ebert and his team carried out a meta-analysis of internet-based treatments of depression and found the treatment to be effective for all of the subgroups he examined: those with severe depression, younger and older adults and those with different levels of educational attainment. Although, Ebert pointed out, there are potentially moderators for the effectiveness of these interventions he and his team are yet to find them. Some studies have associated these treatments with harmful or negative effects, and it’s important to consider that some individuals may struggle with implementing psychological strategies into daily life thus leading to further hopelessness, lower self-efficacy and potentially a deterioration of symptoms. Ebert has also examined rates of deterioration in symptoms in some subgroups and found that internet interventions generally reduced the risk of deterioration apart from on one group. Those with lower levels of educational attainment had a larger risk of symptom deterioration compared to controls – while this effect wasn’t significant it suggests a trend for some participants struggling with this type of intervention. These interventions can be effective in treating a number of disorders and can be helpful to those who don’t have time for face-to-face therapy or those who feel their conditions are stigmatised. Ebert ended by saying that now we can conclude it’s possible to deliver interventions online: he’s interested in how we can go further beyond face-to-face therapy using technology to improve psychological interventions. He suggested that using wearables to identify behaviour patterns, and machine learning to inform what would be the best treatment at the best times, are very real possibilities.
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From January to June 2018, the UK hosts the European Semester of Psychology Background at www.efpa.eu/psy-and-europe and details coming soon at www.bps.org.uk We pride ourselves on showcasing the work of psychologists worldwide, and this is a particularly good opportunity to include our European colleagues across the continent. Get in touch with topics and potential authors/ interviewees, on firstname.lastname@example.org
The parent connection Talia Berkowitz, Marjorie W. Schaeffer, Christopher S. Rozek, Sian L. Beilock and Susan C. Levine consider what kinds of parent support promote children’s academic achievement
Parents are often unsure what role they should play in supporting their child’s academic development. How much help should they give, and what kind? Partly due to the mixed messages that parents receive, they remain a largely untapped resource when it comes to fostering children’s learning.
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any parents will commiserate over the daily struggle to get their children to sit down and focus on homework. With increasing pressure to participate in extracurricular sports and clubs, and with the widespread availability of video, computer and tablet games – each more enticing than the next – there is seemingly no end to the distractions that pull children away from the crumpled-up assignments sitting at the bottom of their book bags. This constant battle can be overwhelming, leading to nightly bouts of sweat and tears, from both parents and children alike. Yet, encouraging and helping children to complete their homework is just one of the ways that parents can be involved in their education. Perhaps because parents are a particularly motivated group when it comes to promoting their offspring’s learning, parental involvement has long been considered a crucial part of student achievement and school reform. Despite this, parents may not know where to start. Going back to our homework example, some parents might opt to disengage completely, leaving their children to fend for themselves, to take responsibility. Others attempt to take firm control of the situation, implementing rules and routines that dictate when and for how long children must attend to their homework assignments versus competing activities. Many others may fall somewhere in between, attempting to make the homework experience more pleasant or rewarding, or using the opportunity to share in a joint learning experience with their children.
the psychologist september 2017 parents and schoolwork Getty Images
Even when things are going well, the type of support and praise that parents provide can differ considerably, influencing children’s persistence and motivation. For example, when a child is struggling with a maths problem, some parents may show the child how to do it while others might ask the child leading questions that allow the child to solve the problem on their own. And with each of these different approaches, children pick up on intended and unintended messages from parents about their own abilities and self-efficacy, and about the importance of school and education – all of which can have long-term effects on their academic interests and achievement. Factors such as parents’ own childhood experiences, time constraints and a lack of readily accessible guidelines lead many parents to rely on their own intuition in navigating the homework-help terrain. However, information from research on parent engagement could help guide parents’ decisions on how to help and support their children’s academic achievement. In this review, we focus on what the research literature tells us about how parents can best support their children so that they can be successful both academically and in life beyond school. We think about what it means to be an involved parent and about the types of parental involvement that are actually beneficial to children – What activities best support children’s learning? Are there activities and ways of interacting that should be avoided? And what benefits do children gain from different types of parental involvement? To answer these questions, we first address what constitutes parental involvement in children’s academic pursuits, and how this changes
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over the course of a child’s development. From there, we attempt to distil what research tells us about creating the kinds of environments that are supportive of children’s internal motivation to learn and their academic achievement. Across the years Parents can seek to become involved in their children’s education via a myriad of activities over the course of their children’s lives. They may be categorised as: • activities that relate directly to the school environment (e.g. attending teacher conferences, chaperoning school trips or watching a school play); • activities that relate directly to children’s academic learning (e.g. conversations and experiences that promote language or mathematical concepts); and/ or • activities that influence children’s ideas, values and beliefs about the importance of learning and education. Such activities may change drastically over the years. Whether they realise it or not, parents are engaging their children in activities that promote academic learning in maths and science, as well as in language and literacy, well before they send them off to their first day of pre-school or kindergarten. As many researchers have found, the amount of language and cognitive input parents provide (e.g. talking to children, talking about number and spatial concepts, playing with toys and games, etc.) predicts children’s later academic
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More explicit statements about what a parent likes and dislikes can also have effects on children’s attitudes. If parents frequently state that they ‘are not a maths person’, this can lead the child to believe that maths is not for them either. Children may also be able to pick up on more implicit messages by observing differences in the toys that are provided to girls versus boys (e.g. blocks and Lego are more frequently bought for boys). As children start school, the landscape of parental involvement begins to shift and adapt. Schools and teachers typically take on more responsibility for teaching children new ideas and concepts. As a result, parents may incorrectly see themselves as playing a lesser, peripheral role in their children’s education. However, even once formal schooling begins, parents continue to influence children’s learning and achievement in crucial ways. The types of support that parents provide for their children during the school years have been categorised in various ways. One notable framework is the primary location in which the activity occurs (for example, Joyce Epstein has discussed school versus home). However, other theories highlight that while parents’ actions (such as helping with homework, trips to the library and volunteering at school) are important, their attitudes and expectations about school and education are of particular significance as well. For example, in their 1994 ‘Multidimensional Conceptualization and Motivational Model’ of parental involvement, Wendy Grolnick and Maria Slowiaczek distinguished between activities that involve active communication and the maintenance of connections between home and school (e.g. volunteering at school or helping with homework), activities through which parents expose children to educationally stimulating experiences (e.g. trips to the library, museums, reading activities), and more personal involvement, where the attitudes and expectations that parents have about school and Getty Images
outcomes. For example, the overall quantity of parent talk, the richness of the vocabulary they use, and the complexity of their sentence structure are important for children’s language development and promote the development of processing skills that facilitate language and reading skills (Hart & Risley, 1995; Huttenlocher et al., 2002; Weisleder & Fernald, 2013). With respect to mathematics, Levine and colleagues (2010, 2011) found that the amount of number talk (e.g. counting, labelling the number of items in a set, etc.) that parents provided when their children were between the ages of 14 and 30 months predicted their children’s understanding of number words (e.g. the meanings of ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’, etc.) when their children were 46 months old. Furthermore, the quality of Key sources those interactions also mattered: for example, counting present sets (i.e. objects that were in front of Berkowitz, T., Schaeffer, M.W., Maloney, the child) was a better predictor of E.A. et al. (2015). Math at home adds children’s understanding of numbers up to achievement in school. Science, at age four than was talk about sets 350(6257), 196–198. Cooper, H., Lindsay, J.J. & Nye, B. that were not present, such as just (2000). Homework in the home: How reciting the count list (e.g. counting student, family, and parenting-style from 1 to 10). differences relate to the homework Parents should also recognise process. Contemporary Educational that at every stage of their child’s Psychology, 25(4), 464–487. development, they convey Grolnick, W.S. (2016). Parental involvement and children’s academic important messages about their motivation and achievement. In W.C. Liu, own attitudes and beliefs. Research J.C.K. Wang & R.M. Ryan (Eds.) Building has shown that children learn from autonomous learners: Perspectives simply observing how others act in from research and practice using selfthe world. Children are constantly determination theory (pp.169–183). watching their parents and what Singapore: Springer. Gunderson, E.A. & Levine, S.C. (2011). they do, learning about what to Some types of parent number talk count implicitly value along the way. For more than others: Relations between example, frequently reading in a parents’ input and children’s number child’s presence can promote the knowledge. Developmental Science, child’s own interest in reading, 14(5), 1021–1032. while a trip to the science museum Hill, N.E. & Tyson, D.F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: A can send the message that learning meta-analytic assessment of the science is both fun and important. strategies that promote achievement. Research led by Sandra Simpkins in Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 2012 suggested that when parents 740–763. take the time to model the values Hoover-Dempsey, K.V., Battiato, A.C., they wish to instil in their children, Walker, J.M.T. et al. (2001). Parental involvement in homework. Educational their children are more likely to Psychologist, 3, 195–209. adopt and act on those values on Levine, S.C., Suriyakham, L.W., Rowe, their own. M.L. et al. (2010). What counts in Furthermore, parents can teach the development of young children’s their children important behavioural number knowledge? Developmental lessons and non-cognitive skills Psychology, 46(5), 1309–1319. Pomerantz, E.M., Moorman, E.A. & through playing games. Studies by Litwack, S.D. (2007). The how, whom, Kelly Fisher, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and why of parents’ involvement in and others show that skills such as children’s academic lives: More is not turn-taking, learning how to cope always better. Review of Educational with losing and disappointment, Research, 77(3), 373–410. rule-following and perseverance are Full list available in online/app version. just some of the crucial skills that children can learn through play.
the psychologist september 2017 parents and schoolwork
education convey value and utility of education (e.g. Hyde et al., 2016). Frameworks such as these provide useful ways to think about parental involvement, and important ways to examine which kinds of parental involvement matter most for child outcomes. What types of parental involvement promote learning? Recent work has started to explore what types of parental involvement are most helpful to children’s the development of self-beliefs that are crucial for academic outcomes rather than considering achievement (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Jacobs & involvement more globally (Grolnick, 2016). Research Eccles, 2000). most strongly supports the link between activities that So it seems that parental involvement is influential fall under the umbrella of personal involvement with both because it supports the child, reinforcing concepts later academic achievement, suggesting that parental and skills that are learned in school, and because it involvement is particularly important because of the conveys messages about the importance and value of expectations and values for educational achievement what is being learned in school. As a result, especially that are conveyed to children through a parent’s as children get older, parents maintain a critical role actions. in their children’s achievement through both of these Nancy Hill and Diana Tyson’s 2009 paper in pathways. However, parental involvement can also Developmental Psychology explored the usefulness of be a double-edged sword, risking detrimental effects different types of parental involvement. While they if not wielded properly. Authoritative or intrusive found no effects of school-based involvement and behaviours (e.g. monitoring, controlling and providing only moderate effects of home-based involvement, the strongest effects were related to academic socialisation, unsolicited help, doing the work for a child), lead to decreased motivation in children, and can lead to which encompasses personal involvement, to convey negative effects on academic achievement (e.g. Cooper the value of learning, explaining how children’s et al., 2000; Pomerantz et al., 2007). Further, when interests connect to what they are learning, etc. Being parents do not understand the homework materials a parent who is invested in a child’s academic success highlights the value of learning to children, and fosters themselves, their attempts to explain or guide their children through their work may lead to confusion children’s own engagement with academics (Grolnick and frustration on the part of the child. If parents feel & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hill & Tyson, 2009; Rozek et ill-equipped to help their child with their homework, al., 2017). In addition to parental value of education they should remember that they can find other ways and learning, parental expectations for their child’s to remain involved and promote achievement, such academic success are also important. For example, as making sure that out-of-school activities provide Lydia DeFlorio and Amber Beliakoff’s 2015 study constructive learning experiences, found that families from higher SES praising their children in ways that backgrounds tend to hold higher “Children are constantly promote a growth mindset and expectations for their children’s watching their parents intrinsic motivation, and modelling academic success than parents from lower SES backgrounds by the time and what they do, learning behaviours that demonstrates the importance and value of learning, their children are five, and these about what to implicitly such as becoming a co-learner with expectations predict children’s the child as they try to figure out a value along the way” maths achievement. problem Parental involvement can be Some of our unpublished most beneficial when parents research suggests that intrusive parent behaviours engage in activities that encourage children’s may be especially detrimental for children who hold independent problem-solving skills. When parents an entity framework (i.e. the belief that intelligence is do this, children’s autonomy as problem solvers is reinforced, and children develop intrinsic motivation to fixed) as compared to those who have an incremental complete homework on their own (as shown in a 2011 framework (i.e. the belief that their intelligence is malleable and can grow through effort). Parents may study led by Idit Katz). Parents may be more likely be more effective in helping their children when they to have the time and nuanced understanding of their provide process praise (‘Good job! You worked hard child’s needs than teachers, enabling them to provide on that problem.’) than when they provide person help that is tailored to a child’s needs and abilities praise (‘Good job! You’re really smart in maths!’). (Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001). Furthermore, having Process praise boosts children’s intrinsic motivation an involved parent can be a validating experience for and encourages a growth mindset, which is associated the child. Parents’ support can convey to children with improved persistence and academic performance that they are competent and of worth, leading to
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(Cimpian et al., 2007; Gunderson et al., 2013). In addition, recent research led by Chris Rozek shows that when parents talk to their children about how various subjects such as maths, science and literature fit into their own lives (e.g. highlighting the aspects of baking that relate to maths and chemistry), this promotes children’s achievement. The explicit and implicit messages parents convey about the material being taught in school also influence children’s motivation and achievement. Parents should take care not to express their own disengagement from particular school subjects (e.g. ‘I’m not a maths person’), and avoid sending messages Suggestions for moving forward that lessons taught in school are a waste of time It is clear that a variety of parent–child interaction is or unimportant (e.g. ‘You’ll never use this’). These negative attitudes and beliefs are picked up by children crucial to a child’s academic success. However, each interactive avenue is also quite tenuous, and the and can negatively impact their interest in particular quality and quantity of interaction must be carefully subjects and their performance in school (Hyde et al., tailored to best support the child’s development, and 2016). In fact, research from our own labs has shown to allow the parent to interact to the best of his or her that for parents who feel fear and apprehension about own abilities. maths (i.e. maths anxiety), providing frequent maths Our main message is that parents should not help can decrease children’s maths learning compared feel alone as they search for ways to become more to similar anxious parents who help with maths less effectively involved in their frequently (Maloney et al., 2015). children’s academic lives. Research This is not to say that parents “Research has found that has found that children often do who are anxious about maths better in school when families, (or any other subject) should children often do better schools and community groups completely avoid engaging with in school when families, work together to support learning. their child around that subject. schools and community To do so, schools can attempt to Rather, these parents need support outline the expectations they have to help improve the quality of their groups work together to of parents and can provide regular interactions with their children support learning” programmes that support parent– about maths. With this help, mathschild involvement. Parents should anxious parents can effectively be encouraged to talk to their support their children’s maths children about school and to convey the expectation learning. For example, we showed that the children that children will perform well in school, and teachers of maths-anxious parents learn as much maths over can facilitate this by providing parents with suggestions the school year as the children of non-maths-anxious for the best ways to talk to children about learning. parents when parents and children are given a maths Currently, not all parents have access to the same app that fosters engaging parent–child maths problem resources to help their children. Differences in parental solving (Berkowitz et al., 2015). involvement are often related to race and parent Finally, it is also important to consider a parent’s education level – minority parents are less likely to be motivation for helping their child. As Wendy Grolnick involved in their children’s education, while higher points out, the helpfulness of parental involvement levels of parental education are highly correlated with is largely dependent on the reasons parents become levels of parental involvement in children’s schooling. involved in the first place. If parents are pushed However, it is important to remember that these into assisting their child, involvement may increase variables (e.g. income, education and ethnicity) do not temporarily, but then is rarely sustained and so will necessarily determine the value that parents put on have minimal effects. Furthermore, parents who feel education or their desire to be involved and have their forced to help their children with homework are children succeed (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). more likely to be unhappy while Even when parents do have the time and resources doing so, which can translate to be more engaged with their child’s education, their into a negative interaction for the involvement can backfire if not properly implemented. child. Indeed, this may explain Talia Berkowitz, Marjorie W. With a little help and guidance, supported by improved in part why a 2013 review from Schaeffer, Christopher S. Rozek, research–practitioner–parent partnerships, all parents Beng Huat See and Stephen Gorard Sian L. Beilock and Susan C. can more effectively foster their children’s intrinsic found mixed results when it Levine are in the Department of motivation to learn and provide the kinds of evidencecame to the efficacy and success Psychology, University of Chicago based support that have been shown to foster children’s of interventions that encourage email@example.com academic success. parental involvement.
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While sitting on a university animal welfare ethical review committee, you receive an application to review that proposes a series of experiments to study the effects of social stressors on laboratory housed mice. Some involve observing aggressive interactions in order to better understand the welfare risks for mice caged together in groups. The mice will then be given a series of behavioural tests, which may cause additional stress, for the purpose of identifying effects of social stress on learning and reactions to novel stimuli.
the psychologist september 2017 ethics
How sentient is this mouse?
Helen Cassaday poses an ethical dilemma (see picture), provides her view and seeks responses
s it ethically appropriate to conduct studies on animals that have the objective to further our understanding of animal behaviour? The legal position is that such studies are in principle lawful. However, legislation is having increasing impact on studies of animal behaviour in the context of the UK legal framework provided by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Animal behaviour studies are first considered by the relevant university animal welfare ethical review committee in the UK. Whilst non-invasive field studies of animal behaviour are typically given ‘light touch’ review, more stringent criteria are applied to laboratory-based experimental studies conducted within animal research facilities. In addition, such experimental studies may require Home Office Project Licence authority, if the procedures involved could cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm. Ethical guidance is provided by the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement; see www.nc3rs.org.uk/the-3rs). However, the goal of Replacement is not applicable to this application. The purpose of the experiments is presented in the context of animal science. In other words, the objective of the project is to study mouse behaviour, so the mice cannot be replaced with human volunteers. Mathematical and computer models first require a solid database, in vitro tests tell us nothing about behaviour, and immature mice and invertebrates would be expected to behave differently. In this sense, studies of animal behaviour seem to have special status. Reduction depends on the adequacy of the proposed experimental designs and the authors’ statistical power calculations. However, judgements about whether Reduction has been achieved also depend on assumptions about effect size, which may be misguided. There is no point at all in running an underpowered study. Refinement can refer to a range of improvements to laboratory animals’ conditions and often pertains to housing. However, the proposed project requires that mice be housed together with other mice likely to injure them. Therefore the possibility of injury cannot be entirely excluded if the study is to achieve its scientific objectives. Choice of species must also be justified in any application for a Home Office Project Licence. This is an aspect of Refinement in that animals in ‘higher’ phylogenetic positions are generally considered to
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have an increased capacity for suffering. Mice are not the most highly protected laboratory animals. Points of difference in emotionality and cognitive capacities can be argued to justify the demarcation of ethical responsibility in relation to species. Non-human primates, in particular, show compelling behavioural evidence of a variety of cognitive capacities that provide rational justification for high levels of protection globally, in their natural environments as well as in laboratories. Sentience is not a uniquely human attribute and sentientism or using the ability to feel and perceive is seen to provide an important criterion for the level of protection an animal should receive. However, this is dubious from an ethical perspective in that animal experiments may continue or even increase in numbers in species for which such compelling evidence of sentience is lacking. For example, at the same time the level of protection for non-human primates has increased and their use in experimental research has accordingly decreased, the use of pigs in neuroscience research has increased, at least in other countries. The use of pigs may be seen as ethically preferable to the use of primates, but their use is likely to remain less acceptable than the use of rats and mice. Hanno Würbel has argued that the use of ‘sentientism’ is formally analogous to speciesism (tinyurl.com/hdjknrw). Indeed, the majority of judgements of sentience are clouded by prejudice based on species: for example, pigs are widely perceived as intelligent emotional animals. Whilst a high proportion of individuals may empathise with pigs as well as primates, for many empathy breaks down with pest animals such as mice. Walt Disney claimed to love Mickey Mouse more than any woman he had ever known, but house mice are generally not so well tolerated. So where does this leave the application to study social stress in mice? If ethical permission is granted, should this be subject to Home Office Licence authority being granted? What kinds of control measures to minimise the impact of the study on the animals would you wish to see (while still ensuring that valid experimental results are obtained)? With respect to choice of species, if such a laboratory study would not be acceptable using non-human primate subjects, should it be permitted using mice? On the other hand, how would an unfavourable judgement from the ethical review committee sit within the human social environment,
in which mice are routinely exterminated as pests? Evidence for mouse sentience should ultimately improve things for mice as a species, albeit at the expense of the mice to be used in the proposed experimental studies. If ethical permission is not granted in this case, could this preclude important advances in the understanding of mouse sentience? Many people would already agree that both the levels of protection given to different pest animals and the humane control of their numbers need urgent ethical attention. However, some might be in need of further evidence to be swayed on this point. Researchers in animal sciences may have the objective also to improve the wellbeing of companion animals, and mice are also used as pets. Researchers in areas of behavioural neuroscience depend on our understanding of how rats and mice think and feel. These researchers, and I’m one of them, provide justifications for the use of animals and choice of species. But in ethics there are never black and white answers, so let’s hear what others have to say…
Helen J. Cassaday is Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience in the School of Psychology, University of Nottingham
Curiosity, career, conflict and compassion Stevan Harnad
To the question about intentionally causing suffering to sentient organisms of any species I will not respond formalistically or legalistically: All decent people know it is wrong to hurt unnecessarily. The rest is down to what is necessary. There is potentially life-saving research, and there is curiosityor career-driven research. In potentially life-saving research that causes ‘pain, suffering, distress or harm’ there is a conflict of vital interests between the experimental victims and the beneficiary species. Let us set such research aside for the moment and just ask about the vast majority of research, which is not potentially life-saving but curiosity- or career-driven. There I would say biological research, ‘animal science’ or what-have-you diverges radically from the ‘material sciences’, whose experimental subjects are insentient. There is no moral justification for harming sentients in the service of the curiosity or the careers of members of our species. Jeremy Bentham already provided the well-known reply to Key sources the question of ‘cognitive capacities’, ‘higher phylogenetic position’ and Harnad, S. (2016). Animal sentience: ‘sentience’: ‘…the question is not, The other-minds problem. Animal Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? Sentience, 1(1). Available at http:// but, Can they suffer?’ animalstudiesrepository.org/animsent/ We are not talking here about vol1/iss1/1 Klein, C. & Barron, A.B. (2016). the extermination of ‘vermin’ whose Insects have the capacity for vital interests are in conflict with subjective experience. Animal vital human interests. We are talking Sentience, 9(1). Available at http:// about sentient victims, purposeanimalstudiesrepository.org/animsent/ bred by humans to be exploited for vol1/iss9/1 human interests, vital and non-vital.
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In the context of psychology (as opposed to, say, oncology) the probability that most research will be life-saving or suffering-reducing is so low that it is just as misleading to pretend that is what is at stake as it is to invoke the ‘other-minds problem’ (Harnad, 2016) to suggest there is any bona fide doubt about whether mammals, birds or fish can suffer. Even with invertebrates (Klein & Barron, 2016) the benefit of the doubt is on their side (leaving only the ‘vermin’ rationale as the justification for harming them). Even vegans (like myself), eating only insentient plants, would be guilty of ‘speciesism’ if species bias were their rationale, rather than just the conviction that it is wrong to hurt (sentients) unnecessarily.
Stevan Harnad is Professor of Cognitive Science, University of Southampton and Professor of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal
the psychologist september 2017 ethics
An irrational prejudice Richard D. Ryder When I first worked in laboratories, psychologists were doing some horrible experiments on non-human animals â€“ pits of despair, strong electric shock, extreme fear, crude brain damage, sensory deprivation
Dr Richard Ryder studied psychology at Cambridge, Columbia and Edinburgh Universities and was Mellon Professor at Tulane. His first book was Victims of Science in 1975 and his last book on ethics was Speciesism, Painism and Happiness (2011, Imprint Academic).
and severe unavoidable pain. The horrors I saw in America were often worse than those in Britain. I reacted by becoming a clinical psychologist in Oxford and, from 1969, I began to campaign for reforms, which culminated in the current Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act of 1986. Those brought up with pets tend to care more for animals and, as a boy, I had shared my bedroom with capuchin monkeys! Gradually the whole animal rights issue came out into the open again, and in 1970 I formulated my idea of speciesism to describe a depressingly common prejudice that is no better than racism or sexism. Like racism and sexism, speciesism tries to permit huge moral (and legal) distinctions based upon morally irrelevant differences (such as size, lower intelligence or mere species-difference). Do we think we can morally give lesser rights to less intelligent or smaller humans? I hope not. What, then, is so magical about the species boundary? There are many cases where primate species have interbred and produced viable offspring. Have humans tried this? If it worked, would the offspring be put in a cage or entered for Eton? Apparently we are already hybrids with the Neanderthal species. The morally crucial capacity is sentience â€“ or more
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specifically, the capacity to experience pain or distress (which I have called painience). I do not know for certain whether anyone other than myself has this capacity, but other people scream, mope and try to run away when they are hit, slashed or tortured, so I tend to assume that other humans do feel pain. (They also say they do but, of course, they could be lying!) Non-humans can’t speak but they, too, can scream, mope and try to run away, and there is more and more scientific evidence that links their brain activities and biochemistry with those of humans who say they are in pain. In short, nobody these days, and particularly not scientists, can any longer doubt that thousands of species can suffer pain and distress. (Indeed, this assumption is the basis of much modern psychology.) For me, X amount of pain in a mouse or a machine or a Martian matters equally with X amount of pain
in a human animal. It is the pain that matters, not the type of individual it inhabits. Causing pain (broadly defined to cover fear, loss of liberty, etc.) to others is the basis of all wrong. I call my moral theory painism where the only wrong is causing suffering to any other being whether it is an alien, or a machine, or a human or non-human animal. All such sentient beings are by definition persons and are parts of our social and political communities: it is high time that the moral implications of Darwinism are accepted and acted upon. Psychologists do tend to show good empathy and we claim to have some expertise about such issues as pain, distress and behaviour generally. So we are in a particularly good position to help all other sentient beings morally, legally and politically.
An estimate of potential value Domhnall Jennings The ethics surrounding choice of model species is a general issue fundamental to animal behaviour. As someone that has conducted upwards of 80–100 reviews of papers submitted for publication in the journal Animal Behaviour, with the specific remit of focusing on the ethics of the study, I have grappled with many of the questions raised in the article. Concrete issues such as husbandry, including the eventual end-point of the subjects, are in many cases an issue of low-hanging fruit, and first on the list of any ethical committee worth its salt. Nevertheless, if we move beyond these questions and past concerns of statistical power and experimental design, complex philosophical questions need to be addressed. In many ways, the concluding remarks by Cassaday are probably a decent indicator of where the scientific community resides on the matter. Simply put, ethics are not black and white; therefore, whether a project of work should receive institutional approval, is not
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Dr Domhnall Jennings is ASAB Ethics Committee Secretary, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University
necessarily the same thing as satisfying the ethical standards of a scientific journal. In recognition of the shades of grey under which journal ethics committees operate, the title of the documentation detailing the ethical standards adopted by the owner of Animal Behaviour, the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, are the ‘Guidelines for the treatment of animals in behavioural research and teaching’ (www. asab.org/ethics). Under the umbrella of the guidelines, submissions to the journal Animal Behaviour must state that the ethical standards of the journal have been met, and a suitable ethical statement with sufficient detail added to the text of the paper. The content of these statements more often than not refers to the institutional approval number under which the work was carried out; nevertheless, about 10 per cent of submissions lack sufficient clarity and are sent for ethical review. What follows the decision to subject a paper to ethical review is a dialogue between the authors, the editors and the ethics reviewer(s); crucially, my experience of the process is that this discussion proceeds independent of the details in the licensing under which the study was originally approved. We have progressed beyond the promises made and conditions accepted at an institutional level, and we are now in ‘we are where we are’ territory. Each study I have reviewed has presented its own unique set of challenges necessitating an approach tailored to its own merits. Given this, my approach to animal ethics is not to stratify the model of choice in terms of pest versus pet. My estimate of the value, or at least the potential value, of the study to science, the species and to society form part of a complex starting point. To return to the original dilemma, I imagine my participation on any university welfare panel would be directed by consideration of this starting point.
the psychologist september 2017 ethics Getty Images
Concluding thoughts Helen Cassaday The ethical dilemma concerned the study of social stress in mice, but these were laboratory mice bred for human purposes of use in biomedical research. In his response, Stevan Harnad suggests that the probability that psychology research of this kind will be life-saving or suffering-reducing is low and this may be a further debate to be had. It will be challenging to demonstrate a direct link between a single piece of psychology research and the saving of a human life. However, psychologists should be the experts on suffering and its alleviation, for other animals too. In terms of what we have already achieved, behavioural therapies are grounded in a body of work that identified the principles of animal learning and are used for managing problematic behaviours in companion animals as well as providing a cornerstone of contemporary CBT. Indeed, although he is clearly against further experimentation, Richard Ryder makes the point that psychologists with an understanding of pain, distress and behaviour are potentially in a strong position to help other sentient beings. So others may take the view that psychology is a discipline well placed to alleviate suffering, both animal and human.
Over to you Share your views by commenting on the online version of this piece, or by emailing letters (up to 400 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweeting @psychmag
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A broad experience Dinsa Sachan considers the evidence on how foreign living shapes us
Recent research shows that people who live abroad are often more creative and successful in their careers. But there’s also one big downside associated with foreign experiences.
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n a globalised world, psychologists are increasingly becoming interested in how multicultural experiences shape people. In 2015 San Francisco-based psychologist Steve Orma and his wife spent eight months in Europe. The experience turned their lives upside down. They are thankful for that. The goal-oriented couple were so used to their fast-paced way of living that Europe’s laidback attitude pleasantly surprised them – and forced them to rethink their lifestyle. ‘People really slow down and enjoy life there,’ Orma says. ‘They have really long meals.’ Taking a cue from the French, the Ormas started to have two-hour dinners. ‘We actually sit at the table to eat,’ says Orma. ‘Earlier, we would eat in front of the TV – and it would be done in 30 minutes.’ In fact, they have stopped watching TV. During their after-work hours back home, they go for walks, sip some wine, and listen to music. ‘We like to enjoy the experience and just be in the moment,’ Orma says. Travel mavens have known this for a long time – travelling and living abroad can be life-changing, and Orma’s story isn’t particularly unique. Thanks to high-speed internet around the world, many people can work remotely. That has given rise to the so-called culture of ‘digital nomads’ – professionals who hop from one country to another in search of an ideal working location. The Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that 500,000 Britons spend a few months every year living in another part of the world for work. Moreover, British college students are increasingly heading to exotic places for exchange programmes and volunteer experience. But psychologists have only recently begun to investigate the impact of foreign experiences. They have found that it affects us profoundly – in both good and bad ways. The ticket to creativity A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2012 found that spending time amid different cultures makes people more creative. The researchers tested 135 students in a US university, 45 of whom had lived in another country for periods ranging from two weeks to three months. Others in the group hadn’t lived abroad yet or were never planning to. The team gave all the groups questionnaires about creativity. One questionnaire tested cultural creativity, while the
the psychologist september 2017 living abroad Nick Ellwood/www.nickellwood.co.uk
other tested more general creativity. David Therriault, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Florida and a co-author of the study, says his team was interested in seeing whether international living helped people translate their cultural knowledge to more general day-to-day challenges. The general creativity test, for example, asked participants questions about what kinds of troubles they would encounter if they woke up and learned they could fly. The cultural test asked participants questions such as: What would happen if you woke up and your skin
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had turned a different colour? The researchers found people who had live-abroad experience scored better than others on both cultural and general creativity tasks. ‘Our speculation is that any travel experience could help to bolster creativity if it was sustained (probably several weeks) and in a novel enough environment,’ says Therriault. Carmit Tadmor’s quest to understand the impact of travel on creativity began when she moved to the US to study. ‘During my PhD Program in 2006 at the University of California, Berkeley, I was so
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longer be viable and often conflict with the behaviours, homesick and alone,’ says Tadmor (Coller School of values and norms that characterise a new foreign Management, Tel-Aviv University). She wondered if culture.’ Biculturals resolve those conflicts by finding it had all been worthwhile. ‘Then I realised that as a solutions that combine elements of both cultures. Over scientist, I can actually research this question.’ Her time, this ability starts translating into their work. dissertation was titled: ‘Biculturalism: The Plus Side of Angela Leung, an associate professor of psychology Leaving Home?’ ‘For me, that question mark was key. at Singapore Management University, Singapore, has I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to find out,’ says Tadmor. uncovered another aspect of this kind of creative Tadmor found that foreign experiences have benefit. In a study published in Creativity Research benefits – but not for everyone. In a compelling study Journal in 2008, Leung and her colleagues performed published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2012, Tadmor and her colleagues looked two tests, asking participants to generate unusual uses for a common household item, and to write the first 20 at two types of people who had lived abroad – one occupations that came to their mind. The team found group had learned to adopt the beliefs and values of that the people who had more multicultural experience another culture while still practising those from their fared better in both tests if they were open to new own (biculturals), and the other type either strictly experiences. Generally, people who are more open to stuck to their home culture (separated) or completely new experiences are also more outgoing and social. moulded themselves into the ways of the host country ‘People with this trait are more receptive to ideas from (assimilated). another culture,’ says Leung. ‘For example, some Tadmor took 78 MBA students from a business people who are forced to study abroad by their parents school in Europe. All participants had lived in a don’t benefit from their multicultural experience country other than their home country for at least a because they aren’t necessarily open-minded.’ year. Participants were shown a brick on the screen and were asked to come up with creative uses for the object (flowerpot maybe, or BBQ). Biculturals Grown-ups benefit too outperformed other types of students – assimilated The majority of research in this field is conducted on and separated – in this task. The students were also students. But there’s some proof that working adults asked to write out answers to complex questions like: ‘Describe a situation taken from school, business, civil, enjoy the same cognitive perks. Chiara Franzoni, an associate professor of management at the Polytechnic or military life, where you did not meet your personal objectives, and discuss briefly the effect.’ This essay-type task was designed to assess a trait called Transformation integrative complexity. That’s basically the ability to take into account multiple perspectives. Sarah Allen’s story also proves ‘Integrative complexity allows that a new culture can transform people to come up with unique people professionally. For combinations and ideas,’ explains Allen, life as a psychologist in Tadmor. Again, the bicultural government service in England group flourished, suggesting that was simple: get referrals, see their creative advantage is a result patients, and get a salary at the of this coveted trait. end of the month. But when Allen Similarly, Tadmor found moved to the US with her husband that biculturals had also created 20 years ago, things took a U-turn. more products and innovative America’s work culture came as a businesses during the course of shock to her. She noticed everyone their careers. In fact, they were was tooting their own horn. ‘I was promoted more often and had never a business person back in better reputation. The researchers England,’ says Allen. ‘Here, you’ve controlled for the Big Five got to be doing marketing, social personality traits in this study. media, websites and accounting, Flexible thinking gives and you really have to put yourself biculturals an edge. ‘Each culture out there to get clients.’ Like many Britons, Allen, who is still a member is composed of a set of values, of the British Psychological Society, isn’t one to ‘blow her own trumpet’, norms and beliefs that provide but she has succeeded in overcoming that reticence over the years. people with well-established habits ‘I feel a lot more confident putting myself out and asking for business,’ and scripts to guide their attitudes she says. Not only does Allen have a successful private practice in and behaviours,’ says Tadmor. Northbrook on the outskirts of Chicago, she also heads a non-profit for ‘When individuals are in a new women with post-partum depression. country, these old scripts may no
the psychologist september 2017 living abroad
trust a stranger. One person was University of Milan in Italy, has supposedly a receiver and the looked at scientists who have other the sender. The sender could devoted a considerable time send a fraction or all of $10 to the working in a different country. receiver. Then that amount would Franzoni and her colleagues sent be tripled, and the receiver could out email requests to 47,000 first choose to send back – or not – a authors of papers in four areas of fraction of that tripled amount. science. They ended up surveying The participants didn’t know this: 14,299 out of those responded, every player was a sender. The and published their findings in researchers were just trying to test Economic Letters in 2013. The Dinsa Sachan ‘trustability’ – participants were researchers reported that migrant is a freelance writer sending money to strangers with scientists had performed better http://dinsasachan.com no guarantee of getting that money compared with their domestic back. The participants had to fill counterparts: they had published in out a questionnaire later detailing journals with higher Impact Factors. their travel experiences – both short trips to countries There was one caveat: some scientists get as well as long-term travel experiences. They found international jobs because they are just brilliant. people who had been to a lot of countries, compared to Franzoni says they controlled for this ‘selection effect’, ones who had a longer travel-abroad experience in one and explains that there are many possible reasons why country, were more likely to trust strangers. international faculty perform better. ‘One important The quality that Cao tested is called generalised reason is that a scientist is in a location where they trust. ‘It expands individuals’ social radius,’ says Cao. can maximise their potential,’ she says. ‘For example, ‘People are typically constrained in their local circles.’ a high-energy physicist would gain from being in an In general, it helps to have a certain level of trust in institute which has an accelerator.’ She points out others. ‘If you trust and are nice to other people, you that not only are international experiences helpful are more likely to be treated nicely. This rule works in for scientists on an individual level, it’s also good for almost any culture,’ Cao adds. But Cao cautions that science in general. A 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality the trust that she studied is not targeted towards any Science found another instance when active immersion specific relationships: for example, the relationship between a mother and a child. Other research has in a multicultural environment led to success in found that people with more generalised trust are the job market. It was led by psychologist William Maddux, and Tadmor was a co-author. The researchers happier, on an individual level. This quality also seems to be beneficial for communities at large. In societies recruited participants from a 10-month international where there’s more generalised trust, people tend to MBA programme. The students were drawn from cooperate better, Cao says. ‘That in return is good for the school’s two campuses in France and Singapore. the society’s economy,’ she says. It was an exceptionally multicultural group, with In another set of studies, Tadmor found that people representatives from 39 countries, most of whom were with extensive multicultural experience tend to be less not from the host countries. The participants had to biased toward other races. So, does travel just makes write an essay at the beginning of the programme and people better human beings all round? one at the end of it. These essays evaluated integrative complexity – the same trait that Tadmor measured in her previous study. The students who scored high on But beware the dark side integrative complexity received a higher number of Frank Farley, a professor of educational psychology job offers. at Temple University, Florida, and a past president of the American Psychological Association, concludes that foreign travel presents a person with risk The more, the better? What’s better: travelling to many countries or spending and challenges. ‘Such experiences can strengthen one’s resilience and capacity to handle change and a lot of time in one foreign country? It remains a mystery, but a researcher named Jiyin Cao is beginning unpredictability,’ he says. But can such risks spill over into a dark side? to unravel it. In a paper published in January this year in the Cao, an assistant professor of management at Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jackson Stony Brook University, New York, conducted five Lu, a PhD candidate at Columbia University, New experiments and found that a broad range of foreign York, argued that foreign experiences may make people experiences made people more trusting of strangers. more decadent. In the team’s first experiment, a group In the study, published in Social Psychological and of French-speaking students were asked to solve Personality Science in 2013, Cao and colleagues took anagrams for the chance to win an iPad. The challenge: 237 undergraduate students, who had to play a game solve nine in nine minutes, one after the other. There that essentially tested whether or not they would
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Where to, now? It’s frequently said that ‘travel broadens the mind’, and Mark Twain wrote: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ So can we conclude the research supports this view? It’s clear that living abroad has a lot to offer, but the ‘selection effect’ remains a concern. It makes sense: enterprising and creative people are more likely to move abroad for better opportunities, aren’t they? Cao says the selection effect could be at play in some of
was a catch: the fourth anagram was impossible to solve. Anyone who claimed to solve it actually cheated to increase their odds of winning the iPad. Here’s what the researchers found: 30 per cent of the students cheated before leaving for abroad; but around 46 per cent cheated after living abroad for six months, and 48 per cent after a year. In the second experiment, participants who had visited a foreign country were divided into three groups. The first were asked to reflect on a day during their experience in a foreign country. The second were asked to reflect on a day from their experience living in their hometown. The third, a control group, were asked to write about their last trip to the supermarket. Next, portraying it as a test of luck, the researchers asked the participants to roll a die. Depending on the die outcome, which they were supposed to report, they would get a bonus. If they reported a 1, they would get $1. The researchers had a hypothesis: people in the foreign-experience condition were likely to report higher outcomes. ‘It’s a fair die, so the selfreported outcomes should really be uniform across the board,’ says Lu. ‘But, of course, what you see is that many people lied to make extra money.’ In fact, almost everyone cheated. ‘People overwhelmingly reported 4, 5, and 6. In other words, in all three groups, people cheated,’ says Lu. ‘But what’s interesting and striking is that in the foreignexperience group, many more people reported six.’ In other experiments, Lu’s team sought to find what was responsible for immoral behaviour: breadth of foreign experiences (the number of countries a person has visited) or depth (the number of years they have spent living abroad). It turned out that it was the breadth which was predictive of immoral behaviour. Lu cautions that not every widely travelled person would behave like that, it’s more of a general trend. But he does believe this study has important implications for our increasingly globalised world, where companies and colleges are sending students and employees to foreign countries in huge numbers.
the studies, but researchers try their best to avoid it. ‘In many multicultural studies, scholars use multiple methods to test the idea,’ she says. ‘For example, they use longitudinal studies to track people’s creativity and trust before and after living or travelling abroad.’ These qualities have been shown to increase after travelling or living abroad. ‘It suggests that there is a causal effect,’ Cao says. Leung says that the selection effect is indeed ‘very much possible’. ‘We need to conduct experimental studies to manipulate the degree of multicultural exposure people have,’ she concludes. For example, in one of her studies, Leung used a slideshow and showed pictures of different cultures to participants. ‘I used the slideshow as an induction session to expose people to one or two cultures,’ says Leung. ‘This study can help establish the causal link that multicultural exposure causes people to be creative.’ Aside from that, Cao would like to see some studies that look into exactly how much living abroad is considered ‘optimal’. ‘Does the positive effect stop after a certain point, for example after one travels to a certain number of countries?’ she says. ‘Why would that be?’ Beyond the empirical evidence, the personal stories certainly suggest that everyone has something to gain from foreign living, and that engagement with locals makes foreign experiences worthwhile. Sarah Allen (see box. p.46) says one major reason she has assimilated so well in America is because she bent over backwards to make American friends. When she was new in the country, she mostly hung out with expats. It also helps that her family loves American holidays. ‘Our house is actually on the July 4th parade route so we always have friends over to watch the two-hourlong parade and have a barbecue or ice-cream afterwards,’ says Allen. ‘Our friends think it is rather ironic that British people are throwing a party to celebrate Independence Day but it’s fun!’
the psychologist september 2017 living abroad
The British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham 2–4 May Submissions now open The 2018 conference theme is Moving Psychology Forward, split into the below sub themes: • Leadership • Development • Community & Society • Open Science • General All submissions are welcome. Follow us @BPSConferences using #bpsconf.
Credit: John Wright, johnwrightart.blogspot.co.uk
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Folk illusions – more than child’s play Clai Rice and Brandon Barker consider what some classic tricks tell us about perception and our understanding of reality We have spent the past seven years studying an overlooked kind of children’s folklore: a genre of play in which youngsters perform traditionalised kinaesthetic and verbal actions in order to effect an intended perceptual illusion. We call the genre folk illusions.
ave you ever seen a rubber pencil? We wager you have, though it probably was not a real rubber pencil. In a performance of Rubber Pencil, a pencil or pen is grasped between the indexfinger and thumb and then wiggled in such a way that its translational and rotational movement creates the visual illusion of a rubbery pencil bending back and forth. We have observed children as young as seven performing Rubber Pencil. Upon seeing an older playmate perform the trick, one five-year-old in Bloomington, Indiana – who had not yet developed the necessary coordination and dexterity to perform it himself – exclaimed confidently, ‘That’s an optical illusion!’ In their play with Rubber Pencil, children and youths challenge the correlative folk idea: seeing is believing. This raises an important question: What does the fact of children’s awareness that seeing is not always believing Aoife (age 8) demonstrates Touching Invisible Glass tell us about perception and perceptual illusions more generally?
Jacob (age 9) and Calvin (age 6) perform Dead Man’s Hand
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Naive amazement? In the scientific, philosophical and popular literature about illusions, writers generally imagine that the average person on the street responds to the experience of a
perceptual illusion in one of two ways. The first stems from a supposed deep-seated naivety as to the nature of perception. Consider these examples. In his chapter on sensation and perception in the 2012 Handbook of Psychology, Stanley Coren writes: ‘Most people have a naïve, realistic faith in the ability of our senses to convey an accurate picture of the world to us. For the proverbial “man on the street,” there is no perceptual problem. You open your eyes and the world is there.’ And in The Science of Illusions, Jacques Ninio writes: ‘One illusion, possibly the strongest of all, is the one that makes us believe that we have a direct hold on reality. The work of interpretation conducted by perception never comes to light and leaves no other trace than its final result.’ In this line of thinking, when people experience illusory perceptions, their naivety manifests in crisis-like surprise. We see this in a report in The Psychologist of a wonderful hands-on public event at the British Psychological Society’s 2016 Annual Conference: ‘Visual and multisensory illusions made people question their senses, the velvet hand illusion produced, in many people, an odd feeling of their hands melting into one another and the Beuchet Chair allowed people to have fun with forced perspective… Visitors left wondering whether they could trust their senses, not quite believing their eyes and questioning reality.’ Our work with folk illusions leads us to conclude that illusory experiences – even these carefully planned illusions performed at the Society’s public event – do not force people to question their realities in a serious way. They express surprise and delight, and may even admit that they can’t believe everything they see, but they do not change their immediate behavioural patterns in unusual ways. They will grab their friend’s arm without fear of their hand
the psychologist september 2017 folk illusions
melting into it, or drive their cars without doubting the size or location of other vehicles. Rather, the broad pattern we have recognised from observing and talking to people about folk illusions is that we respond to illusions by adding a specific new context to our general understanding that reality can be complex and elusive. Anyone who has had their nose ‘pulled off’ by a trickster uncle or who has tried to pat their head while rubbing their belly will know quite well that the body can be strange. The joy and amazement psychologists witnessed at the public event was not so much a response to the whole phenomenon of illusion but to the specific illusions that had never before been experienced, all surrounded by the allure of science! The gaps between perception and conception The second response to illusory experience is more philosophical – extending back at least to Aristotle, for whom illusion was a tool for helping people understand how perception works more generally. Psychologists are familiar with illusions’ usefulness in illuminating the mechanisms of perception. As Richard Gregory teaches, ‘The brain’s perceptual knowledgebase is not the same as its conceptual knowledge-base.’ Illusions uncover the gaps between perception and conception. We have learned that these gaps are just as recognisable in folkloric activities like Rubber Pencil as they are in the scientist’s lab. This second response – rather than naive amazement – more accurately characterises how people situate illusory experiences within the panoply of everyday perceptions. Kids, for example, play with a variety of tactile illusions focused on the hands, similar to the Velvet Hand illusion displayed at the fair. In one we call Touching Invisible Glass, the actor is instructed to place her hands in front of her chest with palms facing each other, fingers splayed, and only the fingertips touching together. She then pumps the palms of the hands closer together and farther apart rapidly in succession, always keeping the fingertips touching. After about 15–30 seconds of activity the actor feels as though something invisible, like ‘a pane of glass’ or ‘a force field’, obstructs the fingertips from touching. Another well-known form is Dead Man’s Hand. Two kids face each other and press one palm flat against the opposite palm of their partner with fingers aligned. The director rubs the dorsal side of the two middle fingers vertically with his free index finger and thumb. The actor’s fingers feel as though they are a part of the other’s body and they feel coarse and numb – or ‘dead’. Participants usually take turns acting as director so each one can feel the macabre sensation. We have collected 15 different haptic illusions featuring the fingers and/or hands. Kids delight in this play. Because every form involves peculiar bodily positions – performance positions in our terminology – that lend themselves to unusual actions, the associated perceptions are not categorised with other perceptions that result from more familiar or mundane behaviours.
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Rubber pencil It wasn’t until 1983 that experimental psychologist James Pomerantz first reported a study on the Rubber Pencil illusion, concluding that the illusion results from our tendency to use the persistence of afterimages to help categorise viewed objects. An object moving across the visual field leaves a trace on the retina. The more rapidly the object moves, the less dense is its trace. Think of someone whirling a yo-yo around in a circle. If it is done slowly, the observer can see the individual yo-yo, but if it speeds up, the observer begins to see a single circular line that is the trace of the yo-yo’s movement. At great speeds, of course, the yo-yo will almost disappear altogether. Pomerantz observed that a performance of Rubber Pencil involves two types of motion simultaneously: translational (the movement of the whole pencil up and down) and rotational (the movement of the pencil from an axis). The two movements conspire to produce the greatest density of afterimages along two curves that trace the top and bottom endpoints of both the translational and rotational movements. People fill in non-focal parts of objects that persist in vision – just the way that one sees a full circle when the yo-yo is being whirled around at the right speed – so viewers of the wiggling pencil experience a unified perception of a pencil bending. Subsequent research, such as that led by Lore Thaler at the Ohio State University (see tinyurl.com/j794aoe), has suggested that additional factors can contribute to the perception as well. Like most illusions, the surprising perception actually results from our sensory systems’ normal response to a relatively infrequent combination of conditions.
There is no need to question reality when in fact illusions are themselves a normal sort of perception. Piercing the veneer of perception As traditional forms of child’s play, folk illusions must be easily transmittable from person to person, so performance positions are largely achievable anytime and anywhere that kids gather for free play activities. Basic props are not rare, but any technologies employed in a folk illusion must be simple and use easily accessible materials. We have recorded, for example, uses of empty toilet-paper or paper-towel
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group as a marker for dependence tubes, rocks, tables and chairs. The on community. Folk illusions may more elaborate a prop needed for introduce children and youths to an illusion, the less likely children Clai Rice the strangeness of their bodies, but will have the technical skills, time is Professor of they simultaneously demonstrate or motivation to create it. What English at the for youthful performers that their impresses us, however, is that University of bodies are known by their peers children – making the best of their Louisiana at in just those strange ways. When situation – are capable of piercing Lafayette friends tell a playmate that they the veneer of perception in ways as can make their hands feel like they sophisticated as illusions devised are touching glass, or that they by philosophers and scientists. Brandon Barker can make one of their hands feel Take, for example, the Beuchet is Lecturer ‘dead’, the playmate senses that this Chair displayed at the Society’s of Folklore at possibility marks him as the same public event in Nottingham. Indiana University kind of being as his friends. This This illusion requires fabricating Bloomington intersubjectivity at the heart of folk chair parts of different sizes and illusions serves not to weaken but placing them such that, from one ultimately to strengthen our sense perspective, a person appearing of the reliability of our everyday to sit in the chair looks much We invite readers to send us perceptual processes, because smaller than expected. A welldescriptions of illusions you have those processes intimately involve constructed Beuchet Chair creates played at shareyourillusions@ the social groups of which we are a convincing illusion that teaches folkillusions.org members. viewers, among other things, that: Others can create social perceptual contexts that force me to misperceive No strangers to illusion who is where. Consider the well-known tourist images We have catalogued over 70 stand-alone folk illusions, of people holding the Eiffel Tower in their hand, or over 100 if we include variants of those forms. Folk propping up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Twenty-firstillusions occur in every sense domain. Toddlers, century internet variants of these pictorial illusions witness to an older acquaintance’s performance of the depend on well-timed, perspectival cues to mimic Detachable Thumb illusion or the aforementioned Got widely recognised images from popular culture – search ‘Vadering’ or ‘Hadoukening’ if you want to learn Your Nose trick, are engaged in traditional forms of illusory play from two years old and up. In surveys of more about these kinds of digital folklore. freshmen and sophomores at Indiana University, about The same underlying idea is communicated in 88 per cent of respondents reported having played at the folk illusion Who Is Touching You?, an attentionleast one folk illusion as a child. We have documented based illusion so elementary that the tongue-in-cheek folk illusions from 11 different countries, and further website Uncyclopedia has dubbed it the ‘Oldest Trick research will study how widespread folk illusions are in the Book’: ‘In the year 10580 B.C.E. the Babylonian around the world. (We would be pleased to hear about king, Hammurabi, reigned supreme over the more illusions – see box above.) Mesopotamian deserts. On February 30, during a long The pervasiveness of folk illusions indicates speech by Irhemhotep, he stood on Shamadad’s right, that most people are not strangers to illusion but and reached over and tapped him on the left shoulder. only to particular illusions. The careful balance As a result, Shamadad looked to his left, where no one people ordinarily maintain between a working was standing. All would laugh…’ belief in plausible events and a healthy scepticism The agent who initiates this ‘ancient’ trick intuits of implausible ones is fostered by the everyday that people normally connect the perception of an coordinated interactions that people have with each active social touch so closely with the location of other and the world. Folk illusions are set apart from the toucher that they will usually turn their head or the everyday world by being a recognisable genre of body right away toward the side of the touch. The performance within which it is not odd but normal reaction often happens pre-consciously. Of course, the and expected to experience oddities. motivations for performing Who Is Touching You? As folklore, children’s play with illusions is based vary, ranging from malicious intent to dupe a target to in the social. Performers of folk illusions pass along more benevolent initiation of rambunctious, flirtatious implicit knowledge embedded in the processes of play with friends or romantic interests. Regardless, transmission that is ultimately much more influential motivations are always coupled with traditionalised than the content of any individual folk illusion itself. knowledge that the reliability of our perception makes So it turns out when you were amazing your friends us vulnerable to illusions like Who Is Touching You? with the rubber pencil, you were also showing them Folk illusions show us that group awareness of these that seeing is not always believing, and that is just vulnerabilities does not lead to crisis or chaos; instead, plain fun! individual vulnerabilities are re-interpreted by the
the psychologist september 2017 folk illusions
psychologist february 2017
The downsides of positivity Kate Sweeny provides a nuanced picture
psychologist www.thepsychologist.org.uk http://tinyurl.com/psychmagapp www.twitter.com/psychmag
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Christina Maslach ‘They could take off the uniform when they got home, but couldn’t remove the armour’ Although she has conducted research in several areas, Christina Maslach is best known for her pioneering work on ‘burnout’. It’s a concept with great academic and popular appeal as it captures a common experience among employees, especially those working within the helping professions. Gail Kinman and Kevin Teoh interviewed Professor Maslach at the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology conference in Athens, where she was a keynote speaker.
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Burnout has been hugely influential. How did you develop the concept? It didn’t come from me, but from the people I interviewed. I didn’t start off with a theory – it was very much bottom up. I was trained at Stanford as an experimental social psychologist researching emotion and individuation – basically, I was looking at why people need to be different and distinctive rather than conform with others. I got a job as an assistant professor at Berkeley and eventually there was only one member of staff on the social psychology programme – me. They didn’t have a laboratory, so I couldn’t do the kind of research I had planned. They offered to build one, but that would be way in the future. In the
meantime, I was expected to get started on some new research. Drawing on ideas from my earlier research on emotions, I thought it would be interesting to look at how individuals come to understand their feelings. I was particularly keen to explore how people cope in emotionally demanding situations where they needed to remain calm and detached. People who were dealing with things that would normally make them upset, angry or frightened, but couldn’t show it. I started doing interviews with people doing jobs where I thought this might be an issue. I talked to people working in emergency situations in hospital and psychiatric care facilities, as well as
the psychologist september 2017 interview
seem to resonate with people – they were particularly doubtful about how detachment and concern could go together. Then serendipity struck; at a dinner for new faculty I was talking about my work with somebody who had previously worked in poverty law. She said these experiences were common in such work and they called it ‘burnout’ – she herself had burned out and left the profession entirely. When I interviewed her And did a pattern emerge? afterwards, she described something that happened in Yes, and regardless of who I was interviewing or the type of job they were doing. People were overwhelmed her former job. A woman had come into the law centre where she worked just before Christmas, saying that by the scale of the demands made upon them to help, to protect, to cure and to save people. At the end of the she didn’t have enough money to buy presents for her young children and needed some help. The lawyer said day they had nothing left to give and were emotionally she started screaming at the woman, telling her to go to and physically exhausted, with not one iota of the store and steal presents for her children – if she got compassion left. The people I interviewed were aware that they were caught and needed a lawyer, then this was something she could help her with. Afterwards, the woman not treating their clients or patients well and often was deeply shocked about what wanted them to just disappear she had done and, at that point, – they were deeply concerned “Burnout was part of realised that she had burned out. that these feelings were highly She realised that, although it was unprofessional, so kept these to what you might call the important work and she wanted to themselves. It wasn’t the kind ‘language of the people’” give something back to society, she of thing they could discuss with couldn’t continue doing the job any colleagues at the water cooler. longer and left. Interviewees described the I then started using the term ‘burnout’ with the strategies they used to manage these feelings and people I interviewed, and they immediately related to emphasised the negative effects of their work on it. There was something about the word that captured their wellbeing and personal life. Police officers, for people’s experiences that the other concepts I had example, told me that they didn’t just put on their discussed had not. At that point, I knew I was onto uniform, rather they donned ‘psychological armour’ something. to keep them going through their shift. They could take off the uniform when they got home, but couldn’t I understand that you had problems initially trying remove the armour. Officers would try to unwind with to get your work published. their family, but found it very difficult to switch off At first I had trouble trying to get anybody to take it from the job psychologically. seriously. Burnout was part of what you might call Some of the people I interviewed thought they the ‘language of the people’ – for example we often had made a big mistake going into that type of work, talk about ‘burning the candle at both ends’ or a and many believed they were no good at it. Feelings ‘burnout shop’ – but it wasn’t formally recognised in of shame and guilt in putting in what they saw as an psychology. When I first tried to publish my research, ‘inadequate’ service and fear for the future were very the paper wasn’t even sent out for review. Journal commonly expressed. At this stage, people were often editors responded saying that they didn’t publish ‘pop’ thinking about leaving, and many talked about former psychology. They also felt that the experiences I was colleagues who had gone into very different types of writing about were limited, as they were based on work as they couldn’t cope any longer. qualitative data and the concept was only relevant to a handful of people who were unable to cope with the How did the term ‘burnout’ come about? emotional demands of their work. After these interviews, I went through the literature Then, serendipity occurred again – I found searching for concepts that might connect with out about a magazine called Human Behaviour that what I was hearing. I came across the concept of published articles in lay terms about topics across dehumanisation in self-defence, where healthcare staff the social and behavioural sciences. I submitted an treat patients as objects, for example ‘the infarction article providing an overview of my research – they in bed two’, rather than who the person actually is. not only published it, but they made it the cover story. This suggested that the people I interviewed were This article probably generated a greater response treating others as ‘objects’ to protect themselves from than anything else I have ever written. Using today’s harm. I also found a similar concept called ‘detached language, it went viral – I was getting sackloads of mail concern’ in the medical sociology literature, where some detachment is crucial in order to avoid becoming from people who told me I was writing about their life overly involved with patients. When I mentioned these and they had no idea that other people felt this way. With one article, I had opened the floodgates to people concepts during later interviews, however, they didn’t in the police and the fire and rescue services. I asked them questions about the types of feelings they experienced and the kinds of situations where these emotions may not be particularly helpful, or where they had to keep their feelings hidden from other people. What strategies did they use to accomplish this? How effective were they?
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who desperately wanted to share their experiences. This led to new research opportunities, and I started working with a wider range of people, such as medical staff, crisis counsellors, social workers, police officers, teachers and ministers of religion.
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What about interventions based on burnout theory? Managers are usually well intentioned and realise that interventions are needed to improve wellbeing and protect staff against burnout. Nonetheless, most interventions are top-down without any active involvement from those who actually do the job. This How did you start raising awareness of burnout in is a particular problem for people who are becoming organisations? burned out, as their growing cynicism and hostility Initially, getting grant money was very challenging will make them highly resistant to interventions as funders considered my research was too applied. imposed from above. Sometimes interventions can be This meant that a lot of my earlier research was very misguided. I was working with a school where the unfunded, so I made a deal with organisations where manager brought in a motivational speaker who was a we traded information. Their employees completed former athletics coach. I looked around the room and my questionnaires and agreed to be interviewed and saw the incredulous expressions on the teachers’ faces. observed, and then I went back to communicate the They had lots of motivation; they just didn’t have the results. People’s reactions when I shared the findings money for basic teaching resources, and their manager with them were fascinating – you could hear a pin had just spent money on this guy who was trying to drop in the room, or there would motivate them. This type of thing be a yell of recognition from the happens frequently and can do a “The social dynamics of audience. There was a growing great deal of harm. realisation among the audience There are many ways that work have also changed that everybody felt that way and, burnout theory can be used – there are more divisive although people may give the to form interventions that can tactics that reward ‘talent’ work. Interventions are urgently impression that they are coping well, it wasn’t actually the case. and encourage destructive needed at the organisational level, I learned that this research could as helping people cope more competition between make a real difference, as the effectively with a stressful job co-workers” findings could be fed back in such doesn’t make the job less stressful. a way that organisations could When planning interventions, it consider how they could make is crucial to ask people what they changes. For example, burnout was phenomenally think would make the greatest difference. Having them high in organisations that required people to work very on board means a lot to them and can generate ideas long hours. Sharing my findings opened up discussions for novel initiatives that are less likely to be resisted. about whether people really needed to work that late, Identifying burnout at an early stage is important; or whether organisations could manage working hours supervisors and co-workers are often able to identify in a different way. the signs in somebody else, and this skill could be developed through training. This assumes, of course, Some countries now view burnout as a disability. that supervisors are not burned out themselves. What are your feelings about this? In some countries, burnout is an official diagnosis. Can you harness social relationships? People are given paid sick leave and undergo an They can be the most positive feature, while also extensive treatment programme to rehabilitate them being the greatest source of stress. When researchers back into their job. I am not entirely in favour of this go into organisations, they often think that workload view, as you are essentially pathologising people who will be the main problem. In fact, people often say are unable to cope with the excessive demands of their they can do the job and handle the workload, but they work. Treating burnout as a clinical disorder doesn’t cannot cope with the competitiveness, politicking, solve the problem, as it is not about major crises but put-downs, back-stabbing, gossip, unfairness and lack the everyday demands of the job. You tell people it of recognition. We need to harness the positive power is their own fault; you patch them up and you send of friendship, help, humour, teaching and mentoring them back into the environment that made them sick and consider how we can reduce the downside of in the first place. We have no evidence that burnout social relationships at work. is a disease, and there are no therapies that will keep I have found that the people who are better able people well and engaged in jobs that are toxic. It is to cope with burnout are those who recognise what not like giving somebody an aspirin for a headache. is happening to them and choose to do something I am also not convinced by the argument that burnout to offset the damage. I have interviewed paediatric is ‘just’ depression and that psychotherapy will cure oncologists who would volunteer, or do low-paid it. Of course, if people who are burned out become work at a children’s camp, so they could be with depressed, we must treat it, but it is a symptom not the healthy kids rather than those who were sick or dying. cause and more likely to occur at a later stage in the I also interviewed a police officer who worked in an burnout process. extremely dangerous area of New York – known as
out 1 13/01/2014 11:18
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as health problems, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, work–life conflict, loss of self-worth and, of course, burnout. There is also little consideration of the longerterm implications for wellbeing, performance and profitability – the underlying assumption is that people who burn out are expendable and disposable. Organisations need to appreciate the importance of maintaining a healthy and sustainable workforce to support the long-term common good – to help people thrive and work productively without incurring the high human costs. Occupational health psychologists have some tools and skills to help them do this, but we have the ingredients, not the recipe. Individually How might new organisational practices and new focused interventions for burnout are largely drawn ways of working impact on people? from the stress, coping and health fields and focus People who work in health and social care work have on things like enhancing social support and teaching traditionally been considered at high risk of burnout. employees relaxation and mindfulness skills. These More recently, researchers have started to look at are rarely implemented in a group form, and their burnout in other types of professions, such as city effectiveness is not usually evaluated. We need traders and within hi-tech industries and customer other methods and need to ask new questions. At services work. In these environments, working the Healthy Workplaces Center at Berkeley, we have long hours is often seen as a ‘badge of honour’, but developed a new holistic model to guide organisations; showing one’s vulnerability is heavily stigmatised. A one where the workload should be sustainable, short-term ‘start-up’ approach to working, involving employees are given choice and control, the systems considerable self-sacrifice, is now being used as a for recognition and reward are fair and equitable, long-term model. The social dynamics of work have Coaching at Work Jan-Feb 2014_coaching at work 25/11/2013 23:33 offers Page 1 support within a culture the work community also1 changed – there are more divisive tactics that Page of fairness, respect and social justice, and people reward ‘talent’ and encourage destructive competition have clear values and are enabled to do work that is between co-workers. Organisations do not consider meaningful to them. the human cost of these working practices, such Fort Apache in the Bronx. In his spare time, he was a photographer who captured ‘happy’ moments in people’s lives such as weddings and bar mitzvahs. This is a healthy way of coping with burnout, rather than self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, which can be so common in people who have burned out. It is important, however, for people to find out what replenishes them before they reach the crisis point, as then they may be too physically and mentally paralysed to do anything. When people are exhausted, the last thing they can do is craft and enrich their job.
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‘My job is to use evidence to change the conversation’ Paul Dawson
Paul Dawson is Head of Research within the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime – the body that has statutory responsibility over the Metropolitan Police. His team, Evidence and Insight, is an eclectic mixture of more than 20 psychologists, crime analysts and others. The aim is to inform evidence-based policy making for London – and, ultimately, to make London safer. 66
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It’s 28 September 2016 and I’m sitting in ‘the Chamber’, a large auditorium at the centre of London City Hall. To my left is the Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, and on my right Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the (then) Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. To promote transparency, the meeting is being broadcast live and the public can attend (see tinyurl.com/y6u9jcyz). My role is to go through a set of analytics that my team and I have produced. I am explaining that some crime is down (e.g. burglary), that others are up (e.g. violence, domestic violence, gun and knife crime, hate crime), that using rates of offending can bring a different understanding to demand (enhanced even more by using London’s estimated day population) and that the concepts of vulnerability and inequality (be it at an area or individual level) should be critical in prioritising police demand. To illustrate, more than three times more victims of burglary, robbery and sexual offences live in the top 10 per cent of ‘vulnerable’ wards; one in four domestic abuse victims are repeat victims; and whilst victim satisfaction with the police is generally good, there are inequalities (in particular, young black victims of crime are much less satisfied with their experience with the police then their young white peers). During the meeting, the Deputy Mayor draws upon such analytics – challenging the Commissioner on the increases in crime, in prioritising to vulnerable locations, working better with repeat victims and in addressing the satisfaction gap. Evidence is being used in a public meeting to challenge the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). This is important for a number of reasons, including accountability and scrutiny, but for me the most original aspect is the focus upon vulnerability and inequality within the realm of police performance discussions. Such topics have very rarely featured: the focus has too often been around simple numerical targets around crime reduction, and in her 2015 Home Office document Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis showed how such targets can limit insight and bring with them perverse incentives. Part of my job in the Evidence and Insight (E&I) team at the
the psychologist september 2017 careers
Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is to use evidence to change the conversation. Many of my team, myself included, were based within the MPS for years. In 2014 most of us shifted sideways to drive evidence within MOPAC. Here I would like to introduce our work; provide some wider reflections and learning from the role, particularly the period working within police culture; and promote the rich vein of data that is available within policing, one that I believe should be mined more by psychologists (and not just forensic psychologists).
Within this, one of my roles was to develop a performance framework for MOPAC, one that sought to drive a more sophisticated conversation around success. We’re moving away from blunt crime targets and blanket volume offence groupings. The new framework includes a mandatory focus for every London borough upon high-harm offences (e.g. domestic abuse, sexual offences) but focuses especially upon the reduction of repeat victimisation; this has enabled local boroughs to select two local volume priorities based upon evidence my team provided, whilst still monitoring all crime. We incorporate victim satisfaction and wider public perceptions (e.g. police fair treatment) and seek to narrow the gaps we see. There are also other areas such as promoting a more representative police workforce. These are the areas the Mayor and Deputy Mayor will hold the Commissioner to account for delivering over the next few years, and it’s a very different conversation as to what ‘success’ means for a police force.
From unspectacular beginnings… I obtained a variety of wholly unspectacular GCSEs and A-levels, and then a 2:1 undergraduate degree in psychology, a master’s in forensic psychology, and a number of years later a PhD exploring weaponenabled sexual offending. I completed this part-time whilst working full-time in my current position – a balance I don’t recommend to my staff! After my undergraduate degree I worked in the NHS for five An ‘interesting’ environment years (in low-secure psychiatric settings), then the Policing is undergoing a transition – a move away Home Office for five years, before moving to the MPS from a ‘vocational craft’ to something altogether more in 2008, where I was fortunate enough to work under systematic. Such change will take time. the tutelage of Professor Betsy Stanko. I spent five years working As far I’m aware, E&I is the within the MPS as Research largest dedicated civilian research “Our research seeks to Manager, and this was a particularly team based within a police force in interesting environment to work the country. Our work is large and develop independent within. Policing culture has been varied (www.london.gov.uk/whatinsights and sometimes extensively studied by many we-do/mayors-office-policing-andthis generated tension, academics, who have described crime-mopac/data-and-research), but in general can be grouped into: where results were not as it as action-oriented, craft-based, problem- rather than emotion• Social research and evaluation, expected or as desired” focused, and sceptical of research ranging from randomised and risk-averse (see the work of control trials or process Gloria Laycock, Cynthia Lum, evaluations to understand if and and Robert Reiner’s The Politics of the Police). I would why something is working, all the way to bespoke agree with these to a point, although they are too problem profiles (e.g. mixing performance and simple as criticisms. Working on the inside brought social research). these tensions sharply into focus. My 2015 book with • Survey design: The team oversees a wealth of Elizabeth Stanko, Police Use of Research Evidence: surveys – including asking the public about their Recommendations for Improvement, describes our contact with and perceptions of police. journey of embedding research within a police force • Performance and data visualisation: There is a where not everyone is on your side. strong performance aspect in both developing and The most effective learning point during my time monitoring key success measures. This includes a variety of analytics and the publication of a suite of within the police was to work with those that get it. public data dashboards (e.g. monitoring crime, hate Many do get evidence-based policing. Supporting crime, domestic and sexual abuse amongst others). those officers and staff has often been an effective inroad into landing research with optimism that it will • Developing a network of academics linked to have influence. Conversely, my other main learning MOPAC. point was to develop a thick skin for the ones that don’t necessarily get it. Our research seeks to develop All of this activity is aligned to the Police and Crime independent insights and sometimes this generated Plan for London, launched in March, itself an evidencetension, where results were not as expected or as based document that establishes the Mayor’s strategic desired. Some feel that internal research around police priorities for making London a safer city. In this initiatives is always ‘doomed to succeed’, as Mollie way, evidence is genuinely embedded at the heart of Weatheritt put it in her 1986 book Innovations in decision-making.
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Policing. We do not work in this way. In fact, we are regarded by some as being best known for delivering negative findings – it is our hard-won badge of honour. For a good example, take my Diamond Initiative evaluation. This was a robust evaluation of an £11 million offender management implemented by the MPS and the Probation Service that back in 2008/09 was vigorously promoted at the highest political levels as a solution for the high prison population. However, as my research ultimately demonstrated, although the scheme was popular with many staff, there was no impact upon reoffending comparing those that received the service to a statistically well-matched control group (similar people, released from prison at a similar time to a similar place). The subsequent fallout and disappointment was considerable. Few wanted to hear the ‘no impact’ results, and our calls for learning (the lack of ‘impact’ was largely driven by implementation problems). The research made the front pages – in the eyes of many, delivering unwanted and embarrassing news that reflected badly on the job they did. A thick skin became a prerequisite. The work was a huge learning experience, raising issues such as the inherent risks for an organisation in conducting such research; how to learn from negative findings; and the importance of ensuring effective implementation and programme integrity.
Great power, and great responsibility The amount and scope of data routinely captured by police forces is dizzying. There are crime reports, victims, witnesses, suspects, crime locations, weapon-use, workforce, complaints, mental health, vulnerability and much, much more. One does not need to be interested in policing to see nuggets in police data. Of course, the data should be appropriately protected and access scrutinised, but the first step is knowing the data even exists. This is the largest challenge. There are no roadmaps, no lists of systems, no ‘how to’ guides. Indeed, information on these systems only appears to be obliquely available. Of course this data is flawed, but so is all data to a degree. Our analysis recognises the limitations – to not use data as ‘gospel’ but as an organisation record that brims with potential (see my paper with Elizabeth Stanko, ‘The best-kept secret(s) of evidence based policing’: tinyurl.com/yckbxzoa). On a surface level this potential relates to research, but dig deeper and what we do is more concerned with promoting learning, organisational change and a safer London. We have a level of influence and are able to make a genuine contribution to London. This brings with it responsibility, which we take seriously. Each day I recognise our privileged position, and this contribution ultimately makes the role so rewarding.
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the psychologist september 2017 careers
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‘Reflect on the lives you continue to enhance’ Rumina Taylor One unforgettable moment Last year my daughter Amelia was born. I remember feeling immensely proud of myself for getting through the whole thing, before I was hit with a wave of anxiety and responsibility which left me feeling rather overwhelmed. I soon realised my life would never quite be the same again, and I would now always be somewhat unreliable and incompetent as I faced the challenges of motherhood and all the joy that it brings. One flaw In trying to be helpful I have a real tendency to ‘take over’ tasks especially in my personal life, which can be disempowering for others. I have learnt to ‘sit on my hands’ more and support and encourage my loved ones, but there’s still more work to do.
Dr Rumina Taylor is a Principal Clinical Psychologist at the PICuP Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London.
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One inspiration Baroness Susan Greenfield. When I was 15, deciding what subjects to study at A-level and more broadly what career to pursue – and feeling like I hadn’t a clue, I was fortunate enough to attend a talk she gave. She talked about her love for science, in particular brain physiology. I subsequently followed her work and felt empowered that women can succeed in science. One important decision Choosing which particular area of psychology to pursue after leaving university. I had always been interested in occupational psychology and had enjoyed the teaching at university. My thesis also involved carrying out research within a workplace setting, so I felt my future was already decided. However, clinical psychology interested me. The turning point was when a close family member suffered with significant anxiety and engaged in talking therapy, which was most beneficial. This motivated me to find out more about the profession. I was fortunate to be able to complete a work experience placement over the summer within a local hospital and shadow a clinical psychologist. The work was extremely rewarding, and I was fascinated by how much human behaviour could differ. I was left with the question: ‘Why do we do the things we do?’ I decided
the psychologist september 2017 one on one
to go for it and pursued a career in clinical psychology, and I have no regrets.
mind and try and encourage myself to not let my work and life roles get out of balance.
One proud moment Winning a Health Service Journal Patient Safety Award in 2015 for our Family Work Service, which I designed and led. When I was working as a clinical psychologist across a number of acute inpatient wards, we used to receive complaints from family members, and the teams felt they lacked skills in working with carers and loved ones. We managed to form a small team (three nurses, two doctors and myself) of family workers who were provided with additional training and launched a service across the wards to provide support and intervention for families and service users. Outcome data showed the benefit in terms of carer and service-user wellbeing, and we also reduced the number of complaints, so the Trust were happy!
One thing I’d like to do more Play the piano. At one time I was quite good! However, following university with my focus on getting an assistant psychologist post and the lack of space in my small flat, piano playing slipped off the radar. I only play as a treat nowadays when visiting my parents.
One influential person
Professor Derek Johnston, my undergraduate research supervisor, was very kind and patient with me. He taught me how to go about conducting research and emphasised the importance of and rationale for contributing to an evidence base. I carried out an interesting study looking at the balance between staff effort at work and rewards received, and the impact imbalance can have on a person’s wellbeing. I still hold the effort–reward model in
One place Agios Tychonas in Cyprus. I visit once a year and it truly feels like home. The environment allows an escape from ordinary life and reality. Being there offers a chance for reflection and the opportunity for my mind to have a welldeserved rest. One final thought To my fellow psychologists, we are all aware of how tough it is managing increasing workload with limited funding within the NHS and lots of our effort–reward models may feel imbalanced. At times, as a profession, I don’t think we give ourselves enough praise or ‘show off’ the great work we do on a daily basis. No matter what grade you are or stage of your career, every now and again reflect on the brilliant work you do and the lives you continue to enhance and change.
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Boarded-up emotion Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege: A Therapeutic Guide to Working with Boarding School Survivors Nick Duffell & Thurstine Bassett Routledge; Pb £24.99
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n The Making of Them and Wounded Leaders psychotherapist Nick Duffell introduced the concept of ‘boarding school survival’, the notion, concealed behind the façade of privilege, that boarding education can be emotionally traumatic for children. In this excellent new book he teams up with social-work trainer Thurstine Bassett, and the authors take their mission into the field of mental health work and associated professions. Bassett and Duffell want more clinicians to be aware of the potential trauma of boarding and to better understand how to work with adult ex-boarders, who, they warn, may often prove to be very challenging clients. The focus of the book is an exploration of what is beginning to be known as ‘Boarding School Syndrome’. At its core, this is the process by which boarding children learn to minimise or dissociate from their emotions. Although many may already come from well-heeled but avoidantly attached families that rely on nannies or au pairs to bring up their children, the practice of boarding deliberately ruptures previous attachments in order to re-socialise the child in its own peculiar culture. It promotes ‘character building’, forming personalities that appear self-reliant and turning out competent ‘little soldiers’ who can cope with anything. The fallout from this process is illustrated by many letters the authors have received from adult survivors. Deep inside the emotionally unsupported and abandoned child, chronic anxiety and mistrust develop unrecognised and unnamed by the adult ex-boarder. It manifests itself, we are told, in a fear of being wrong or of getting caught, along with the
need to armour the self, by using the rational intellect to defend against vulnerability, and often cruelly projecting emotionality onto others and condemning them. This readable book draws on different psychotherapy traditions and points to current neuroscience research. Its short chapters are interspersed with useful case examples, questions to aid the therapists’ reflection on the material, as well as exercises potentially to be done in sessions or for clients themselves to use. The authors advocate therapy that provides a safe, accepting and ‘mothering’ environment in which to take off the armour and mature, learning to integrate the defensively cut-off islands of self. They describe this process as learning to move ‘from Survival to Living’ and chart three distinct stages of the therapeutic journey: Recognition, Acceptance and Change. At the same time they show how therapists must stay alert to the defensive nature of the boarding school survival personality. As an ex-boarder myself, I found many of the case examples and quotes from ex-boarders painfully resonant and moving at times. However, my own inner ‘Rebel’ – one of three ‘Strategic Survival Personality’ types described – threw up a few questions too, which could perhaps indicate future avenues for research. Most pertinent to me were whether the book’s overarching narrative would still apply to securely attached children and whether there is a more complex story for those with disorganised early attachments? Reviewed by Sue Gerhardt, an attachment psychotherapist and author of Why Love Matters and The Selfish Society
the psychologist september 2017 books Mark Stibbe is a former vicar and a prolific author who recently appeared on television in connection with child abuse scandals within the church and elite boarding schools. He is also a former boarder who says that becoming emotionally detached and distrustful to cope with boarding became key to the breakdown of his marriage and the collapse of his career and reputation. Having been adopted as a baby, eight year-old Stibbe’s arrival at prep school was ‘a second orphaning’. Repeatedly beaten by his headmaster in his first term, he was deeply conflicted: his parents must be doing what was best for him – it was apparently ‘a great adventure’, ‘a priceless privilege’ – but a ‘crushing sense of loneliness and abandonment’ made him become a ‘mini adult’ overnight to cope with his new environment. Home at Last seeks ‘to expose the emotional cost of the boarding school system’, which Stibbe says creates generations of adults with ‘homesick souls’. A passionate account of the ills of the British boarding school habit, Stibbe’s book brings a rich terminology – ‘the boarded heart’ (which I wished I had thought of!), ‘the orphan heart condition’, and so on – to describe the mixture of abandonment, shame and privilege which cripples so many former boarders. Additionally, he recounts abuses he and other boys experienced at the hand of an evangelical master at Winchester, exposed by Channel 4 this February. If written in a rather breathless style, Stibbe’s book is accessible and engaging. It showcases his understanding of ‘Boarding School Syndrome’, as coined by Professor Joy Schaverien, exemplified by his personal experience. Along with Alex Renton’s Stiff Upper Lip, it is a welcome addition to a subject that is finally receiving more public attention, even if sometimes the focus is more on abuse than the
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Home at Last: Freedom from Boarding School Pain (Rev. edn) Mark Stibbe Malcolm Down Publishing; Pb £9.99
normalised neglect that boarding entails. Stibbe proposes four stages beginning with D that boarders typically experience: Desertion, Deprivation, Disengagement and Dependency. He looks at the later impact on their spouses, who suffer from their destructive tendencies to ‘emotional detachment’ or ‘toxic attachment’. Stibbe outlines the farreaching psychological and social impact of boarding – specifically how the emotional detachment that boarding children, when separated from their parents, have little option but to adopt affects their future ability for intimate relationships. Coming home is a huge issue for ex-boarders, and coming home to the Self is integral to the psycho-spiritual journey of recovery, so Stibbe’s title is perfect. In line with his extensive evangelical work, Stibbe proposes a Christian path to recovery, which will be welcome to those looking for a faith-based approach. But it may alienate some ex-boarders, forced to attend compulsory chapel for a decade. One such told me: ‘His book is interesting, but his answer seems to be Put Your Trust in the Lord!’ Stibbe recommends coming home to Almighty Father. My suspicion is that those raised in elite patriarchal institutions have already had enough distant fathering, which in itself should be a good guide to the therapeutic attitude. Reviewed by Nick Duffell, who is a practising psychotherapist and whose own book on the topic is reviewed opposite
A fascinating insight The Entrepreneurial Paradox is a fascinating read for those interested in this specialist area. The book clearly explores the synergy between theory and experience using case studies throughout to illustrate points made. The book combines psychological theory with business practice, examining areas such as decisionmaking, cognitive learning, heuristics and biases, and explores the methodology behind The Entrepreneurial combining these areas Paradox: Examining together. Theoretical the Interplay between perspectives are brought Entrepreneurial and out and explored in early Management Thinking chapters and show the Lianne Taylor development of themes Palgrave Macmillan; central to the book’s Hb £104.50 research aims. Using narrative from interviews combined with the findings from various sources of literature, the author powerfully gets behind the thought process of the entrepreneur. She provides real-world issues and how these were solved, so it is fascinating for an occupational psychologist to read. Later chapters examine time and conceptual frameworks around business growth, again using evidence from qualitative data. There is also an interesting reflective view specifically on leadership within an entrepreneurial context. This is presented in quite a short chapter, which is a shame as some of the concepts drawn out of the research, such as leader– member exchange and transformational leadership, could have had much more input from the qualitative data and had even greater narrative. The book concludes by bringing together all the strands and suggesting further areas for research. For some, the academic base of this work may be off-putting; it does read like a PhD thesis in many places. However, it offers a fascinating insight into entrepreneurial thinking, which is often different to managerial thinking as the book readily explores. Reviewed by David Biggs, Programme Director Occupational Psychology, University of Gloucestershire and Managing Director of ADS Ltd
My shelfie… Michelle K. Ryan (Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology, University of Exeter; and Professor of Diversity, University of Groningen)
Rediscovering the Social Group: A Self-Categorization Theory John C. Turner, Michael Hogg, Penelope J. Oakes, Steve Reicher & Margaret Wetherell I was lucky enough to have been taught by John Turner and Penny Oakes as an undergraduate at the Australian National University – I went on to work with John in my first research position. I was the first in my family to go to university, clueless about all that academia entailed, and I remember reading this book and thinking it was such a coincidence that one of the authors had the same name as my lecturer. Despite this rather embarrassing start, this book has become extremely influential for my work. With its focus on the fundamental importance of the groups to which we belong and the social context in which we are embedded, it provided me with a strong meta-theoretical overview that has guided how I approach psychology (and indeed how I approach politics and morality, the three are intertwined). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity Judith Butler I first read this book as an undergraduate philosophy student and it completely blew me away. As it says in the subtitle, this is a book that is all about subverting and problematising what many would see as one of the basic and essential aspects of humankind – our gender. It’s a provocative text, and Butler’s notions of gender performativity have always stayed with me. Many of the philosophy texts I read as a student have had a more lasting influence on me as a social psychologist than many a psychology text. I’m currently working with a colleague, Dr Thekla Morgenroth, on applying Butler’s ideas in an experimental social psychology setting – very exciting!
Orlando Virginia Woolf There is clearly a strong gender theme here – even with the fiction that I read. I always loved reading as a kid, but I didn’t grow up reading literature for pleasure. When I discovered reading ‘proper books’ in my late teens, this was one that really had a lasting impact. Woolf’s notions of gender fluidity felt so contemporary and so destabilising that I couldn’t quite believe it had been written in the 1920s. It’s also one of the few books where the movie adaptation does it justice: Tilda Swinton was exactly who I pictured Orlando to be.
Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences Cordelia Fine This really is such a superb book. It is a meticulously researched book that articulates very persuasively how social stereotypes and expectations can create (and reify) gender differences, even for those who think they are conducting objective scientific research. With a fantastically wry wit, Fine convinces us that popular and neuroscientific claims about gender differences can be greatly exaggerated, and terrifically damaging.
Psychology in Organizations S. Alexander Haslam Alex Haslam has been the most influential person in my academic career. He lectured me as an undergraduate; as a PhD student, my first teaching roles were on his courses; and he was the most inspiring mentor and sponsor any early-career researcher could have had. This is only one of his many influential books, but it is one that I go back to again and again. It is also a book that I lend out with incredible frequency – there must be dozens of bookshelves of former students and colleagues that have a copy of this book with my name on the first page.
The World and Other Places Jeanette Winterson I couldn’t possibly put together a list of books without including one by Jeanette Winterson – although it was incredibly tough to decide on only one. I chose her collection of short stories as I very much enjoy the short form – partly because I can always find time to read a short story (the same is not always the case with a novel) and because I enjoy being exposed to small narrative slices. My favourite story in this collection is ‘The 24 Hour Dog’; it makes my cry (indeed howl with tears) every time I read it (I’m welling up just now even thinking of it!).
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Important lessons and tips
• The clear writing style and readerfriendly format allow students to absorb information easily, even when reading chapters selectively or out of order. • Numerous up-to-date examples drawn from career experiences engage students and help them apply what they’ve learned to forward their own careers. • Questions encourage students to think more deeply about larger issues in the field, preparing them for future research.
Robert J. Sternberg is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University.
Karin Sternberg is Research Associate in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University.
The PSYCHOLOGIST’S COMPANION for Undergraduates
Tailored specifically for undergraduate students, this Companion offers uniquely comprehensive coverage of the topics necessary for successful communication in psychology, making it a valuable resource for research methods and introductory psychology courses. Readers will learn how to plan and write papers effectively - in accordance with latest style guidelines from the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition; present data in posters and talks; and evaluate their own and others’ work. Key features include:
STERNBERG & STERNBERG
9781107165298 Sternberg & Sternberg PPC C M Y K
Robert Sternberg is the Andrew Carnegie of psychology. on effective writing style, APA format and presenting data. Through many books and articles he gives away his Two chapters focus on writing for publication, and one wealth of experience and knowledge for the benefit of each on oral and poster presentations. Especially useful the skills and careers of less experienced psychologists. are the chapters on finding ideas for projects, writing In six editions of The Psychologist’s Companion, a literature review, proofreading and editing, he and fellow psychologist Karin Sternberg (a and oral and poster presentations. However STERNBERG & STERNBERG married couple) share lessons on planning and all the chapters are valuable, with important communicating psychological science skilfully, lessons and tips; many have useful checklists. in every medium. The Psychologist’s Companion I love the anecdotes from the authors about for Undergraduates simplifies and tailors these their own mistakes; these show that successful lessons. psychologists have learned from failures the This new book shares the structure of hard way – success means making mistakes THE PSYCHOLOGIST’S the original, but is 20 per cent shorter. The and learning from them, not instant perfection! COMPANION for Undergraduates Sternbergs give guidance for assignments and Titling the book ‘for undergraduates’ seems also focus on journal publication throughout. I unfortunate; the book would benefit senior liked this because – as I try to convey to my own undergraduates, postgraduate conversion students – student work and professional writing draw on course students and those taking an MSc or MRes, the same skills, just at different levels of development. maybe even a PhD (although the original is targeted to The book reinforces the idea that the students of today PhD students and professionals). Overall, I think a strong will develop into the researchers and journal authors of addition to reading lists for research methods, practical tomorrow – reflecting a Dweck-style mastery orientation. projects and dissertations. Being an American book, it uses the term ‘paper’ to cover all types of writings. Seven chapters cover basic Reviewed by Dr Francis Quinn, Lecturer in Psychology, principles and planning a piece of writing, then four more Robert Gordon University
The Psychologist’s Companion for Undergraduates Robert Sternberg & Karin Sternberg Cambridge University Press; Pb £27.99
Cover designed by Zoe Naylor.
An excellent summary Neuroscience in relation to childhood and early development is relevant to many professions, researchers and parents. However, books with a specific focus on childhood neuroscience are relatively rare. Early Childhood and Neuroscience by Mine Conkbayir is intended to provide a useful insight into various aspects of early childhood from a neuroscience perspective to suit a wide range of readers, and it certainly delivers on this. The book begins with a section explaining to the reader what they should expect, and should not expect, from the book. This is a general theme found at the start of every chapter. As a book that is intended to appeal to a wide audience, including those without a background in neuroscience, the section covering basic neuroanatomy and physiology before embarking on any further discussions was an excellent addition and ensures the accessibility of the book. There was one minor aspect of this chapter that could cause confusion in non-specialists, in that
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the author acknowledges that not all neurons look like the classic diagram used, but does not describe or show how else a neuron might look. It would have been nice to see different examples, which in turn could perhaps avoid any development of misconceptions in non-specialist readers. On a similar note, as a neuroscientist I felt that the topic of the synapse was quite brief and could have been explained a little further; although I do appreciate that extra discussion of different neuron types might be more detailed than the average reader needs or wants. Every chapter begins with a clear outline, allowing easy navigation and, with very varied content in different chapters, enabling the reader to find their chapter of interest with ease. Additionally, each chapter contains suggested further reading and ‘pause for thought’ sections. These extend the content for those who want to learn more, without making the actual book very lengthy or unappealing to those who don’t, again meeting the needs of a wide
audience well. I felt that the ‘pause for thought’ sections specifically encourage and help to develop a deeper and more reflective understanding of the content, particularly useful to students. I especially enjoyed the mythbusting sections found throughout the book. I thought this was an excellent addition for readers without a neuroscience background, allowing them not only to learn that various popular ideas are simply ‘neuromyths’ but also to learn about reliable scientific knowledge. Overall, I think Early Childhood and Neuroscience offers an excellent summary of a variety of topics for a wide range of readers. Without complex terminology or hard-tofollow concepts, each chapter is a useful first step towards an increased understanding of neurological development from multiple perspectives. Reviewed by Dr Stacey A. Bedwell, Lecturer in Psychology, Birmingham City University
Early Childhood and Neuroscience: Theory, Research and Implications for Practice Mine Conkbayir Bloomsbury Academic; Pb £17.99
Find book extracts on our website, including from Wonder Woman Psychology and Careful!: The Surprising Science Behind Everyday Calamities
‘Off piste’ student reading For psychology students, the start of the new term brings reading lists containing a wealth of essential, core and recommended reading. While lecturers recommend textbooks and books to support your course or specific modules, we know that many students read a variety of books that stimulate their personal interest and provide them with extra insights into psychology. The Psychologist books team surveyed a sample of psychology students to find out what they were reading that might support their interests and studies. From the responses, we’ve compiled a list of 10 books that new and existing students might enjoy and benefit from reading while studying psychology. The students we surveyed kindly provided a brief statement about why the book they selected was one of their favourites and why they’d recommend it. And opposite, we hear from Jenna Gillett in more detail about her choice, Stumbling on Happiness. We’d like to thank all of those who participated in our survey, and welcome any book suggestions for next year’s students. Get involved in the discussion on Twitter @psychmag. Rebecca Stack and Emily Hutchinson, Associate Editors: Books Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is an autobiographical account of the author’s time in a teenage psychiatric award in 1967. Our student recommender said: ‘Girl, Interrupted was the first book which introduced me to the world of mental health and, in turn, the field of psychology. I was captivated and instantly wanted to learn more, hence why I am now studying psychology. Such a personal account always strengthens the reality of mental illnesses and the need for us to understand them more deeply.’ An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison is a memoir of the lived experience of manic-depression written from the perspective of an author pursuing an academic career while also managing the condition. Our student recommender said: ‘An Unquiet Mind is my favourite book as it is a real-life example of the detrimental effects of Type 1 bipolar disorder and the positive effects of lithium, as well as showing that mental health issues do not necessarily need to limit someone in terms of their aspirations, in this case in clinical psychology.’
Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being – and How to Achieve Them by Martin Seligman continues to build on research in the field of positive psychology, translating theory into practice to describe how to get the best out of life. Our student recommender said: Flourish is currently my favourite, it combines psychology with general life wellbeing /happiness tips.’ Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg encourages women in the workplace to be courageous and proactive in pushing themselves forward and not holding back. Our student recommender said: ‘Lean In, because it defines the importance of women and their roles. How to manage your home, work life, and education. It’s essential to have a positive and hopeful mindset to succeed in life.’ Bad Science by Ben Goldacre highlights how ‘scientific data’ can be generated and interpreted to mislead and to support a preconceived argument. He uses well-known examples where the data has been manipulated to support a conclusion, rather than conclusions following from rigorous and objective research. Our student recommender said: ‘Psychologists must be good at critically evaluating evidence. This book helps you understand why that matters and teaches you the basics of how to do it in a wonderfully readable, relevant, snarky style!’
Communication Under the Microscope: The Theory and Practice of Microanalysis by Peter Bull highlights how central communication is to our everyday life, and hence how important it is as an area of study. It also introduces the research method of microanalysis and how that can then be applied to reveal how and why we communicate. Our student recommender said: ‘The perfect companion for the study of social interaction – both verbal and non-verbal.’ Forty Studies That Changed Psychology by Roger Hock provides summaries of the thinking and theories behind significant psychology research. Our student recommender said: ‘Forty Studies That Changed Psychology is a great read for any student about to start a psychology course or anyone with a passing interest in psychology. Each of the studies is expertly summarised, making them easily digestible over a cup of tea. From Asch to Zimbardo, Hock has selected key research by many of psychology’s “big hitters”. Easy reading and thoroughly recommended.’
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Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception by Robert Snowden describes the way that our brain ‘sees’ and interprets visual information. Our student recommender said: ‘Bob is a fantastic lecturer and a captivating writer, I have never understood things so clearly, and he writes in a chatty, accessible manner.’ The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk describes how trauma can be transformed by approaches that regulate and sync body and mind. Our student recommender said: ‘The Body Keeps the Score provides information from both empirical research and clinical experience to explain the nuances of trauma. It discusses biological and social components and discusses the options for treatment in a clear, easy-to-digest way.’ Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David Buss gives a different perspective on human nature and why we do what we do. Our student recommender said: ‘I’ve found Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David Buss the most useful book that wasn’t on any suggested reading list… If you’re really being honest with yourself, some of the mating strategies of animals will sound eerily familiar and make you laugh out on occasion too.’
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Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert ‘Psychology has created problems where once there were none by exposing the flaws in our intuitive understandings of ourselves’ (p.69). In this 2006 book, Gilbert perfectly outlines one of the core properties central to psychology as a discipline: a lot of the time what we think is right, logical and probable is actually not! Often we fail to fully understand ourselves – be it our imaginations, motivations, emotions, memories or behaviours. Psychology aims to understand the complexity and interactions of these phenomena and how they cause us to think how we think and do what we do. This book provides a brilliantly comical take on how we perceive ‘happiness’ and underpins a variety of constructs that explain some of the strange behaviours we often demonstrate in everyday life. With some fascinating examples from experimental studies, Gilbert explores some of the weird and wonderful aspects of day-today scenarios: why do we often forestall pleasurable experiences? Why do people imagine nearfuture pain as so severe they pay money to avoid it, but will accept the same amount of money to endure a far-future pain? Why do people regret inactions more than actions? Why do we underestimate our happiness on a Monday morning? These are some of the weird and seemingly illogical behaviours we are all guilty of – but why? (Read the book to find out!) Stumbling on Happiness is an excellent book for any undergraduate embarking on a psychology course. The book highlights a dynamic array of interesting studies drawing on the bounds of human perception, memory, cognition, social dynamics, health psychology, biological psychology… the list goes on! All the literature mentioned is superb supplemental material to any first-year psychology course content and will help put theories into everyday, relatable examples for better understanding and captivating reading. We live in a world where everyone’s number one goal is ‘to be happy’ but, as Gilbert demonstrates, we are somewhat useless at predicting what makes us happy in comparison to what actually makes us happy. What we perceive as ‘happiness’ is dependent on so many factors we often fail to recognise ‘happiness’ when it is happening; only in retrospect do we properly ascertain it. This book really gets you thinking and wanting to find out more – a highly recommended read for anyone who is interested in ‘real-life’ psychology with some fundamental lessons that are beneficial to any undergraduate student. Jenna Gillett, recent graduate of the University of Buckingham and PsyPAG undergraduate award winner 2017
Mapping Fatherland Jon Sutton is hugely impressed by a play as part of Manchester International Festival
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here is Fatherland? It’s Stockport, it’s Kidderminster, it’s Corby... ‘just a satellite town’, ‘on the periphery’, a once proud working place which now exists ‘for no reason’. How do we map Fatherland? We find the small words, the topography of ‘Being a Dad’, and we make something big out of them. Although the play is a wider social commentary too (nationalism, Brexit), there’s plenty for psychologists in this poignant play from co-writers Simon Stephens, Scott Graham and Karl Hyde. Aside from the psychogeography of parenthood, the very approach to pulling the piece together is psychological. Early on the writers, through the characters playing them, state their aim of making
‘something big out of many little fragments... partly inspired by a Salvador Dali painting ‘Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln’. The fragments are real snippets of interviews with men, about their fathers and about them as fathers. A lot of what they say is frustratingly predictable... Men are attracted by violence, yet simultaneously repulsed by it (characters physically move in or withdraw in response to revelations about being ‘a bit handy’, stonings and slaughterhouses). Dads sit there, expecting the world to go on around them, absorbed in their paper. Dads only come alive between 3 and 4:45 on a Saturday afternoon,
the psychologist september 2017 culture
Where social media and cancer meet tossing their children in the air at football matches in a fleeting moment that will last in their child’s mind for ever. The play also addresses how our views of our fathers change as we age. Just as you ‘see the physical geography [of our hometown] differently as you grow older’, so we also ‘come to have some sort of acceptance of who people are’. ‘The older I get the more I like the place’, says Stephens’s character about Stockport (his dad?)...’It’s like I forgive it.’ Forgiveness closes the play too. But surely each successive generation has to hope for more than forgiveness, has to believe that there is no need for men to hand on misery after misery, deepening like a coastal shelf? Certainly all the dads I know bandy about the word ‘love’ with an ease their children now find embarrassing, and when I spoke to Stephens and Hyde later, I was relieved to hear they are the same. Maybe we’re still some way off mapping the strange thicket of Fatherland though. Stephens told me that it had taken a female friend to point out that, for a play about men’s feelings, there is very little engagement with actual emotions. ‘They tell stories instead’, he admitted, and when one character says of their childhood home ‘I wouldn’t go upstairs... it was too dark’, they could be talking about the mind. That’s one of many ways the simple staging is so effective... it’s all doors and ladders, opening and stretching but never quite revealing all they should. Coats are important... if you’re a bare minimum kinda guy looking to leave a lasting impression on your offspring, I would strongly recommend getting a decent coat and encouraging your kid to fall asleep just as Match of the Day comes on. Of all the dads, it’s actually Karl Hyde’s own who comes out of it best. The ‘This is my son’ flying routine is perfect. Graham Hyde recalls times when his ‘whole body tingled... it still happens now when I see him on stage [with Underworld]’. Hyde told me that the play had been a continuing psychological journey for him, and that even last week there had been a line about his dad that had stopped him in his tracks. We have to hope that these brave explorers of Fatherland, and others like them, forge ahead on those tracks. Hyde has said that he feels the subject of fatherhood is under-explored, and perhaps it’s the same within psychology (although Michael Lamb, Charlie Lewis et al. may beg to differ). Until scientists (psychologists?) can develop the Holy Grail of this play, a Father ‘thought translator’ (inspired, improbably, by the monkey one in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), we’re going to have to try actually talking to our kids. Our country doesn’t have to be remote, foreign... Dads in the play ‘built roads, built bridges’ in the real world, and we can do the same in Fatherland. There will be further performances of Fatherland in London at the Lyric Hammersmith as part of LIFT 2018.
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We are constantly bombarded by approach, I find myself asking more social media announcements of all questions. I want to know why these varieties – holidays, weddings, births individuals started vlogging about and lunch choices. Certain research their health, how they handle any has indicated that we check our negative feedback, and whether phones some 70 times a day and there are any topics off limits to a few of us might even admit to a public consumption. I also wonder gnawing angst when we’re separated how they manage the pressures from our technological lifelines. In prevalent in social media to present a time when we the best image of have become so ourselves at all video accustomed to times. My Digital Death sharing every All three Radio 1 Stories detail of our participants are lives with our relatively young, online network, and by the nature why wouldn’t this include a terminal of the film they are already fluent in cancer diagnosis? the cancer conversation. The flipside My Digital Death is a quick, to this of course is that there are 15-minute, view into a world patients who choose not to engage, where social media and cancer who do not want to publicise their meet, with patients capturing and health status, or who would prefer sharing hospital visits, surgical to join a traditional support group for procedures, post-operative care and more intimate reflections. It would the complexities of transplantation. serve as an interesting, and perhaps In a particularly poignant moment more reflective, comparison for we see Fiona, a 31-year-old woman the audience to see these different diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian coping styles. cancer, drawing on herself in a We traditionally focus on faceYouTube video to illustrate to her to-face groups as a means of peer followers where she will be having support within the cancer setting, surgery and what organs will be but this film illustrates how some implicated in the patients are procedure. migrating to We also online exchanges meet May, a with a widening 23-year-old net of digital mother awaiting engagement. a bone marrow While this is only transplant for a very limited acute myeloid snapshot, it leukaemia, and does raise 28-year-old questions about Laura, preparing the motivations to marry her partner while managing and benefits of using social media widespread metastases stemming to document illness. This interaction from a diagnosis of stage 4 breast could be explored further to better cancer. The intimate moments these understand the way patients, and individuals share are available for the audiences they reach out to, anyone to view and comment on, with conceptualise the cancer experience. all three women describing a feeling of being buoyed by this interaction. My Digital Death is available to watch For these younger patients, the on BBC iPlayer at www.bbc.co.uk/ ability to connect to other people programmes/p03szcvf through mainstream media seems Reviewed by Rachel Starkings, a to break the confines of a potentially Psychosocial Oncology Research isolating diagnosis. Fellow at the Brighton and Sussex Inevitably given the ‘bite-sized’ Medical School (in personal capacity).
film To the Bone Marti Noxon (Director)
Complicit in the culture of ‘thinspo’ A film about anorexia was always going to divide opinions. Many have praised the Netflix drama for opening up dialogue surrounding eating disorders and for showing an honest portrayal of suffering with anorexia. Others, however, have condemned the film for glamorising mental health disorders. Psychologists be warned: this film is largely as irresponsible and psychologically messy as it sounds. The story revolves around Ellen (Lily Collins), a moody 20-year-old art school drop-out. She sulks around the inpatient eating disorder unit in layers of baggy clothes and heavy eye-liner – the archetypal ‘cool inpatient girl’ (using the same cookie-cutter casting formula as Girl, Interrupted, a strikingly similar but more understated film). Ellen is painfully thin, and during her weighins the camera takes much delight in showcasing her skeletal frame. It is supposed to be shocking. It is supposed to make the viewer recoil in horror and feel a pang of sympathy; and admittedly, it works. ‘Do you think you look beautiful?’ Ellen’s stepmother (Carrie Preston) asks, watching her step on the scales in her underwear. However, the overriding problem with this film is that Ellen really is beautiful. Teen Vogue recently featured Lily Collins, the actress who portrays Ellen, in a beauty editorial, cooing over how she is ‘impossibly gorgeous’. She fits perfectly into the caricature of white, Western, slim beauty that her eating disorder is supposedly a product of. This makes the whole thing quite tricky. Even with her skeletal frame, fuzzy skin and bruised bones, she looks pretty. Therefore, it is not surprising that anorexic community (‘pro-ana’) sites have latched on to images of Collins in the film. It also means that the film has the potential to be triggering for audiences who have suffered or are suffering with an eating disorder. A fellow inpatient Luke (Alex Sharp) tells Ellen she is ‘dazzling’ on more than one occasion, and an awkward romance begins to grow. This also proves problematic. The film attempts in many places to have the charming ‘I-love-you-despite-your-illness’ motif of other similarly marketed films like The Fault in Our Stars. However, all too often it forgets that Ellen’s illness is psychological. It clumsily attempts to incorporate a sense of beauty and romance into a clinical emotional setting. The main problem with To the Bone is that it is too closely entwined with the culture it is supposedly
Find more reviews online at www.thepsychologist.org.uk/reviews including Rachel Craddock on Men, Boys and Eating Disorders, Angela Deegan on Addicted Parents, and Anthony Martyr on Grandad, Dementia and Me.
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criticising. We learn that the anorexia-themed drawings Ellen posts on Tumblr led to another young sufferer’s suicide. This all seems horribly ironic, given that camera stills from To the Bone have already ended up on socalled ‘thinspiration’ social media sites. According to Lewis and Arbuthnott (2012) pro-eating disorder search terms are searched on the internet more than 13 million times annually, and I fear that this film will only add to those figures. The story is entirely complicit in the culture of ‘thinspo’ that it attempts to condemn. So much so, that it goes as far as to sensationalise anorexia. Ellen’s personality and warmth could have been a welcome rebuttal against this potentially traumatic theme. However, her spiky and sarcastic sense of humour feels too forced and unnatural to have any real impact. It also leads to, in places, rather offensive and poorly considered dialogue (on arrival at the inpatient house she claims that she is ‘not on-trend enough’ to self-harm). In one particularly uncomfortable scene, Ellen goes out to dinner with Luke. She refuses to eat, and instead chews and spits out every mouthful of her meal into a paper napkin. She is gawked at by the waitress, and the pair find the whole thing quite hilarious. The other inpatients teach her about laxatives, calorie counting, and pathetically attempt to enforce rules around meal times (most of which are largely ignored). However, there is so much missing from the plot. This is not simply eating disorder awareness. This is a step-by-step guide on how to be a successful anorexic. For psychologists, the real issue lies with the portrayal of ‘radical’ Dr William Beckham (Keanu Reeves), who runs the inpatient unit. Throughout the film, I eagerly awaited the ‘revolutionary’ method or approach of the great psychiatrist. I continue to wait. Bizarrely, it seems that Dr Beckham runs the inpatient unit just as any trained psychologist or psychiatrist would: psychotherapy sessions, no doors, ban on exercise (although Ellen continues to do sit-ups through the night) and group therapy sessions. There is one scene where he takes the inpatients to a water art installation (to teach them the beauty of life), but that is just about the only off-the-cuff method he employs. There is nothing about Dr Beckham’s work that deviates from standard practice (or at least, nothing that I can identify as different from the months I worked at an eating disorder inpatient ward in Leeds). Although giving credit where it’s due, the film does not venture into ‘miracle recovery’ territory. It does however suggest that the revolutionary work of Dr Beckham was pivotal in Ellen’s ability to battle her anorexia. Since the release of both To the Bone and similar Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why, it is now clear how difficult, or perhaps impossible, it is to discuss mental illness without sensationalising the disorders. Indeed, I am left feeling slightly unsure about why films like this were ever deemed a good idea in the first place. You don’t need to be a qualified psychologist to recognise that an hour-and-20-minute depiction of anorexia is going to be triggering for many viewers. Unfortunately, the producers
the psychologist september 2017 culture of To the Bone seem to have ignored this reality. Potential relapse is deemed as collateral damage; ‘raising awareness’ is the key motivator. Also, despite discussing a lot of valid and important issues, the film doesn’t actually say anything particularly helpful about eating disorders. It certainly doesn’t say anything useful about strategies for recovery. The film ends with Ellen walking out into the desert, presumably to end her life. She hallucinates and finds herself sat on the branch of a tree looking down at her naked lifeless skeletal body on
the ground. ‘Is that me?’ she gasps. Following that, she (literally) marches back to the inpatient house to properly start recovery. And then presumably everyone lives happily ever after. Eating disorders are a community, and I fear that this film only serves to further ignite the fire of thinspiration. All in all it may be insightful, but it certainly is not helpful. Reviewed by Madeleine Pownall, an undergraduate at the University of Lincoln
The power of storytelling appropriated by academics and This production of eight monologues some of the LGBT community, yet over two nights was wonderful, and it used against us by playground was powerful. On the day my husband bullies, homophobes and fascists and I attended, Kadiff Kirwan detailed alike. life as a black gay man in London The structure was interesting during the Blitz; Sara Crowe offered too – just an hour long, with no insight into life as the wife of a gay scenery whatsoever. Just a chair man who had no chance to come out; Fionn Whitehead played a 17-year-old and a single actor, telling a story outside Parliament when the Criminal of no more than 15 minutes. The short story format perfectly Justice and Public Order Act 1994 mirrored the way in which we had resulted in that cowardly decision – and still need – to be mindful of of 18 as the unequal age of consent; our context, taking advantage of and Russell Tovey played an actor Kadiff Kirwan the smallest of spaces to speak shedding light on the way in which some stories are deemed permissible safely, capitalise on those precious moments when we can be seen, for telling, when others are not. The Dustin Lance Black, the writer heard and known. The constraints on powers that be dictating what we behind the Oscar-winning film the performance are the restrictions could say, rather than helping us tell Milk, reminds us that regardless that affect our daily lives. our stories as our lives are actually of the science, facts and evidence Exquisite writing was lived. Tovey’s line ‘and the fucking available to us, professionals often hugging we get up to… it’s scandalous’ accompanied by compelling acting, struggle to make an impact – and poignancy and absurdity delivered brings home the sanitisation that we it is because we forget the power with a realism familiar to any LGBT are subject to. of storytelling. As important as it person who has lived through these This year is the 50th anniversary is to highlight the rates of violence, past 50 years. People laughed, of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, bullying and psychological distress people shed a tear, sometimes the law that reframed gay men’s still experienced by LGBT people, simultaneously. lives, but as these monologues meaning is gained once information remind us, only a bit. The Act is located within a formulation, a marked the point that two men case study or personal testimony. could finally have a relationship – Storytelling grabs hearts and albeit in private – without facing minds. criminal sanction. But it wasn’t Psychology must bear this equality. Public expression was in mind if we are to effectively still risky and some forms of maintain our move towards more sexual behaviour still preoccupied attuned and socially just ways of lawmakers. Prosecutions working with LGBT people rather increased. These monologues than succumbing to the various were part of the artistic and attacks on LGBT rights that are cultural commemoration of this occurring across the globe. Thank Act, a celebration of the (partial) you Mark Gatiss for a timely decriminalising of same-sex reminder to learn from history and sexuality. to relish it as we do. The title itself provoked thought, being a term that many Reviewed by Professor Martin are not comfortable with, one reMilton, Regents University London Sara Crowe
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play Queers: One Voice – Monologues The Old Vic
I ...is for Identity
Suggested by Jonathan Artman @jonnyboy613
A 2016 study led by Ines Blix, covered on our Research Digest, surveyed people caught up in the 2011 Oslo attacks. Those who saw the event as central to their identities had higher levels of trauma (the ‘launch’) and this remained after two years (the ‘snare’). How can you encourage your students to go beyond plagiarism to develop their own ‘authorial identity’? James Elander had some advice in a July 2015 article for us.
What’s it like to work in a national Gender Identity Clinic? Penny Lenihan, Christina Richards and
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‘Identity is an integral part of every single one of us. Identity also plays a huge part in psychology, including a number of psychological disorders. There are many different factors that make up one’s identity, like personality, looks and beliefs. Erik Eriksson was one of the first psychologists to explore identity formally.’
Felicity Adams talked about their roles in a October 2011 piece. Reminding a banker they’re a banker makes them more dishonest. ‘Our results suggest that banks should encourage honest behaviours by changing the norms associated with their workers’ professional identity,’ Alain Cohn and colleagues concluded in a 2014 Nature study. ‘For example, several experts and regulators have proposed that bank employees should take a professional oath analogous to the Hippocratic oath for physicians.’
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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Technical Support in Psychological Teaching/Research Awards – call for nominations See p.8 Division of Clinical Psychology Annual Conference Cardiff, 17–18 January 2018 See p.26 CPD workshops 2017 See p.35 ‘Women in Psychology: From Invisibility to Inﬂuence‘, 7th annual Stories of Psychology symposium London, 19 October 2017 See p.41 Spearman Medal – call for nominations See p.42 BPS Annual Conference Nottingham, 2–4 May 2018 See p.49 Psychology in the Pub (South West of England Branch) Plymouth 21 September 2017; Exeter 27 September 2017 See p.56 Award for Outstanding Doctoral Research Contributions to Psychology – call for nominations See p.63 BPS conferences and events See p.77 North East of England Branch ‘Public Engagement for Psychologists’ York, 7 September 2017 See p.91
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Published on Aug 21, 2017
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